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John Cale ‘Hated’ Regurgitating Velvet Underground Hits for Nostalgia-Act Reunion

Living legend tells Marc Maron he "hated" playing "best of" set for early-'90s tour

picture-18547-1390524318Kyle McGovern // July 29, 2013

It’s been 21 years since the Velvet Underground’s classic lineup first reunited, and John Cale still considers the iconic band’s brief reconciliation a “big disappointment.” In a recent interview with comedian/podcast king Marc Maron, Cale says he “hated” the greatest hits set the Velvets played during their year-long reunion, which ran from 1992 to 1993. 

“We could have done anything we wanted,” the 71-year-old virtuoso says on the latest episode of Maron’s twice-weekly WTF podcast. “We could have stood on our heads.”

Instead, the avant-garde legends became a nostalgia act while touring Europe. “The way things unraveled was very natural and sort of sweet,” Cale admits before getting audibly frustrated. “[Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison would] come along and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this song, and we’ll do this song,’ and all these songs I didn’t know because they were written after I’d left.”

Cale, who parted ways with the Velvets in 1968 after recording White Light/White Heat, continues, “It all suddenly became an exercise in revitalizing a catalog. And instead of doing something that everybody would look up to us, and maintain the standards that we had…” At this point in the hour-long interview, Cale lets out a sigh before simply saying, “I hated that.” 

The rest of the Q&A touches on the early days of the Velvet Underground, in addition to Cale’s experiences as a producer, working with the Stooges, Nico, the Modern Lovers, and Patti Smith. Listen to a snippet of the interview below, stream the whole thing via the WTF website, or download it