John Cale on Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol did more than turn groceries into art - he also elevated an obscure band called The Velvet Underground to the rock pantheon, but he didn't do it for the love of rock & roll.
One of Andy Warhol's big experiments was taking an obscure rock band and making them stars. In 1966, his plans for The Velvet Underground included having them play at a psychiatrist's banquet.
One of the two founding members of The Velvet Underground, John Cale, went on to produce other musicians and pursue his own solo career.
Cale recalls his first meeting with Warhol: "The band went up to The Factory (Warhol's studio space), we were invited there by Gerrard who came down to see a performance and decided that dancing with a whip was good for our act.
"The first thing we noticed when we got there was that a lot of preconceptions about what went on in art went out the window. Everybody was very serious and intent on getting a lot of work done, which suited us fine. All we wanted to do was work on our music."
There was much more happening than the stereotype image of people just hanging out, flirting, and doing drugs at The Factory. "They were crawling along the floor, but they were crawling along the floor making silkscreens, which, if you've ever tried to do, is quite a task. They were working very hard."
Cale was able to have a somewhat rare, working relationship with Warhol. "He was a very shy person, and very sly, but I don't think he had a mean bone in his body. I think he played games on an international level, and anybody who wanted to play those games, they would have a good time.
"So, from my point of view, it was more of a professional relationship. Over the years, he was always available to me and he was very generous. That's not a view that is shared by many."
Warhol's involvement in The Velvet Underground was less of the traditional manager, not booking concert dates and handling the finances. His role was more of a creative manager, says Cale. "He would give you a list of words, fifteen words, and say, 'Go away and write songs on these.' That suited him fine. We loved that kind of challenge. He was always reminding us to put swear words back into songs. He was more of a mental mentor. The mischievousness of what we were about was really what he was trying to stir up and keep going."
For all of his involvement in The Velvet Underground music project, Warhol was actually quite ambivalent about music altogether. Cale recalls, "I don't think he liked any of the music, really...I dont think he liked music in general. I don't remember him ever listening. The Factory was full of (recordings of opera star) Maria Callas, but that was because a lot of friends that hung out there sung along with Maria Callas. He was there when we recorded the album, but he didn't say a word."
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