Flashback: Velvet Underground Stage a Very Brief Truce - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: Velvet Underground Stage a Very Brief Truce

Watch the reunited band play ‘White Light/White Heat’ in 1993

A staggering amount of dormant 1960s/1970s bands came back to life in the mid-Nineties. Long-feuding acts like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss and the Who were suddenly packing arenas again. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant hit the road with a Led Zeppelin-heavy set, and even the surviving Beatles brought two new songs to the marketplace. The most surprising regrouping, however, was the Velvet Underground.

The Velvets never gained a huge following outside of a devoted cult, and when they petered out in 1973 few people even took note. But in the ensuing 20 years the myth of the Velvet Underground grew, and generations of new bands cited them as a top influence. The death of Andy Warhol brought Lou Reed and John Cale back together in 1990. They recorded the collaborative LP Songs for Drella in his honor, and three years later the Velvet Underground announced a European tour. Check out this video of “White Light White Heat” from a Paris gig.

The European shows were mostly well-received, though some critics thought they failed to capture the old magic. Every venue was packed, and they even opened for U2 on a handful of Zoo TV dates. John Cale left the band very early during their initial run, and fans were ecstatic to see him finally sharing a stage with Reed again. Nico had died in 1988, so Cale handled lead vocals on her signature tunes. 

A live album, Live MCMXCIII, hit stores in October of 1993, and U.S. dates, as well as an MTV Unplugged special, were in the planning stages when old tensions between Cale and Reed resurfaced. All further plans were scrapped; just two years later, guitarist Sterling Morrison died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The following year the surviving members of the band performed in his honor at their induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was the last time they all stood on stage together. 

In This Article: Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground


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