John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

Timeline: 1968

Steve Sesnick

Enter Steve Sesnick

Steve Sesnick, who managed the Boston Tea Party nightclub (a venue that hosted a lot of Velvet Underground shows), starts managing the band. He starts pushing Lou Reed, which pisses off Cale:

"Lou was starting to act funny. He brought in this guy Sesnick - who I thought to be a real snake - to be our manager, and all this intrigue started to take place. Lou was calling us 'his band' while Sesnick was trying to get him to go solo. maybe it was the drugs he was doing at the time. They certainly didn't help."

The bookkeeping is a mess and it will take Cale's lawyer Chris Whent three years for the first royalty checks to arrive after he started sorting out the mess of the Velvets' financial records, an uneviable task he got handed to him in 1983. It will take three years for the first royalty checks to arrive.

Sesnick dies from complications from a heart attack in St. Augustine, Florida, on October 27, 2022.

White Light / White Heat

White Light/White Heat

In January The Velvet Underground release their second album White Light/White Heat, which includes the classic 17 minutes of musical mayhem Sister Ray. Cale is at the organ, coming out on top at the end of the song, playing louder than the rest of the band:

"I kept everything low until a certain point then unleashed the volume I'd been saving."

Cale in UP-TIGHT: The Velvet Underground Story, the book by Victor Bockris & Gerard Malanga:

"Most of the recording was done straight through; Sister Ray was one piece. I Heard Her Call My Name and Here She Comes Now evolved in the studio. We never performed them live. The Gift was a story Lou had written a long time ago when he was at Syracuse University. It was my idea to do it as a spoken-word thing. We had this piece called 'Booker T' that was just an instrumental, so instead of wasting it, we decided to combine them."

The sessions were loud, which caused all kinds of problems. Sterling Morrison remembers:

"There was fantastic leakage 'cause everyone was playing so loud and we had so much electronic junk with us in the studio-all these fuzzers and compressors. Gary Kellgren, who is ultra-competent, told us repeatedly: "You can't do it-all the needles are on red." and we reacted as we always reacted: "Look, we don't know what goes on in there and we don't want to hear about it. Just do the best you can." And so the album is fuzzy, there's all that white noise...we wanted to do something electronic and energetic. We had the energy and the electronics, but we didn't know it couldn't be recorded...what we were trying to do was really fry the tracks."

Cale debuts as a singer on record, reciting The Gift and Lady Godiva's Operation. This is the last original Velvets album with Cale.

Betsey Johnson and John Cale on their wedding day © Billy Name

Marries Betsey Johnson

Marries Betsey Johnson, a fashion designer, in April. They became an item shortly after the Velvets performed at the Paraphernalia Store in New York in March. She made the elegant dark stage clothes for the band.

"Betsey took amphetamine every day-diet pills, black bombers. She was a little overweight and very sensitive about it, and she would sit up all night making clothes. Betsey was a strong individual character. When she started showing up at all the VU gigs because she could afford to, I really admired her.It seemed to me that Betsey knew everybody I knew, and she was living at the Chelsea Hotel. It was a match made in heaven."

The wedding had to be postponed, because Cale had come down with hepatitis and had to spend several weeks in the hospital. Lou Reed acted as his best man. Factory phoographer Billy Name took the photographs.

The bride got turned away from City Hall in New York, because she was wearing pants. She returned for the wedding in a micro-mini. The couple got an offer from the Ladies Home Journal to pay for the wedding. Betsey Johnson:

Lou Reed as best man © Billy Name
"I must have established some kind of something for myself at Paraphernalia, the press was really great. Ladies Home Journal found out we were getting married and was going to pay for this huge bash. They just wanted to be there and photograph the freaky little rock 'n' roll scene wedding ceremony and party even through we did it at City Hall. It was all set up and we had all the wedding invitations printed and they were all set to go to the mailbox and the day that they were supposed to go in the mail John was turning bright yellow! He went to the hospital and I said, 'Well, dear, when shall I mail these out? I'll wait for you to get your blood test.' He didn't even leave the hospital. He went straight into quarantine with hepatitis and a non-existent liver... Ladies Home Journal was so outraged that they wanted me to go on with the whole wedding, go to City Hall, no John and they they said, 'Well later we'll take a picture of John and strip him in!"

In March 1969 Cale and Betsey Johnson get a divorce. The marriage has lasted less than a year.

Morning Glory: Two Suns' Worth

Morning Glory

Engineers the Two Suns' Worth album by psychedelic quartet Morning Glory. It is his first studio job.

Andy Warhol showing his scars

Andy Warhol shot

Valerie Solanis, the author of the radical feminist SCUM Manifesto, shoots Andy Warhol in the Factory, June 4. She had accused of Warhol of stealing her play. Art critic Mario Amaya was also shot in the incident and suffered minor injuries. Warhol never fully recovers from his wounds.

The shooting is the subject of the song I Believe on the Songs for Drella album.

Cale also contributed the I Shot Andy Warhol Suite to the soundtrack of the 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol.

Larry and Tommy

Co-produces (with Mike Apatoff) the A-side of a 45 rpm single Yo-Yo b/w You've Gotta Bend A Little by this rhythm & blues duo.

Poster announcing the Boston Teaparty gigs

Last gigs with the Velvets in Boston

On September 27 and 28 Cale plays his last gigs with The Velvet Underground at the Boston Teaparty.

Reed had made an ultimatum to Tucker and Morrison. Either exit Cale, or the Velvets would cease to exist as a band. Maureen Tucker, looking back:

"When John left, it was really sad. I felt really bad. And of course, this was gonna really influence the music, 'cause, John's a lunatic (laughs). I think we became a little more normal, which was fine, it was good music, good songs, it was never the same though.It was good stuff, a lot of good songs, but, just, the lunacy factor was... gone."

© 1999- Hans Werksman