The Velvet's Sterling Memories

Jan. 19, 1996 -- We spent last night in a New York City rehearsal room with the three surviving members of one of the most influential and inspiring bands in rock history, the Velvet Underground. With the Velvets being inducted, the Hall of Fame now has its first female drummer -- and its first Welsh viola player -- but one key member, rhythm guitarist Sterling Morrison, didn't make it to the induction ceremony. He died of cancer late last year, just before the release of a five disc box set devoted to to the group's fabled recordings. Although routinely noted as purveyors of gritty urban chronicles of drug use and sexual ambiguity, the Velvets also sang about Jesus, and turned out such classic love songs as "Pale Blue Eyes." This was not a band that volunteered for exile in the rock avant garde -- that's just the way the peace-and-love sixties were set up.

Mainstream recognition has come late -- but Lou Reed , John Cale, and Mo Tucker are happy it's come at all -- and on the night

before the big show, they were still putting together a song they'd written for their departed partner, Sterling Morrison.

MTV: The absence of Sterling Morrison hangs heavily over this last official regrouping of the great Velvet Underground.

LOU REED: What I regret is that the four of us will never play together again that way, because one of us is gone, and you can't undo that, and it's irreplaceable.

MTV: Along with his musicianship, Morrison's endearing foibles will be missed too -- such as...

MAUREEN TUCKER: His gullibility....

REED: It was incredible.

TUCKER: Just.... stunning.

REED: It was incredible. For a guy with a Ph.D., and a tugboat captain. You could really get Sterl to believe...

TUCKER: Anything. If you said it with a straight face. Which was sweet.

MTV: Sterling Morrison didn't live long enough to see the Velvets finally get the recognition they deserved -- and his still surprised bandmates apparently

didn't think they would, either.

REED: I thought it would be this incredible streak. Like, nominated 21 years in a row and then they'd have this, like, rule...I think it's the Velvet Underground rule. If you're nominated seven times, you get in. I think that was...People were trying to get us in, trying to go around. Yeah, I was very surprised we got in.

CALE: It's an astonishing event. I mean, what the Hall of Fame is saying to the world and to young musicians all over the world is that record sales are not the be-all and end-all of rock and roll. And really, you have and inspiration and you go with it.

MTV: While the Velvets' official career may be over, the saga of the surviving members remains to be written.

REED: I think... you know, there's only three of us now. I think we should stick together.

CALE: Yeah.