In his Seeing the Light: Inside the Velvet Underground, Rob Jovanovic offers an absorbing and definitive portrait of one of rock’s most important bands and the lives and careers of its members after the band’s breakup.
How did this book come about?
Like some of my other music books, the whole idea to write about a particular act came from the frustration of not being able to find a book about the subject and so deciding to write one myself. In this case it took a few years, and by the time I’d finished there were other books around, but none telling the whole story, including all the offshoot solo careers, reunions, and the like.
You’ve written books on Nirvana and Big Star and Kate Bush. What attracted you to the Velvet Underground?
I’ve been lucky in that, for most of the time, I’ve been able to convince editors to let me write about bands I love and that had often never been covered before, as with Big Star, Pavement, and the Velvets.
How difficult was it to get access to the members of the band?
In this day of the Internet, it was quite easy to track people down, and for the most part they were happy to contribute and usually helped put me in touch with more interviewees.
What do you hope people will learn from your book?
I hadn’t quite appreciated that the classical leanings of John Cale and the pop sensibilities of Lou Reed had caused so much friction in the group. I’m always very interested in the paths that band members take before they produce a band, and this was another great example of how very different personalities could come together and make such a majestic noise, if only for a frustratingly short time. I also think the band should be given more credit than just being labeled an Andy Warhol offshoot. He actually had very little impact on the band aside from an album cover and some early publicity—some of their best work was done long after he departed their scene.
What’s your next project?
I have a biography of the Kinks, which will be published in the U.K. in fall 2013.