Morning Music: Doug Yule’s Velvet Underground

SqueezeTo most Velvet Underground fans, Doug Yule was an interloper. After replacing John Cale as of the third album, he grew in importance to the point where he forced out Lou Reed and tried to take over the band. That is absolutely not true. For the last couple of years, it is better to think of Yule as Reed’s right hand man. Yule ended up singing four of the songs on Loaded because Reed simply couldn’t.

After Reed left, the band carried on. But soon Morrison left to pursue his PhD, and finally Tucker left to raise a family — Yule was all alone. And in 1972, Doug Yule found himself alone in London — abandoned by the group’s manager and expected to make an album. And he made that album, Squeeze. Most people don’t even know that it exists. Those that do write it off as another reason to hate Doug Yule. It was just another sign of him trying to leverage the fame of the Velvet Underground for his own personal aggrandizement. There’s just one problem with that: it’s completely wrong.

Reappraising Squeeze

Almost five years ago, Steven Shehori wrote an amazing article, Criminally Overlooked Albums: Squeeze by Doug Yule’s Velvet Underground. Other than the overestimation of Loaded, I completely agree with this:

The haze of nostalgia leads many to believe the Velvet Underground made an indelible mark on the music scene in its brief lifetime. In reality, VU’s iconic status was posthumous, not cemented until years after Loaded hit stores in 1970. Which means in the summer of 1972, Yule wasn’t recording Squeeze to ride the slipstream of one of the most cherished rock n’ roll records in history. He was crafting a faithful follow-up to a genius yet poor-selling album from a cult band most people had never heard of. And outside of the brilliant Lou Reed, I’m convinced the only person earning the right to venture into such waters would be Mr Doug Yule. The fact he pulled it all off so seamlessly makes Squeeze a doozy of a criminally overlooked album.

It’s a short album: just a half hour long. And the thing is: it sounds just like a followup to Loaded. The best things on the album are not as good as the best of Loaded. But the worst things on it are not as bad as the worst of Loaded. The fact that the album is so easily pushed aside says everything about the cult of stardom. Doug Yule was 26 years old when he made this album — interestingly, the same age that Reed was when he made The Velvet Underground & Nico.

Listen to Squeeze

Squeeze is a really good album. If people had dismissed Loaded as the Velvet Underground going commercial, that would be one thing. But they didn’t, and they haven’t. Squeeze is of comparable quality. It deserves your attention. And Doug Yule deserves an apology from the music press.

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