Clinton Heylin’s recent book, ALL YESTERDAYS’ PARTIES: THE VELVET UNDERGROUND IN PRINT 1966-1971 (Da Capo Press), makes a pushy claim that the live version of “What Goes On” on 1969 LIVE (Mercury/1974) is in fact not only from 1968 but features John Cale on organ, whereas traditionally the track has been attributed to being from The Matrix, San Francisco, CA, November 1969 and featuring Doug Yule on organ, Cale’s replacement (Cale was fired by Lou Reed in September of 1968). To quote: “. . . doubts remain as to the provenance of the version of ‘What Goes On’ as which came on a reel of its own, and sounds rather Calean to these ears.”
While this theory would certainly bring to light one of the Holy Grails of Velvet Underground folklore (VU guitarist Sterling Morrison: “If you heard us play that in the summer of ‘68 with Cale on organ you would have known what it was all about”), with one listen to the virtually identical version of “What Goes On” on THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 1: THE QUINE TAPES (Universal/2001), recorded live at another San Francisco club, The Family Dog, in the same stretch of time (November 8, 1969), gives the truth to the myth that it is, very clearly, Yule playing organ on both versions. Yule even makes some of the same bum note mistakes on both versions (and, as we all know, John Cale never unintentionally hit a bum note until 1979). Also, in 1968, VU were playing “What Goes On” full-on through distortion pedals (check the live October 1968 version with Yule included on PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE [Polydor/1995]) but there aren’t any in sight on the 1969 LIVE take.
Clearly Yule is still being pegged as the Yoko Ono of the VU, but Heylin’s attempt at making history merely reveals itself to be yet another instance of a journalistic rock wet dream.