Remembering John Cale and Siouxsie Sioux’s powerful rendition of ‘Venus in Furs’ from 1998
If there’s one artist who can stand up to the sludgy beauty of the Velvet Underground it’s that punk powerhouse, Siouxsie Sioux. The singer has made a name for herself by producing sumptuous covers and this rendition of ‘Venus In Furs’ with John Cale in 1998 is among her best.
Covers of the Velvet Underground very rarely match the intensity and alt-pop gold that the band emanated in New York during the sixties. But here Siouxsie Sioux—one of the leading lights of punk—as part of her project with husband Budgie the Creatures, takes the track to new unchartered heights.
The moment came during a performance in Sacramento in 1998 and saw VU founding member John Cale join Sioux and Budgie on viola for a rendition of the song. It’s an atypical song from the Velvet Underground and marries the dark tones of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch with some intrinsic pop sensibilities.
The track was written by the astounding mind of Lou Reed and was a prominent song on the band’s 1967 record The Velvet Underground & Nico. It’s the type of track which would scare many artists off. But, Siouxsie Sioux is not like other artists.
With the Banshees, her band, the post-punk hero has a long history of delivering enigmatic covers of huge tracks. In her back catalogue with The Banshees, Sioux can boast taking on both The Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’ and Iggy Pop’s ‘Passenger’ with devastating effect. In 1998 it was the turn of the Velvet Underground.
Rather than Cale and Sioux produce two different sets (Cale technically billed as the Creatures on the tour), the artists combine their performances for an evening of memorable moments. It included some incredible covers including Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, Jonathan Richman’s ‘Pablo Picasso’ among others.
Cale even took the vocals for the Creatures first five songs before letting Sioux take her rightful place behind the mic and deliver this stunning cover of the Velvets’ classic. If there was ever a song for Siouxsie Sioux to really show her chops then it was this sparse art-driven number, and boy did she ever show her chops.