Watch the Velvet Underground's John Cale on "I've Got A Secret" TV game show in 1963

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I really like this version of Vexations.

I know that it’s one musical phrase repeated over and over, but somehow it just makes no sense after you hear it a few times. It somehow seems impossible to actually pin down the beginning and end of the phrase, and everything in the phrase seems to contradict itself. It feels really calm and peaceful while at the same time being kind of anxiety inducing.

I don’t think I could ever make it through a full performance, but this 26 minutes of it is always interesting IMO


If you watch all the way to the end you get to hear the host tell John Cale he has a “whim of iron” which is a phrase I had never heard before. Googling it reveals that it seems to be rather obscure (I couldn’t find a page with it’s history and meaning anyway…).


ETA: Hmm, the only change since the 2012 version is dropping the word amazing in favor of maestro:
“While the maestro John Cale is best known as a founder of the Velvet Underground, his association with the group”



Good memory! I fixed a typo too.


Will of iron, perhaps? Does sound like whim, though.

Yeah “will of iron” would make sense but he does seem to be saying “whim of iron” and it is a phrase used elsewhere (a song by a songwriter named Slaid Cleaves as well as a book title being two occurrences). I was able to find this link as well: where someone wrote: "The phrase whim of iron has been used to describe a stubbornness that lacks a reasonable basis.

It is attributed to Oliver Herford (December 3, 1863 – July 5, 1935), an American humorous poet and illustrator."

However that definition doesn’t make sense (to me anyway) as it applies to John Cale’s performance. Will of iron definitely would though.

The more I think about it the more curious I am. The definition of whim is “a sudden desire or change of mind, especially one that is unusual or unexplained.” How does one have a sudden unusual desire of…iron? Gotta love language.


I originally thought “will of iron” too since that would be appropriate for the marathon performance. But maybe it was a subtle dig at Cale’s stone-faced demeanor throughout the show segment.

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