I have never been a big fan of The Velvet Underground. It's a point of fact, and I know that the Music Literati in me should be horrified, but there you go. No shame. Just acceptance. I do, however, love the song that closes their third album, "After Hours". It's simple, catchy, melodic, endearing, even charming. It is in all likelihood the only charming thing Lou Reed has ever done, in music or otherwise.
This morning, as I was walking around the city center, I started humming "After Hours" to myself, which is something I do with a fair amount of frequency. It used to be that when my mind wasn't doing anything, it would play "For No One" by The Beatles, as though the song were always looping in there somewhere, but it does so too quietly to be heard over conscious thought. Nowadays, the songs change, but "After Hours" comes up regularly.
This time was different, though. It wasn't being sung in a woman's voice; it was being sung by Johnny Cash. And it fit so thoroughly, so perfectly, that I decided I must have heard it somewhere before. I can imagine singers singing material they've never, to my knowledge, sung, but it always sounds a bit wonky. I can imagine Brett Anderson out of Suede singing "After Hours", but it sounds like someone imitating Brett Anderson singing "After Hours". This really, truly sounded like Johnny Cash giving it a go. I could hear the cracks in his voice brought on by old age, that patriarchal aura he could bring to any song he wanted. It fit.
When I got home, I checked iTunes. "Maybe," I thought, "he recorded it for one of the American Recordings, and I've just forgotten which one." No luck. I searched Youtube. I checked Wikipedia. Nothing. And yet I can still hear it, perfectly, as though it were real. Knowing now that it is not, I hope it never fades. I get to hear the Johnny Cash song nobody else did, as though he made it just for me.