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Sunday, May 21, 2006

John Cale

John Cale, Starwood 77

John Cale is a genius.

The Welshman came to America and joined the experimental guru (and a composer I liken to JS Bach) La Monte Young in his ensemble The Theatre of Eternal Music alternatively known as The Dream Syndicate, not to be confused with the Paisley Underground California band of the same name (though they certainly knew whom they were name-checking.)

The 1960's Dream Syndicate pioneered a heady drone music that proved to be the harbinger of Cale's next project, The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed, Nico, Sterling Morrison, Angus MacLise and later, Mo Tucker.
Depending on whom you ask, Cale was either fired by Reed or he quit - in 1968/69. Regardless, John Cale's influence on decades of daring music to come already had a foothold in the few recordings he made with the Velvet Underground.

His solo work, his collaborations with Nico, Terry Riley, Nick Drake, and an amazing array of musicians on a live album, June 1, 1974 - featuring Nico, Kevin Ayers, Eno, Robert Wyatt, Mike Oldfield and Cale that remains one of my favorites, is still only the tip of the John Cale Genius iceberg.

He joined Warner Bros Records as a producer/A&R type, and his producer credits for various labels prove was a visionary he is: Squeeze, Patti Smith, Sham 69, The Modern Lovers and perhaps most importantly, The Stooges. His most recent production credit is for the latest album, "The Boxing Mirror," by Alejandro Escovedo, a vintage punk and roots rocker (The Nuns, Zeros, Rank and File, True Believers). As a solo artist (on various labels, including Island), he defined new borders for what could be considered the rock n roll canon and as a live performer, surprised many with unpredictable performances of searing intensity, brutality, honesty and ultimately superior musicianship.

During my stint at Island, I had the distinct pleasure of going on a few tour dates with John Cale (1984) when he was promoting his "Music for a New Society" and "Caribbean Sunset" albums. Each night was wholly different than the next...unpredictable in everything but the quality of the songs. I've been quite fortunate to have seen Cale perform many many times and have never been disappointed. He is a consummate player - not just on bass, but viola and piano, possesses that spectacular Welsh vocal prowess and has a catalog of music that is so pervasive and inherent a part of my life that perhaps I take his existence for granted.

When I found this photo of him, vivid sense memories of his 1977 performance at the long gone Starwood came to mind. There's more John Cale influence in my record collection than anything, now that I think about it. His fingerprints are everywhere that matters.

John Cale produced "Horses," Patti Smith's debut album
Patti, Dark & Light

Cale produced Sham 69's 1977 single "I Don't Wanna/Red London/Ulster"
Dave Parsons

And Cale also produced the Stooges phenomenal 1969 debut album.

1 comment:

Dave Swanson said...

I'll take Cale's solo records over Reed's any day. Plus, he played with Kevin Ayers and Eno on the June 1st 1974 album!