Wednesday, July 11, 2007
It doesn't matter which artist you believe was the original, inadvertent inventor of punk rock - The Stooges are right up there among them...The New York Dolls are among them, as are the MC5. Lou Reed is also credited with being one of punk's godfathers.
So, let's go back to the Velvet Underground, and their wall of heavy distortion, feedback, loud guitars, fuzzy amps, low-band thumping, reliable chick drummers and the passing Teutonic chanteuse. Throw some Andy Warhol in there for art's sake and voila - another punk precursor possessing the harbinger elements that would influence the people who we would later call "punk rock."
If you go but one step into the credits for so much of what is considered important in rock n roll, and in the progression that gave us punk rock, you will always see that John Cale was present in a most important way. As a producer, Cale guided the musical outcome of important punk rock and proto punk debut albums by The Stooges, Patti Smith and Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers. Cale was also involved early on in the career of Sham 69, by motivating Miles Copeland to give them a one-single deal. Read about it on the Sham 69 history page!
John Cale, the multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, composer, producer has his own catalog of seminal recordings that not only stand the test of time, but continue to influence punk rock, the experimental and avant-garde and the very serious all at once. Prior to his membership in the Velvet Underground, Cale performed with a man I refer to as the living version of JS Bach, La Monte Young, an avant-garde old skooler who has never stopped making weird and wonderful music. Together Cale and Young were members of the Theatre of Eternal Music, which was also known as The Dream Syndicate, and yes - the John Cale Dream Syndicate pre-dated the Paisley Underground Dream Syndicate by a good 20 years... seeing as the Cale/Young Dream Syndicate were already performing when the likes of the younger Dream Syndicate were but twinkles in their parents eyes.
It was John Cale who has the ultimate credit of punking me. Between the Stooges and Patti Smith, and Cale's own magnificent recordings of darkness, madness, noise, beauty and illumination, he did point me in the direction of the yellow brick road that became punk rock.
For a discography of John Cale that's pretty complete, wikipedia has the info whereas Cale's official site seems to be hiding it. Another resource is this blog: Fragments of Cale
ps - these photos taken March 9, 1977, Starwood, West Hollywood, CA