This Day in Music 09.03.2016
Happy Birthday John Cale, 74 today.
John Davies Cale was born on 9 March 1942 in Gamant, in the heavily industrial Amman Valley of Wales. Having discovered a talent for viola, Cale studied music at Goldsmith College, University of London. He also enjoyed rock music from an early age and in 1963 he travelled to the United States to continue his musical training, thanks to the help and influence of Aaron Copland. In New York City, Cale met a number of influential composers. In early 1965, he co-founded the Velvet Undergorund with Lou Reed, recruiting his flatmate Angus MacLise and Reed's college friend Sterling Morrison to complete the initial line-up. His creative relationship with Reed was integral to the sound of the Velvet Underground's first two albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) and White Light/White Heat (1968). Cale also played on Nico's 1967 debut album Chelsea Girl. Cale left the band in September 1968, owing in part to creative disagreements with Reed.
Breaking away from the group, Cale worked in production (Nico's The Marble Index, The Stooges) for a few years before returning with some subdued but elegant solo albums. His 1973 classic Paris 1919 established his penchant for writing allusive, emotionally compelling songs linked to historical and political concerns—a concern that reached its culmination in his harrowing 1982 album Music For A New Society. "Emotional concerns are very political, in the end," he pointed out. The mid-'70s found Cale back in the UK. This “rock period” produced three albums: Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy.
In 1975, he produced Patti Smith's first album, Horses.
After touring for a while as Patti Smith's opening act, Cale resettled in New York City. He took a break from recording and performing in 1985 and re-emerged in 1989 with a renewed energy that has produced several classical albums, a live disc (Fragments Of A Rainy Season), a collaboration with Brian Eno (Wrong Way Up), another with Lou Reed (Songs For Drella), and the much-heralded, if short-lived, Velvet Underground reunion.
The death of Sterling Morrison in 1995 ended any reunion hopes, although it did apparently serve to reconcile Reed and Cale, who played together when the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Cale continued to innovate, releasing in 1996, with help from David Byrne and Velvets drummer Maureen Tucker, Walking on Locusts, featuring a moving tribute to Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison, and, in 1998, Nico, an elegy for Velvets chanteuse Nico.
He continued to record regularly into the new millennium, releasing a pair of well-received studio albums, HoboSapiens (2003) and Black Acetate (2005). The Extra Playful EP arrived in 2011, followed in 2012 by a well-deserved career overview, Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006, and a new studio album, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood.
In early 2016, Cale released M:FANS, a collection of stark, electronic-based reworkings of the material from his outstanding 1982 album Music for a New Society.
John Cale received the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to Music and to the Arts.
On 27 October 2014, a year after the death of Lou Reed, Cale released a new version of If You Were Still Around (orginally released in 1982's Music for a New Society) For this version was also released a new music video directed by Abigail Portner. At the beginning of the video Cale is lying on the floor in a fetal position and after he views the photos of Reed and other deceased people associated with the Velvet Underground and The Factory: Sterling Morrison, Nico, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedwick. Here's the video
“The only reason we wore sunglasses onstage was because we couldn't stand the sight of the audience.” [John Cale]