John Cale

From Academic Kids

John Cale (born March 9, 1942) is a Welsh musician, songwriter and record producer. He is best known for his work in rock music, but has worked in a variety of styles over the years. He is perhaps best known for having been a member of the rock group The Velvet Underground.

Cale was born in Garnant in the heavily industrial Amman Valley, and Welsh is his first language. Having discovered a talent for piano, he studied music at the University of London, and travelled to the USA to continue his musical training, thanks to the help and influence of Aaron Copland. Arriving at New York City, he met a number of influential composers. With John Cage he participated in an 18-hour piano playing marathon, and, more significantly, he played in La Monte Young's ensemble the Theater of Eternal Music (also known as the Dream Syndicate, which should not be confused with the 1980s band of the same name). The heavily drone-laden music he played there proved to be a big influence in his work with his next group, the Velvet Underground.


The Velvet Underground

In 1965, he joined Lou Reed (who is exactly a week older than Cale) in the newly-formed Velvet Underground, but left in 1968, due in part to creative disagreements with Reed.

Cale appears on the Velvet Underground's first two albums, The Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light/White Heat. He sings on a few songs, plays bass guitar, piano and organ and co-wrote some of the material, but perhaps his most distinctive contributions are the electrically amplified viola drones which add greatly to the overall atmosphere of the records.

Later Career

After leaving the Velvet Underground, Cale produced a number of albums, including Nico's The Marble Index, and began to make solo records. His first, Vintage Violence came in 1970, following which he collaborated with yet another classical musician, Terry Riley, on the mainly instrumental Church of Anthrax. His solo record of 1973, Paris 1919, is regarded by many as a classic. It is made up of elegantly crafted and tastefully arranged songs with obtuse and complex lyrics, apparently with underlying political concerns.

Cale moved back to the United Kingdom and made a series of solo albums which moved in a new direction. The tasteful elegance was now replaced by a dark and threatening barely-suppressed aggression, perhaps most obviously evident in his somewhat disturbing cover of Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel". His live performances often fitted with the nascent punk rock developing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean: they were often loud, abrasive and confrontational - during one gig he chopped the head off a dead chicken with a meat cleaver, and his band walked offstage in protest. Cale's drummer--a vegetarian--was so bothered he quit the group.

Cale also continued to work as a record producer. In 1974, he joined Island Records, and worked in that capacity with Squeeze, Patti Smith, and Sham 69, among others. He produced a number of important protopunk records, including debuts by Patti Smith, The Stooges and The Modern Lovers.

In 1982, Cale released the sparse Music For A New Society. By any standard, it is a bleak, harrowing record, it's been called "understated, and perhaps a masterpiece." [1] (

Having married and had a child, he took a long break from performing, making a comeback in 1989 with settings of poems by Dylan Thomas, most notably, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, which he performed on stage in the concert held in Cardiff in 1999 to celebrate the opening of the Welsh Assembly. Songs for Drella, a tribute to one time Velvet Underground manager Andy Warhol, saw him reunited with Lou Reed, and Nico (1998) was a tribute to Nico. Cale has also written a number of film soundtracks, often using more classically influenced instrumentation.

Cale's autobiography, What's Welsh for Zen?, was published in 1999.

John Cale should not be confused with J.J. Cale or composer John Cage.

Album discography

With The Dream Syndicate

With The Velvet Underground

† Although Cale had left The Velvet Underground two years before they released their 1970 album Loaded, he was briefly involved in the demo stages of that record. The 1997 2CD reissue of that album contains a demo of "Ocean" that features Cale playing the organ.


  • Vintage Violence (Columbia) December 1970
  • The Academy In Peril (Reprise) April 1972
  • Paris 1919 (Reprise) March 1973
  • Fear (Island) September 1974
  • Slow Dazzle (Island) April 1975
  • Helen of Troy (Island) November 1975
  • Guts (compilation) (Island) February 1977
  • Sabotage/Live (IRS) December 1979
  • Honi Soit April 1981
  • Music for a New Society (Ze) August 1982
  • Caribbean Sunset (Ze) June 1983
  • John Cale Comes Alive (Ze) September 1984
  • Artificial Intelligence (Beggars Banquet) November 1985
  • Words for the Dying (All Saints) October 1989
  • Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (live) (ROIR) 1991
  • Paris S'eveille, Suivi d'Autres Compositions (OST) (Crepuscule) November 1991
  • Fragments of a Rainy Season (live) (Hannibal) October 1992
  • 23 Solo Pieces pour La Naissance de L'Amour (Crepuscule) November 1993
  • N'Oublie Pas Que Tu Vas Mourir (Crepuscule) 1994
  • Seducing Down The Door (compilation) (Rhino) 1994
  • Antartida (OST) (Crepuscule) 1995
  • Walking on Locusts (Hannibal) September 1996
  • Eat/Kiss: Music for the Films of Andy Warhol (Hannibal) June 1997
  • Somewhere In The City (OST) August 1998
  • Le Vent De La Nuit (OST) (Crepuscule) March 1999
  • Close Watch: An Introduction to John Cale (compilation) - 1999
  • Sun Blindness Music (Table of the Elements) 2001
  • Stainless Gamelan (Table of the Elements) 2001
  • 5 Tracks (EMI) 2003
  • Hobosapiens (EMI) 2003


External link

  • Fear Is A Man's Best Friend (, with full discography, lyrics, pictures, interviews, news ...
  • (, official website
  • UbuWeb: John Cale ( featuring music from Aspen No. 5+6
  • John Cale Interview ( John Cale Interview
  • Sabotage2 (, Yahoo mailing list

Template:The Velvet Undergroundcy:John Cale de:John Cale no:John Cale


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