John Cale – live in Copenhagen – recorded at Saga, February 16, 1984 – Radio Dansk –
John Cale tonight, heading into the direction of the weekend. Recorded live in Copenhagen on February 16, 1984 by DR-Radio Dansk in Copenhagen.
Despite his background in art music and the avant-garde, Welsh-born Cale had enjoyed and followed rock music from a young age; on a visit to Britain in 1965, he procured records by the Kinks, the Who and Small Faces that remained unavailable in the United States.
Early that year, he co-founded the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed, recruiting his flatmate Angus MacLise and Reed’s college friend Sterling Morrison to complete the initial line-up. Just before the band’s first paying gig for $75 at Summit High School in New Jersey, MacLise abruptly quit the band because he viewed accepting money for art as selling out; he was replaced by Maureen Tucker as the band’s drummer. Initially hired to play that one show, she soon became a permanent member and her tribal pounding style became an integral part of the band’s music, despite the initial objections of Cale to the band having a female drummer.
On his aforementioned visit to Britain in the summer of 1965, Cale shopped a crudely-recorded, acoustic-based Velvet Underground demo reel to several luminaries in the British rock scene (including Marianne Faithfull) with the intention of securing a record deal. Although this failed to manifest, the tape was disseminated throughout the UK underground over the following eighteen months by such figures as producer Joe Boyd and Mick Farren of the Deviants. As a result, the Deviants, the Yardbirds and David Bowie had all covered Velvet Underground songs prior to the release of their debut album in 1967.
The very first commercially available recording of the Velvet Underground, an instrumental track called “Loop” given away with Aspen Magazine, was a feedback experiment written and conducted by Cale. His creative relationship with Reed was integral to the sound of the Velvet Underground’s first two albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico (recorded in 1966, released in 1967) and White Light/White Heat (recorded in 1967, released in 1968). On these albums he plays viola, bass guitar and piano, and sings occasional backing vocals. White Light/White Heat also features Cale on organ (on “Sister Ray”) as well as two vocal turns: “Lady Godiva’s Operation”, an experimental song where he shares lead vocal duties with Reed, and “The Gift”, a long spoken word piece written by Reed. Though Cale co-wrote the music to several songs, his most distinctive contribution is the electrically-amplified viola. He also played celesta on “Sunday Morning”. Cale also played on Nico’s 1967 debut album, Chelsea Girl, which includes songs co-written by Velvet Underground members Cale, Reed and Morrison, who also appear as musicians. Cale makes his debut as lyricist on “Winter Song” and “Little Sister”.
Apart from appearing on the Velvet Underground’s first two albums, he also played organ on the track “Ocean” during the practice sessions to produce demos for the band’s fourth album Loaded, nearly two years after he left the band. He was enticed back into the studio by the band’s manager, Steve Sesnick, “in a half-hearted attempt to reunite old comrades”, as Cale put it. Although he does not appear on the finished album, the demo recording of “Ocean” was included in the 1997 Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition CD re-issue. Finally, five previously unreleased tracks recorded in late 1967 and early 1968 were included on the albums VU (1985) and Another View (1986).
With tensions between Reed and Cale growing, Reed gave an ultimatum to Morrison and Tucker, declaring that unless Cale was fired, he would quit the band. Morrison and Tucker reluctantly went along with the scheme.
Since leaving the band in 1968, Cale has released 16 solo studio albums, including the widely acclaimed Paris 1919 and Music for a New Society. Cale has also acquired a reputation as an adventurous producer, working on the debut albums of several innovative artists, including the Stooges and Patti Smith.
So as a reminder, or an introduction, here is John Cale, live in Copenhagen as he was recorded on February 16, 1984 – enjoy the show and play often.
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