Chinese Envoy was inspired by a short story of the French writer Guy de Maupassant.
The cover of the album was designed by his ex-wife Betsey Johnson.
"on Music For A New Society, I wanted to a Marble Index - put the songs down, then write independent arrangements around them, itīs an arranger's record, it even goes outside the realm of that, it's like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The whole thing is hooked on the voice, which I was really proud of; the voice is sticking out there, it's not hidden. There were some examples where songs ended up so emaciated the weren't songs anymore. There was a purist notion of what it was supposed to be, but it flowered into something entirely different, with a lot of overdubbings. The only track with a band on the whole album is Changes Made and that shouldn't be there, but the record company insisted on it."
An acquaintance working for NBC Television dreamed up shooting a video for the album. Cale's game for the princely sum of $ 1,500, ending up surrounded by a chorus line of dance girls, trying to sing Changes Made:
"There was one scene in which all of a sudden one of the girls started sucking my thumb while I was trying to concentrate on the lyrics. (...) If it's ever shown, I'll kill the guy."