John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

Timeline: 1990

John Cale and his mother Margaret

Cale's mother dies

Cale's mother Margaret dies on April 2. She was 88. After the funeral at Hen Bethel Chapel in Glanamman, Ammanford, Cale takes the mourners to a first-class hotel for lunch.

"My mother died in 1990. I was producing Los Renaldos in Batch, which is not far from Swansea. Eden and Risé were with me. I had been planning to go and see her as soon as I finished the job. She always exactly knew what I was doing.

We drove down for the funeral. My cousin had made the arrangements. It was not a chapel funeral, it was in a brick building next to the colliery. I had never been there before. The place was all lit up with flowers and all the local people were there as well as my family. I had not seen them all together for years, so I felt like a complete stranger.

Afterwards I wanted to make a gesture, so I brought everybody back to the first-class hotel we were staying in, which served gourmet food and drink, and arranged a lunch. Everybody had a great time that afternoon. And I got another taste of the warmth and congeniality of Welsh society."
Cale on the catwalk 1990

Catwalk Cale

Cale is a model at two fashion shows in Paris: he is on the catwalk for a show of a collection by the Rei Kawakubo's label Comme des Garçons and another by Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. He enjoyed the experience, but he could not make hay of the language involved:

"The fashion world lingo is peculiarly its own. You never saw so many adjectives in the employ of a primary colour."
Cale modelling for Comme des Garçons Cale modelling for Comme des Garçons Cale modelling for Comme des Garçons Cale modelling for Comme des Garçons
Songs for Drella

Songs for Drella

Songs for Drella, a fiction about Andy Warhol, is released on April 11. It is his first official recording with Lou Reed since 1968. The album is a both a tribute and a biography set to music.

"We were very organized and professional whilst recording Drella which makes me very happy, because I didn't know how it was going to go. We both have oblique styles of living, and I think that as things changed, we did too.

I had a lot of luck with Andy. He was very generous with me. He'd never not have time, help came very easily from him; he was a problem solver.

There aren't any voices that avoid responsibility. That's something that Lou and I have taken very seriously. We accept responsibility for the effects of what we do. I really like just the two of us. The stuff we've recorded is very hard, like marble. The musical ideas are sometimes lyrical and melodic and simple, and sometimes they're aggressive and orchestral and have a little majesty. Musically, we have what we want. There's a certain pristine element we want to keep.

I think there was a fear of failure, but there was a determination that here was something we could do better than anyone else."

A live video, recorded live on December 4 and 5, 1989 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, is also released.

Lou Reed suggests to do it live again out of the blue in 2013, which annoys Cale quite a bit. He goes on record in an interview in New York Magazine:

"Who does he think he is, thinking he can just put an item like that out there? (...) Things like that do not happen just because you think it is a good idea. It takes a lot of work to get the songs ready for live performance. Most of those arrangements are out of date. They need to be redone. Lou doesn’t have the patience for something like that. Never. Not for a minute. (...) The problem with the Velvets was always a conflict between doing revolutionary songs, like ‘Venus in Furs,’ and pretty songs."

Nobody But You Drella CDEP

Nobody But You single

Nobody But You is released in Germany as a single in two formats: as a 7" with Style It Takes and as a 3-track CDEP with Style It Takes and A Dream.

Los Ronaldos: Sabor Salado

Producing Los Ronaldos

Produces Sabor Salado, an album by Spanish pop band Los Ronaldos.

Dead City Radio

William S. Burroughs

He writes and performs the music for Ah Pook the Destroyer / Brion Gysin's All-Purpose Bedtime Story on the William S. Burroughs album Dead City Radio, a collection of readings by the Beat Generation author set to music.

Velvets reunion

Velvet Underground reunion in France

On June 15 Cale, Reed, Morrison and Tucker play a fifteen minutes version of Heroin at the Fondation Cartier in Jouy-En-Josas, France. The Fondation was hosting a Warhol/VU retrospective exhibition. It is the first time since September 28, 1968 that they perform together.

Cale and Reed started with five songs from Songs for Drella after which they were joined on stage by Morrison and Tucker. Reed made the announcement:

"We have a little surprise for you. I'd like to introduce Sterling Morrison. And Maureen Tucker."

Cale, looking back:

"We kicked into Heroin, which we hadn’t played in twenty-two years. And it was just the same as always. After I got off stage … I was on the point of tears."

Self-interview on French TV

Acts as interviewer and interviewee on French TV show Lunettes noires pour nuits blanches, filmed at Parisian cabaret Shéhérazade. Broadcasted on June 16, 1990.


Revenge covers "Amsterdam"

Revenge, an English synth pop group fronted by bass player Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order), covers Amsterdam on their 12" I'm Not Your Slave + Amsterdam.

Wrong Way Up

Wrong Way Up

Brian Eno and John Cale release their joint effort Wrong Way Up on October 5.

The music was set out to be used for a theatrical piece based on a decks of cards. That never happens and the same goes for a follow-up tour to promote the album.

"I was intrigued by the whole idea of working with Brian. There was never a question of, 'Well, I'll produce you and you produce me'. It was compartmentalized and cooperative at the same time. And I got elements in there of all the things I wanted Brian to have. I wanted Brian to belt out the songs; I got a little bit of that. And I got a style that we set for ourselves, which works just for the two os us. Especially the vocals work well. There's also something really english about this record that I like. It brought me back to what I would do if I was at home, a kid in Wales again. It's something I can't get away from, and Brian brought it out of me."

Brian Eno on the lyrics of Cordoba:

"I'm sure everything I do is riddled with paying attention to chance, so... OK, here's a good example. I've been learning Spanish for about 36 years [laughter] And I'm still not very good at it, but...When I was reading my Spanish book, I was reading this set of lines, exercises, and I thought, boy, these read like a poem. These lines from the Spanish book are the text... And they'd sort of go, um, I'll meet you in the square by the bakery. The lift stops between two floors, right, don't forget that. Um, I'll walk towards the station, you walk towards the bus... just going through the moves again and again. But the way John - that's John Cale, naturally - the way he sings it is this strange combination - sinister and tender at the same time."

Spinning Away is included on the Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006 compilation album (2012).

Reissued in 2005 and 2020 with bonus tracks.

One Word

One Word, Spinning Way singles

A wealth of 7" and "12 inches, CD singles and CDEP's, most them containing either One Word or Spinning Away as the focus track, were released to promote the album. The non-album tracks Palanquin and Grandfather's House were used as B-sides and would later turn up on reissues of the album.

Yo La Tengo - Fakebook

Yo La Tengo covers "Andalucia"

American indie rock band Yo La Tengo covers Andalucia on their Fakebook album.

The Jazz Butcher covers "Chinese Envoy"

The Jazz Butcher covers Chinese Envoy at a radio session for KCRW's SNAP, Santa Monica, California, 24 November 1990.

The Replacements - All Shook Down

The Replacements

Plays viola on Sadly Beautiful on the All Shook Down album by American alternative rock band The Replacements.

© 1999- Hans Werksman