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

Live reviews

New Yorker ticket - thanks Colin Brunton

Toronto 1977-02-19

Live at the New Yorker, Toronto, Canada
Review by Nigel Walkey

Not J.J. Cale

The first time Cale played Toronto was at the New Yorker Theatre on Yonge Street, february 19, 1977. It was a 500 seater, not a bad one in the house.

There was a big buzz around town that the legendary Welsh madman was coming to our city.

I was 21, and a fan of Cale since '69: in "free school" in grade eight, our craziest teacher told us that most rock music was crap, but if you had to, the only band that was worth listening to was the Velvet Underground.

I'm Waiting For The Man
Hedda Gabler
Darling I Need You
You Know More Than I Know
Buffalo Ballet
Child's Christmas in Wales
Paris 1919
Leaving It Up To You
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend
Don't Know Why She Came
Heartbreak Hotel
Cable Hogue
(I Keep A) Close Watch

We had a thing amongst the staff of the New Yorker whereby whoever was the biggest fan of the artist would get to meet them at the airport, and so I was chosen to pick up Cale. I head out to the airport, trying to think of what I was going to say when I met my musical hero. I was nervous as hell. And I arrived probably a good hour-and-a-half early, which only gave me more time to sweat and be nervous, and the more aware I became of my nervousness, the more I'd sweat, etc. Probably lost five pounds just waiting there. I'm staring at the "Arrivals" turnstiles, when I finally see them: band members dressed in black, pure New York cool, lead by a striding Jane Friedman, and bringing up the rear, Mr. Cale. I met Jane and said hello, and when she introduced me to Cale, I quickly swiped my hands on my pants so I wasn't so sweaty, and meekly uttered a line to Cale that to this day I have no idea what I was thinking. Cale sticks out his hand and shakes mine and rather than say "Glad to meet you Mr. Cale" or "Welcome to Toronto, Mr. Cale", I utter the idiotic and less-than-memorable "Welcome to Toronto, Mr. Cale. We have a very modern city here. I think you'll like it".

Poster for the show

But I don't think I was as idiotic as my buddy was. It's just after a soundcheck, and there's John Cale, Jane Friedman, and the John Cale band in the make-shift dressing room with us, and everyone's smoking black hash and drinking beer. And my friend turns to Cale and says: "So ... do you think you and Lou Reed will ever get the Velvets back together?" Cale gives him a sidelong glance and a once-over and if looks could kill my friend's entire family would've died right there on the spot. Cale says, "You've got a clean shirt there, boy. Who cleans your shirts? Your mother? Does your mother do your laundry?" My buddy turns blood red, mutters that no, he did his own laundry thank you, and doesn't say another word the rest of the night. At least he didn't ask Cale about writing "After Midnight".

The show itself was astonishing, first-rate, a killer. To quote Gary Topp: "Every girl wanted to get in his pants; every guy wanted to be in his shoes".

Ripper lyrics

Cale ended the main set by getting on his hands and knees, putting every wire or cord on stage into his mouth, and crawling off stage while the band continued, dragging amps and monitors and mike stands and debris with him as he went. There was a big gap between that and the first of three encores, 'cause we had to get everything hauled back on stage and rewired. He did three encores. Great, great stuff.

After the midnight show, as I cleared the stage of the amps and speakers and stuff, I found the yellowed piece of paper that had Cale's handwritten lyrics to "Jack the Ripper" on it. For a moment I considered giving it to him, but I was shy, and he was surrounded by people having him sign autographs, and so I just slipped it in my back pocket. And then got it posted on Hans' site.

© 1999- Hans Werksman