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

John Cale - Producer

Searching for sound

Producing Siouxsie - photo: Bob Berg

Cale has been busy producing artists since the late Sixties, when he captured the raw sound of the Stooges and the teutonic tones of Nico.

Production jobs came and went (and sometimes fell through), but he was in demand guy for getting the job done by acts who wanted to show off their cool with having "Producer: John Cale" in the liner notes of their albums.

"I really love producing other artists. I love helping someone achieve his goals. I always try to approach it from the point of view, "What would a Zen master do in these circumstances?' And that is not to give the artist a direct answer to all his questions, but to suggest a solution by other means. You've got to stick to what you believe in. It might be lucrative for me to work with a particular personality, but if I don't feel sympathetic to what he's doing, I'm just letting myself down. And you lose all your credibility if you do that."

Producing overview

He hits the ground running with the production of the self-titled debut album by The Stooges in 1969. He got the job through Elektra owner Jac Holzman:

"Jac took me to Detroit to see the MC5 recording live. The opening band was the Stooges... I fell in love with Iggy's character and personality as a performer. The challenge was to get that magic and impish behavior onto a record."

After the Quadrophonic project for rival record label Columbia fails to take off, Cale joins Warners as a staff producer in 1971. He moves from New York to Los Angeles. Warners hopes to make a quadrophonic version of A Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick. The costs of refitting the theatres for the new sound are too high to make it happen.

Cale however was not compatible with big company big bucks producing methods and he left in 1975. He has been freelancing ever since.

In the Seventies he produced the classic Horses album by the Patti Smith Group:

"It was not clear what persona this record was going to have until I had her improvise against herself. At that point something clicked. There was a track she did where she read poetry against poetry and there were two lines going on and I had her mix it. When Clive Davis [head of Arista, the record label - HW] heard that, he said, 'Hey, you've got a collaborator.' And that's exactly the thing that made that record different. She was really a poet and you had to respect the fact that she was not a musician but out of sheer bravado and desire was making herself into a rock-and-roll singer and basically wanted to be Keith Richards. But I was awed that she had gotten all that input from Bob Dylan and Lou Reed to some extent. She had a Welsh Methodist idea of improvisation, in that it was like declamation. Lou was kind of psychological, but a lot of Patti's impulses came from preaching."

Punk and New Wave bands like Squeeze, Sham 69 and Menace record seminal tracks under his supervision.

Nico called upon him three times to produce one of her albums: Desertshore, The End and Camera Obscura.

In the Eighties he produced New Wave groups like Made for TV and Belgian singers of the Lio variety. He has no fond memories of working with anarchic English indie dance band Happy Mondays:

"A very quick nightmare. I had just stopped drinking and everything else. The band complained that I was on a health kick and that all I did was sit around eating tangerines all day long."

The Nineties found Cale producing the New Zealand act Garageland, Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses, Siouxsie & The Banshees and the Breton Alan Stivell.

He made the British musical ensemble Mediæval Baebes sound like 21th century angels.

Latest finished production job: The Boxing Mirror, an album by American rock musician Alejandro Escovedo, released on May 2, 2006.

John Cale: Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006

Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006

Twenty Cale produced tracks can be found on the John Cale - Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006 album.


It's hard to keep track of everybody he had his hands on.
Any additions? Use the form.

Albums, EP's and singles produced by Cale

Artist Album Year
Ambulance LTD (never released) 2007
Art Bergmann Crawl With Me 1988
Chistina Disco Clone 1978
Chunky, Novi and Ernie Chunky, Novi and Ernie 1974
Element of Crime Try to be Mensch 1987
Alejandro Escovedo The Boxing Mirror 2006
Louise Feron Amour Fou 1991
Louise Feron Louise Feron 1991
Garageland Feel alright 1997
Goya Dress Glorious 1996
Goya Dress Rooms 1996
Happy Mondays Squirrel And G-man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) 1986
Happy Mondays Loads (& Loads More) 1995
Harry Toledo & The Rockets Harry Toledo & The Rockets 1978
Jesus Lizard Jesus Lizard 1998
David Kubinec Some Things Never Change 1978
Larry and Tommy Yo-Yo 1968
Lio Popmodel 1986
Made For TV So Afraid of the Russians/Unknown Soldier 1983
Maids of Gravity The First Second 1996
Marie et Les Garçons Attitudes/Re-Bop 1978
Mediæval Baebes Undrentide 2000
Menace I Need Nothing (single) 1977
Model Citizens Shift the Blame (ep) 1979
Modern Guy Une Nouvelle Vie 1980
Modern Lovers Modern Lovers 1973
Necessaries You Can Borrow My Car / Runaway Child (single) 1979
Nico Desertshore 1970
Nico The End 1974
Nico Camera Obscura 1985
Nico The Frozen Borderline 1968-1970 2007
Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses In Paradisu 1996
Los Ronaldos Sabor Salado 1990
Sham 69 I Don't Wanna / Red London / Ulster (single) 1977
Siouxsie & The Banshees The Rapture 1994
Patti Smith Group Horses 1975
Snatch Shopping For Clothes/Joey/Red Army 1980
Squeeze Packet of Three (EP) 1977
Squeeze Squeeze 1978
Squeeze Wrong Way (single) 1979
Alan Stivell I Douar 1998
Stooges Stooges 1969
The Sick F-cks (never released) 1978
Various Artists Sixteen Candles 1984
Various Artists Caged/Uncaged 1993
Ventilator desert station frequency 1999
Big Vern Lullabies for Lager Louts 1989
Jennifer Warnes Jennifer 1972




Camera Obscura

Squirrel And G-man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)

I Douar

Mediæval Baebes

Alejandro Escovedo: The Boxing Mirror

© 1999- Hans Werksman