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

Promoting John Cale

Paris 1919

Paris 1919 promo sheet

This text was used for the promo sheet for the Paris 1919 album.

John Cale works for Warner Bros. Records now. "I love it. I get up in the morning and go to work." But he didn't always. He wrote and produced two exemplary, rock orientated albums for Columbia, Vintage Violence and Church of Anthrax, arranged and produced albums by Nico and the Stooges, and one time, long ago, he and Lou Reed merged to form the Velvet Underground.

Paris 1919 promo sheet for the original album

Disparate directions
Last August John created waves in the critics' columns with his Reprise album The Academy In Peril. Nobody wanted to commit themselves on what kind of music it was (even though Warners called it their first classical release), but almost everybody who heard it agreed that it was a triumphant sort of work-assuming the task of incorporating disparate musical thrusts into a single, cohesive unit as an album, and succeeding.

One might treat the subject of Cale, musician and composer, in a similar vein, for the musical directions which this man has followed through the course of his career can only be deemed disparate, too.

Instant Bizarre
He was involved in New York's Warholian/dada renaissance almost from the beginning. Born in Wales, he'd shuttled (in 1963) across the Atlantic from England where he had been involved in provo, neo-dadaist, conceptual art in the New Avant-Garde, whose musical madmen busted up pianos with sledgehammers and screamed at potted plants until they died.

He met Lou Reed somewhere along the line, and together they formed the Velvet Underground. Lou played guitar and John the piano and viola. They created a travelling, instantly bizarre enviroment.

The idea behind the Velvet Underground was to improvise in front of an audience and never give the same concert twice.

They cringed, crept and caromed through the country, a part of Warhol's EPI, inciting such descriptions as "a three ring psychosis" and "a non-stop horror show." The songs were Reed/Cale street noise about junkies, pimps and bi's. John waethered it all, treating his electric viola as now a toy, now a nightmare maker.

Nightmare Maker
At one point Nico sang with the group- back around the banana album- and when the inevitable did finally explode Cale emerged from the sticky plastic, alongside Nico, and the two of them produced two albums of memorably intense music, Marble Index and Desertshore. Nico sang, of course, and John arranged and produced the material. The Stooges and the Columbia albums followed. Then came The Academy in Peril.

Rock & Roll
But if, in this sense, The Academy in Peril would be judged classical music, Paris 1919 would be judged rock. There are nine songs, all based upon rock rhythms as defined by Richie Hayward and Lowell George, drummer and guitarist of Little Feat. There are vocals on every song, done by John, under the guidance of producer Chris Thomas (Pink Floyd, Procol Harum), and augmented by string backgrounds done by members of UCLA's symphony orchestra.

Paris 1919 is John Cale's furthest excursion into musical imagination, illuminating horizons heretofore unsighted.

© 1999- Hans Werksman