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Forever changed: Your first encounter with the music of John Cale

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Since there's no news to discuss sophisticatedly, let's take a walk down memory lane.

Do you remember your…er…first time?
Who introduced you to his music?
Was it love at first sight?

I must admit I was a late bloomer.

When around 2003 I reassumed a childhood habit of mine and started going regularly to the library again, I didn’t only borrow books but more and more CDs to check out new and not-so-new music. One day I carried home everything available by Lou Reed because I had heard “Perfect Day” on the radio. Subsequently I fell in love with “Berlin”. That Drella album was not my cup of tea.

Three years later the bassist of a German rock band and Placebo’s Brian Molko individually mentioned a certain Basquiat, whose paintings they both admired. I had never heard of nor painter or movie, nevertheless I borrowed the soundtrack. Why didn’t they choose the beautiful version by Jeff Buckley? I thought listening to Cale's rendition of “Hallelujah”.

The track I did like from this album, instead, was David Bowie’s “A Small Plot of Land”. Bowie, who at that time I still thought of as a highly overrated Mr Let’s Dance, gained some extra airplay from my preferred radio station around his 60th birthday. I changed my mind when introduced to his edgier material such as “Outside”. As I was digging into his immense catalogue, it didn’t take long until I came across Lou Reed and the Velvets again.

“Songs for Drella” got its second chance, and when I watched the accompanying videotape for the first time it finally kicked in.

Better late than never!

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David Bowie was what indirectly got me into Cale. I started buying all of Bowie's stuff in early high school and really loved it. Being a Bowie fan meant I would always hear about the belvets as a lot of Bowie fans are velvets fans.


I had always known a few songs by Lou solo and the The Velvets. I always knew Pale Blue Eyes, Walk on the Wild Side, Perfect Day, Rock and Roll, and Sweet Jane. My friend lent me The Velvet Underground and Nico and the The Velvet Underground. I really liked those two albums so I got Loaded and White Light/White Heat too. From there I started exploring Lou's solo career. About 2 years ago, I started watching some Cale stuff on youtube and bought the remastered edition of Paris 1919. From there I've been hooked.

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A friend gave me a bad copy of the first Velvet Underground album on cassette, when I was 15. I was most fascinated by the songs in which Cale's influence is undeniable: "Venus in Furs", "The Black Angel's Death Song", "Heroin", "I'm Waiting for the Man"...

Shortly after I watched Cale's and Reed's "Work" on MTV. And I was spellbound, bought "Songs for Drella" and my music life was "Forever changed". Of course my favourites from "Songs for Drella" are sung by Cale. I tried to get more from him and was lucky enough that somebody sold these records at once to me: "Paris 1919", "Guts", "Honi Soit", "Comes Alive" and "Music for a New Society". With those records the big adventure started and it still goes on!

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um . . . I can't really remember not knowing Cale, to be honest. When I was about nine my favourite song in the world was All Tomorrow's Parties (actually I may have been younger, but I can't remember exactly), and I think solo stuff has always been played, but when I was really young I never really remembered who was who anyway, however much I liked them. I remember my parents being really disappointed that they couldn't go to a Cale concert for some reason to do with me and my sister, and then they were thrilled when they could go and could take me (sister couldn't go, the venue had age restrictions and she was too young. I was only old enough by about a month) Since that concert I have been truly truly hooked, though I always liked him before.

edit: further thinking has taken place. I remember getting very excited about blackAcetate and hearing Perfect on the radio. It's quite strange trying to work out where this all started.

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Nice to know someone is interested in this. I discovered Bowie through a chance hearing of ChangesTwoBowie in 1988. I was 13yo and completely gripped by two tracks at least - Aladdin Sane (the song) and Sound & Vision. From there a Bowie fixation which led to research and the purchase of VU's White Light White Heat for Xmas 1989. From that I was grabbed by Cale in particular (Lou kind of irritated me - still does)with The Gift and Lady Godiva show casing his voice and Sister Ray his sonic armoury. I used to spend all my free time in second hand/ collectible stores then and in one visit came across: Vintage Violence, Honi Soit, Sabotage, Slow Dazzle, Helen of Troy, Fear, Caribbean Sunset and Cale Comes Alive all of which I bought. It was at House of Wax Records in Perth Australia. Kim, the owner encouraged me to take the lot - thanks Kim. That was early 1990 and I have never looked back. I followed consistently, ordering all those European soundtracks through the 1990s and always thrilled. Saw him in Fremantle in 1993, then Sydney 2007, Sydney 2010 and as you may know from my postings on Hans' site the whole Hobart event.

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In 1979 I saw Joy Division doing She´s Lost Control on the BBC´s Something Else programme and they immediatly became my musical heroes. After reading that the Velvts had a big influence on JD I got hold of Polygram´s DLP The Story Of The Velvet Underground. The inside text was mainly blah blah about Lou Reed, so I bought Transformer and Street Hassle which were sort of ok.
In the early 80´ies I heard Dead Or Alive coincidentally on the radio (when ever does Cale get transmitted?), the next day I had Honi Soit on my turntable. A few weeks later I found Vintage Violence on a flea market and to my surprise this was totally different to HS. Then Music For A New Society was released, and JD suddenly sounded just like school kids.
Then in 1984 I got to see the man live, the 2nd gig being the ultimate performance ever of any gig I have witnessed (more than 300, from the likes of Iggy, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, Sioxsie, BRMC and so on). His performance of I´m Waiting For The Man topped even the one I´ve uploaded on YouTube, Cale all over the place screaming his head off. Now I knew I had seen my GOD!
Ever since I have been following and collecting this man´s incredable musical output, and it has convinced me more and more that John Cale is the Beethoven of our time. Cale brought noise and menace into rock music, he created (not only the Velvet-) Underground sound. His musical versatality, knowledge of music and the abillity to arrange and rearrange in so many different ways make him pretty unique in the entire music buisiness. But it is still such a disgrace that he and his work are still being stubbornly overlooked.

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My parents like great music, so The Velvets were always around when I was little. I remember being mesmerized by the man with the long dark hair and electric viola, even more so when I realized it was him who sounded so hauntingly beautiful in "The Gift." After I got a little older and could easily recognize him and Lou Reed (as well as Sterling and Moe), I decided to check out each of their solo careers.

I bought Drella to start off and ended up listening to it nonstop the first week I owned it. I realized my favorite songs from the album were Cale's ("Style It Takes" is absolutely fabulous), and decided to pick up some of his other stuff. Rasputin Music, a great record store in Northern California, had Paris 1919, and from then on I've been hooked. (I eventually bought Lou's stuff as well, but Cale has always held the prime spot in my heart.) Every time I go in there I check the Cale section and tell them to stock more of his albums so other people have a chance to experience how awesome he is.

P.S. ForARide, your YouTube videos have fueled my Cale obsession over the last couple years, so thank you sooo much for posting them! They're really great.

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