Happy Birthday: John Cale

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Thursday, March 9, 2017
Rock
60s
70s
Happy Birthday
Velvet Underground
John Cale
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Happy Birthday: John Cale

It’s John Cale’s birthday today, and the former Velvet Underground member is, as best we can tell, still going strong in his seventies. You know his work with the V.U., but you may not be as familiar with his work as a solo artist, and you may be downright surprised at some of the artists he’s worked with as a producer. We’ve got a playlist which features his solo work from our catalog as well as the live Velvet Underground album LIVE MCMXCIII, but before you hit “play” on that, here are six artists that Cale has produced in his career.

1. The Stooges, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (1969)

“I just wanted [to work with] the band because of their live show. Danny Fields asked me to come out to Detroit, and they were opening for MC5. It was the way that James [Iggy Pop] handled the crowd. I mean, one minute, you threaten them; another minute, you hug them. It’s fabulous. And you go, ‘Wow, how am I going to put this in a record?’ A silly question. You just make the music. You don’t worry about the visuals and all that. I had all sorts of preconceived notions about the band and how to deal with the live show via the record, which was a mistake.” – John Cale, Red Bull Academy

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2. Nico, “Mutterlein” (1970)

Cale produced a few albums for his former Velvet Underground bandmate, but this song from her DESERTSHORE album is particularly notable, as some of her friends played it at her funeral.

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3. Chunky, Novi & Ernie, “Underground” (1973)

A trio consisting of Lauren Wood, Novi Novog, and Ernie Emerita, Chunky, Novi & Ernie released two albums in the mid 1970s. This track comes from their debut, which was co-produced by Cale and Ted Templeman. The following year, Montrose would cover this track, so if you’ve heard the song but you’ve never heard of this band, that might explain it.

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4. Patti Smith, “Gloria” (1976)

“My picking John was about as arbitrary as picking Rimbaud. I saw the cover of Illuminations with Rimbaud’s face, y’know, he looked so cool, just like Bob Dylan. So Rimbaud became my favorite poet. I looked at the cover of [Cale’s 1974 album] FEAR and I said, ‘Now there’s a set of cheekbones.’ The thing is… in my mind I picked him because his records sounded good. But I hired the wrong guy. All I was really looking for was a technical person. Instead, I got a total maniac artist. I went to pick out an expensive watercolor painting and instead I got a mirror.” – Patti Smith in conversation with Dave Marsh

5. The Modern Lovers, “Roadrunner” (1976)

The process of recording and releasing the debut LP by Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers was a surprisingly epic one: the band recorded the material for their self-titled first album in September 1971 and March 1972, but it wasn’t until 1976 that it finally saw release. Mind you, if you think that’s bad, consider that their second album, THE ORIGINAL MODERN LOVERS, was recorded in 1972 and wasn’t released until 1981!

6. Squeeze, “Take Me I’m Yours” (1978)

Glenn Tilbrook has described the origins of Squeeze securing Cale as their producer as a “very unromantic story,” and he’s right: it was really just a case of their manager, Miles Copeland, doing a deal with Cale to produce a certain number of his artists, and Squeeze was one of ‘em. The band didn’t exactly mesh with Cale, but even though he proved to be difficult, Tilbrook has also said, “He was one of the most creative people we’ve ever worked with.”