John Cale is a rare artist. In a career that now stretches back 18 years, he has managed to forge for himself an absolute freedom of expression. In a pop music world of categories, charts and playlists, this in itself is quite an achievment.
Cale's work has ranged from the raucous to the classical ; from the political to the romantic; from intellectual to visceral; from avant garde to the blues. He has worked with many of the most intriguing artists of our time, including Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Squeeze, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, Nico, Iggy & The Stooges, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Terry Riley, Brian Eno etc. The greatest credit, however, must be given to John Cale as a solo artist, a man who has never compromised to prevailing fashion nor resorted to hollow cliche.
A little historical background is in order. John Cale was born in Wales on December 5, 1940. He studied classical music at London University's Goldsmith College and went to the United States in 1963 after recieving a Leonard Bernstein fellowship to study at Tanglewood. On one of his frequent forays to New York City, he met Lou Reed and, along with Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker (with the patronage of Andy Karhol), The Velvet Underground was formed. It is not overstating the case to say that the two albums Cale made with the group - « The Velvet Underground & Nico » and - « White Light / White Heat » forever altered people's perceptions about what was possible within the framework of rock-n-roll.
In 1968, Cale surfaced from the Underground and worked on some studio projects for Elektra Records, including The Stooges' first album and Nicos legendary « Marble Index » LP. Cale signed with CBS Records and, in 1969, released his first solo album
« Vintage Violence » which was followed in 1970 by « Church Of Anthax », an experimental collaboration with Avant Garde composer Terry Riley.
Cale moved to California in 1971 and signed with Warner Bros. as an artist, producer and A&R man. During his time with the company he produced such diverse artists as Nico, Jonathan Richman and Jennifer Warnes while recording two classic albums of his own, « The Academy In Peril » and the legendary « Paris 1919 ».
He then returned to London, where he was signed by Island Records for whom Cale made three albums of unrelenting rock-n-roll; « Fear », « Slow Dazzle » and « Helen Of Troy », as well as a live collaboration with Brian Eno, Nico and Kevin Ayers entitled « June,1,1974 ». By the time Island released « Guts » a compendium of 'hits' from these albums, Cale had long since moved on to New York and the burgeoning New Wave scene in downtown Manhattan.
The years from 1975 through 1977 were a period of furious activity for Cale. He found himself in the unique position of being in the forefront of a musical scene, called punk, which he had helped to foster years earlier. He produced Patti Smith's debut album, « Horses » and played bass on her first tour.
In 1977 Cale founds his own record label SPY Records with Jane Friedman then join by Michel Esteban and Michael Zilkha. Spy released 5 singles and EP : Harry Toledo & The Rockets (SPY 001) - The Necessaries (SPY 002) - Lester Bangs (SPY 003) - Model Citizens (SPY 004) - Marie et Les Garçons (SPY 005) and Cale's own releases, the 3 tracks « Animal Justice » EP ( featuring « Memphis », « Chickenshit » and « Hedda Gabler ») and « Sabotage/Live » LP (SPY 007)
Spy proved that Cale could beat the punks at their own game of sheer outrage and challenge, while not sacrificing the basic intelliglence and structure of his lyrics and music. Around this time Cale went into the studio with an up-and-coming band called Squeeze, producing their debut EP, « Packet of Three », and « U.K SQUEEZE » LP for A&M.
In 1978 Cale also produced the single of Cristina « Disco Clone », the first single released by ZE Records, the label Esteban and Zilkah just founded after SPY.
In 1981 he released « Honi Soit », an album whose title is derived from the motto of the Royal Order of the Garter (the highest order of British Knighthood), Honi Soit Qui mal Pense, which translates as Evil to him who evil thinks'. Suitably,« Honi Soit », abounded with military metaphors, examining wars waged on all fronts. Cale had not only dropped another musical bombshell, but he had survived the now-moribund punk scene with both his sense of humor and danger intact.
In 1982 Cale signed with ZE records and returned to the recording studio to record an album called « Music For a New Society ». The album, released late that same year, was met with unanimous critical acclaim. Then cames « Carribbean Sunset », the second album released on ZE. The album has all the hallmarks of Cale's talents, an album of compelling ideas and music. Then in 1974 ZE records released his last album with Cale « Comes Alive ».There are precious few artists who have been as consistently creative as this Welsshman.