The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Author: DC (page 2 of 490)

Gig #136: John Cale Chronological (1968 – 1980)





At About This Time Mozart Was Dead And Joseph Conrad Was Sailing The Seven Seas Learning English Pt.1 (1968)
‘Tony Conrad had introduced the “bouncing screwdriver handle” guitar technique used by John Cale in his and Sterling Morrison’s performance of Cale’s piece “At about this time Mozart was dead and Joseph Conrad was sailing the seven seas learning English”. This piece uses overdubbing in which the instant pause control, which was a feature of the Woolensak tape recorder, was used to “scratch” on a reel-to-reel tape.’ — Oliver Landemaine


Wall (1970)
‘The only piece on John Cale’s first post-VU album Vintage Violence that’s remotely avant-garde is the bonus track ‘Wall’, six awesome minutes of electric viola scraping. In contrast, a lot of Vintage Violence is plain gorgeous and inherently musical; it just doesn’t feel as significant as Cale’s best work, even if it’s surprisingly hooky and accessible. It showcases a light and playful side of Cale that would become more and more submerged as his recorded oeuvre became darker and more demanding.’ — Fyfeopedia


w/ Terry Riley Church of Anthrax (1971)
‘A one-time-only collaboration between former Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale and minimalist composer Terry Riley, 1971’s Church of Anthrax doesn’t sound too much like the solo work of either. Around this time, Riley’s works were along the lines of “A Rainbow in Curved Air” or “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band”: pattern music with an obsessive attention to repetition and tricks with an analogue delay machine that gave his music a refractory, almost hallucinogenic quality. Though Cale was trained in a similar aesthetic (he played with La Monte Young, surely the most minimal of all minimalist composers), he had largely left it behind by 1971, and so Church of Anthrax mixes Riley’s drones and patterns with a more muscular and melodic bent versed in both free jazz and experimental rock.’ — Allmusic


w/ Terry Riley The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles (1971)
‘Not quite modern classical music, but not at all rock & roll either, Church of Anthrax sounds in retrospect like it was a huge influence on later post-minimalist composers like Andrew Poppy, Wim Mertens, and Michael Nyman, who mix similar doses of minimalism, rock, and jazz. On its own merits, the album is always interesting, and the centerpiece “The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles” is probably the point where Riley and Cale approach each other on the most equal footing. The low point is Cale’s solo writing credit, “The Soul of Patrick Lee,” a slight vocal interlude by Adam Miller that feels out of place in these surroundings.’ — collaged


Temper (1972)
‘”Temper”, an outtake from the recording sessions for his album Academy in Peril, was later released on the promotional compilation Troublemakers. It was also released on the Seducing Down The Door compilation.’ — collaged


Days of Steam (1972)
‘Largely instrumental, Cale’s second record is an exploration of his classical training with bits of the VU drone and prog rock widening the borders. Opener “The Philosopher” features Ron Wood on slide guitar and bumps along similarly to the title cut from Can’s Future Days, while the rest of the album consists of the sort of conceptual strangeness Cale is known for (“Legs Larry at Television Centre” is a viola and cello piece with a voice directing imaginary cameras). There is more Can to be heard on “King Harry,” but fans of somber piano pieces will likely get the most out of this.’ — Rhapsody


King Harry (1972)
‘The former Velvet Underground keyboardist and viola player’s third solo album was originally released in 1972 also happened to be his debut on Reprise Records. Cale created a predominantly instrumental album, with “King Harry” the only piece having any formal lyrics. Contributors included Ron Wood on guitar, Del Newman on drums (who would later do orchestral arrangements for Elton John) and “Legs” Larry Smith of The Bonzo Dog Band.’ — collaged


a) Faust b) The Balance c) Capt. Morgans Lament (1972)
‘When things are more quick in mood, as in “Faust,” one of “3 Orchestral Pieces,” one of the Philharmonic guest numbers, Cale has good fun applying rock arrangement and production tricks: compression, gentle flanging, drum rhythms, and so forth.’ — Allmusic


Paris 1919 (1973; live @ Paradiso, Amsterdam 2009)
Paris 1919 is an album by Welsh musician John Cale. It was produced by Chris Thomas and features a backing band consisting largely of members of Little Feat. Paris 1919 is made up of songs with arcane and complex lyrics; musically, the album is a shift from his previous works with composer Terry Riley and his avant-garde experiments with La Monte Young towards a more baroque sound. It is the most accessible and traditional of Cale’s albums, and the most well-known of his work as a solo artist. The album was released in March 1973 by Reprise Records to warm critical reception. The Los Angeles Times called Paris 1919 “the idiosyncratic pinnacle to Cale’s thrilling yet perverse career, despite the fact it never topped the charts.”‘ — Wiki


Antarctica Starts Here (1973)
‘It’s the subtle change of the bass notes that does it in this one: chords are repeated, but with different bass notes, giving the song its clustered and subtly shifting feeling. Chord symbols are repeated if it’s a whole bar, noted once if it’s half a bar (so two beats per symbol). If half a bar contains two chords, there’s a “-” between them. Just prior to the instrumental break you’ve got this sublime chord (C9-C11), which really lifts the whole thing up!’ — Tabs


The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy (1974)
‘Right from the start, Cale makes it clear he’s not messing around on Fear. If his solo career before then had been a series of intriguing stylistic experiments, here he meshes it with an ear for his own brand of pop and rock, accessible while still clearly being himself through and through. Getting musical support from various Roxy Music veterans like Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Andy Mackay didn’t hurt at all, and all the assorted performers do a great job carrying out Cale’s vision.’ — Ned Raggett


Gun (1974)
‘Cale’s own bent for trying things out isn’t forgotten on the album, with his voice recorded in different ways (sometimes with hollow echo, other times much more direct) and musically touching on everything from early reggae to, on “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy,” a delightful Beach Boys pastiche. As for sheer intensity, little can top “Gun,” the equal of Eno’s own burning blast “Third Uncle” when it comes to lengthy, focused obsession translated into music and lyrics.’ — Allmusic


Mr. Wilson (1975)
‘The lead track of ‘Slow Dazzle’ is “Mr. Wilson,” a partly-ironic and partly-sincere tribute to Brian Wilson. (And also, I’ve heard, Harold Wilson, but I dunno about that.) It’s a very light song with an acid center, which makes it hard to interpret. If I had to try, I’d say that Cale is identifying with Wilson (“Take your mixes, not your mixture/Add some music to our day”, “Whisper whisper, got a monkey on my back”) and that it quite scares him. Though that probably fits his future career trajectory too closely to be true. This has an interesting form: two times verse + chorus, a middle eight + chorus, and a coda. I should note: in the coda, despite the ironic and mysterious lyric “California wine tastes fine,” all musical irony drops out and only a frankly affecting string part and vocal harmonies are left.’ — Fragments of a Cale Season


Taking It All Away (1975; live @ Zeche Bochum 1983)
‘Oh, you sentimental fool / Yes, you sentimental fool / Love – those broken veins / Made you so afraid / Of that wishful wishing well // Well, now, you’re in misery and in pain / Well, now, you’re in misery and in pain / So she broke your heart / And you let her die / Well, that’s your name and that’s the game // ‘Cause they’re taking it all away / They’re taking it all away / They’re taking it all away … ‘ — JC


Guts (1975)
‘“Guts” opens with the line, “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife”. This refers to Kevin Ayers sleeping with Cale’s wife before the June 1, 1974 concert, as John Cale related in his autobiography, with Victor Bockris, What’s Welsh for Zen (1998).’ — Lastfm


My Maria (1975)
‘John Cale is a genius. Period. And on no albums was his genius-ness more prominent and seminal than on “Paris 1919” and the Island trilogy – “Fear”, “Slow Dazzle”, and “Helen of Troy”, released in the early to mid 70s. Most people have a tendency to site “Fear” as their favorite of the Island trilogy, but “Helen of Troy” has always been mine. The album starts off with “My Maria”, a hauntingly melodic song that manages to harness in both a spine-tinglingly beautiful chorus *and* some of guitarist Chris Spedding’s gnarliest guitar shredding ever committed to vinyl. It’s also got this awesome marimba thing during the verses.’ — LypoSuck


Engine (1975)
‘Cale had just finished producing Patti Smith’s “Horses” and was in progress of touring when Island released “Helen of Troy” out from under him, without his knowledge, and in an unfinished state of pre-production. Cale once said that Island ‘released what amounted to demo tapes’ on the final “Helen of Troy”: indicating that the problematic elements in question were probably “Engine,” “Save Us” and most of side two.’ — Head Heritage


Leaving It Up to You (1975)
Paris 1919 was followed by a trilogy of albums recorded on the Island label, which saw him collaborate with Brian Eno among others. During this period his live show became increasingly aggressive, until one day he slaughtered a chicken mid-performance causing his band to walk off stage in disgust. For most of his career Cale has used the piano as his primary instrument, but on the island LPs he was not averse to rocking out, or indeed freaking out with a guitar while snarling about Sharon Tate.’ — Sabotage Times


Chickenshit (1977)
‘On April 24, 1977, during his twisted rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” in Croydon, England, John Cale brandished a meat cleaver in one hand and a chicken in the other (which, unbeknownst to those attending, was already dead). As the punk kids in attendance moshed and slammed at the foot of the stage, Cale placed the chicken on the floor, knelt down and swiftly hacked off its head. As he whipped the severed remnants into the audience, everyone, including the other band members, stared in bemusement. The vegetarian rhythm section of Mike Visceglia and Joe Stefko, who backstage had interrogated Cale on his plans for the bird, promptly walked off. Throughout the years, Cale struggled with depression and drug use. By the time the “chicken incident” occurred, he was in the midst of a heavy cocaine addiction, which plagued him with paranoia and borderline psychosis. As his decisions became more irrational, his music increasingly grew angrier. In response to his band members’ departure, Cale quickly recorded the three-song Animal Justice EP, featuring “Chickenshit,” a sarcastic retelling of the events.’ — Magnet Magazine


Dr. Mudd (1979)
‘On “Dr. Mudd,” the fear reaches its high point, though it might not sound like it. Over jittery rhythm guitar, female singer Deerfrance adds carefree “doo-doo-doo” backup vocals, although the lyrics are anything but. With the repeated cries of “Whatcha gonna do?” Cale strains his voice describing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He reminds us that although America may not be forced to relive the events every day, the people of Japan are frequently burdened, cursed to “remember when the children’s hair fell out, and all their skin turned blue.” Cale then asks us to put ourselves in their shoes, quizzing our elected officials what will happen when “China drops a bomb on you.” It’s a catchy new-wave masterpiece, though no fun for those that listen close.’ — Magnet Magazine


Sabotage (1979)
”The music scene was changing rapidly, but the world climate was changing as well. Cale’s next batch of songs would seemingly draw a comparison between the two; as many punks used their music and performances to display their sometimes violent, misplaced attitudes, America nervously watched the U.S.S.R. in the throes of the nuclear arms race, with the height of the Cold War right around the corner. Recorded over four nights in April ’79 at CBGB, Sabotage/Live dealt with these threats head on. In Cale’s autobiography, What’s Welsh For Zen?, he explains, “Sabotage was a response to the militarism that was in the air around then. When I released the controversial track ‘Ready For War’ as a single, I should have said to the audience, ‘We have an induction room backstage. Let’s see you come back and enlist. You wouldn’t have seen one of them—people who had just been stamping their feet and yelling, ‘Yeah, right on!’ Though of course if you stole a hubcap off one of them, you’d probably hear from him.”’ — collaged


Rosegarden Funeral of Sores (1980)
‘This was a strange little single release by the major label (A&M;) affiliated IRS Records. The B-side is probably more famous for Bauhaus’s cover version. And while researching this release online I found a comment as to how their version is much better. I like the Bauhaus version OK, but this is great, too. On the record’s label there is a disclaimer: “Vocal distortion intended”, haha. Also strange, these songs seem to have never been released elsewhere. I checked all the Cale albums from the time, as well as the various “Best Ofs” that have come out. Nada anywhere…’ — Pessimist Club




p.s. Hey. ** JM, Hey, Josiah! I want to see images. Is this the amazing sounding project you briefly described a bit ago? Anyway, images when the time comes please. Whoa, fantastic about the McElroy. That’s huge news. Whoa. Hoping your friend gets a little something or other from my thing. Take care. I hope the new project is a giant hit whatever that entails. ** dooflow, Hi! What a rare and great pleasure! I’m going to get on the Wheeler Winston Dixon hunt this weekend. ‘The Taiga Syndrome’ is great, right? I think I read that last year. Really, thanks for coming in. It’s a boon. ** ET, Thank you, my pleasure. Oh, shoot, yes, yes, I’m so sorry for the non-reactiveness. I’m slow at the best of times, and between the release of the film and other projects and personal stuff I’ve been really swamped upstairs and downstairs in the last months, so it’s just forgetfulness and a sold-out brain. I’ll go find your email and write to you. Again, I’m so sorry for the silence. Thank you! ** David Ehrenstein, No, the Foucault book is centered around him talking acid in Death Valley. Thank you kindly about PGL. I haven’t seen the Ferrara ‘Pasolini’, but I quite want to. I generally like his films. ** Sypha, The shout out was a no brainer, man. WHITE by BEE? What in the world is that? Oh, wait, duh. Nevermind. I heard a bit of the Madonna, and I thought it seemed actually kind of surprising and interesting. But I’ve only heard a squib. ** Steve Erickson, Thank you for the lists. I’ll find the things I don’t know and test them. Oh, and thanks a lot for the link to the new Ken Jacobs. I didn’t know anything about that. Great! ** Tosh Berman, Thanks, bud, and, mostly, thanks for your great, great book! ** Steve Finbow, Hi, Steve, How nice to see you! Oh, well, thank you. The book is crazy awesome. Take good care. ** rewritedept, Hi, Chris, old pal. Of course I’m happy that the GbV is on your list. Earth bores my pants off. Gisele loves them though. Thank you about Kevin. Yeah, I’m still pretty wiped out by that loss, as so many people are. Thank you and love. ** KeatageCheese, I like water parks, but I almost never go to them for no good reason. Yeah, it’s hood-like. I guess that was the point, to do it there out of solidarity or something and see what happened. I want to see the new ‘Child’s Play’ for sure and the new ‘John Wick’ for absolutely sure. I hope the git hugged you like a long lost something or other. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yeah, I need to get that Meg McCarville. I keep meaning to. Thank you for including PGL. I saw a pic you shared on FB of some pages of the new The Call, and, man, it looks really delicious! The colors thing is amazing, for one thing. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi. Cool that your vid is in the bag. And I can watch it? I will this weekend. Whoa, exciting! And thanks for linking up to the backstories. Oh, yeah, I often check out e-flux. I think I link to things of theirs in posts here quite a bit. I’ll check out the piece you especially like. And Jeanines. Thanks as ever for your generosity, and have a swell weekend. ** cal, Hi, C! The Inter Arma is kind of a grower. I love that Ryan’s work is so divisive amongst film/video people. In his case, it seems like a big strength. Oh, yeah, I like that Rhye record. I spaced on it. I want to see ‘Godzilla’, but I think it’ll have to be on a plane at this point. But I love watching giant movies on teeny plane screens with shitty headphones. I don’t know why. Don’t break your back or anything in the warehouse. Always great to chat with you too, big time. ** Bill, Hi, B. Well, of course there are a bunch of things on your lists that I don’t know, and I just took a quick break to scribble — by hand, I’m old fashioned — down those titles so I can be enriched. Thank you. And thanks for listing PGL! ** KK, Hi, KK. Welcome! I know or rather have heard something about Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s ‘Animalia’, but I haven’t gotten it. I definitely will ASAP. Thanks a bunch for the tip, and a sweet weekend to you too! ** Damien Ark, Hey, Damien! Great to see you! People don’t like that Basinski? Huh. Nope, I still haven’t heard the Beth Gibbons symphony thing for no logical reason. I will. Love and peace back to you in spades. ** Paul Curran, Is it solstice? Oh, God. Fucking summer. Yeah, in the two pix I saw, the house literally looked it was in the middle of rural nowhere. I want to check out Setagaya next time I’m there. You want to give me (and Zac) a tour? Well, of course I would be utterly thrilled if you want to make a post about that. That would be hugely stellar. Thank you for the offer! You have a fantastic and beyond weekend. ** TJ Wood, Hi, welcome. Mike Corrao, don’t know him, … okay, I will definitely check ‘Gut Text’ out. Thank you. ** James, Solstice, meh, but thank you anyway. Well, of course about ‘HG’. I have good taste, sir. I’ll look into those non-fiction books I don’t know. I’m spending a fair amount of time thinking about the novel, which is what I need to do before re-tackling it, but I haven’t dug in yet, no. Soon, I hope. Much love back to you and yours. ** Okay. I fell down a Cale-Hole the other day, and I decided to make a gig out if it. That’s your local weekend should you decide to accept the assignment. See you on Monday.

Mine for yours: My favorite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2019 so far

(in no order)

Richard Cheim KING OF JOY (Soft Skull)

Mark Doten TRUMP SKY ALPHA (Graywolf Press)

Niven Govinden THIS BRUTAL HOUSE (Little Brown)

Juliet Escoria JULIET THE MANIAC  (Melville House)

Renee Gladman MORELIA  (Solid Objects)

Brian Evenson SONG FOR THE UNRAVELING OF THE WORLD  (Coffeehouse Press)

Kathryn Davis THE SILK ROAD  (Graywolf Press)

Andrew Hodgson MNEMIC SYMBOLS  (Dostoyevsky Wannabe)

Maryse Meijer RAG  (FSG)

M Kitchell EXPERIMENTAL MEN  (Inside the Castle)

Karen An-hwei Lee THE MAZE OF TRANSPARENCIES  (Ellipsis Press)

James Nulick HAUNTED GIRLFRIEND  (Expat Press)

James Champagne HARLEM SMOKE (Expat Press)

Josiah Morgan INSIDE THE CASTLE  (Amphetamine Reptile)

Isabel Waidner WE ARE MADE OF DIAMOND STUFF  (Dostoyevsky Wannabe)


Meg Pokrass, Gary Fincke, & Dan Chaon, Eds. BEST MICROFICTION 2019  (Pelekinesis)




(in no order)


Ben Fama DEATH WISH (Newest York Arts Press)

Marcelline Delbecq CAMERA (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Ron Padgett BIG CABIN (Coffeehouse Press)

Ariana Reines A SAND BOOK (Tin House)

Edmund Berrigan MORE GONE (City Lights)

Stephen Jonas ARCANA: A STEPHEN JONAS READER (City Lights)

Kim Hyesoon A DRINK OF RED MIRROR (Action Books)

Kit Robinson THOUGHT BALLOON (Roof Books)



(in no order)

Tosh Berman TOSH (City Lights)

Gary Indiana VILE DAYS (Semiotext(e))


John Waters MR. KNOW-IT-ALL (FSG)

Steve Finbow/Karolina Urbanik DEATH MORT TOD (Infinity Land Press)

Damo Suzuki & Paul Woods I AM DAMO SUZUKI (Omnibus)





(in no order)

Sunn0))) LIFE METAL (Southern Lord)


Guided by Voices WARP AND WOOF (Rockathon)

Triad God 黑社會 TRIAD (Presto!?)


William Basinski ON TIME OUT OF TIME (Temporary Residence)

Matmos PLASTIC ANNIVERSARY (Thrill Jockey)


Tyler, the Creator IGOR (Columbia)

Daniel O’Sullivan FOLLY (O Genesis)

Finlay Shakespeare DOMESTIC ECONOMY (Editions Mego)

Inter Arma SULPHUR ENGLISH (Relapse)

Prefab Sprout I TRAWL THE MEGAHERTZ (Sony)

Stephen Malkmus GROOVE DENIED (Matador)



(in no order)


Frederick Weissman MONROVIA, INDIANA

Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson THE GREEN FOG


Hirokazu Kore-eda SHOPLIFTERS



(in no order)

Gretchen Bender SO MUCH DEATHLESS (Red Bull Arts New York)


Morgan Fisher PASSING TIME (Redcat, Los Angeles)

Joe Brainard 100 WORKS (Tibor de Nagy, NYC)

Michael Heizer 1968 – 2019 (Gagosian Le Bourget)

Isidore Isou RETROSPECTIVE (Centre Pompidou)



(in no order)

Profound Experience
Musique Machine
Original Cinemaniac
The Creative Independent
Shit Wonder
Volume 1 Brooklyn
Real Pants
Queen Mob’s Teahouse
dark fucking wizard
The Chiseler
espresso bongo
Experimental Cinema
The Wire
{ feuilleton }
The Los Angeles Review of Books
Solar Luxuriance
3:AM Magazine
largehearted boy
Tiny Mix Tapes
Open Culture
Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets
The Wonderful World of Tam Tam Books




p.s. Hey. As it says in the headline, if there’s stuff that’s come out this year that you especially like and/or recommend, I’m always hungry for new discoveries in every medium. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey. Yes, I remember that YnY piece, cool. Everyone, Back in 2009, Ben ‘_Black_Acrylic’ Robinson and some artist pals had a lively talk about Ryan Trecartin’s videos for the legendary, much missed zine Yuck ‘n Yum, and you can still read it, and obviously I recommend you do. Here. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha ha, well, if it’s your cat’s favorite, I should try again, but I’m pretty sure I won’t last long. Gisele likes it. I do not know Wheeler Winston Dixon’s work, and I will correct that ASAP. Huh. Thank you! New FaBlog! Everyone, Mr. E’s FaBlog has a new thing at its top called ‘Alexandria Again and Forever’ and you can conjoin with it here. ** Sypha, Hi. Interesting. I know Japan is extremely all over the trading card thing. There are a lot of shops here catering to Japanophile pop culture fans, and they’re stuffed with packs of trading cards for not just Japanese things but even really obscure and out of date US TV, bands, movies, etc. The Shiel book sounds so up your alley, and intriguing. That reminds me that I really need to order some books from Snuggly. I’ve been meaning to for ages. ** Steve Erickson, I’m very to have been able to make the introduction between and Ryan’s work. Yeah, I’ve tried to get his stuff programmed in film contexts, but it’s very difficult because they’re considered by the galleries that represent him to be commodities, and the galleries are hesitant to let him escape the marketplace. I know that’s frustrating for him. ** cal, Hi, Cal! Weird, I was just thinking about you and wondering how you are yesterday. Nice. I’ve mostly been quite good, really busy with the ‘PGL’ release and a TV project I’m co-writing and the early stages of Zac’s and my next film. But it’s all good. Very happy you like Ryan’s work. A favorite? That’s tough as he’s consistently amazing. Maybe ‘I-BE AREA’ or ‘Center Jenny’, but it’s hard. I usually recommend ‘A Family Finds Entertainment’ as a great way into his work. Congrats on finishing school! Is the new job interesting as well as fruitful? Cool, I hope you like ‘PGL’, fingers crossed. Man, really good to see you! I hope I get to see again soon. ** PinkKeatons, You’ve got some good weed there. When you go to the theme parks, I’ll give you some must-see tips. Zac and I rode almost everything at every park there except we didn’t get to Sea World. Paris Pride took place in St. Denis this year. Weird experiment. Apparently worked like a charm. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. My pleasure. Oh, man, how did I not know about your gif works before? Shit, I will be heavily and thoroughly all over that pretty much instantaneously. Thank you! Everyone, Super excellent writer Shane Christmass also works in the gif medium, which is, as you know, a medium I prize and think is vastly under-explored by artists, and Shane’s a killer artist, and I thusly recommend you go over here and luxuriate in IMAGE MACRO GIF ONE, as it/they are titled. Have fun! Oh, and the mixtape! I’ll be there too. Everyone, p.s. Shane has also put together a mixtape of stuff he was absorbing while writing his novel XEROX OVER MNAHATTAN, and I’ll bet that’s pretty heavily listenable, so go here too. Wait, I haven’t read that novel. Shit. I’ll get it. I’m pretty it would be up there in the post if I hadn’t spaced. But the year is young. Thanks, man. ** Right. Your day here has been introduced. See you tomorrow.

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