John Cale no Teatro Académico de Gil Vicente, em Coimbra.

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Comment by De Villo Sloan on November 17, 2011 at 11:36pm

Just an added note - I read Morgan's Burroughs biography and found some more Beatles info. When he lived in London, Burroughs was hooked up with a guy named Ian Somerville (who later died in a car crash). Somerville worked for the Beatles around the time of the "Revolver" album. You'll recall "Revolver" used a lot of backward tracking and other elements of experimental music of the time. McCartney seems to have been looking to Burroughs and friends for guidance. Morgan's book says McCartney played a rough version of "Revolver" for Burroughs and went away thinking Burroughs didn't like it. More tales of Beatnik Glory.

Comment by Walter Rovere on October 27, 2011 at 3:55pm

thanks for GREAT info on the Burroughs/McCartney connection! I have only read the short "With Burroughs" book by Bockris not the Miles bio, must get it...  Burroughs was on the cover of Sgt. Pepper as you know, and Stockhausen was too.. I have to say that compared to Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, Xenakis, etc previous works, "Revolution 9" always seemed to me very naive - However, context in the arts is crucial and the Beatles were experimenting with the song format (Tomorrow N.K. etc) from the position of the most succesful pop group ever (not unlike in a way their rival Brian Wilson with the Beach Boys - I read Pet Sounds was created in response to Revolver and Sgt Pepper in response to Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile in response to Sgt Pepper, in a mutual admiration/competition between them for the weirdest pop record)... whereas the Velvet were an exclusively underground affair and thus more free to do what they wanted.. I've never been such a Beatles fan (I am of Yoko of course), but Lou Reed for once, declared when the Beatles broke up that people did not really realise what loss that was for music...

As for the Cale/Reed relationships, I read on Wiki that "It has often been reported that the early edition of the Velvet Underground was a struggle between Reed and Cale's creative impulses: Reed's rather conventional approach contrasted with Cale's experimentalist tendencies. According to Tim Mitchell, however, Sterling Morrison reported that there was creative tension between Reed and Cale but that its impact has been exaggerated over the year"... My guess is that Reed wanted to make clear he was the boss and main composer of the VU, a bit like La Monte Young always claimed to be the sole composer of the Dream Syndicate music and dismissed Conrad and Cale's claims to be co-composers... But I also read they had fighted over Nico's affection, though she left after the first album and Cale stayed until 68

- (but what do you mean what happened to Nico? Cale kept on working for her solo albums... I was lucky to saw her in concert in 87, a year before her death).

In any case, the first track ever published by the Velvet was this feedback experiment recorded solo by Cale:

Whereas the last track Cale recorded with the VU was this viola-drenched Hey Mr. Rain:

So - although Cale recorded his share of bland pop-rock records in his career - I certainly agree that the VU with him were another world.. By WTF I don't get what you mean..

And yes, the surviving VU members (Nico had passed away already) were invited to attend a large Warhol exhibition near Paris, that had a VU section.. for the opening, only Reed and Cale were supposed to play a few songs from the Drella tribute to Warhol, but as a surprise they were joined by Tucker and Morrison (who had left music altogether) on stage for a version of Heroin... All this was recounted in detail in an issue of What goes on magazine.. One or two years after, in 1993 they reunited for a tour, and for the first time they toured Europe, I saw them playing in Bologna and must say were amazing...

Ok sorry I've been overlong but not seeing much great future (do we?) it's nice to revel in the past... If I can manage to tranfer it from Vhs to mp4 I'll also try to post Vittore Baroni's group tribute to Ray from a few years ago...

Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 27, 2011 at 8:59am
Yeah, but Walter, I'm very sure Lour Reed was inducted into the RR Hall of Fame as part of the Velvet Underground. And it looked from the bio as if they reunited at certain points. I always wonder, what ever happened to Nico? And WTF was Warhol's "Plastic Inevitable"?
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 27, 2011 at 8:54am

Walter, you are certainly a joy to converse with.


The Velvet Underground is a super-band in terms of influence (a great curse I suppose). No, they certainly never filled football stadiums. But when they began to receive praise from critics for having invented everything from glam to punk, well, Lou Reed must have been thanking his lucky stars. 


I am a proponent for the eccentric idea that the White Album might be one of the great artistic achievements of the 20th century. Having explored every aspect of it, I can assure you that "Revolution # 9" was strictly a Lennon/Ono creation. George Harrison might have had some involvement, McCartney virtually nothing. It is true, however, that all Beatles had a strong interest in experimental music. In an IUOMA blog a few months back, some of us discussed a fact - revealed in the Barry Miles biography - that Paul McCartney provided William S. Burroughs, circa 1966, with expensive recording equipment with the hope that Burroughs could produce audio tracks that might be of interest/use to the Fab Four. Burroughs and Co. trashed the equipment and/or sold it to finance other interests, thus disappointing McCartney.


Anyway, great fun to cover old ground. Thanks again for the John Cale posts.

Comment by Walter Rovere on October 27, 2011 at 4:50am

Hi, a pretty accurate chronology of Cale's early days (he started corresponding with Cage in 61, etc) can be found here:

I wonder if he wrote about this period in his What's Welsh for Zen autobiography?

I'm not sure I follow you on the V.U. though: they were inducted in the RnR Hall of fame in 1996, that is, 26 years after Lou Reed left the group! Certainly their music got less experimental (or anyway missed the obvious LMYoung/Conrad tones) after Cale left, but I wouldn't say the V.U. ever reached superstar status, they remained a pretty harsh listening (especially live with long improvisations, Moe's wonderful tribal drumming etc) and famously were never liked in the west coast, never sold many records and I think they never even played outside US before their reunion in 93... also, I'm not sure Revolution 9 idea came from Lennon? I think I read also Mccartney (incredibly) listened to avantgarde music back then, but I admit I don't know much about the Beatles...

I can't say I know much about Ray's work either, but I do agree it seems strongly conceptual to me (and wasn't limited to sending mail art specimen, but again, who knew that?). I know a little more Jack Smith, and he also was a cult figure from whom Warhol borrowed a few things (including the term superstar!), but i'ts nice to see that now the Phaidon book on Pop sports a work by Ray on cover:

Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 27, 2011 at 4:14am

Walter, I do greatly appreciate that you posted the video here. Your comments are interesting too. I had not dug into John Cale's biography to fully understand how influenced he was by Lamonte Young and John Cage or that he had so much musical training. The Velvet Underground reached a kind of superstar rock status in the US. They were inducted into the Rockn Roll Hall of fame so there's a kind of tension between the pop music label and the avant garde intent, if you follow me at all. It looks like Lou Reed and John Cale didn't agree on the right direction for the Velvet Underground - not unlike even more spectacular conflicts in the Beatles when John Lennon, also influenced by Fluxus, had spats with his band mates ( can you hum a catchy tune like "Revolution #9"?). To me, what you've presented here is a fascinating piece of avant garde history and that strange place where the extreme avant garde fringe and mainstream popular culture got all mixed up. 


My opinion, and it's just my opinion, is that Ray Johnson is often presented today as some kind of benign father figure/saint who blesses all cute postcards people mail to each other. I think he was an amazing conceptual artist and Andy Warhol, for one, borrowed more than a few ideas from Ray. But the point is, mail-art has deep concept art/conceptual art roots. Growing up in the New York City axis and being very interested in the avant garde, mail-art started appearing in my mailbox and I at first dismissed those people as being TOTALLY whacked. I know I was wrong, but that was my first response. And I was attending John Cage performances at the time, so it was not like I was totally in the dark. It's just, you know, strange to look back on it all.

Comment by Walter Rovere on October 27, 2011 at 3:31am
Yes, as we know Cale while still in England had organised a Fluxus festival and contributed to two Fluxus Preview Review in July 1963, and shortly after he was in New York working in a bookstore and then taking part (9 September 1963) to the first NY performance of Satie's Vexations under John Cage auspice, and then in 64 he joined LMYoung's group... So he was not unaware of avantgarde practices and theory, yet, aside from the Futurists sending each other decorated postcards (but who knew that at the time?), Ray's practice must have been extremely puzzling to anyone... sending out artworks for free? What to make of them? I think I read that even even the cheapest items for sale in maciunas fluxshop, like 1c fluxstamps, remained unsold, I guess for the same reasons... but I read Andy Warhol said he would have bought anything by Ray Johnson..
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 26, 2011 at 3:36pm
The lyrics and John Cale's intro to the song are excellent. Something like: "Ray Johnson was the first artist I met when I arrived in NYC... He used to do those little things and mail them to people." And then: "Hey Ray, you drive me crazy..." This really confirms my impression that when you received something from RJ and his group, if you weren't prepared, you'd think you had gotten on a mailing list for a lunatic asylum, until you realized what it was all about.
Comment by De Villo Sloan on October 22, 2011 at 1:40am

Thank you for posting this. It's just fantastic that John Cale would do a tribute to Ray Johnson, very historic that it ties together that moment in history of the Velvet Underground (Warhol), Fluxus drone music, and the ever-present Ray Johnson. Historic really.


Comment by Walter Rovere on October 21, 2011 at 2:29am
A very recent song written by John Cale on Ray Johnson...



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