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Happy 70th, John Cale

March 9, 2012 |  1:54 pm

John Cale turns 70 today

As of today, the Velvet Undergrounder/singer/songwriter/producer/composer/cantankerous Welshman John Cale is officially a septuagenarian. He is still cooler than you.

It's a fool's errand to try to sum up one of the most prolific and adventurous careers in music in one post. How's this for breadth: The guy cut a synth-funk jam record with experimental composer Terry Riley in 1971, and wrote one of the best fuzzy pop-punk songs of 2005. But as a prompt to blow a slow-news Friday down a YouTube rabbit hole of Cale clips, here are a few Pop & Hiss favorites.

"Big White Cloud," a cut from his 1970 solo debut, "Vintage Violence," is exactly as dreamy and wistful as the title implies, and for those used to his atonal viola barrages on the Velvets' records, the fact that he could make pop songs this good felt just as radical.

"Paris, 1919" was reissued in 2006, and for all its orchestral grandeur and historical allusions, it might be his most open and big-hearted solo album.

Here's a live take of "Ship of Fools" on BBC4, with always-welcome cameos by Nick Cave and Chrissy Hynde.

Cale collaborated widely as an arranger, producer and songwriter, working with experimental artists who included Nico, La Monte Young and Hector Zazou. Here's a track from his 1990 full-length with the incomparable Brian Eno.


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Photo: Legendary Velvet Underground musician John Cale is photographed inside his private studio in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2010. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)