Friday, 25 June 2010

The other production line

Julia 'Stacey' Gillard (born in Barry, see?) becoming the second Welsh Oz Prime Minister (after Billy Hughes) reminds me that I didn't post anything to celebrate John Cale getting a gong in the last honours round (MBE, I think).

I'm not a fan of the Velvet Underground - I got into him through the 'Songs for Drella' album he made with Lou Reid about their relationship with Andy Warhol. Subsequently, his solo 'Fragments of a Rainy Season' long-player became one of my all-time favourites. It bears a lot of playing and, although it's just a voice accompanied by piano, I haven't come across anything else quite like it.

He was on The South Bank Show ten years or so ago and I was struck by his unusual Mid-Atlantic Welsh/American accent, identical to that of another West Walian-born export to the US, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The Swansea area has been a remarkable producer (and exporter) of theatrical talent with perhaps the most peculiar phenomenon arising in nearby Port Talbot. It's a town of about 35,000 people, so small to medium size. And yet it's produced probably the most outstanding British male actor in each of the last three generations: Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and, most recently, Michael Sheen. It's also the home town of probably our best comic actor, Rob Brydon (I wonder if Ms Gillard has an Uncle Bryn? If so, imagine the pride...). And that's from a place which is about the size of Abingdon. As I say, peculiar, if not downright weird.

Anyway, here's JC with 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night', lyrics by another West Walian creative type:


Brit said...

The problem with the Velvet Underground is finding the right mood to listen to their albums.

Few songs are better for hungover chillin' than Sunday Morning or Candy Says, but then the last thing you need to hear when you're suffering from a proper Ilfracombe is The Black Angel's Death Song.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'd pay money to hear Rob Brydon doing his Tom Jones impersonation singing 'Fragments of a Rainy Season.'

Gaw said...

Totally agree. I can see their merits but prefer to avoid invitations to be horribly depressed. Strangely (or otherwise - I dunno) John Cale's solo stuff whilst often melancholic doesn't get me down in the same way. It's more wistful than despair-ful.

Gaw said...

Oh, Kevin - you've really treated us with that 'what if'. I shall enjoy imagining that today

Vern said...

Note that after Cale left the Velvets their sound became much, much more conventional. And yet Cale's own stuff is generally not very grating- Paris 1919, Fear, Fragments..., all great stuff. The Endless Plains of Fortune has the unforgettable moment when Cale sings in stentorian tones:


Which always makes me laugh in a good way.

Vern said...

Speaking of Cale, there's a new 'live at rockpalast' double CD just out that looks interesting.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I loved the Velvet Underground but found Cale quite genuinely scary when I heard an interview with him. Great that you add Michael Sheen to that illustrious list: I haven't followed his recent career but I once saw him play Caligula at London's Donmar Warehouse and shall never forget the experience.

Barendina Smedley said...

I agree with Brit.

The place where I get my hair cut seems to have a thing about playing Velvet Underground tracks - fine in the case of something like 'All Tomorrow's Parties', but spending half an hour scrutinising myself in the mirror while listening to 'The Black Angel's Death Song' isn't a mood-lifting experience.

No Good Boyo said...

Cale is the Greatest Living Welshman, and Paris 1919 his finest moment in my view.

As for Ms Gillard, she will screw the Oz Labor Party crabwise, for she is a Welsh. I've said it many times, but the Curse of Morfa Rhuddlan means any party that choses a Welsh leader is f.u.x.t.

I set out my reasoning here:

Gaw said...

Vern: He has the most incredible voice, doesn't he? I'd like to hear him do some readings. I wonder what sort of actor he would have made?

Thanks for the tip. Googling Cale in the course of this I've found out he did 1919 at the Royal Festival Hall in March. I'm kicking myself that I didn't notice and it passed me by. What a miss!

That's the problem with London, there's so much going on you just don't notice a lot of it.

Gadjo: Wotcha! I found him very sympathetic on the South Bank Show. But he certainly can look pretty scary. You're very lucky to have seen Sheen at the Donmar - he's obviously marked out for true greatness.

Barendina: All that comforting scalp massage with exotic unguents gone to waste. They need to reassess.

Boyo: Excellent bit of protocol compiling there Boyo. I'd add another to your list of self-sabotaging Welsh leaders: Antipodean Welsh, Billy Hughes, who was a member of six parties, most of which he left as they collapsed around him. A true Welsh statesman.

No Good Boyo said...

I mentioned Hughes in an email to Norman Geras, in the vain hope that he'd repost my Protocols article and make me a star. One day.

I'd also add Jefferson Davis. You just know the Confederacy was screwed from the start.

Nige said...

Boyo's right - Paris 1919 Cale's finest moment - but his 1st solo venture Vintage Violence is a joy, positively uplifting. And on 12 Songs, Alexandra Leaving... Oh yes - beautiful!

Vern said...

Nice indeed to see this spontaneous outburst of Cale appreciation- don't think I've ever actually met another person who owned his records, altho' I knew they must exist as I saw some other humans at a solo piano gig he did in Edinburgh 10 years back.

I thought I'd mention his autobiography is also well worth a read, in stark contrast to most rock blather. It's a very honest, reflective book written by a highly intelligent man.

I've seen a few live clips of the Paris 1919 show on Youtube and it looks grand indeed.

Gaw said...

Boyo: I think that's everyone now? Though I suppose there may have been some obscure Latin American presidents of Welsh lineage. I mean it stands to reason given the history of the place.

Nige: I haven't listened to VV so thanks for the tip.

Vern: Thanks for that tip - I'd like to read that book but it's OOP and very expensive second-hand. A collectors' item it seems. I'll try the library. And it's a pleasure to bring Cale fans together from across the globe.