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John Cale & Chris Spedding: Stockholm 1975

February 5, 2019

I have just written a letter to Record Collector defending bootlegs as providing music that could and should have been officially released. This recording is a prime example.

The all-encompassing Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend website has full details of the recording here. It was made for Swedish Radio from a live concert at Jarlateatern, Stockholm on November 3 and broadcast two days later when some enterprising soul recorded the gig on a cassette, which subsequently formed the basis for the Massive Attack bootleg. As of today you can download the gig from Mega using this link

I first came across these tracks when five were released on the vinyl bootleg Down At the End Of Lonely Street…Hard Rock Cafe (details here ) together with a grab bag of other Cale live tracks. So it is great to have the whole gig in one place, albeit without the encore Baby What You Want Me To Do (does anyone have this ?).

The brilliant touring band that Cale put together in 1975 to promote his Helen Of Troy LP is woefully under documented. There are a couple of tracks from the June 1975 Crystal Palace Garden Party on YouTube. There was also a first rate session for John Peel, accessible from the always reliable Aquarium Drunkard blog

Stockholm is the only live gig I have found in listenable quality. The Pat Donaldson / Timmi Donald rhythm section were by now used to following Cale’s live detours. Record producer Chris Thomas had been seduced away from his safe studio environment for the first and last time to play keyboards. “Touring with Cale was great fun and I enjoyed it a lot. When we started off that tour, it was insane, because we didn’t know the songs, we didn’t know the keys, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing, so there were a lot of theatrics in the hope audience wouldn’t spot what was going on”.

And on lead and slide guitar – the Very Great Chris Spedding. “The Cale band of 1975 was perhaps the most exciting live band I’ve ever played with. John was very challenging and inspiring to play with. I learned a great deal from him. He works very hit and miss, though. You don’t get a chance to craft a finished thing. It’s a bit like painting a picture by throwing paint against the wall and seeing what sticks – his way of working. It was interesting. Very effective on stage, but quite frustrating in the studio.”

It is the interplay between Spedding and Cale that makes this such a great listen. On the quieter tracks such as Child’s Christmas In Wales Spedding has to invent a guitar part to complement Cale’s vocal and piano, which he does with characteristic restraint. Then Pablo Picasso shows Spedding’s more raucous side. Throughout Cale allows Spedding plenty of space to embellish and solo and at no point does Spedding abuse this freedom with overlong or overplayed parts.

Cale admits in his autobiography that one of his major career mistakes was to disband this band when he moved to New York at the end of the tour. Spedding would follow, and the two would continue to play together on an occasional basis, both live and in the studio. Highly recommended is their sprint through Jim Carroll’s People Who Died from the soundtrack of the film Antartida (hear it here ). But playing together every night brought out the best in both Cale and Spedding and they would never be as good again, together or apart. We are fortunate to have this record of their collaboration at its peak.

And let us not forget what this band achieved in the studio. All three of Cale’s studio LPs recorded for Island have been combined with the surviving outtakes to give The Island Years, a definitive 2CD compilation. Buy it now, if only to see where Nick Cave got it all from.

 

 

 

 

From → Gigs, Music

4 Comments
  1. Mike Baess permalink

    I sadly missed those 70s Cale gigs and didn’t get to see him, outside of the 1993 VU reunion at Wembley – until very recently when he played Paris 1919 at the Royal Festival Hall. I first saw Spedding at the gig he had before the Cale band – playing in Roy Harper’s Trigger.

    I think Spedding’s role in the development of punk is majorly understated. He was a massive influence on Sid Vicious as well as guitarists like Brian James and Steve Jones. My best friend Pete lived with Sid at the New End squat in Hampstead and I remember him playing the single non-stop and then going out to get a haircut just like him – basically the beginning of the Sid look.

    Mike

    ________________________________

  2. Hi Mike. Of course you are right about Spedding’s importance to Punk: producing the first Sex Pistols demos, playing with the Vibrators at the 100 Club Punk Festival and generally being surly in black leather and playing a mean Flying V. Cale too was very proto-punk, his themes of aggression and paranoia setting the scene nicely, along with Ian Hunter and (maybe) Alex Harvey.

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