Lou Reed - Solo Career
After quitting the Velvet Underground in August 1970, Reed took a job at his father's tax accounting firm as a typist, by his own account earning $40 a week. A year later, however, he signed a recording contract with RCA and recorded his first solo album in London with top session musicians including Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, members of the progressive rock group Yes. The album, simply titled Lou Reed, contained smoothly produced, re-recorded versions of unreleased Velvet Underground songs, some of which were originally recorded by the Velvets for Loaded but shelved (see the Peel Slowly and See box set). This first solo album was overlooked by most pop music critics (although Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone called it "almost perfect") and it did not sell in significant numbers.
In December 1972, Reed released Transformer. David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced the album and introduced Reed to a wider popular audience (specifically in the UK). The hit single "Walk on the Wild Side" was both a salute and swipe at the misfits, hustlers, and transvestites in Andy Warhol's Factory. The song's cleverly transgressive lyrics evaded radio censorship. Though musically somewhat atypical for Reed, it eventually became his signature song. The song came about as a result of his commission to compose a soundtrack to a theatrical adaptation of Nelson Algren's novel of the same name, though the play failed to materialize. Ronson's arrangements brought out new aspects of Reed's songs; "Perfect Day", for example, features delicate strings and soaring dynamics. It was rediscovered in the 1990s and allowed Reed to drop "Walk on the Wild Side" from his concerts.
Though Transformer would prove to be Reed's commercial and critical pinnacle, there was no small amount of resentment in Reed devoted to the shadow the record cast over the rest of his career. A public argument between Bowie and Reed ended their working relationship for several years, though the subject of the argument is not known. The two reconciled some years later, and Reed performed with Bowie at the latter's 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in 1997. The two would not formally collaborate again until 2003's The Raven. Reed followed Transformer with the darker Berlin, which tells the story of two junkies in love in the titular city. The songs variously concern domestic abuse ("Caroline Says I", "Caroline Says II"), drug addiction ("How Do You Think It Feels"), adultery and prostitution ("The Kids"), and suicide ("The Bed"). Reed's late-1973 European tour, featuring dual lead guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, mixed his Berlin material with older rockers.
After Berlin came two albums in 1974, Sally Can't Dance and a live record Rock 'n' Roll Animal, which contained performances of the Velvet Underground songs "Sweet Jane" and "Heroin". Rock 'n' Roll Animal became his biggest selling album, and its follow-up Lou Reed Live, recorded on the same occasions in December 1973, kept Reed in the public eye with strong sales after its release in early 1975.
As he had done with Berlin after Transformer, in 1975 Reed responded to commercial success with a commercial failure, a double album of electronically generated audio feedback, Metal Machine Music. Critics interpreted it as a gesture of contempt, an attempt to break his contract with RCA or to alienate his less sophisticated fans. But Reed claimed that the album was a genuine artistic effort, even suggesting that quotations of classical music could be found buried in the feedback. Lester Bangs declared it "genius", though also as psychologically disturbing. The album was reportedly returned to stores by the thousands after a few weeks. Though later admitting that the liner notes' list of instruments is fictitious and intended as parody, Reed maintains that MMM was and is a serious album. He has since stated though that at the time he had taken it seriously, he was also "very stoned". In the 2000s it was adapted for orchestral performance by the German ensemble Zeitkratzer.
By contrast, 1975's Coney Island Baby was mainly a warm and mellow album, though for its characters Reed still drew on the underbelly of city life. At this time his lover was a transgender woman, Rachel, mentioned in the dedication of "Coney Island Baby" and appearing in the photos on the cover of Reed's 1977 "best of" album, Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed. While Rock and Roll Heart, his 1976 debut for his new record label Arista, fell short of expectations, Street Hassle (1978) was a return to form in the midst of the punk scene he had helped to inspire. But ironically Reed was dismissive of punk and rejected any affiliation with it. "I'm too literate to be into punk rock... The whole CBGB's, new Max's thing that everyone's into and what's going on in London — you don't seriously think I'm responsible for what's mostly rubbish?" The Bells (1979) featured jazz musician Don Cherry, and was followed the next year by Growing Up in Public with guitarist Chuck Hammer. Around this period he also appeared as a sleazy record producer in Paul Simon's film One Trick Pony. Reed also played several unannounced one-off concerts in tiny downtown Manhattan clubs with the likes of Cale, Patti Smith, and David Byrne during this period.
John Cale - Solo Career
After leaving the Velvet Underground, Cale worked as a record producer and arranger on a number of albums, including Nico's The Marble Index, Desertshore and (later on Island) The End.... On these he accompanied Nico's voice and harmonium using a wide array of instruments to unusual effect. He also produced The Stooges' self-titled debut. He appeared on Nick Drake's second album, Bryter Layter, playing viola and harpsichord on two of the album's tracks. While meeting with producer Joe Boyd, he came across Drake's music and insisted on collaborating with him. After a quick meeting, they collaborated on "Northern Sky" and "Fly".
In 1970, in addition to his career as a producer, Cale began to make solo records. His first, the pastoral Vintage Violence, is generally classified as folk-pop. Shortly thereafter, his collaboration with another classical musician, Terry Riley, on the mainly instrumental Church of Anthrax, was released, although it was actually recorded almost a year prior. His classical explorations continued with 1972's The Academy in Peril. He would not compose in the classical mode again until he began composing for soundtracks in the 1980s.
In 1972, he signed with Reprise Records as performer and in-house producer. His The Academy in Peril was his first project for Reprise. His fourth solo record Paris 1919 (1973) steered back towards the singer-songwriter mode. Paris 1919, made up of songs with arcane and complex lyrics, has been cited by critics as one of his best. Artists he produced while at Reprise included Jennifer Warnes' third album, Jennifer, as well as albums by Chunky, Novi & Ernie and The Modern Lovers, which Reprise chose not to release (it was subsequently released by Beserkley Records).
Cale's work as a producer continued and in 1974 he joined Island, working on records with Squeeze, Patti Smith, and Sham 69, among others. He produced a number of important protopunk records, including debuts by Smith and The Modern Lovers. During this period, he also worked as a talent scout with Island's A&R department.
Moving back to London, Cale made a series of solo albums which moved in a new direction. His records now featured a dark and threatening aura, often carrying a sense of barely suppressed aggression. A trilogy of albums – Fear, Slow Dazzle, and Helen of Troy were recorded with other Island artists including Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno of Roxy Music, and Chris Spedding, who featured in his live band. This era of Cale's music is perhaps best represented by his somewhat disturbing cover of Elvis Presley's iconic "Heartbreak Hotel", featured both on Slow Dazzle and the live album June 1, 1974, recorded with Kevin Ayers, Nico and Eno, and by his frothing performance on "Leaving It Up To You", a savage indictment of the mass media first released on Helen of Troy (1975), but quickly deleted from later editions of the record due perhaps to the song's pointed Sharon Tate reference. It's also worth noting that both "Leaving It Up To You" and "Fear Is A Man's Best Friend" (from Fear) begin as relatively conventional songs that gradually grow more paranoid in tone before breaking down into what critic Dave Thompson calls "a morass of discordance and screaming."
In 1977, he released the Animal Justice EP, notable particularly for the epic "Hedda Gabler", based very loosely on the Ibsen play. His often loud, abrasive and confrontational live performances fitted well with the punk rock scene developing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Cale took to wearing a hockey goaltender's mask onstage; see the cover of the Guts compilation (1977). This look predated Friday the 13th's villain, Jason Voorhees, by several years. During one gig in Croydon he chopped the head off a dead chicken with a meat cleaver, and his band walked offstage in protest. Cale's drummer – a vegetarian – was so bothered he quit the group. Cale mocks his decision on "Chicken Shit" from the Animal Justice EP. Cale has admitted that some of his paranoia and erratic behaviour at this time was associated with heavy cocaine use.
In December 1979, Cale's embrace of the punk rock ethic culminated in the release of Sabotage/Live. This record, recorded live at CBGB that June, features aggressive vocal and instrumental performances. The album consists entirely of new songs, many of which grapple confrontationally with global politics and paranoia. The band used includes Deerfrance on vocals and percussion. An earlier live set, consisting mostly of new material, was recorded at CBGB the previous year. It was released in 1991 as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The band on that recording includes Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith Group on bass and Judy Nylon on vocals.
In 1980, Cale signed with A&M Records and moved in a more commercial direction with the album Honi Soit. He worked with producer Mike Thorne towards this end . Andy Warhol provided the cover art, in black and white, but against Warhol's wishes Cale colourised it. The new direction did not succeed commercially, however, and his relationship with A&M ended.
He signed with Ze Records, a company he had influenced the creation of and which had absorbed Spy Records, the label he had co-founded with Jane Friedman. The next year, Cale released the sparse Music for a New Society. Seeming to blend the refined music of his early solo work with the threatening music that came later, it is by any standard a bleak, harrowing record. It's been called "understated, and perhaps a masterpiece."
He followed up with the album Caribbean Sunset, also on Ze Records. This work, with much more accessible production than Music for a New Society, was still extremely militant in some ways. It has never seen release on CD. A live album, John Cale Comes Alive, followed it and included two new studio songs, "Ooh La La" and "Never Give Up On You". Different mixes of the two studio tracks appeared on both sides of the Atlantic. His daughter Eden Cale was born in July 1985.
In a last effort at commercial success, Cale recorded Artificial Intelligence his only album for Beggars Banquet records. This album, written in collaboration with Larry "Ratso" Sloman, was characterised by synthesisers and drum machines and is entirely written in the pop idiom. It was not significantly more successful than its predecessors, despite the relative success of the single "Satellite Walk". However, "Dying on the Vine" is generally regarded as one of Cale's best songs.
In part because of his young daughter, Cale took a long break from recording and performing. He made a comeback in 1989 with vocal and orchestral settings of poems by Dylan Thomas. Notable among these is "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", which he performed on stage in the concert held in Cardiff in 1999 to celebrate the opening of the Welsh Assembly. The music was recorded in 1992 with a Welsh boys' choir and a Russian orchestra, on an Eno produced album: Words for the Dying. This album also included a pair of electric piano "Songs Without Words" and a Cale/Eno collaboration, "The Soul of Carmen Miranda".
In 1990, he again collaborated with Eno on an album entitled Wrong Way Up. Then in 1991 Cale contributed one song, "Hallelujah", to the tribute album to Leonard Cohen I'm Your Fan.
In 1992, Cale performed vocals two songs, "Hunger" and "First Evening" on French producer Hector Zazou's album Sahara Blue. All lyrics on the album were based on the poetry of author Arthur Rimbaud. In 1994, Cale performed a spoken word duet with Suzanne Vega on the song "The Long Voyage" on Zazou's album Chansons des mers froides. The lyrics were based on the poem "Les Silhouettes" by author Oscar Wilde and Cale co-wrote the music with Zazou. It was later released as a single (retitled "The Long Voyages" as it featured several remixes by Zazou, Mad Professor, and more).
Songs for Drella saw him reunited with Reed, in a tribute to one-time Velvet Underground manager and mentor Andy Warhol. In his autobiography, Cale revealed that he resented letting Lou take charge of the project. The collaboration eventually led to the brief reunion of the Velvet Underground in 1993.
Nico, an instrumental ballet score and tribute to the singer was performed by Scapino Rotterdam plus an added selection from The Marble Index in 1998, with the score released as Dance Music. That same year, Cale was also the organiser of the "With a Little Help from My Friends" festival that took place at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The concert was shown on Dutch national television and featured a song specially composed for the event and still unreleased, "Murdering Mouth" sung in duet with Siouxsie Sioux.
Cale has also written a number of film soundtracks, often using more classically influenced instrumentation. His autobiography, What's Welsh for Zen?, was published in 1999 by Bloomsbury.
2000s to present
In 2001, the motion picture Shrek featured Cale's recording of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah", which greatly popularised the song with younger audiences.
Signing to EMI in 2003 with the EP Five Tracks and the album HoboSapiens, Cale again returned as a regular recording artist, this time with music influenced by modern electronica and alternative rock. The well received album was co-produced with Nick Franglen of Lemon Jelly. That record was followed with 2005's album BlackAcetate.
In 2005, Cale produced Austin singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo's eighth album, The Boxing Mirror, which was released in May 2006. In June 2006, Cale released a radio and digital single, "Jumbo in tha Modernworld", that was unconnected to any album. A video was created for the song as well.
In March 2007 a 23-song live retrospective, Circus Live, was released in Europe. This two-disc album, composed of recordings from both the 2004 and 2006 tours, featured new arrangements and reworkings of songs from his entire career. Of particular interest is the Amsterdam Suite, a set of songs from a performance at the Amsterdam Paradiso in 2004. A studio-created drone has been edited into these songs. The set also included a DVD, featuring electric rehearsal material and a short acoustic set, as well as the video for "Jumbo in tha Modernworld", a 2006 single.
In May 2007, Cale contributed a cover of the LCD Soundsystem song "All My Friends" to the vinyl and digital single releases of the LCD Soundsystem original. Cale has continued to work with other artists, contributing viola to Replica Sun Machine, the Danger Mouse-produced second album by London psychedelic trio The Shortwave Set and producing the second album of American indie band Ambulance Ltd.
On 11 October 2008, Cale hosted an event to pay tribute to Nico called "Life Along the Borderline" in celebration of what, five days later, would have been her 70th birthday. This event featured many artists including James Dean Bradfield, Mark Lanegan, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, The Fiery Furnaces, Guillemots, Nick Franglen of Lemon Jelly, Peter Murphy, Liz Green, and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. The event was reprised at the Teatro Communale in Ferrara, Italy on 10 May 2009, with Mercury Rev, Mark Lanegan, Lisa Gerrard, Peter Murphy, Soap&Skin and Mark Linkous.
Cale represented Wales at the 2009 Venice Biennale, collaborating with artists, filmmakers, and poets, and focusing the artwork on his relationship with the Welsh language.
In January 2010 Cale was invited to be the first Eminent Art in Residence (EAR) at the Mona Foma festival curated by Brian Ritchie held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. His work for the 2009 Venice Biennale 'Dyddiau Du (dark days)' was shown at the festival, along with a number of live performances at venues around Hobart.
The Paris 1919 album was performed, in its entirety, at the Coal Exchange Cardiff on 21 November 2009, at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 5 March 2010, and the Theatre Royal in Norwich on 14 May 2010. These performances will be repeated in Paris on 5 September 2010, Brescia, Italy on 11 September 2010, and Los Angeles on 30 September 2010 at UCLA's Royce Hall.
Cale was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.
In May 2011, Cale and his band appeared at the Brighton Festival, performing songs to the theme of Émigré/Lost & Found. Cale appeared at the invitation of the human rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was the festival's guest director.
Nico - Solo Career
Chelsea Girl and The Marble Index
Immediately following her musical work with the Velvet Underground, Nico began work as a solo artist. For her debut album, 1967's Chelsea Girl, she recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, among others. Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison contributed to the album, with Nico, Reed and Cale co-writing one song, "It Was a Pleasure Then." Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album, which influenced artists such as Leonard Cohen, with strings and flute arrangements by producer Tom Wilson. Nico was not satisfied with the album and had little say in production matters. In retrospect, Nico said in 1981:
"I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! [...] They added strings, and— I didn't like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute."
For The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico wrote the lyrics and music. Accompaniment mainly centered around Nico's harmonium, while John Cale added an array of folk and classical instruments, and arranged the album. The harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album has a classical-cum-European folk sound.
Desertshore and The End
Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s, Desertshore and The End.... Nico wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. Cale produced and played most of the other instruments on both albums. The End... featured Brian Eno on synthesizer. She appeared at the Rainbow Theatre, in London, with Cale, Eno, and Kevin Ayers. The album June 1, 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a version of the Doors' "The End", which was the catalyst for The End... later that year.
On 13 December 1974, Nico opened for Tangerine Dream's infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in Reims, France. The promoter had so greatly oversold tickets for the show that members of the audience couldn't move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall. The Roman Catholic Church denounced these actions, ordered the rededication of the cathedral and banned future performances on church property.
Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster.
Drama of Exile and final album
Nico returned to New York in late 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGB in early 1980 was glowingly reviewed in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Mudd Club and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler guitar. They played together on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest.
Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981. It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale, featuring a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with The Faction (James Young and Graham Dids). Produced by John Cale, it featured Nico's version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song "My Funny Valentine".
A number of Nico's performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982's Heroine, Live In Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988. The double live album Behind the Iron Curtain was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made from recordings of concerts in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and other cities, and was released before her death in 1988.
A duet called "Your Kisses Burn" with singer Marc Almond was her last recorded song (about a month before her death). It was released a few months after her death on Almond's album "The Stars We Are".
Maureen Tucker - Solo Career
Tucker started recording and touring again, releasing a number of albums on small, independent labels that feature her singing and playing guitar, fronting her own band. This band at times included former Velvets colleague Sterling Morrison. Tucker also participated in the 1992–1993 Velvet Underground reunion, touring Europe and releasing the double album Live MCMXCIII.
Apart from releasing her own records, Tucker has made guest performances on a number of others' records, including producing Fire in the Sky (1993) for Half Japanese, whose guitarist, John Sluggett, plays drums on her own recordings. In Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary about Half Japanese, The Band That Would Be King, Tucker performs and is interviewed extensively. Also, she has appeared with Magnet and former Velvet Underground band members Lou Reed (New York) and John Cale (Walking on Locusts).
Tucker also played drums on and produced the album The Lives of Charles Douglas by indie rocker and novelist Charles Douglas (also known as Alex McAulay) in 1999.
She played bass drum, wrote songs, and sang with the New York/Memphis punk rock–delta blues fusion group, The Kropotkins with Lorette Velvette and Dave Soldier in 1999–2003, recording "Five Points Crawl".