Saturday, August 23, 2008


John Cale and his good friend.  Photo by Ronald van Kaam.About the lede the other day...

I'm stealing from Hans here, who did the work of typing in the following from Cale's maddening, intriguing, invariably sordid quasisemihemidemiauto- auto- auto- autobiography What's Welsh For Zen?:

One day on the tour, we were driving back to London and I said to the tour manager, 'I want to get a live chicken.' We had bought a meat cleaver in Germany and it gave me an idea. I told him to stop at a farmhouse and buy a chicken, but put in a box so that nobody else in the band would know. However, he came out of the farmhouse holding the squawking chicken by its legs. All the way back to the Portobello Hotel everybody in the band was asking, 'What's he gonna do with the fucking chicken? You're not going to hurt it, right?'
The gig was at Croydon. I had the chicken killed backstage and put on a wooden platter with a handle. I told the roadie: 'When I get into the second verse of Heartbreak Hotel, slide it out to me on the platter.' I already had the meat cleaver stashed on stage. The guys in front were slam-dancing, bopping and swaying. All those punks with their leather and chains, pushing everybody because they had taken too much speed. So I thought, try a little voodoo! I am singing, 'We could be so lonely,' swinging the chicken around by its feet, nobody in the audience knowing it was dead, 'we could be so –' Twhok! I decapitated it and threw the body into the slam dancers at the front of the stage, and I threw the head past them. It landed in somebody's Pimm's. Everyone looked totally disgusted. The bass player was about to vomit and all the musicians moved away from me. Even the slam dancers stopped in mid-slam. It was the most effective show-stopper I ever came up with.
And then he goes and throws a hilariously awful dramatization on the even more hilariously titled 'Animal Justice' EP:
"Hi, my name is Arthur- and I quit!"


"You know he said something about a taking a feather home for his wife, you know for a hat that she was making."
"I don't- I don't know what he's gonna do with that chicken..."
"He said he's not gonna hurt it, so, so it's OK."
"Alright, fair enough."

Ain't nobody gonna waste my time
Nobody tells me what's his and what's mine
Break down a window, break down a door
Don't wanna listen to you no more

"I don't know man, I mean, it's uh, it's kinda, I'm getting kinda nervous."
"Starting to get worried?"
"I'm not qualified to..."

Go on by my houses, you tear down the wall
Darling don't like it, better stay at home
I need her trouble like a hole in the head
Get out yer gun and use it instead

"Checking out, need my things? Room 42, please."
"You alright, John? You're not gonna hurt it, are ya?"

Wasting your time, telling me what to do
Take it or leave it or put it down
Get out of the way, don't bring it down
Gotta be, gotta be put out in the ground

Chickenshit! Chickenshit! Chickenshit!

"Oh, oh my god."
"Did you, did you see what he did, he did?!" *retching noises*
"Oh, I don't believe he did it. I mean, I was standing right there, I saw the whole thing with my own eyes. I never thought he'd do something like that. I mean, what do you think? It was so unreal!"

Nobody gonna push me around
Nobody gonna put words in my mouth
Listen to no one, I don't get my mail
Told me a fool always ends up in jail

"What were you thinking? You said you weren't gonna hurt it!"
"I didn't hurt it, I killed it. Gave it the fucking heave-ho."
*chatter and recriminations*
Not an episode to be proud of (as Cale admitted, not quite convincingly). I'm not tolerant of cruelty to animals. Why, then, is this episode such a guilty pleasure to me as a fan?
Photo by Ronald van Kaam.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, this is John Cale's vocals at their best. You can't get enough of the way he growls through those cheesy lyrics. And I disagree - I would be very, very proud of having done something like that.

calewives said...

In any interview in which he's bored of being asked about the chicken, he seems to take great pleasure in giving a juicy description of the event.