Saturday, September 28, 2013


And now for something completely different.

Mr. Cale has always had an eclectic taste in covers (Axton/Durden/Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso", Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows", Ralph Vaughn Williams's "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", and so on), so it shouldn't be too surprising that he covered Chuck Berry's legendarily expectation-upsetting "Memphis, Tennessee".

It's not one of his most illuminating covers - despite a lot of rearrangement, the overall effect is pretty close to the original. The vocal is bullish, sanding off most of the emotional details, and is probably the weakest link in the song. There's a little bit of everything in the mix and the instrumental parts are continually changing through the song, but I'm not sure that makes it better listening. The hornet-swarm guitar and viola solos, recalling Fear's "Barracuda", are striking and the best reasons for listening. Overall not essential, but worth a listen now and again.

What is surprising about the song is its context. It may sound like an Island Years outtake, but it occupies the second a-side slot in 1977's ultra-bizarre Animal Justice EP, after punkish Croydon Chicken Incident souvenir "Chickenshit". The b-side is "Hedda Gabler". The Cale discography is full of odd records, but I'm pretty sure this one's the strangest.

Speaking of strange: here, watch a Czech Cale cover band (!!!) cover JC's arrangement. Amazing job, but somebody get this poor man a lyric sheet.

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