Much has been made of John Cale's schooling in classical and avant-garde music, yet much of what he's recorded has been decidedly song-oriented, dovetailing close to the mainstream at times. Those investigating his work for the first time may be surprised at how consciously accessible much of his output is.
The son of a Welsh coal miner (his father) and schoolteacher (his mother), Cale was a child prodigy of sorts, performing an original composition on the BBC before he entered his teens. In the early '60s, he studied musicology at London's Goldsmiths College before being awarded a prestigious Leonard Bernstein scholarship to study with the Boston University Orchestra. He became a member of LaMonte Young's minimalist ensemble, the Dream Syndicate, whose use of repetitious drones would influence the arrangements of his next group, the Velvet Underground.
Cale co-founded the Velvets with Lou Reed and guitarist Sterling Morrison in the mid-'60s. John met Lou when the latter was a struggling songwriter for the rock & roll exploitation label Pickwick Records. What Cale and Reed shared was an ambition to bring the sensibilities of the avant-garde to rock music. Cale left the band in September 1968, due in part to creative disagreements with Reed.
After leaving the Velvet Underground, Cale worked as a record producer. Cale worked with a number of artists such as, Nick Drake, The Stooges, Squeeze, Patti Smith and Brian Eno. In 2001, the motion picture Shrek featured Cale's recording of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah", which greatly popularised the song with younger audiences.
In February 2011 Cale signed a record deal with Domino Records subsidiary Double Six and in in September 2011 released the EP Extra Playful.