Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ACBA: John Cale's Honi Soit by Andy Warhol

Songs For Drella, Lou Reed and John Cale's first reunion record after the Velvets (twenty years after the Velvets) is a memorial for Andy Warhol, initiated at the suggestion of Julian Schnabel. First performed in 1989, the album included a six and a half minute track called A Dream, spoken by Cale in the first person of Warhol. The lyrics seem to be verbatim transcripts, the bulk of the which are presumably taken from Warhol's diaries. Along with candid lines like "I hate Lou Reed", the lyrics include mention of Cale's 1981 LP Honi Soit:

"And then I saw John Cale. And he's been looking really great. He's been coming by the office to exercise with me...it was good seeing John, I did a cover for him, but I did in black and white and he changed it to color. It would have been worth more if he'd left it my way but you can never tell any body anything, I've leaned that."

It was not uncommon for Warhol to be dissatisfied with the end results of album covers he had designed. He had a similar complaint about the Rolling Stones' Love You Live, four years prior. From his diary: "After we left the Carlyle I told Jerry I thought Mick had ruined the Love You Live cover I did for them by writing all over it—it's his handwriting, and he wrote so big. The kids who buy the album would have a good piece of art if he hadn't spoiled it."

In an interview with Rolling Stone from October 1996 John Cale told a story suggesting Warhol had also proposed title a name for his then untitled LP:

"I had this album, and I said, "I don't have a title, and I don't have a cover." And he said [imitates Warhol], "Oh... John. I'm very close friends with Yoko. Why don't you have your picture taken with Yoko and call it JOHN AND YOKO?", a somewhat macabre suggestion, given that John Lennon had just recently been shot dead in front of Yoko Ono.

Cale elaborated further in February 2002 in an interview for the Guardian:

"I went to see him to ask for a cover. He said, 'I'll get Yoko Ono to pose naked with you and we'll call it John and Yoko.'"

In his autobiography What's Welsh For Zen, Cale recounts that the John & Yoko title came from Fred Hughes, Warhol's business manager, who noted that Cale needed a "big, big seller". Warhol's response to the proposed title was "Ooh, John, it would sell thousands".

Also in the autobiography, Cale also confesses regret over his colourization of the cover, noting that "Andy's eye was surer, and when I saw the finished product I had to admit I'd made a mistake".

The album version of A Dream can be found here, the live version here, Cale performing it solo here and Lou Reed solo here.

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