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While John Cale is one of the most famous and, in his own way, influential underground rock musicians, he is also one of the hardest to pin down stylistically. Much has been made of his 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. Terming him a forefather of punk and new wave isn't exactly accurate either. Those investigating his work for the first time under that premise may be surprised at how consciously accessible much of his output is, at times approaching (but not quite attaining) a fairly "normal" rock sound. There is always a tension between the experimental and the accessible in Cale's solo recordings, meaning that he usually finds himself (not unwillingly) caught between the cracks: too weird for commercial success, and yet not really weird or daring enough to place him among the top rank of rock's innovators.
Any assessment of Cale's solo contributions also tends to be overshadowed by his other considerable achievements. Before launching his solo career, he was, with Lou Reed, a primary creative force behind the Velvet Underground, as bassist, viola player, keyboardist, and occasional co-songwriter (the exact nature of his compositional contributions is still a matter of heated debate among the group members). He was without question one of the most influential producers of pre-punk, punk, and new wave, overseeing important recordings by the Stooges, Nico, Patti Smith, the Modern Lovers, and Squeeze. Ultimately he may be better remembered for his work in the Velvets, and as a producer, than for his own large discography.
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 drifted toward the avant-garde, gaining a scholarship (with help from Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein) to study music in the United States. Moving to New York in 1963, he participated in an 18-hour piano recital with John Cage (pictures of Cale performing at the event made The New York Times). More important, 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 founded the Velvets with 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. He tested the rock waters as part of the Primitives (with Reed and fellow Dream Syndicate member Tony Conrad), who did a few live shows to promote a silly novelty that Reed had written and recorded at Pickwick, "The Ostrich." What Cale and Reed shared was an ambition to bring the sensibilities of the avant-garde to rock music.
They succeeded in doing so over the next three years with the Velvet Underground. While Reed was the most important member of the band as the lead singer and primary songwriter, Cale was just as crucial in devising the band's sound. It was Cale who was responsible for the most experimental elements of their first two albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat (1967), especially with his droning viola parts on "Venus in Furs," "Heroin," and "Black Angel's Death Song"; his pounding piano on "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "All Tomorrow's Parties"; his deadpan narration of "The Gift"; and the white-noise organ of "Sister Ray."
Yet Cale was ousted from the band in an apparent power play by Lou Reed in the summer of 1968. Accounts still vary as to whether he was fired and/or quit, but it's been suggested that Reed's ego found Cale's talents threatening to his leadership of the band. Sterling Morrison has said that Reed told him and Velvets drummer Maureen Tucker that if Cale didn't leave, he would leave instead; the pair reluctantly opted to side with Reed. The Velvets would continue to make great music for a couple of years, but their experimental edge was considerably blunted by Cale's absence.
In any case, Cale was soon busy producing ex-Velvets singer Nico's Baroque-gothic The Marble Index (1969) and the Stooges' self-titled debut album (also 1969). Though about as different as two projects could be, both were extremely influential (though initially extremely low-selling) cult items that helped lay the ground for punk and new wave about five years later.
In 1970, Cale began his proper solo career with one of his best albums, Vintage Violence. Those expecting a slab of radicalism were in for a surprise; the material was the work of a low-key, accessible singer/songwriter, working in the mold of the Band rather than the Velvets. Listeners wouldn't have to wait long for something a bit more radical; his next album, Church of Anthrax, was a collaboration with minimalist composer Terry Riley that was almost entirely instrumental.
In some respects, these two records defined the poles of Cale's solo career. Even at his most accessible, his music had a moody, even morbid edge that precluded much radio airplay. Even at its most experimental, it was never as avant-garde as, say, LaMonte Young. Cale would reserve his most experimental outings for collaborations with Riley, Brian Eno, and, much further down the road, Lou Reed.
On his own, he was more concerned with crafting songs, delivered in his lilting if thin Welsh burr, and inventively arranged. It was in his arrangements that his musical training and avant-garde background were most evident, in its eclecticism (even drawing from country-rock and guest shots from Lowell George at times) and touches of classical music. Sometimes he'd take out his viola, but generally he focused on the more traditional instruments of guitar and keyboards. Cale has covered a wide territory on his solo albums without ever quite making his mark as a major artist. His songs and concepts are interesting, but ultimately he does not have the striking traditional rock talents of someone like, say, his old rival Lou Reed. The hooks aren't that sharp, the lyrics -- often dealing with the psychological and social dilemmas of late 20th-century life, in somewhat arty terms -- not as gripping.
Toward the end of the late '70s, his approach became harder-rocking and a bit vicious, especially in concert, where he would adopt a number of flamboyant costumes and theatrical poses that verged on the confrontational (such as in a notorious incident in which he appeared to kill a chicken -- though in actuality it was already dead -- by cutting its head off on-stage). Generally he was most successful in a more subdued and brooding mode, as on Vintage Violence or, much later, Music for a New Society (1982). His discography is so large and variable that the two-CD career retrospective Seducing Down the Door might be the best place to start for those with enough interest to buy more than one or two Cale records.
Cale never abandoned his production activities, and indeed a few of the albums with his credits are destined to endure as more important statements than anything he's done on his own. His sessions with Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers (from the early '70s, but not released until a few years later) anticipated punk and new wave. Patti Smith's Horses (1975) was one of the best and most influential recordings of the 1970s. There were also other albums with Nico, and records with Squeeze, Sham 69, and others; for a couple years in the early '70s, he was even a staff producer at Warner Bros., handling unlikely clients like Jennifer Warnes.
After the mid-'80s, Cale slowed (but did not curtail) work on his own releases. His most high-profile outings since then have been collaborations. Wrong Way Up (1990) matched him with Brian Eno. Songs for Drella (1990), which got a lot more media ink, reunited him at long last with Reed, with whom he had feuded on and off for a couple of decades; the album was a song-cycle tribute to their recently deceased mentor and ex-Velvet Underground manager, Andy Warhol. Well received both on record and in performance, it may have been one of the factors that finally caused the pair to bury the hatchet and re-form the Velvet Underground for a 1993 live European tour (and live album). These events were not as successful with the critics; more disturbingly, Reed and Cale were on the outs yet again by the end of the tour, with feuds over direction, leadership, and songwriting credits apparently resurfacing with a vengeance.
Prospects for an American Velvet Underground tour never came to realization, Cale and Reed vowing never to work with each other again. The death of Sterling Morrison in 1995 ended any reunion hopes, although it did apparently serve to reconcile Reed and Cale, who played together when the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Cale, however, didn't need Reed to keep busy (or vice-versa). In the '90s, he continued to record as a soloist and a soundtrack composer. One of his most ambitious collaborations was The Last Day on Earth (1994), a song cycle and theatrical production written and performed with cult singer/songwriter Bobby Neuwirth. Cale released Nico, a tribute to his Velvet Underground bandmate, in 1998. He continued to record regularly well into the new millennium, releasing a pair of well-received studio albums, HoboSapiens (2003) and Black Acetate (2005). The Extra Playful EP arrived in 2011, followed in 2012 by a well-deserved career overview, Conflict & Catalysis: Productions & Arrangements 1966-2006, and a new studio album, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood.
Wikipedia:Not to be confused with JJ Cale or John Cage.
John Davies Cale, OBE (born 9 March 1942) is a Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the experimental rock band the Velvet Underground.
Though best known for his work in rock music, Cale has worked in various genres including drone and classical, and studied music at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Since departing from the Velvet Underground in 1968 he has released approximately 30 albums. Of his solo work, Cale is perhaps best known for his album Paris 1919, and his cover version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", plus his mid-1970s Island Records trilogy of albums: Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy.
Cale has produced or collaborated with Lou Reed, Nico, La Monte Young, John Cage, Terry Riley, Hector Zazou, Cranes, Nick Drake, Mike Heron, Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Lio, The Modern Lovers, Art Bergmann, Manic Street Preachers and frontman James Dean Bradfield, Super Furry Animals, Marc Almond, Element of Crime, Squeeze, Happy Mondays, LCD Soundsystem, The Replacements and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Cale was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as member of the Velvet Underground in 1996, and appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.John Cale at AllMusic
Early life and career
John Cale was born on 9 March 1942 in Garnant in the heavily industrial Amman Valley of Wales to Will Cale and Margaret Davies. His mother was a primary school teacher and his father was a coal miner. Although Will spoke only English, Margaret brought John up to speak only Welsh. Being unable to speak the same language as his father naturally hindered their relationship. John finally began learning English at primary school, at around age of seven.
Cale was molested by two different men during his childhood. One of the men was an Anglican priest who molested him in a church.
Having discovered a talent for viola, Cale studied music at Goldsmiths College, University of London. While he was there he organised an early Fluxus concert, A Little Festival of New Music, on 6 July 1964. He also contributed to the short film Police Car and had two scores published in Fluxus Preview Review (July 1963) for the nascent avant-garde collective. He conducted the first performance in the UK of Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra, with the composer and pianist Michael Garrett as soloist. He also enjoyed rock music from an early age and in 1963 he travelled to the United States to continue his musical training, thanks to the help and influence of Aaron Copland.
In New York City Cale met a number of influential composers. On 9 September 1963 he participated, along with John Cage and several others, in an 18-hour piano-playing marathon that was the first full-length performance of Erik Satie's "Vexations". After the performance Cale appeared on the television panel show I've Got a Secret. Cale's secret was that he had performed in an 18-hour concert, and he was accompanied by a man whose secret was that he was the only member of the audience who had stayed for the duration.
Cale also played in La Monte Young and Tony Conrad's ensemble the Theater of Eternal Music, also known as the Dream Syndicate (not to be confused with the 1980s band of the same name). The heavily drone-laden music he played there proved to be a big influence in his work with his next group, the Velvet Underground. One of his collaborators on these recordings was the Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison. Three albums of his early experimental work from this period were released in 2001.Mitchell, Tim Sedition and Alchemy : A Biography of John Cale, 2003, pp. 24 MarkMordue.com page: "Cold, Black Style: The John Cale Interview." Fluxus Codex, Jon HEndricks, Harry N Abrams 1988 p221 John Cale on I've Got a Secret on YouTube.
The Velvet UndergroundMain article: The Velvet Underground
In early 1965, he co-founded the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed, recruiting his flatmate Angus MacLise and Reed's college friend Sterling Morrison to complete the initial line-up. Cale left the band in September 1968, owing in part to creative disagreements with Reed.
Just before the group's first paying gig for $75 USD at a high school gig in Summit, New Jersey, MacLise abruptly quit the group and was replaced by Maureen Tucker as the group's drummer. Initially hired to play that one show, she soon became a permanent member and her tribal pounding style became an integral part of the group's music, despite the initial objections of Cale. The very first commercially available recording of the Velvet Underground, an instrumental track called "Loop" given away with Aspen Magazine, was a feedback experiment written and conducted by Cale. His creative relationship with Reed was integral to the sound of the Velvet Underground's first two albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico (recorded in 1966, released in 1967) and White Light/White Heat (recorded in 1967, released in 1968). On these albums he plays viola, bass guitar and piano, and sings occasional backing vocals. White Light/White Heat features Cale on organ (on "Sister Ray") as well as two vocal turns: "Lady Godiva's Operation", an experimental song where he shares lead vocal duties with Reed, and "The Gift", a long spoken word piece written by Reed. Though Cale co-wrote the music to several songs, his most distinctive contribution is the electrically amplified viola.
Cale also played on Nico's 1967 debut album, Chelsea Girl, which features songs co-written by Velvet Underground members Cale, Reed and Morrison, who also feature as musicians. Cale makes his debut as lyricist on "Winter Song" and "Little Sister".
Apart from appearing on these three albums, he also played organ on the track "Ocean" during the practice sessions to produce demos for the band's fourth album Loaded, nearly two years after he left the band. He was enticed back into the studio by the band's manager, Steve Sesnick, "in a half-hearted attempt to reunite old comrades", as Cale put it. Although he does not appear on the finished album, the demo recording of "Ocean" was included in the 1997 Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition re-issue. Finally, five previously unreleased tracks recorded in late 1967 and early 1968 were included on the albums VU (1985) and Another View (1986).
Arguably, the artistic frictions between Cale and Reed are what shaped the group's early sound much more than any other members. The pair often had heated disagreements about the direction of the group, and this tension was central to their later collaborations. When Cale left, he seemed to take the more experimentalist tendencies with him, as is noticeable in comparing the noise-rock experimental White Light/White Heat (which Cale co-created) to the more pop-oriented The Velvet Underground, recorded after his departure.Fricke, David. Liner notes to the Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition compact disc, 1997 Fricke, David. Liner notes to the Peel Slowly and See box set, 1995
ContentsSolo career1.1 1970s1.1.1 Mid-1970s1.2 1980s1.3 1990s1.4 2000s to present
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. The Academy in Peril was his first project for Reprise. His fourth solo record Paris 1919 (1973) steered back towards the singer-songwriter mode; made up of songs with arcane and complex lyrics, it has been cited by critics as one of his best. While at Reprise he produced albums by Jennifer Warnes (her third, Jennifer), Chunky, Novi & Ernie, and the Modern Lovers, their first, which Reprise chose not to release: it subsequently appeared on Beserkley Records, the first of a number of important Cale-produced protopunk records. In 1974 he joined Island, working on records with Squeeze, Patti Smith, and Sham 69, among others. During this period, he was also 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. 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, the accessible and uptempo album at odds with Cale's description of the fraught relationship between the pair.
Then in 1991 Cale contributed one song, "Hallelujah", to the tribute album to Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Fan. Cale's uptempo version was performed on piano, and his cover forms the basis of most subsequent performances since.
In 1992 Cale performed vocals on 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 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 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 longstanding friction between the two contributed to the passion and lurching frustration evident in the sound of the album, as did the ambivalent relationship Reed had to Warhol. The collaboration eventually led to the brief reunion of the Velvet Underground in 1993.
In 1996 Cale released Walking on Locusts which turned out to be his only solo album of the decade. The record featured appearances by David Byrne and original Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker.
Nico, an instrumental ballet score and tribute to the singer, was performed by Scapino Rotterdam along with a 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, a collaboration with Victor Bockris, author of a controversial biography of Lou Reed.
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 were reprised in Paris on 5 September 2010, Brescia, Italy on 11 September 2010, Los Angeles, CA on 30 September 2010 at UCLA's Royce Hall, Melbourne, Australia on 16 October 2010, Barcelona, Spain, 28 May 2010 and Essen, Germany, 6 October 2011.
Cale was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.
In February 2011 Cale signed a record deal with Domino Records subsidiary Double Six and released an EP, Extra Playful, in September 2011.
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.
In the fall of 2012 Cale released Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, his first full-length studio album since 2005. The album features a collaboration with Danger Mouse, "I Wanna Talk 2 U". Critical reception of the album has been mixed to positive, with The Guardian newspaper describing it as "an album that combines the 70-year-old's experience with the glee of a small child.Paris 1919 from Allmusic.com Fear from Allmusic.com Mitchell, Tim Sedition and Alchemy : A Biography of John Cale, 2003, ISBN 0-7206-1132-6 Thorne, Michael. The making of John Cale's Honi Soit album Music for a New Society from Allmusic.com Leonard Cohen Asks for Brief Halt to New Covers of "Hallelujah" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25-11-2011 Mojo, September 1998, Martin Aston, p.22 Video of Siouxsie & John Cale "Murdering Mouth" on YouTube Kot, Greg (17 April 2006). "Escovedo saves his best for Cale-produced `The Boxing Mirror'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 June 2014. Archived by the venue on their Internet performance repository "A Tribute to Nico – Live Event Featuring John Cale, Lisa Gerrard, Mark Lanegan, Soap&Skin and more at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England". LineOfBestFit.com. 22 September 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2009. "MONA FOMA - Blak on blak - Artlink Magazine". Artlink.com.au. Retrieved 2011-07-04. The London Gazette: . 12 June 2010. "John Cale". Double Six Records. Retrieved 28 June 2014. Bennett, Ellie (25 May 2011). "John Cale Reached Heady Musical Heights As He Mused On Travel & Homecoming @ Brighton Festival". Brighton.co.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2014. "John Cale". Eden on the Line. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2014. Simpson, Dave (27 September 2012). "John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
In 1968 John Cale married fashion designer Betsey Johnson. The couple divorced less than a year later.
In 1971 Cale met Cynthia "Cindy" Wells, better known as Miss Cindy of the GTOs and they married soon afterward. Their marriage was rocky and they divorced in 1975.
On 6 October 1981 Cale married his third wife, Risé Irushalmi, and they had one daughter together, Eden Myfanwy Cale, born 14 July 1985. They divorced in 1997.
As a child, Cale suffered from severe bronchial issues, which led to a doctor prescribing him opiates. He would come to rely on the drug in order to fall asleep. Biographer Tim Mitchell claims Cale's early dependence on medicine was a "formative experience". Cale later told an interviewer that, "When I got to New York, drugs were everywhere, and they quickly became part of my artistic experiment".
He was heavily involved in New York's drug scene of the 1960s and 1970s, with cocaine as his drug of choice. He stated to have "taken most of the available drugs in the United States." Cale has said that, "In the '60s, for me, drugs were a cool experiment... In the '70s, I got in over my head." He now feels his drug addiction negatively affected his music during the 1980s, and that he decided to clean up following a series of embarrassing concerts and the birth of his daughter. According to a 2009 BBC interview, the "strongest drug" he was then taking was tea. Cale has also hosted a documentary about the problems of heroin addiction called Heroin, Wales and Me to promote awareness of the addicts and easy availability of the drug in his native Wales.Schneider, Jason (November 2005). "John Cale The Velvet Evolver". Exclaim!. Retrieved 19 March 2009. Simon Prince (2010-02-28). "John Cale: The long reign of the alternative Prince of Wales". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-03-09. Mitchell, Tim Sedition and Alchemy : A Biography of John Cale, 2003, pp. 82 Fear is a Man's Best Friend page: "Timeline – 1975." Fear is a Man's Best Friend page: "Timeline – 1981." Fear is a Man's Best Friend page: "Timeline – 1985." Mitchell, Tim Sedition and Alchemy : A Biography of John Cale, 2003, pp. 197 Mitchell, Tim Sedition and Alchemy : A Biography of John Cale, 2003, pp. 25 "BBC News Online: John Cale's 'shambolic' drug past". 16 June 2009. "WalesOnline: John Cale tells of his shock at Wales' drug problems".