30 Sad Songs no. 22. I Keep a Close Watch – John Cale

John+Cale+-+Helen+Of+Troy+-+Blue+Label+-+LP+RECORD-519058Like most arty teenagers of my generation I was a big, belated Velvet Underground fan in the 70s, so when I discovered in 1975 (aged 15) that John Cale was playing at our local big venue (Guildford Civic Hall) I bought a ticket. My first proper gig – and seeing a real live member of the Warhol underground in Guildford kind of set the tone for the rest of my life. Cale was promoting the Helen of Troy album, and this track is one of its highlights. It’s a big lush rock ballad, which by rights should have been a global hit, but of course Cale never had (or wanted) that kind of mainstream success. It’s all about keeping your emotions in check because to give in to them would be too painful – which inevitably happens. Cale re-recorded the song for the extremely bleak Music for a New Society album in the 80s, but I prefer the original. I really loved Cale’s stuff, and saw him repeatedly over the next 20 years until, like Lou Reed, he seemed to run out of steam. He was one of the rudest and most unco-operative people I ever interviewed in my years as a journalist, but that doesn’t stop me from loving a lot of his stuff.

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