Christmas Posts 2017 part 5 – John Cale

So, a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday (41, since you ask), the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds and I popped into town for a nose round the charity shops. She picked up a CD for 50p that had been free with Mojo magazine which had a number of Christmas cuts on it I had not heard before. One of which was Superchunk’s take on ‘A Child’s Christmas In Wales.’

‘A Child’s Christmas In Wales’ is inspired by Dylan Thomas rather than actually being an adaptation of his work A Child’s Christmas In Wales. Cale has, in fact, recorded a number of Thomas’s poems (see his excellent 1992 live album Fragments Of A Rainy Season for versions of ‘On A Wedding Anniversary,’ ‘ Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed’ and ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’). Cale’s song ‘A Child’s Christmas In Wales’ first appeared on his 1973 album Paris 1919. It’s the opening to a glorious and rather underrated album.

Whilst searching for clips for this piece, I found that erstwhile Cale collaborator Nico had also covered the song; according to the essential read James Young’s Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio, Cale and Nico covered this together.

Finally, that Superchunk cover. As far as I can tell it was recorded for the Mojo CD – and doesn’t look like it’s been made commercially available. Enjoy!

Album Re-issue: Nico


Nico -‘The End.’ (Universal/Island)

There’s a long-standing view of Nico as doomed heroin(e), producing records that make Closer and Pornography seem light-hearted by comparison, and almost too difficult to listen to. The reality is that -while the records may make for a disturbing and uneasy experience -there is also a dark, tragic beauty to the records. Even if she hadn’t died in the late 1980s (as the result of a brain hemorrhage, not heroin as is sometimes incorrectly believed), these albums would still bewitched and bewilder.

Much of the sound is dominated by the harmonium, which defined the Nico sound from The Marble Index onwards (she didn’t care for the sound of her debut, Chelsea Girls). In addition, the production of John Cale and the musical contributions of Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera (then closely aligned with Roxy Music) make for an album that is far more intense than The Marble Index or Desertshore.

If ‘Janitor Of Lunacy,’ which opens Desertshore, is about The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones (once her lover), then it’s the ghost of another lover, The Doors’ Jim Morrison, which haunts this record. ‘You Forgot To Answer’ tells of her misery trying to reach Morrison by ‘phone, only to discover he had died. And her reading of The Doors’ The End’ is a million miles away from the Doors’ original. If that is now -let’s face it-coloured by its’ use in Apocalypse Now, then Nico’s version is from an as yet unmade film, sung in a decaying German hotel, where Nick Cave serenades angels* and where Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling are trying to confront their hideous shared past through S&M.**

Another shadow hanging over the album is the inclusion of ‘Das Lied Der Deutschen,’ the German National Anthem. Nico does indeed sing the ‘uber alles’ verse -but interestingly, for those who worry about Nazi associations, this was usually dedicated in concert to Andreas Baader, leader of the Red Army Faction.

As well as the original album, there’s also Peel session versions of the tracks, and performances from London’s Rainbow in 1974. Listening to these straight after may be too intence for many, but there’s no doubt that these are not mere filler.

A frightening, but utterly inspired and still strikingly original album, nearly forty years since its’ first release.


The End is out now on Universal/Island.

* Wings Of Desire
** The Night Porter

Live on Fresh Air!

Yup, online, live at Fresh AIr

I will be updating as we go along.

1. Blur ‘Under the Westway.’
2. RM Hubbert ‘Car Song.’
3. Nico ‘I’ll Keep It With Mine.’ Cover version of the week
4. The Last Battle ‘ Breathe Bones, Beathe (session track).’
5. Scars ‘Your Attention Please.’ (Gone but not forgotten).
6. Bwani Junction ‘She Ain’t Saying No.’
7. The Last Battle ‘Hope Is Gold (session track).’ Buy the original version from their bandcamp here
8. Carter Damm ‘Clowning (demo).’
9. Stanley Odd ‘Get Out Ma Headspace.’
10. The Last Battle ‘The Butterfly Song (session track).’
11. The Last Battle ‘Ruins (session track).’
12. Cancel The Atronauts ‘I Sold My Soul (And This Is All I Got).’


I have survived my first week back at work -and it’s now the weekend.

A little braindead – but not so braindead as to want to be without music. Hope you like these.

Nico -‘These Days.’ mp3 Buy it here

Cat Power -‘He War.’ mp3 Buy it here

Jolie Holland -‘Old Fashion Morphine.’ mp3 Buy it here

Unless you haven’t been here before now, you’ll know the drill by now: the tracks will be up for a week. If you like them, please support the artists involved.

Links removed April 28.