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The Style It Takes

Mark Ford: John Cale

16 September 1999
What’s Welsh for Zen? The Autobiography of John​ Cale 
by Victor Bockris.
Bloomsbury, 272 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 7475 3668 6
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... sticker ‘Contains Previously Unreleased Material’) of out-takes and rehearsal sessions, although it seems no live recordings survive from their heyday – that is, before Lou Reed kicked JohnCale out of the band, ending three years of almost symbiotic closeness. JohnCale was born in the small Welsh coal town of Garnant, between Swansea and Carmarthen, in 1942. His father was a miner; his ...

The Right Kind of Pain

Mark Greif: The Velvet Underground

22 March 2007
The Velvet Underground 
by Richard Witts.
Equinox, 171 pp., £10.99, September 2006, 9781904768272
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... Witts tells fruitfully out of order. The Velvet Underground consisted in its main incarnation of four players. Lou Reed was the songwriter, singer, guitarist and attitudiniser extraordinaire. JohnCale, an initiate of the minimalist and dissonant avant-garde under the tutelage of New York composer LaMonte Young, was the band’s violist and played bass guitar. Maureen ‘Mo’ Tucker, a self-taught ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: ‘Inside the Dream Palace’

6 February 2014
... end the question is, who haven’t we encountered? We bump into Whitman, Hart Crane, all the Abstract Expressionists, Herbert Huncke plus any given Beat, all of the New York School, Bob Dylan, Nico, JohnCale, Lou Reed, Malcolm McLaren, Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe, William Eggleston, and … hang on, here’s Walker Evans. And there, not exactly flitting past, goes the bulky shadow of Henry James ...
4 May 2016
M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... its larky brashness got lost in earnest philosophising. I see the young Ray Davies – an ambiguous girly-boy who hymned his cheap-suit backstreet bohemia over blackout power chords – as Smith’s John the Baptist. Horses betrays a love of early Kinks, Them, Who, but reframes their riffy aesthetic with studied artfulness. How much credit should go to the producer, JohnCale, isn’t clear. Smith ...

So Ordinary, So Glamorous

Thomas Jones: Eternal Bowie

5 April 2012
Starman: David Bowie, the Definitive Biography 
by Paul Trynka.
Sphere, 440 pp., £9.99, March 2012, 978 0 7515 4293 6
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The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s 
by Peter Doggett.
Bodley Head, 424 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 1 84792 144 4
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... he was more like the very hungry caterpillar, munching his way through every musical influence he came across: much of Hunky Dory consists of pastiches of Bowie’s musical heroes of the 1960s – John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Anthony Newley, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground. Which would make Ziggy Stardust the beautiful butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis. Paul Trynka begins his biography with ...

On Teesside

Joanna Biggs

21 October 2010
... son, Joseph, led a Quaker consortium in buying up the land and began to look for investors. He approached Henry Bolckow, a Mecklenburg-born corn tycoon and his English iron-maker business partner, John Vaughan, who opened ironworks on the Tees in 1841. But the firm of Bolckow and Vaughan didn’t come into its own until 1850, when Bolckow rather opportunely found iron ore in the nearby Eston Hills ...

Dunbar’s Disappearance

Sally Mapstone: William Dunbar

24 May 2001
The Poems of William Dunbar 
edited by Priscilla Bawcutt.
Association for Scottish Literary Studies, £70, May 1999, 0 948877 38 3
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... euphemism, the poem works a novel variation on the amatory verse dialogues common across Europe in the Middle Ages. It is mercilessly sardonic: His bony beird wes kemmit and croppit, Bot all with cale it was bedroppit, And he wes townysche, peirt and gukit. He clappit fast, he kist and chukkit, As with the glaikis he wer ouirgane. Yit be his feirris he wald haue fukkit – ‘Ye brek my hart, my ...

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