The two John Cale shows that were broadcasted live in 1983 and 1984 by German TV for the long running WDR Rockpalast series have been gathering dust on the shelves for years. Only a few snippets of the 1984 show that were used in the 1998 documentary directed by James Marsh and the 1990 Words for the Dying video were released officially.
Broadcasting organization WDR licensed the tapes to the newly formed label Made in Germany Music who have released them as a 2DVD, 2CD and 2LP (the later contains all of 1984 - with the exception although Heartbreak Hotel which is edited to cut out some audience noise - and four songs from 1983). Taken from 2005 rebroadcasts the picture and sound quality are rather good for its age. Over the years the 1984 show which started at 3AM October 14 at the Grugahalle in Essen became legendary. It is the first disc in the set, never mind chronology.
Substance issues, the fact that they had to wait for hours because the other acts who were on the bill all played longer than was planned, resulted in a frantic ragged show. Kicking off with the cynical Autobiography (an unreleased track so far) and Ooh La La, another failed attempt at getting a hit single, Cale leads his band through rockers and a couple of ballads. Streets of Laredo has Cale banging out wild chords on his guitar and at the start of Heartbreak Hotel he slides from the piano stool, mumbles the lyrics while lying underneath the keyboard and starts ripping up the stage. There is the famous scream that ends Fear Is A Man's Best Friend, and during an extended Waiting For The Man he name checks Herb Alpert, Roman Emperor Claudius, and Augustus Pinochet, dictator of Chile. The concert is a sweaty business that went down in rock history. The DVD also has the interview that presenter Ken Janz had with drummer David Lichtenstein before the show. Janz mistook him for John Cale, who shows up halfway to wash his hands.
The 1983 solo concert is far superior in terms of musicianship. He had just started out as a one-man show, traveling light with an acoustic guitar, and using a grand piano provided by the venue. Recorded on March 6 at the Zeche in Bochum, he grits his teeth to bring his songs to the fore, without holding back with one notable exception. He changed the first line of Guts ("The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife") to "loved my wife", maybe to prevent an outcry since the concert was broadcasted live. With razor sharp phrasing he reaches a peak during Antarctica Starts Here and a scary Fear Is A Man's Best Friend. The audience loved it and there were three encores. Filmed up close watching the show gives you a front-row seat.
Sadly enough the 1983 concert is not complete. The Old Cracked Looking Glass intro and banter, the Woody Guthrie song that inspired and leads into Ship Of Fools are missing from the CD (but it's all there on the DVD), and Risé, Sam And Rimsky-Korsakov with spoken words by his then wife Risé was cut out completely all together.
And now the bad bits. The cuts from the 1983 show are not mentioned anywhere. All formats (2DVD, 2CD and 2LP) only have photos from the 1983 concert, which doesn't make sense if used as a label for the 1984 concert. The liner notes claim that Autobiography was played just once at the 1984 concert when in fact it made regular appearances in the late 1984 shows. And finally the 1984 show was played on October 14, not 13.
Still, it's good to have two previously unreleased 1984 Cale tracks. The aforementioned Autobiography and a cover of the Doors' Love Me Two Times stuck at the end of Pablo Picasso. Most of the songs on this collection were released on three currently out-of-print albums - Music For A New Society, Caribbean Sunset and John Cale Comes Alive. The release of Live At Rockpalast might help to fix those holes in his catalog.
1984-10-14 Grugahalle, Essen
John Cale: guitar, piano, vocals
1983-03-06 Zeche, Bochum
John Cale: guitar, piano, vocals