Endless Loop: Big White Cloud

johncaleHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Big White Cloud” by John Cale

If you could see any now deceased/defunct artist or band, who would it be?  Let’s say you have a time machine, or you can suddenly bend reality to your whim and witness some legendary artist perform at the height of his or her or their musical prowess…who do you see?  Who did you miss out on the first time around?  For me, it’s a three-way tie between Queen, Nirvana, and The Velvet Underground (though admittedly, I would happily take T. Rex or a pre-Brain Jones death Rolling Stones too).

Oh, The Velvet Underground, that all too short-lived group that a thousand music writers have assessed as the pivotal artist that inspired everybody everywhere who ever heard them to start a band of their very own.  There might be something to that sentiment though, those four classic albums from 1967 through 1970 introducing the world at large to the extraordinary talents of Lou Reed, Nico (on the first record at least), Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and John Cale.  And while some members would go on to greater acclaim than others, Lou Reed most notably and deservedly, or full on cult status like Nico, I feel like John Cale has never really gotten his due.

Cale was only with the band for their first two albums before leaving to pursue a solo career, one that I think rivals his better known former colleague, and I sometimes wonder what direction The Velvet Underground might have moved in had he and Reed been able to keep their collaborative songwriting partnership intact.  But I guess at least we got some fantastic solo albums from the two.

Cale’s first solo outing was 1970’s Vintage Violence, a fairly straight forward collection of pop songs from an artist who came of age playing more Avant Garde material, but his personal touch is still there, recognizable, almost like someone who’s trying something out for the first time.  It’s a great beginning statement from the musician, and its highlighted by its beautifully wistful centerpiece, “Big White Cloud.”  Opening with a rising string section, the song has an almost epic quality to it, like a big, expansive sky, blue going on and on forever.  All the while a piano plays a soothing, swaying, sing-song melody that feels like the sonic equivalent of laying in the grass, watching the clouds subtly move above you, and finding peace there.  Cale sings warmly and invitingly on the track, a friendly companion to while away the afternoon with.  And then everything slowly fades out, sunset coming on to burn the last of the day away.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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