John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

 |   |  1 min read

(from vinyl, some enjoyale surface noise and pops)
John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

Born of its political era and John Cale's peculiarly damaged consciousness at the time, this menacing live recording captures an embittered spirit, a rare rage and a grim humour.

As Mikal Gilmore noted in Rolling Stone at the time, the Sabotage/Live album this comes from is "without apology, and more importantly, without ideology, something of a rough and ready homage to the business of war itself".

Cale's mercenary here is more than just a murderer for money, but a man who knows he is going down and so is going to take the whole global shit-house with him: "I'm just another soldier boy, looking for work . . . I did some work in Zaire . . . let's go to Moscow, find the back door to the Kremlin, push it down and walk on in and say 'How dee ya dee do da' . . . "

At the time the headlines were all about the Russian army's expansionist pushes south through Afghanistan and towards Pakistan, the US was on a military footing, pessimism was in the air, and Cale -- a great reader of politics and conspiracy theories as well as grappling with alcoholism and heroin -- filtered the whole threatening, global meltdown through this song recorded live at CBGBs.

On an album of dark visions (even his version of Walking the Dog sounded saturated in heroin), this song was one of the most grim and bleak: another Welshman raging against the dying of the light.

Played back to back with Pere Ubu's 30 Seconds Over Tokyo (here) and Riot 111's 1981 (here) you've got the start of a very violent, possibly damaging, mix-tape.

For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Sly Stone: Just Like a Baby (1970)

Sly Stone: Just Like a Baby (1970)

If we think of the great Sly Stone at all these days it's the celebratory guy leading the Family Stone at Woodstock and then great albums like Stand and There's A Riot Goin' On. But flick back... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

Bob Dylan's Hurricane in '75 is one of the best known songs about a boxer -- but very early in his career Dylan also sang another about a boxer, the fighter Davey Moore who was knocked out by... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (On U through Border)

Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (On U through Border)

On his 1986 album Battle of Armagideon, the great producer/mixer/ dub magician and studio alchemist Lee “Scratch” Perry opened with Introducing Myself. By that time he hardly needed... > Read more

THE BEATLES IN NEW ZEALAND 1964: Screaming and cynicism

THE BEATLES IN NEW ZEALAND 1964: Screaming and cynicism

As the saying goes, the past is another country - -often a pretty innocent one, and certainly cheaper. That's why many people prefer to live there. Roll the clock back to over 40 years ago, and... > Read more