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 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

Charles Amirkhanian: Just (1972)

Charles Amirkhanian: Just (1972)

Unless he was blessed with some weird insight, it's a fair guess that American sound-poet and composer Amirkhanian could not know how this text-sound piece would be heard in the wake of what... > Read more

Scorpio Rising: Peace Frog (1992)

Scorpio Rising: Peace Frog (1992)

For a short while Scorpio Rising out of Liverpool seemed to point a new direction in British rock post-Stone Roses. They formed the year of the Stone Roses' impressive debut and had a similarly... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE KILLERS, a film by ROBERT SIODMAK (Shock DVD/Blu-Ray)

THE KILLERS, a film by ROBERT SIODMAK (Shock DVD/Blu-Ray)

Of all the great film noir movies of the Forties and Fifties, few have the cachet and longevity of The Killers from '46. Based in part on a short story by Ernest Hemingway, the great Burt... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Billy Ebeling

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Billy Ebeling

American singer-songwriter and busker extraordinaire Billy Ebeling has appeared at Elsewhere previously and got our vote as the most inventive, funny and talented busker to ever appear on... > Read more