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What's Welsh for Zen: Autobiography of John Cale Paperback – Illustrated, 27 Oct 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (27 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747546223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747546221
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 29.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 887,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

John Cale has been a presence on the New York art-punk-rock scene for more than 30 years. He is a classically trained rock musician, avant-garde composer, arranger, producer, film scorer and occasional fashion model, but he is best known as a founding member of the influential 1960s group The Velvet Underground. This searingly honest autobiography from one of the originals of rock music depicts the crazed and inspired times of this 56-year-old Welsh musician.

No ordinary tale of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, Cale's story tells of a career working with such disparate artists as John Cage, Nico, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Squeeze, Brian Eno and Andy Warhol, and is sprinkled with revealing quotes from other survivors of the Factory era. Lou Reed is also a major player. The co-founder of the Velvets and Cale's sometimes collaborator, confidant and nemesis, Reed haunts this book from its opening lines. This book seems to be a form of therapy for Cale as he legitimises personal grievances, unpeels his emotions and reconciles the ghosts and demons that frustrate and drive him.

The essence of What's Welsh for Zen? is the question of style versus content and the book itself has a state-of-the-art design with the text presented in unusual formats combined with a huge selection of photographs, drawings, documents, letters and lyrics. --Jane Evans --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Sept. 2000
Format: Paperback
I devoured this book about my top music hero and pronounce it good! It's not perfect though, I would have liked more background on some of the albums (people involved in the recording, events etc) especially his work with e.g. Nick Drake, and the editing is really sloppy: in one place early in the text, the title of a newspaper has just been left out, and Cale's collaboration with Bob Neuwerth is called Last NIGHT On Earth (it is DAY). It provides valuable insights into his personal life and artistic development, and early reflections on Andy Warhol and The Factory. Great photographs and illustrations too make for a very pleasing design. Certainly worthy of the man and his achievements.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
A must-read for all serious music fans.
Cale is very honest about his past, brutally honest in fact.
The design is fresh, modern. A joy to read. I've read it through twice, and gone back to it on a thousand occasions.
Mr Bockris has done a very good job (he's the key writer on the Velves), and Cale picked the right man for the job.
Will be enjoyed by core fans and general fans of the Velves.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Anthony JONES on 3 April 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OK, I did enjoy this book, but it does get a bit tiring after a while.
But first, beware that this is a large format book (A4) with drawings, photos, lyrics.
It is all a bit self-consciously "arty", and lyrics aren't JC's strong point so I'm not sure that the format really helps him. More photos & less drawing wouldn't have hurt.
This design is original but makes it difficult to read on the move or on holiday. Also, despite the attention to detail, the proof reading is poor.
I enjoyed the first half, then started to feel a bit tired.
The list of people Cale has fallen out with (usually because they are an arsehole) does go on, then the drug-taking, then the album which doesn't sell, Cale is dropped by record company, goes on tour, falls out with musician, gets new record deal, meets bonkers woman and cycle begins again.
How did he keep getting record deals despite such low sales? A chapter on that skill would have given a bit of variety.
He is the greatest living Welshman, a fine musical mind, but somehow the disappointment of not having that big hit single/album seeps through.
The Lou Reed stuff is of course interesting, but one does feel that Cale is too obsessed with him & kinda resents the greater success of people he feels are his musical inferiors (describing Brain Eno as a gifted amateur is a bit much).
A good read, but you may find yourself skipping through the 70s & 80s (as did John).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
GREAT STORY OF A GREAT MUSICIAN 14 Sept. 2000
By Peter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I devoured this book about my top music hero and pronounce it good! It's not perfect though, I would have liked more background on some of the albums (people involved in the recording, events etc) especially his work with e.g. Nick Drake, and the editing is really sloppy: in one place early in the text, the title of a newspaper has just been left out, and Cale's collaboration with Bob Neuwerth is called Last NIGHT On Earth (it is DAY). It provides valuable insights into his personal life (I was amazed to discover that his mother tongue is Welsh) and artistic development, and early reflections on Andy Warhol and The Factory. The text has a favourable reference to James Young's book on Nico, which is also highly recommended. Great photographs and illustrations too make for a very pleasing design. Certainly worthy of the man and his achievements.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Pleasant Surprise For Any Cale's Fan!!! 13 April 2011
By Santagiuliana Daniele - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Cale is surely not an easy artist to deal with... his "artsy rock" have hidden meanings, a visceral passion, a strong sense of neurosis in his performing... every song you hear by this man in fact, even the more poppy tunes, still performed with such a peculiar sensibility that it has became his own trademark.

In this book, beautifully illustrated by the legendary Dave McKean, with tons of beautiful photos "from beginning to the end", you meet the man in the written form. His honesty about all the topics of his life, from family to art to his troubled love/hate to Lou Reed, from his drugs taking in certain periods of his life to the neverending affection and simpathy he always felt for Andy Warhol and Nico, his whole story, in few words, is told to us by the man himself without lies nor limits... if Mr. Cale make something of wrong, you can insult him, but it's nothing compared to how miserable he could treat his own person for the same reason..!

A transparent modern days genius' story in a brilliant and captivating aesthetic and language - as his music ;) !!!
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