This week Sue Lawley's castaway is John Cale, a classically trained musician who went on to found one of the most influential bands of the 1960s, Velvet Underground. John Cale was brought up in a strict South Wales household. His maternal grandmother insisted that Welsh was the only language to be spoken in the house even though his father spoke only English. His childhood was solitary - he was an only child and his mother encouraged him to spend hours each day practising his piano playing, and he later took up the viola. He went on to have viola lessons at the Royal Academy of Music while also studying music at Goldsmiths' Teacher Training College in London.

He was talent-spotted by Aaron Copland and awarded a musical scholarship to study in America, where he was part of the contemporary avant-garde music scene there, working with John Cage and LaMonte Young, until he met Lou Reed and the two formed Velvet Underground. Their first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, remains their best known. Andy Warhol is credited as producer, it features Nico on vocals and the cover is the famous Warhol banana. He went on to produce some of the most influential artists of the time and has made New York his home - although Wales continues to exert some draw over him. He continues to write music and tour.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: She Belongs To Me by Bob Dylan
Book: Repetition by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Luxury: Express coffee machine with coffee beans

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Fri 27 Feb 2004 09:00


Role Contributor
PresenterSue Lawley
Interviewed GuestJohn Cale

Featured in...

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs at 75 1920x1080

Featuring David Beckham, the funniest and most moving moments, animations and quizzes.

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

Why does Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece appeal to so many castaways?