The bootleg’s rudimentary cover art
The year varies—it was either 1978 or 1979 (or even earlier)—but by John Cale’s own admission, both he and David Bowie were pretty blasted when these two numbers were recorded during a druggy jam session in New York City whenever it was that the pair first met. Bowie, of course, was a massive Velvet Underground fan, having recorded what is historically probably the very first Velvet Underground cover version with a band called the Riot Squad in 1966. Bowie’s then manager Ken Pitt had visited Andy Warhol’s Factory studio and returned to London with an acetate of The Velvet Underground & Nico and his young client was immediately infatuated with the album.
The description on the back cover of the 45 rpm 7” bootleg vinyl single read:
On October 5, 1979, David Bowie and John Cale went into the Ciarbis studio, which is located on top of a house or apartment complex in the city of New York. They recorded some songs there. Here are some results of these uniQue rehearsals!!
Cale had this to say about meeting Bowie:
“David and I didn’t actually meet until I first went back to New York, after I’d done Patti [Smith]. When we did that bootleg, it was like the good old bad old days. We were partying very hard. It was exciting working with him, as there were a lot of possibilities and everything, but we were our own worst enemies at that point.”
“We also played that show for Steve Reich and Philip Glass. That was a lot of fun. That was when we were hanging out, so I asked David if he’d like to come and play Sabotage with me. I ended up teaching him the viola part, which he had a whack at and then ended up playing on stage for the first time.”
“Did I ever want to produce Bowie? After spending time with him, I realised the answer was no. The way we were then would have made it too dangerous. Nowadays it would be different, though. He could improvise songs very well, which was what that bootleg was all about. The great thing about when we met and then started hanging out in the ’70s was that he would say [puts on thick Welsh accent] “That’s Dai Jones from Wales, isn’t it?” He loved all that. That set us off. We got along really well, but most of what we were doing was just partying.”
Have a listen, after the jump…