Song of the Day, April 10: (I Keep A) Close Watch by John Cale

John Cale Keep A Close WatchToday’s song is (I Keep A) Close Watch by John Cale. One of his starkest and most beautiful songs, it is also one of his favorites, appearing on two albums and a staple of his live shows.

The original Close Watch was included on his 1975 album Helen of Troy. It has a powerful vocal but the production is a bit heavy-handed, nearly drowning the simple beauty of the lyrics. Cale himself is notoriously unhappy with the takes that Island chose to release for this album. Seven years later, he recorded it for Music For A New Society. A truly experimental album, all the songs seem dismantled and brutally reassembled. Cale considers it his “most tormented” work, a pretty strong statement given his catalog. This version is better suited, but the odd instrumentation that appears halfway through (including a burst of bagpipes ?!?) is distracting.

Cale’s live performances of the song are the best. Ever since 1975, he has presented it as a simple piano and voice number, perfectly serving the quiet darkness of the lyrics. A stunning version is included on his 1992 live opus Fragments Of A Rainy Season.

Never win and never lose
There’s nothing much to choose
Between the right and wrong
Nothing lost and nothing gained
Still things aren’t quite the same
Between you and me
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

Enjoy this powerful live version of a darkly beautiful song today.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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