Brian Eno, Another Day on Earth
John Cale, Black Acetate
These two geezers have nothing left to prove to anybody; they could have retired to their country chateaus long ago, quite satisfied with their accomplishments. Come to think of it, their careers have been almost exactly parallel. Both first made a name for themselves in a vastly influential band that they left after two albums (Roxy Music for Eno, the Velvet Underground for Cale). In both cases, the band never sounded quite the same again, which is not to say that Roxy and the VU’s later albums were worse — just different. Cale and Eno were X factors who lent unique qualities to Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground and Nico, For Your Pleasure, and White Light/White Heat. Their contributions were musical, certainly — Eno with his synthesizers and tape machines, Cale with his viola, bass, and vocals — but also conceptual. Both are musical strategists with adventurous, and therefore restless, minds. This explains why they left their bands so soon, although the heavy shadows cast by Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed may have had something to do with it.
In the 70s, both Eno and Cale made a series of acclaimed solo albums while also finding time to produce landmark records by other people. Cale specialized in debut albums, which he produced for the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, Patti Smith, and, strangely enough, Squeeze. Eno, of course, produced Devo’s first album and beloved trilogies by David Bowie and Talking Heads. In the 80s, Eno made a bazillion dollars by producing huge-selling albums for U2, while Cale kind of dropped off the radar (mine anyway). According to the All-Music Guide, he released a bunch of albums that I’ve never heard — they could be great for all I know — and produced Happy Mondays’ Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out).