Helen of Troy (album)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Helen of Troy is an album by John Cale, the last of three albums for Island Records.

This album came out without the consent of Cale, who considered that the tapes were not finished. After shipping the first pressings Island Records replaced the track "Leaving It Up to You" with "Coral Moon", because the former song mentioned Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, who was murdered in 1969 by the Charles Manson gang (Island never updated the cover or label). Things turned sour, and Cale and Island went their separate ways. The CD version contains both tracks.

John Cale explained: "It could have been a great album. I came back from finishing Patti Smith['s Horses] and had three days to finish Helen of Troy before I went on Italian tour. I was spending eighteen hours a day in the studio. When I got back, I found the record company had gone ahead and released what amounted to demo tapes. The trouble was that Island had their own ideas of what that album should sound like. They wanted to include songs I don't particularly like, but it was also an impertinent assumption on my part that I was capable of managing myself. My determination to have Helen of Troy the way I did was not really fair to Island or my management, especially at a time when Island was losing its percentage of the market, which was making everybody very paranoid."

Even though the other Island albums were issued in the US (June 1, 1974, Fear, Slow Dazzle, Guts), Helen Of Troy was not. It was commonly sold as a UK import all over the US.

During the sessions Cale cut three other songs: the unreleased covers "Willow Weep For Me" and "God Only Knows" and "Mary Lou" which was released on the compilation album Guts.

The album features a cover of "Pablo Picasso" by The Modern Lovers, a song which Cale had produced for the band's debut.

Cale re-recorded "I Keep A Close Watch" in 1982 for his album Music For A New Society.


Track listing

All songs composed by John Cale, except where indicated.

Original 1975 release

Side A

  1. "My Maria"
  2. "Helen of Troy"
  3. "China Sea"
  4. "Engine"
  5. "Save Us"
  6. "Cable Hogue"

Side B

  1. "I Keep A Close Watch"
  2. "Pablo Picasso" (Jonathan Richman)
  3. "Leaving It Up to You"
  4. "Baby, What You Want Me To Do?" (Jimmy Reed)
  5. "Sudden Death"

Alternate versions

The album as originally released contained "Leaving it Up to You" as the ninth track. However, due to its reference to the 1969 murder of Sharon Tate by followers of Charles Manson, Island replaced it on subsequent pressings with the song "Coral Moon" "Leaving it Up to You" later appeared on on the 1977 Guts compilation. The original sequence would be restored when the album was released on CD, with "Coral Moon" appearing as a bonus track.

Bonus tracks 1996 remaster

The album was remastered in 1996 as part of the 2CD release The Island Years, containing also Fear and Slow Dazzle. It contained "Leaving It Up To You" in its original slot, with "Coral Moon" added as a bonus track, as well as the following:

  • "You And Me"
  • "Mary Lou"

"Mary Lou" was originally released on the 1977 Guts compilation.

No singles were released from the album.


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Helen of Troy (album)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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