ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (2/22)

Album : Let Love In by Mick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Review : Rolling Stone, 16 June 1994
Author : Rob O’Connor

Nick Cave used to be strictly postmodern, stringing together word associations in spasmodic whelps for his band the Birthday Party. Then he used to be sort of postmodern, weaving together folk tales based on American blues myths and a quick read of Faulkner’s twisted South. Not bad for a kid from Australia.

Then Cave cut The Good Son (1990), an album that curtailed his self-consciousness by stripping his sound down to bare essentials. It forced him to reassess his affectations and sing straight from the heart. In the process, he lost his signature sound – the wayward rhythms and screeching dissonance that created the dramatic soundstage needed to weave his longer tales. Henry’s Dream (1992) attempted to stretch out; however, the effort was reined in by David Briggs‘ measured production.

This time, Cave pulled out the stops. The Bad Seeds are back, mixing haunted house organ, creaky-floorboard guitar and voodoo drumming for maximum effect. In turn, Cave is both singing with maturity and ranting and raving like the lunatic he often becomes in performance.

By combining the stately arrangements of The Good Son with his early work’s literary richness, Let Love In, Cave’s eighth studio album with the Bad Seeds (the second with this incarnation), works the balance between prudence (a sympathetic reading of “Nobody’s Baby Now”) and wild-man fervor (“Jangling Jack”).

Cave’s ecstatic love epistles are often derailed by the hellhound on his trail. “He’s coming through your door,” Cave sings during the album’s centerpiece, “Loverman,” “with his straining sex in his jumping paw/There’s a devil crawling along your floor.” He explains what each letter stands for (“L is for love, baby”), adding relish as the insights get sicker (“R is for rape me/M is for murder me”).

Cave’s still not shying away from hyperbolic moments; he loves the drama music can produce. With Let Love In, Cave has regained the frenzy of his early work and fused it with his more recently found focus. The result is pain and pleasure transformed into rhythm, sex and death.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Nobody’s Baby Now
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jangling Jack
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Loverman

JC adds : The astonishing thing is this review completely bypasses Red Right Hand, without question, the most enduring and popular track from the album.

This was the album which began the gradual move towards the mainstream – not that I think that’s been a bad thing – but the downside is that Nick Cave has very much nowadays become the rock god for the chattering classes, many of whom have only discovered him since the news coverage of the personal tragedies and the fact that his music has been used to incredible effect in the hit TV show Peaky Blinders.

I say downside as I never imagined that he would be able to undertake tours of 10,000+ capacity venues, selling them out in a matter of minutes, and charging the best part of £100 a ticket for the best seats in the house…so I doubt he sees it that way.  It’s not, however, for me….I’ll stick to my memories of shows from this era and the subsequent 20-odd years.

 

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 23)

It’s been a while since this irregular series last appeared.

The song being featured today is most closely associated with Elvis Presley, but has been covered quite extensively since its first airing in 1969.

As the snow flies
On a cold and grey Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
‘cos if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see
Do we simply turn our head and look the other way?

Well the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
The young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car
Tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

As her young man dies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
In the ghetto

The song’s composer was Mac Davis, a Texas-born songwriter who got his first break working with Nancy Sinatra before gaining fame for his work with the king of rock’n’roll. The original title of the songs was The Vicious Circle, reflecting its narrative of grinding and continuing poverty that inevitable escalates into violence. It’s a heart breaking tale that has come true on far too many occasions in towns and cities across the world, and not merely Chicago.

In The Ghetto provided Elvis Presley with his first hit single in the UK in three years, and likewise in many other parts of the world and, as mentioned earlier, has been recorded by numerous singers over the year and also spawned a number of parody versions.

I have to say that when I first heard the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds take on it, I wasn’t quite sure it was a tribute or a parody, but given that it was recorded at a time when the singer and his acolytes were almost permanently is a state of substance dependency, it’s hardly a surprise that it turned out the way it did:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – In The Ghetto

The single seemingly hit the shops on 18 June 1984, the very day that I celebrated by 21st birthday by getting drunk and playing all the early Smiths songs at full blast in my flat, with Girl Afraid being on very heavy rotation! Who’d have thought back then that Nick Cave would still be alive in 2019 and reaching the level of popularity he is currently enjoying while the lead singer of the Mancunians would be held in such contempt for his statements and political leanings?

JC

THE JOY OF (a mixed) SEX (duet) : Couple #5

Adapted from wiki:-

“Young Hunting” is a traditional folk song that has its origin in Scotland. It can be traced back as far as the 18th century, being the tale of the eponymous protagonist, Young Hunting, who tells a woman, who may have borne him a child, that he is in love with another, more beautiful woman. Despite this, she persuades him to drink until he is drunk, then to come to her bedroom, or at least kiss her farewell. The woman then stabs him to death.

The tormented murderer then throws the body in the river but in doing so is taunted by a bird. She tries to lure the bird down from the tree but it tells her that she will kill it if it comes within reach. When the search for Young Hunting starts, she either denies seeing him or claims that he left earlier, but when Hunting’s remains are found, in order to revoke her guilt, she reveals that she murdered him and is later burned at the stake.

Like most traditional songs, numerous variants of the song exist worldwide, notably under the title of “Henry Lee” and “Love Henry” in the United States.

Nick Cave decided that he’d like to record a version of Henry Lee for inclusion as part of the Bad Seeds‘ ambitious 1996 album Murder Ballads, being a work (almost) entirely devoted to asongs of violent death, most often in tragic circumstances. He recorded a vocal in Australia and brought on board PJ Harvey who recorded her vocal separately in England.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Henry Lee

The results were astonishing and led to Mute Records demanding it be released as a single, for which this promo was shot:-

The couple, having met, embarked on a short relationship (seemingly just four months in length), the aftermath of which led to Cave composing a number of break-up songs that would appear on his next album The Boatman’s Call – it should be noted, however, that most of the album’s material, including the haunting Into My Arms, deals with the six-year marriage he had enjoyed with Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 18)

Today’s offering tells the story of a birth taking place in the middle of one almighty thunderstorm. The date is 8 January 1935 and the location is a small house in a town in Mississippi.

Looka yonder! Looka yonder! Looka yonder! A big black cloud come! O comes to Tupelo. Comes to Tupelo

Yonder on the horizon. Stopped at the mighty river and. Sucked the damn thing dry. Tupelo-o-o, O Tupelo. In a valley hides a town called Tupelo.

Distant thunder rumble. Rumble hungry like the Beast. The Beast it cometh, cometh down. Wo wo wo-o-o. Tupelo bound. Tupelo-o-o. Yeah Tupelo. The Beast it cometh, Tupelo bound.

Why the hen won’t lay no egg. Can’t get that cock to crow. The nag is spooked and crazy. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo!

Ya can say these streets are rivers. Ya can call these rivers streets. Ya can tell ya self ya dreaming buddy. But no sleep runs this deep. No! No sleep runs this deep. No sleep runs this deep. Women at their windows. Rain crashing on the pane. Writing in the frost. Tupelos’ shame. Tupelo’s shame. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo!

O go to sleep lil children. The sandmans on his way. O go to sleep lil children. The sandmans on his way. But the lil children know. They listen to the beating of their blood.

They listen to the beating of their blood. The sandman’s mud! The sandman’s mud! And the black rain come down. Water water everywhere. Where no bird can fly no fish can swim. Where no bird can fly no fish can swim. No fish can swim. Until The King is born! Until The King is born! In Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! Til The King is born in Tupelo!

In a clap-board shack with a roof of tin. Where the rain came down and leaked within. A young mother frozen on a concrete floor. With a bottle and a box and a cradle of straw. Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! With a bundle and a box and a cradle of straw.

Well Saturday gives what Sunday steals. And a child is born on his brothers heels. Come Sunday morn the first-born dead. In a shoe-box tied with a ribbon of red. Tupelo-o-o! Hey Tupelo! In a shoe-box buried with a ribbon of red.

O ma-ma rock you lil’ one slow. O ma-ma rock your baby. O ma-ma rock your lil’ one slow. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo! Mama rock your lil’ one slow. The lil one will walk on Tupelo. Tupelo-o-o! Yeah Tupelo! And carry the burden of Tupelo. Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! Yeah! The King will walk on Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! He carried the burden outa Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! Hey Tupelo! You will reap just what you sow.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tupelo

I wasn’t sure whether to include this in this series given that the lyric is very much based on an actual event, namely that of the stillborn birth of Jesse Garon Presley, the elder twin, by 35 minutes, of the later to be crowned king of rock’n’roll. But there is a huge amount of imagination in the lyric given that the thunderstorm which engulfed Tupelo wasn’t until April 1936 when more than 200 people died after a deadly tornado tore through the city.

Nick Cave’s brilliance in forging these two events creates a tale of gothic horror, one which is made all the more spine-chilling thanks to the rollicking and memorable music, written by Mick Harvey and Barry Adamson, in which the sound effects of claps thunder and lightning bolts are fully justified.

This is from when Nick Cave was more Birthday Party than latter day Bad Seed. There is more than a nod to the blues with the opening line referencing Black Betty by Leadbelly (which itself would later be covered by The Bad Seeds) and the wider lyric being based on an old number by John Lee Hooker, who himself had written and recorded a song entitled Tupelo all about the deadly storm and the havoc it had reaped.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter Four)

Again, it was only a matter of when, and which song, that Nick Cave would feature in this series. I’ve gone for  Mrs Villain’s all-time favourite:-

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

You must have heard about The Curse Of Millhaven
How last Christmas Bill Blake’s little boy didn’t come home
They found him next week in One Mile Creek
His head bashed in and his pockets full of stones
Well, just imagine all the wailing and moaning
La la la la La la la lie
Even little Billy Blake’s boy, he had to die

Then Professor O’Rye from Millhaven High
Found nailed to his door his prize-winning terrier
Then next day the old fool brought little Biko to school
And we all had to watch as he buried her
His eulogy to Biko had all the tears a-flowing
La la la la La la la lie
Even God’s little creatures, they have to die

Our little town fell into a state of shock
A lot of people were saying things that made little sense
Then the next thing you know the head of Handyman Joe
Was found in the fountain of the Mayor’s residence
Foul play can really get a small town going
La la la la La la la lie
Even God’s children all have to die

Then, in a cruel twist of fate, old Mrs Colgate
Was stabbed but the job was not complete
The last thing she said before the cops pronounced her dead
Was, “My killer is Loretta and she lives across the street!”
Twenty cops burst through my door without even phoning
La la la la La la la lie
The young ones, the old ones, they all gotta die

Yes, it is I, Lottie. The Curse Of Millhaven
I’ve struck horror in the heart of this town
Like my eyes ain’t green and my hair ain’t yellow
It’s more like the other way around
I gotta pretty little mouth underneath all the foaming
La la la la La la la lie
Sooner or later we all gotta die

Since I was no bigger than a weavil they’ve been saying I was evil
That if “bad” was a boot that I’d fit it
That I’m a wicked young lady, but I’ve been trying hard lately
O fuck it! I’m a monster! I admit it!
It makes me so mad my blood really starts a-going
La la la la La la la lie
Mama always told me that we all gotta die

Yeah, I drowned the Blakey kid, stabbed Mrs. Colgate, I admit
Did the handyman with his circular saw in his garden shed
But I never crucified little Biko, that was two junior high school psychos
Stinky Bohoon and his friend with the pumpkin-sized head
I’ll sing to the lot, now you got me going
La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children have all gotta die

There were all the others, all our sisters and brothers
You assumed were accidents, best forgotten
Recall the children who broke through the ice on Lake Tahoo?
Everyone assumed the “Warning” signs had followed them to the bottom
Well, they’re underneath the house where I do quite a bit of stowing
La la la la La la la lie
Even twenty little children, they had to die

And the fire of ’91 that razed the Bella Vista slum
There was the biggest shit-fight this country’s ever seen
Insurance companies ruined, land lords getting sued
All cause of wee girl with a can of gasoline
Those flames really roared when the wind started blowing
La la la la La la la lie
Rich man, poor man, all got to die

Well I confessed to all these crimes and they put me on trial
I was laughing when they took me away
Off to the asylum in an old black Mariah
It ain’t home, but you know, it’s fucking better than jail
It ain’t such bad old place to have a home in
La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

Now I got shrinks that will not rest with their endless Rorschach tests
I keep telling them they’re out to get me
They ask me if I feel remorse and I answer, “Why of course!
There is so much more I could have done if they’d let me!”
So it’s Rorschach and Prozac and everything is groovy

Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all have to die
La la la la La la la lie
I’m happy as a lark and everything is fine
Singing La la la la La la la lie
Yeah, everything is groovy and everything is fine
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they gotta die.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Curse of Millhaven

JC

SAILING STRAIGHT INTO YOUR HEART

110726-shipsong

Up until March 1990, Nick Cave was best known for fierce and uncompromising music. There had been the occasional ballad but never an all-out soppy love song. His new 45 was as far removed from the goth-rock, dark- as-night singles such as Tupelo, The Mercy Seat and Deanna as you could imagine. It was the first sign of a singer-songwriter maturing as he aged and not being afraid to put his feelings down on paper.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Ship Song

It’s still, all these years on, seen as one one his finest ever moments, always getting a huge cheer and prolonged applause whenever he plays it in the live setting.

The b-side also had a mode of transport referenced:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Train Song

Another stripped-back effort that took long-standing fans by surprise. It’s maybe not one of Nick’s greatest lyrics or tunes but it is still a sign of him looking to do things a bit differently than in the past.

JC

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (2)

All the greats eventually get the full-blooded cover version treatment with singers and bands queing up to pay tribute to those who greatly influenced them. The late Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered more than most, including various compilation LPs over the years which have been commercially released or given away free with music magazines. There’s even been specially curated gigs at which some of the great and good have appeared on stage to pay tribute.

So many tracks to choose from, but I’ve gone for one which, in its original recording, is not much more than a gravelled voice and some backing oohs and aahs over a toy synthesiser with its cheap drum pattern:-

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Tower of Song

The opposite tack was taken by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds who, in a drink and drug fuelled frenzy one day in a studio, eventually cut what became an infamous 33 minute version of the track in which all sorts of musical genres are eventually thrown in. It’s not for the faint hearted:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (full length)

An edited version was made available for inclusion of the tribute/compilation album I’m Your Fan, released in 1991:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (album version)

Here’s two more versions worth giving a listen:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Tower of Song
mp3 : Martha Wainwright – Tower of Song

And finally, the daddy of them all in which Lenny C is given the shoegaze treatment:-

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Tower of Song

Outstanding.

ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING

one-more-time

Those of you who are fans of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds will know today marks the release of the new album, Skeleton Tree. You’ll also know that the release was preceded by the one-off showing last night in more than 650 cinemas worldwide of One More Time With Feeling, a documentary about the making of the record in which fans had the first opportunity to hear the new material.

Album launches tend to be happy and joyous affairs – indeed just a mile or so at the other end of the city centre of Glasgow from the cinema I was sitting in, such an event involving the wonderful and exciting Teen Canteen was taking place (with early reports from friends who were there indicating it was one of the gigs of the year). After such launches, the singer or band tends to take to the road and promote the new material via the live setting (such as Teenage Fanclub did earlier this week).

Neither of these options would have been appropriate for the launch of Skeleton Tree.

For those of you who don’t know, work was already underway on the new record when Nick Cave and his family were hit with the most unimaginable personal tragedy.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/15/nick-cave-son-arthur-dies-brighton-chalk-cliff-fall

The subsequent inquest, in November 2015, found that Arthur had taken some form of hallucinogenic drug, most likely for the first ever time, shortly before he fell to his death.

At some point in time, and I’m sure as part of the grieving process, Nick Cave returned to the studio to finish work on the new record. He knew that at some point when work was complete that he would need to promote the record but he could not, understandably, bring himself to be subject to widespread media attention nor go on stage not knowing just how he would react.

In December 2016, he called up his film-making friend Andrew Dominik and floated the idea of a documentary to capture the band performing the new album. Work began in February 2016 at a time when the band came together again to mix the record but it soon became clear that the bond between the two men, and the trust placed in the film-maker by the Cave family and circle of friends, would allow something much more substantial to emerge from the process.

The finished work, shot almost exclusively in black and white and 3D, has long sections in which Nick Cave tries to talk and muse on what has happened to him over the past year and a bit. It also has some of the most astounding performances of some of the most astounding songs that the Bad Seeds have ever recorded.

It is an extraordinary, powerful and moving piece of film. It goes beyond belief that Nick and his wife Susie should so openly share their feelings about their sense of loss and grief in such a bold and frank fashion without ever looking for the man behind the camera, and by extension the audience, to offer up any pity.

The other thing that was most striking was watching a man whose very strength has always been his lyrics and prose at such a loss to find the words to adequately articulate the pain he feels every waking day.

One More Time With Feeling wasn’t something to be enjoyed in the same way as other music documentaries. It was haunting and sad and yet it was full of beauty and dignity. It’ll stay with me a long long time and I’ll recall many of its scenes any time I play the new album.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #81 – NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS (2)

NickCave_0183

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds were near the top of those for my stab at an ICA but they were also one of the first to be offered up by a guest contributor, courtesy of The Robster back in May 2015. Click here for a reminder.

However, I think there’s now enough time passed since to come up with a second volume on the proviso that I don’t include any of the ten actual songs selected by The Robster (and there’s a few that would have been certainties!!). It also acts an introduction to what, over the coming weeks, will be a run of ICAs that have been submitted by guest contributors, new and old alike, that I haven’t had the capacity to pull together into the standard shape and style or do the really time-consuming bit which is get the files into a shape and form that you can listen to via the links.

There’s some great stuff coming your way, but for now, back to Nick Cave….and the different thing I’ve done this time is match the tracks on this ICA with their position on the album on which they were released. This means that I’ve also looked at everything as a CD as the albums had different numbers of songs. Thus, having gone for Track 1 from a particular album, then no other opening song was eligible. It also ruled out b-sides…..

Despite such restrictions, it still makes for a cracking listen.

1. Do You Love Me? (Track 1 on Let Love In, 1994)

This was included within the 45 45s at 45 rundown but it wasn’t a stick-on to open up the ICA. Indeed, this was an instance when Robster’s choices prevented me going for my real preference but then again I’d probably have fretted about not including what is one of the best examples of the Bad Seeds being such a great foil for Nick’s incredible brand of lyrics.

2. Deanna (live) (Track 2 on Live Seeds, 1993)

There have been few, if any, better examples of a band that have been consistently brilliant in the live setting for what is now over 30 years. Every tour offers something different, whether that be an altered line-up from last time out, the use of additional backing singers or a well-known and much-loved song being given a completely new interpretation (The Mercy Seat in particular has experienced this over time) and as such a Bad Seeds show is never dull or predictable. There’s been four live releases in addition to the fifteen studio albums. This frantic and chaotic rendition of an infamously raucous number on 1988’s Tender Prey appears on the first of the live releases.

3. People Ain’t No Good (Track 3 on The Boatman’s Call, 1997)

From the album that took everyone by surprise thanks to its minimalist approach and heavy reliance on the piano. It’s the album when Nick Cave began to feature very heavily in the UK broadsheets as he finally had made an album that middle-aged people could listen to without any fear or dread. It’s his album of love and regret and at times his vocal delivery is as fragile as his mood was during its recording. I know why so many folk love it and rate it among his best but at best I’m only able to listen to it right through about every 2-3 years nowadays. It’s just too sad and morose in places. The selected track is as sad and morose as any of them but has a certain transcending charm that indeed led to it being included for a sad moment in a family movie – Shrek 2 – as well as being beautifully covered by Lloyd Cole.

4. Jubilee Street (Track 4 from Push The Sky Away, 2013)

There was a five year gap between Push The Sky Away and its predecessor during which time Mick Harvey, who was widely regarded as having long been at the forefront of the actual sound of the band, had taken his leave. The Bad Seeds had always been an evolving and interchangeable group of musicians but Mick Harvey had always seemed the perfect foil for the mercurial frontman, although there had been increasing signs through the Grinderman side project, the soundtrack work and the changes in sounds on the albums of the 21st century that Warren Ellis was now key to everything. Long-time fans were nervous about the first non-Harvey album but such fears were unfounded as it proved to be outstanding and with a staggering range of subject matters.

This slow tempo number with its surreal and imaginative lyric is the centrepiece of the album. And it’s the first of two cheats on this ICA – it was part of The Robster’s selection but he went for a live version which sort of opens the door for me to include the studio version.

5. Red Right Hand (Track 5 on Let Love In, 1994)

One of the most popular and enduring tracks in the entire back catalogue. And thanks to its extensive use in movie and TV, probably among the best-known Nick Cave songs. Not only a lyric which is psychotically disturbing and humorous in equal measures, it’s a tune that brings out the multiple talents of its players.

6. The Singer (Track 6 on Kicking Against The Pricks, 1986)

Nick Cave has never been shy to take a stab at cover versions and indeed in 1986 he released an entire album’s worth. Let’s put aside the fact that, (a) there was a bit of a contractual obligation for a new record at the time and the singer’s addiction issues were causing problems in coming up with new material, and (b) some of the versions on Kicking Against The Pricks border on the unlistenable, and rejoice in the crazy fucked up take on The Folk Singer, co-written by the C&W legends that are Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels.

7. Into My Arms (Track 7 on The Best Of…., 1998)

This is my second and final sleight of hand. The track that opens The Boatman’s Call is also the seventh song on the 1998 compilation of which initial copies came with a live CD. It’s very much a classic love song and I’m surprised that nobody has ever attempted to give it the full band/orchestra treatment via a cover version. Surprised but glad as it’s the very simplicity of piano, bass and heartfelt but understated vocal that make it so memorable and special. Interesting to read that Nick Cave, while appreciating the visual beauty of the video that was made to accompany its release as a single thought the depressing and sad shots are at odds with the optimism at the heart of the song.

8. Stagger Lee (live) (Track 8 on The Abattoir Blues Tour CD 1, 2007)

Along with Red Right Hand, a perennial favourite when aired live, which it has been on just about every tour since it originally appeared on Murder Ballads in 1996.

This particular version is all that more special thanks to the contribution of soul/gospel backing vocals and the addition of a new verse in which the protagonist, having been executed for his crimes, finds himself on judgement day where he faces up to Lucifer himself. The end result is bloody, violent and, given Stag’s history, somewhat predictable.

9. Jack The Ripper (Track 9 on Henry’s Dream, 1992)

Sing-a-long with St Nick. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

Some say this is a macho and wholly misogynist number but they’re wrong.

10. God Is In The House (live) (Track 10 on Live from KCRW, 2013)

Given the personal tragedy that Nick Cave and his family have had to deal with over the past two years, I had thought he may at some point announced his retirement from writing and performing; if so, this double live album, recorded at a concert for a Los Angeles radio station, would have been a fine and somehow appropriate way to quietly take leave; but it does seem as if new material is coming our way later in 2016.

The album displays a rarely seen side to the Bad Seeds in the live setting with the emphasis on slower songs, which are given a different arrangement from when first released. As is the case with this track from 2001’s No More Shall We Part. What is really worth noting is that four of the five musicians who made this wonderfully understated LP were the members of Grinderman, the side project which is better known for grimy and sweaty material rather than this sort of ballad. It’s a demonstration of the diverse talent required if you want to be a Bad Seed.

Oh and the fifth musician is none other than Barry Adamson – he first came to prominence as the bassist with Magazine before linking up with the Bad Seeds and playing on their first four albums. He left in 1986 and carved out a successful solo career, particularly as a score composer. But it’s really the case that nobody ever leaves the Bad Seeds and he came back in 2013 to play on Push The Sky Away and to be part of the touring band but this time on keyboards which is the role he plays on the KCRW album, which was very impressively recorded live in one take.

11. More News From Nowhere (Track 11 from Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!, 2008)

Just as about all the Bad Seed albums tend to open with show stoppers, so they inevitably end with songs that make you want to either turn the vinyl over or push the CD back to Track 1. I’ve extended this ICA out by one more tune as this is one of my personal favourite LP closers – it’s an epic tale that extends out to almost eight minutes in length over a tune which is eminently danceable, although an edited version was later cut for release as a 7” vinyl single. The band are, as ever in fine form here, also adding the perfect level of backing vocals on this occasion, as Nick chirps away quite contentedly about past loves and muses, real and imaginary alike, in a way that is diametrically opposite that from the songs on The Boatman’s Call.

There’s not many occasions when the word ‘delightful’ can be applied to a Nick Cave song. Indeed, this may be the only genuine time when you can. And it seems a perfect way with which to close this ICA.

Enjoy

MY SMALL BUNDLE OF TEN INCHERS (1)

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I’ll begin with an apology.

Sometime towards the end of last year, one of you kind readers dropped me an e-mail in which reference was made to the rare art of the 10″ single.  I’ve misplaced the e-mail (probably deleted it in error if the truth be told) and so I’m unable to give you the credit for inspiring what will be an occasional series – but please feel free to identify yourself in the comments so that I can turn sorry into thank you.

I only have eighteen bits of vinyl that are 10″ in size, with the majority being singles/EPs. I’ll try to get them all on the blog over the course of time, but for now here’s the list:-

Adult Net – Where Were You?
Aloha Hawaii – Towns On The Moon/I’ve Been Bad For Years and Years
Arctic Monkeys – Brianstorm
Arctic Monkeys – My Propeller
Arctic Monkeys – Don’t Sit Down Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair
Aztec Camera – The Crying Scene
Breeders – Head To Toe
Curve – Clipped
Dave House/Jenny Owen Youngs – Split EP
Gil Scott-Heron – Winter In America
Joe Jackson – One More Time
Lemonheads – Confetti/My Drug Buddy
Madder Rose – Car Song
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Bring It On
OMD – Messages
Sultans Of Ping FC – Where’s Me Jumper
Tom Robinson – Still Loving You
The Wedding Present ‎– Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peela / Українські Виступи В Івана Піла

First one to feature is this 2003 single, an edited version of a track on the mostly underwhelming LP Nocturama

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Bring It On

Bring It On features a co-vocal from Chris Bailey whose most famous song is this punky effort from 1977:-

mp3 : The Saints – (I’m) Stranded

The two b-sides are typical of the sort of ballads and slower-tempo numbers the band was mostly churning out at the time. It was a period of real transition as the sound became ever more reliant on Nick Cave‘s piano/organ playing and the violin contributions from Warren Ellis. It’s not the most fondly remembered period in the band’s long and illustrious history.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Shoot Me Down
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Swing Low

Enjoy.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (21)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FRIDAY 25 APRIL 2008

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When I was the new wave kid on the block, I used to snigger behind the backs of the guys at school who were fans of bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin and Yes. (I didn’t do it to their faces as they were bigger than me and would have giving me a right good kicking).

I did so because, unlike them, I got to hear the songs that I liked getting played on the radio, and sometimes I even got to see the bands that were my favourites appearing on the telly. I was of a very impressionable age, and my attitude was that you were a nobody if you didn’t get played on Radio 1 or Radio Clyde this side of midnight. And an even bigger nobody if Noel Edmonds, Jimmy Saville, Tony Blackburn or Dave Lee Travis didn’t read out your name in a rundown during Top Of The Pops.

In my wee world, it wasn’t relevant that the sorts of bands – the ones that so excited the guys with long hair, the combat jackets and the patchouli oil – could sell LPs in their millions and play concerts that recreated all the albums note-for-note in shows lasting three hours in length – mainstream recognition was the be-all and end-all.

So, it’s just as well that as I’ve got older my attitude has softened –for I would never have found a place in my heart and mind for the greatest act to ever come out of Australia.

In a career that now goes back more than 30 years, Nick Cave, whether with The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds or Grinderman has had one commercial hit that got him on TOTP. And even then, that was because fans of Kylie Minogue bought the single….

He has released one great LP after another throughout his career. Each LP has spawned two or three singles, some of which have been astonishing in their ambition. Some have been tremendously catchy with great tunes and big choruses, while others have been gorgeous yet understated ballads that are poems set to music. He’s even made all sorts of promotional videos, many of them entertaining and eye-catching in an effort to get some mainstream attention.

All to no avail.

Instead his fame and career is now so similar to the dinosaurs of the 70s in being based entirely on critical acclaim album sales and live performances that leave you panting for more without ever troubling the compilers of the singles charts.

All this means is that an awful lot of folk who have an interest in music, but no real depth of passion or soul for it (i.e. they’ll maybe buy what they hear on the radio but never take risks) are missing out on his genius and talent. I suppose that’s good in one way as it means Nick Cave will ever get so big and famous that his live shows move to arenas and stadia. But overall, don’t you agree that his music should be in every household?

Yet again, there were a number of singles that I hummed and hawed over before selecting one for this rundown. It goes back to 1994:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Do You Love Me? (single version)
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Cassiel’s Song
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Sail Away

A single drum note. The haunting sound of the staccato Hammond organ. Nick mumbling the one line over and over to himself. The bar-room piano that comes crashing in on top of everything. And that’s just the introductory 45 seconds – a sort of overture for all that follows.

Is this a song that is a plea for affection from someone who wants so much to be loved back??

I’m not sure….

I’ve always thought it is something altogether far more creepy and sinister – the song of a dominating control-freak who breaks the soul and spirit and eventually the body of their lover because although she gave him everything, it was never ever enough to satisfy his lust.

In many ways, it’s a bit like The One I Love by REM. If you just catch the most audible part of the song, it all seems innocent enough. But listen closely and you’ll notice that there’s a lot of venom and poison lying within……

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #13 – NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

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Exactly one week ago tonight I sat in the stalls of the Edinburgh Playhouse (Row J : seat 17 with Mrs Villain beside me in seat 16) and witnessed what I reckon must be my 20th or so show by Nick Cave.  While every single one of those love shows has been a standout in one way or another, thanks in part to his willingness to rotate the Bad Seeds who go out on tour and thanks in part to each show being about 50% new material and 50% from the now extensive back catalogue, there was something truly wonderful about this latest show.  It wasn’t a full Bad Seeds back-up nor was it a solo show – the five-man line-up ensured it pitched itself somewhere in-between.  I came away thinking that it may even have been the best show I’ve ever seen from the great man – he was in fine voice, great humour and the arrangements he had made to some of the old classics had to be heard to be believed.  I came away determined that he would be next up in the compilation album series but only after I’d recovered from the ordeal of whittling The Clash down to ten songs.

And then, this dropped into my inbox from The Robster – long-time reader, frequent commentator and the brains behind this wonderful space on t’internet.  His timing was impeccable…

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I always knew it would be a tough task choosing just ten songs for a best of Nick Cave compilation. It was never what to include, more what to leave out. That’s why I expect so many “you should have included…” and “I would have had…” comments, but that’s the fun of doing it, right?

I’m a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge Cave fan, but I came to him rather late. I’d heard bits and pieces of his work over time, but it wasn’t until ‘Murder Ballads’ in 1996 that I began to engage with his music properly. Now I can’t get enough of the guy.

So for better or worse, here’s my contribution to JC’s excellent series – ten brilliant tunes by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a studio side and a live side. This was tough and the result is controversial (nothing from Let Love In – set the flame wars alight!) but I don’t regret a single one of these choices.

Side one

1. Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry (from ‘Henry’s Dream’, 1992)

‘Henry’s Dream’ is one of my top 5 Bad Seeds albums, and this is one of the best opening tracks of any record. It’s dark and menacing, but poetic and stirring. Nick’s an amazing storyteller and few songs illustrate this better than Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry. A great way to start.

2. Tupelo (from ‘The Firstborn Is Dead’, 1985)

Talking of dark and menacing, how about the tale of Elvis’ birth delivered Cave-style? A fine example of how a rock band can create an uncomfortable atmosphere and mood. Nick’s growling vocals, Barry Adamson’s ominously brooding bass, Blixa Bargeld’s scratchy guitars and Mick Harvey’s pounding drums combine to create a song that’s blacker than black.

3. He Wants You (from ‘Nocturama’, 2003)

But it’s not all fire and brimstone, sometimes Nick writes the most beautiful and touching ballads. Here’s one of his very best and one of my all-time fave songs of his.

4. The Curse Of Millhaven (from ‘Murder Ballads’, 1996)

‘Murder Ballads’ is equally disturbing and hilarious. It’s also ridiculously misunderstood by people who don’t get what Nick Cave is about. I loved this track on first listen and it still rates as my fave on the album.

5. We Call Upon The Author (from ‘Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!’, 2008)

The Grinderman project undoubtedly had an effect on Nick and his cohorts. ‘Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!’, the first Bad Seeds album following that side-project was altogether rougher, tougher and meaner than anything they’d done in a long time. Really hard to pick a single track from it, but I went for this one because I think it sums up the whole record. And the lyric “I feel like a vacuum cleaner/A complete sucker” cracks me up every time!

Side two

6. The Mercy Seat [live] (from ‘Live Seeds’, 1993; originally from ‘Tender Prey’, 1988]

Cave has done countless versions of this track and each one is absolutely TERRIFYING. It’s the first of his tracks I ever heard and I felt really uneasy on hearing it, but utterly intrigued at the same time. This version, from the ‘Live Seeds’ album, is very probably the best version of all.

7. There She Goes, My Beautiful World [live at Maida Vale] (b-side of ‘Get Ready For Love’, 2005; originally from ‘Abattoir Blues’, 2004)

Ridiculously upbeat song in which our Nick laments the loss of his muse and the onset of writer’s block. Hard to believe Nick Cave made a gospel (or should that be ‘gothpel’) record, but here’s proof that he can turn his hand to anything. I love this track so much.

8. God Is In The House [live] [from ‘Live From KCRW’, 2013; originally from ‘No More Shall We Part’, 2001]

As cutting comments on gated communities and the God-fearing citizens who populate them go, this song has to be the best, doesn’t it? I remember he did a quite extraordinary rendition of this on Jools Holland’s show around the time of its release. At the end of the show, Jools asked a few of his guests who their favourite act on the show was, and a soul singer I’ve forgotten remarked: “Oh, Nick Cave. So spiritual.” She had completely missed the point. But isn’t that Nick all over?

9. Jubilee Street [live at the Sydney Opera House] (b-side of ‘Give Us A Kiss’, 2014; original from ‘Push The Sky Away’, 2013)

‘Push The Sky Away’ was/is an absolutely remarkable album. It’s like Nick has found a new wave of creativity of late, you feel he could go on forever and always remain unique and relevant. Jubilee Street is as good a song as he’s ever written.

10. The Ship Song [live at Brixton Academy] [from ‘Abattoir Blues Tour’ DVD, 2007; originally from ‘The Good Son’, 1990]

I suppose if Nick Cave is going to be remembered for just one song, this will probably be it. It has become like an unofficial Australian National Anthem, but it’s live that it takes on a new life and at times it’s spine-tingling.

The Robster

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Papa Won’t Leave You Henry
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tupelo
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – He Wants You
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Curse of Millhaven
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – We Call Upon The Author
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Mercy Seat (live)
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – There She Goes, My Beautiful World (live)
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – God Is In The House (live)
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street (live)
mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Ship Song (live)

JC adds……

This will, I’m sure spark as lively a debate as last week’s on The Clash. I’m gearing up to make my own contribution to the debate.  I’m with The Robster on the particular live version of The Mercy Seat that he has selected….but only until the point when, and I really hope it is a when, the version being played on the current tour is given a release.

Big thanks Robster….and without giving anything away to T(n)VV readers, feel free to throw in that further contribution you mentioned in your e-mail.

 

LARRY AND HARRY

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Nick Cave was a truly creative force in the first decade of the 21st Century releasing an album every 18 months or so with the backing of The Bad Seeds or with the Grinderman offshoot.  It is a body of work that, due to its volume, doesn’t always quite hit the mark in comparison to the material from the 80s and 90s but it is never less than fascinating to listen to, especially in the live setting where he and his band established themselves as one of the must see acts with every tour bringing something different thanks to the revolving door policy of band and tour members.

One of my favourite songs of his is the lead-off single from the 2008 LP:

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig!!!

It bounces along a right old pace, paying homage to the sort of more direct tunes that Grinderman had been performing in the previous couple of years – in particular the call and chant nature of the vocal – and has a chorus that was tailor-made for A-listing on daytime radio.  Except, this is Nick Cave and unless he duets with Kylie or Polly then there’s no chance of ever hearing him outside of Radio 6….

Ever wondered what the hell this crazy cut-up vocal is all about?  The great man explained all at the time of its release:-

Ever since I can remember hearing the Lazarus story, when I was a kid, you know, back in church, I was disturbed and worried by it. Traumatized, actually. We are all, of course, in awe of the greatest of Christ’s miracles – raising a man from the dead – but I couldn’t help but wonder how Lazarus felt about it. As a child it gave me the creeps, to be honest.

I’ve taken Lazarus and stuck him in New York City, in order to give the song, a hip, contemporary feel. I was also thinking about Harry Houdini who spent a lot of his life trying to debunk the spiritualists who were cashing in on the bereaved. He believed there was nothing going on beyond the grave. He was the second greatest escapologist, Harry was, Lazarus, of course, being the greatest.

I wanted to create a kind of vehicle, a medium, for Houdini to speak to us if he so desires, you know, from beyond the grave. Sometimes, late at night, if you listen to the song hard enough, you can hear his voice and the sad clanking of his chains. “I don’t know what it is but there is definitely something going on upstairs”, he seems to be saying. It is, most of all, an elegy to the New York City of the 70’s.

So there you have it…………..

Incidentally, the version of the song put on the blog is the limited edition 7″ single version which comes in at some 32 seconds shorter than the album version (that’s the anorak in me coming to the fore I’m sad to say).

Here’s yer b-side:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Accidents Will Happen

NOT a cover of the Elvis Costello classic, although that didn’t stop EC’s folk a few years back issuing me with a dmca notice demanding that the Nick song be taken down (I knew it was from EC’s folk as the other three songs the notice referred to were all from a posting to do with him!!)

Enjoy…as I will Nick Cave when I go see him in Edinburgh at the end of this month.

MURDER BALLADS

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I recently went to the cinema for the first time in seven years. My last time was at one of the premieres of Control during the Toronto Film Festival in 2007, an occasion when I was uncontrollably (pun intended) sobbing at the end.

This time it was to venture out to see 20,000 Days on Earth, a mix of drama and documentary portraying a fictionalised 24 hours in the life of Nick Cave. It proved to be quite enjoyable, heightened by some wonderful live performances of a number of songs from the 2013 LP Push The Sky Away. The film has a number of funny self-deprecating moments including when Nick talks about his brief brush with fame thanks to the duet with Kylie Minogue which took him onto Top of The Pops and into the living rooms of millions of people, many of whom bought their first ever Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album only to go off the band immediately.

That album was Murder Ballads and I make no apologies for digging a piece out of the archives of the old place from back in January 2007 and adapting it slightly.

Murder Ballads was released in 1996. It came at a time when Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds were growing in reputation and the main man’s profile was expanding into the pages of all of the mainstream broadsheet papers in the UK. When he announced that he was recording an album of death songs, everyone braced themselves for unbridled doom and gloom.

The fact that the taster for the album was a single recorded with Kylie Minogue stunned everyone. The fact that the single got into the charts and led to Nick making a couple of appearances on Top Of The Pops stunned everyone and Nick.

Personally, I loved the single. I had been a fan of Kylie for years (Jacques The Kipper will testify to that having once got a specially made t-shirt for me as a birthday present). It’s hard to imagine nowadays, but Kylie in the mid 90s was not the global phenomenon she is today…and I do firmly believe that while they both gained from recording with each other in terms of public recognition (Nick) and critical acclaim (Kylie), it was the pop princess who benefited most.

I imagine a few of Kylie’s mainstream fans would have bought this album and been appalled by it. Equally, I hope that a lot of listeners would have gone in with an open-mind and come out impressed. But it was a record which sold more than most of the other Bad Cave recordings (and which subsequently is very easy to find very cheap in charity stores as casual fans having not listened to it in almost 20 years clear some space in their homes!!).

The opening track, Song Of Joy, must be the most misleading song title ever. A funereally paced number about a man coming home and discovering his wife and three daughters had been mutilated by a serial killer. It’s an astonishingly bleak song, but a very brave one to include at the start of the album. If the casual listener was stunned by that, they had no idea what came next…

There’s loads of blood, gore, mindless violence, sex and bad language in track two. It’s like a mini-Tarantino movie in 5 minutes. Stagger Lee is a fantastic record – and is even more astonishing live. There’s loads of versions out there on the likes of you tube for your enjoyment including a personal favourite from Channel 4’s The White Room back in the mid 90s. But while it is an astonishingly good version, it doesn’t come close to catching how intense this song is when you’re in the audience at a gig.

There’s another extreme u-turn from Stagger Lee with tracks 3, 4, and 5, (Henry Lee, Lovely Creature and Where The Wild Roses Grow) all of which are ballads. And while there are deaths and murders in each of them, they could easily pass for love songs on any other record.

Track 6 is one of Mrs Villains’s all-time favourite songs and one that she was overjoyed to hear played live at Glasgow Barrowlands back in 2001.

I read someone else describe The Curse of Millhaven as polka-metal. And it’s true!! It’s an immense tale of a serial killer committing all sorts of atrocities in a small rural town. It’s just about the most catchy sing-a-long song that Nick has ever written, but it’s the frantic playing of the Bad Seeds that make this so special. Violence and gore never sounded so much fun.

A pause for breath with The Kindness of Strangers and Crow Jane at Tracks 7 & 8 before the tune that I think most divides fans of Nick Cave.

O’Malley’s Bar is either a fantastic opus or the most over-indulgent piece of crap ever recorded.

A man walks into a bar buys and drink. He then shoots the bar owner and everyone else unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. He does it cos he gets a sexual kick out of it. He doesn’t have a grudge against any of his victims. Many of the deaths are described in gruesome graphic detail. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many bodies there are at the end. But they’re piled up all around the bar. And then the cops come…..but I’m not spoiling the ending. Go and listen to all 14 mins and 28 seconds yourself. Oh and in the accompanying lyric booklet, I counted 158 lines for this song alone. With no chorus. As for the music….well there’s not much of real tune, it’s like an extended jamming session. But it’s incredibly effective.

The LP closes with a strange one. Death Is Not The End is a cover of an obscure Bob Dylan record, and lead vocals are taken by 7 different singers. It’s also the only song on the album that doesn’t have an actual death in it…..

Almost 20 years after its release, and I’m still not tired of Murder Ballads. I’m not saying its a perfect album. But it’s far better than many might have you believe. It’s an astonishing piece of work in terms of the breadth of music on offer. And it’s the music that matters most.

And so here’s Mrs Villain’s favourite:-

mp3: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Curse of Millhaven

Enjoy.

 

STAGGER LEE (A re-post from March 2010)

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A story appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1895 read:

William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver.

Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon’s hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return.

Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Sheldon is also known as ‘Stag’ Lee.

Lyons eventually died of his injuries. Shelton was tried, convicted, and served prison time for this crime. This otherwise unmemorable crime is remembered in a song.

The version recorded by Mississippi John Hurt in 1928 is considered by some commentators to be definitive, containing as it does all of the elements that appear in other versions.

A cover with different lyrics was a chart hit for Lloyd Price in 1959; Dick Clark felt that the original tale of murder was too morbid for his American Bandstand audience, and insisted that they be changed to eliminate the murder. In this version, the subject was changed from gambling to fighting over a woman, and instead of a murder, the two yelled at each other, and made up the next day. However, it was the original, unbowdlerized, version of Lloyd Price’s performance that reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was ranked #456 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

But “Stag O Lee” songs may have predated even the 1895 incident, and Lee Sheldon may have gotten his nickname from earlier folk songs. The first published version of the song was by folklorist John Lomax in 1910 by which time the song was well-known in African-American communities along the lower Mississippi River.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, by contrast, present an even more violent and an homoerotic version of the tale on the 1996 LP Murder Ballads. It also appears to be set in the 1830s…..

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Stagger Lee

Over the years, this has become a live favourite on just about every Bad Seeds tour, with subtle little changes making the performance just a little bit different each time. One of the most stunning versions came on the Abattoir Blues tour, where the band were augmented by backing singers from a gospel choir and the results were truly breathtaking:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Stagger Lee (live)

Nearly nine minutes long. And not a single second was wasted.

See you all in hell.