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)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

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.