“Conway was the anarchic thread that ran through the band’s live performances. He was much loved by everyone, band members and fans alike. Irascible, funny, terrifying, sentimental, warm-hearted, gentle, acerbic, honest, genuine – he was all of these things and quite literally ‘had the gift of a golden voice,’ high and sweet and drenched in soul.”~ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Of all the bands I’ve ever loved, The Bad Seeds are the one that have always been there- before I even knew who they were. I’ve told my introduction to Nick Cave story many times. It’s one I hold dear to me. Even dearer, I hold the music. The Bad Seeds will always, irrespective of the line-up, be a band that are the world to me.
One person in particular just embodied The Bad Seeds to the fullest; Conway Savage, who sadly left us yesterday.
Those who love The Bad Seeds know just how vital Conway was, is…was…is…always will be. I’m not ready for past tense just yet.
I could write a thousand and more words as to why he truly made a difference. As to why he was one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard. I never saw him play live with the band, but he was on a lot of The Bad Seeds songs that I love and adore.
For nearly thirty years, Conway was a Bad Seed. But you know what they say, once a Bad Seed- always a Bad Seed.
“I called out, I called out Right across the sea But the echo comes back in, dear And nothing is for free.”
To write about something knowing the circumstance, even if you are a huge fan, proceeds to give you an unsettling feeling inside. If you’ve listened to Skeleton Tree, you may have felt uneasy and as if you’re experience grief and loss. If anything, this record, teaches you how to feel or how to be aware of how you feel. For me, that’s something I have always taken from Nick Cave’s music. But this time around, something isn’t sitting right. It isn’t sitting right because we know the circumstance. There’s comfort in this record but there’s a wealth of pain that is striking.
I grew up on Nick Cave’s music. Boys Next Door to his sixteenth record with The Bad Seeds, every record has had some impact on me. It’s been there when a person has, and hasn’t been there. It’s a safety net and a handbook for life because I just never seem to know what I’m doing. Writing about Skeleton Tree is tough. I’ve never written about a record I didn’t love. This is a record I love, that’s obvious. I just find it hard to allow myself to have any solid opinion because of the heart of it. The lyrics are gorgeous, and the lyrics justify once more, why Nick Cave is my favourite song-writer of all time. He doesn’t write songs, let’s be honest. They aren’t songs. They go beyond that, they go beyond being bodies of art. Beyond being 4 minute symphonies and 6 minute wonders. Genius. It’s the only word to describe him.
Jesus Alone was the first song we heard from Skeleton Tree. When I heard it, I knew in the pit of my stomach that on 9th September 2016 I would not be listening to a record that sits easy and fits perfectly amongst my collection. This is one that falls into sacred listening. I’ll gladly talk about this record with anyone, but by no means would I want to listen to with anyone around me. It’s a record you need to be alone with. You need to be completely and utterly alone.
Girl In Amber has lines that are just nothing short of painful but absolutely beautiful. It’s not always what Nick says but how he does so. The pain in “Don’t touch me” is so raw. We’ve all felt something so terrible, and the thought of being comforted hurts more. You don’t want any form of physical contact, but you give in to it because sometimes that is all there is. That’s all that can fix it.
I’ve listened to Skeleton Tree enough times now to say that Magneto possess my favourite lyrics. My heart broke when I heard this, “Oh, the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming. I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues. And I had a sudden urge to become someone, someone like you.” This song is one of the heaviest on the records and is so gripping and heart-breaking. The more I listen to it, the more I find certain parts to relate to. It does not make for easy listening, and it isn’t a record you play in the background to kill some time. The complete opposite.
I’ve always been drawn to the way Nick writes about love and religion. I’m not a religious person, but I love the way in which he writes about God and what might be above and below us. I love the way he writes about love in a beautiful way that shows its good and ugly side. I Need You shows this exceptionally fragile side of his words that makes it one of the best moments on the record. Take the song however you want. I’ve not made my mind up. The words will break the toughest of hearts, and part of you squirms when you listen to it because of how painful it is. It is nearly 6 minutes of desperation and pleading of the heart. His voice has this different tone to it, a tone I’ve not heard from him before. You can sense the grief, and part of me doesn’t want this to be my favourite off Skeleton Tree because of how open and vulnerable it is. But when your hero can make something like this, you feel less alone. However, I may say it is my favourite but I still can’t listen to the whole song. There’s a part that just ruins me, and I have to move on to the next song.
In a way, Skeleton Tree feels like the stages of grief. Distant Sky gives you hope. Else Torp’s vocals add something quite haunting to the song, and it works so well. Her voice and Nick’s- it is a perfect match that adds comfort and reassurance.
In under 40 minutes, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds take us on a journey through emotions we all wish to never feel. But, it’s inevitable. We will all experience a loss of some kind, and if you are one of the lucky ones who haven’t- this record will easily make you feel as if you have. I think if I had watched the film before listening to the record, maybe I’d say more of worth. I never really wanted to write about Skeleton Tree. It doesn’t feel right in me doing so, but there was something at the back of my mind that needed to get this out at length. I messaged my uncle earlier about the record, and we both agreed that Nick Cave can do no wrong. Irrespective of the circumstance, it’s their sixteenth record and it’s brilliant. It is painful to listen to, but the way Nick does it makes you feel like he is stood next to you as the words fall into your ear.
The title track closes the record, and ends with echoes of “And it’s alright now.” Music is a solid source of security and a way of coping. Both for the person creating it, and the person listening to it. Skeleton Tree evokes this to the very core. I could go on and on about how much I love the record and how much I love him, but every single song reinforces my love for Nick Cave and his words. They’ve got me through hell and back. I can only hope that this record has done
“Through every word that I speak And every thing I know There is hand that protects me And I do love her so.”
Where I described everything about love, lust and all in between on Let Love In- I seemed to have reserved some of that for The Boatman’s Call. A record that pours out devotion and desire. Two things you need to keep anything alive. The Boatman’s Call is a record that I’d not given that much attention to. I love Nick Cave, that’s so obvious. And for the most part I do find myself swayed to anything pre- Murder Ballads. I’d found it hard to love anything as much as the records pre-1997, but obvious that’s a really lame stance to take and this is me rectifying it to myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t like or haven’t listened to anything after, far from it. I just have more of a connection with older records. Hey, if I can learn to like olives then I’m pretty sure I can do this.
Going back on my words, The Boatman’s Call is as great as Let Love In. The Boatman’s Call opens with the greatest love song of all time- Into My Arms. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like this song or has never quoted it at someone they love. Or even thought of the song when in the presence of the person they love. It’s just a stunning declaration of unconditional love, and when you feel that way about someone or something you cling onto it. Fight off anyone who ever tries to take it from you. It’s the kind of love song that’s part Ted Hughes, part Poe; “But I believe in love. And I know that you do too. And I believe in some kind of path. That we can walk down, me and you.” But it is every single part Nick Cave, from beginning to end.
By no means am I religious, and if I was I’d keep those views to myself- but I love the way in which Nick Cave links in religious imagery in his words. Example already above in Into My Arms- but the rest of this record, and others have heavy religious imagery flowing throughout them. It’s the way he does it that makes you curious and wonder if there is anything there. Maybe there is. There probably is, so believe in whatever the hell you want and just be kind to each other. That’s how it should be. I love this line from Brompton Oratory: “No God up in the sky, no devil beneath the sea. Could do the job that you did, baby. Of bringing me to my knees.” I had another in mind, but this one just etched its way into my brain.
Where Into My Arms describes wanting to protect and to forever love the one you want, Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For? just sums up finding someone that you’re evidently meant to be with, and the realisation hits you. With nothing or no one getting in the way of it. Things take time, and Are You The One just describes all of the waiting so perfectly. Again, I wish I could write something like this. “I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting. And how every little thing anticipates you. All down my veins my heart-strings call, are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?”
The Boatman’s Call is the record that shifts Nick away from his more rowdy and loud sound, although it’s clear he has still flirted with that sound more often than not. The songs on The Boatman’s Call are gentle, loving and dark. Have I just described myself? Every single time I listen to him, I just find new words to love, a different verse to be taken aback by. Everything he does and has ever done just sums up what I’m feeling at a certain point. The vast majority of his songs hold such sentimental value, I don’t even know how to use my own words.
As I listen to Idiot Prayer, I can’t help but revert to being 9/10 years old and carrying this anger towards my dad for dying. Does the anger fade? A little. Do you get over it? No, you develop ways to hide your feelings. Anyway, irrespective of my inability to know what to do, I’ve found something in this verse: “If you’re in Heaven then you’ll forgive me, dear. Because that’s what they do up there. If you’re in Hell, then what can I say, you probably deserved in anyway. I guess I’m gonna find out any day. For we’ll meet again, and there’ll be Hell to pay.” He didn’t deserve it, for the record. It’s just a lyric. I think it’s taken me 21 years to find something to relate to regarding this.
Far From Me is such a painful song, that’s full of loss and torment. There’s parts of it that can reduce the toughest to tears. It’s hard to listen to, but I reckon most can identify and find comfort in: “You told me you’d stick by me. Through the thick and through the thin. Those were your very words, my fair-weather friend.” There’s other parts of the song that are equally as brutal as this, but I think that one just speaks for itself. It’s a brilliant “fuck you”, and lord knows that there are some worthy of it.
The record ends with Green Eyes, which the opening line is taken from the gorgeous Sonnet 18 by Louise Labé (read her work) : “Kiss me again, rekiss me and kiss me.” A stunning way to close the record, and is easily one of the best songs on The Boatman’s Call. Those green eyes….
Although The Boatman’s Call sees Nick taking himself away from previous sounds, that atmosphere in his lyrics are still there. They’ve always been there and I highly doubt that they will ever go away. If anything, as stripped back The Boatman’s Call is, it just shows how powerful a write he is- in every single way. He can take you to this world that makes you feel so safe, and so at ease with how you feel. It’s one of those records you play, and you realise again and again why you love him, and why words are so important. This record says all you want and wish to say- he just got there first.
“Our love-lines grew hopelessly tangled And the bells from the chapel went jingle-jangle.”
I’ve always had this idea that every word that drips from Nick Cave’s mouth or every word he has written down just sums up what love is, and how love should be. It’s not typical. Who wants typical anyway? His words can make anyone feel uneasy but his words can be this gorgeous wave of comfort, and makes you feel less alone for wanting the things he sings about. It’s obvious how much I bloody idolise him, and there are certain records by him and the Bad Seeds that mean more to me than most. I’d happily work my way through every record and write about them, but I feel I’d never stop and I’d just bore the poor soul who reads this. Instead, I’ll just go back and forth between them all occasionally. Today, I’ve chosen Let Love In. Their eighth record, and probably my favourite.
The cover to Let Love In is one I remember seeing in the music magazines my uncle used to buy every week. I remember seeing a bare-chested Nick Cave look upwards. I always wondered what he was looking up to. A woman? Some form of God? A Goddess? Something bigger than all of us? A vacuum of nothing? Anything. It could be anything. I change my mind with every listen.
The records opens with Do You Love Me? The lyrics to this just sum up everything love should be and how a person that you’re insanely in love with should make you feel. If you don’t feel it, walk away. If you feel it, keep it until you leave this planet and walk into another one when you take your last breath. This song just sums up the possession of love and lust, and how they fall into each other. With no explanation, it just happens. But you need both to keep the other going. Both must always be there. There are many lyrics by Nick Cave that I could easily cast as his greatest, and for the most part it is hard to settle on one. But, at the moment I am solidly declaring this to be my utter favourite: “She was given to me to put things right. And I stacked all my accomplishments beside her. Still I seemed so obsolete and small. I found God and all His devils insider her.” This just goes beyond being about love, it’s truly something else.
Thirsty Dog is easily another great song on the record, and I love this part of the song: “I’m sorry it’s just rotten luck. I’m sorry I’ve forgotten how to fuck. It’s just that I think my heart and soul are kind of famished.” This could be in my list of Nick Cave songs I’d never tire of listening to. It’s one of those songs that has different parts that you notice with each listen, and you pick different lines from it to absolutely adore and cherish. It’s like looking at someone you love and discovering new parts of them to love. If you’re not going to love something hard, then what is the point?
Let Love In is one of those records that make everything in your brain click. It shifts any doubt or any nagging feeling that may have gripped you. It’s the pure essence of love in all ways. It’s entirely dark and extremely romantic in all the right ways. It’s one of those records that just stays with you. The more I play it, the more I try to figure out what it is that I love so much about it. I doubt I’ll ever give one, solid reason as to why I love it so much. I guess it’s because in some respects, it says all I wish I could. If I ever wrote anything like this, I’d burn all my notebooks and declare I’m done. It captures so much in under an hour. I’m currently listening to the record, and a storm has just started. The perfect record to listen to as the heavens open.
Everything about Let Love In captures the things many steered away from, and still steer away from. It isn’t a light-hearted record in the slightest, and if anyone else even tried to make something like this it just wouldn’t sound right. Only Nick Cave can capture these feelings and unleash them like a lovable tyrant. This beautiful dark side is how it should be. I don’t know if love can be functioning if it is any another way. But that’s just my take on it.
There’s also tales of loss on the record, and they are told in such a haunting and frail way. The thing I love the most about Nick is that, although he’s quite sadistic with some of his words- he’s never been afraid to be open with his words. Some of his songs are truly vulnerable and honest, you just instantly relate to them. Take Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore- this touches on the loss of a lover, and the way Nick delves into this is truly hypnotising. “Now the storm has passed over me, I’m left to drift on a dead calm sea. And watch her forever through the cracks in the beams. Nailed across the doorways of the bedrooms of my dreams.” You can find good in the bad at times, and these words show that entirely. So beautifully written. It’s also in Nobody’s Baby Now: “And though I’ve tried to lay her ghost down. She’s moving through me, even now. I don’t know why and I don’t know how. But she’s nobody’s baby now.” I’ll just add that to the list of songs I wish I wrote.
Let Love In is one of those records that just stay with you. Even if you heard it for the first time in 1994, you still remember hearing it. It takes you back. I was only 8/9 years old when it came out, so I found this record when I was about 15/16. It stayed with me. It’s always will me, and that alone just makes it my favourite Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds record, for purely sentimental reasons. As always.
Last Friday I took the day off work. I past a poster of Nick Cave’s film at a tube station, immediately checked the showings and made my way to the cinema. I’ve never been to the cinema on my own before, but I felt 20,000 Days On Earth was a film I had to see on my own. Mainly because I didn’t want whoever I went with to talk through it or slag it off in any way afterwards. Nick’s a hero of mine, and this felt like some kind of ritualistic viewing that just had to be done on my own.
I’m rubbish with sitting through films. I can think of other things I’d much rather be doing mid-way such as taking a nap. I would rather create my own world through reading a book or through a piece of music. I knew I wasn’t going to be taken anywhere in particular when watching 20,ooo Days. I went with the hopes of learning and with more love for Nick Cave than I had done before.
You know the story about my love for Nick Cave. It all started with being fascinated with a poster of him on my uncle’s bedroom wall at my grandma’s old house. I used to go up to his room whilst he was out, and just stare in awe at this massive poster of him. I don’t know what it was about it, but I was just obsessed with looking at it. As I got older and heard his words, it became clear why this man was going to be such a vital part of my life. He explained to me what romantic love was before I was subjected to it later than most.
What I learnt from his film was the madness, torture and passion that goes into writing. It doesn’t matter if you are poet or a journalist, you will experience self-doubt, self-hate and the inability to sleep before 3am. You torture yourself to get something good out of you. I did it for years. I relied on naps, custard creams and bad films on BBC2 to get me through daily life. The less I had, the more I wrote. That’s the only way I can put it. I had no money and too much time, the combination of this meant staying up to write anything, something…just so I could. The love to write about music is there, really because I’ve only ever really sat down with one person to speak about music with. That ship has now sailed, for I am frequently told that what I listen to is shit, depressing and/or weird. It teaches you to shut up, but I still write. There must be someone out there. Possibly. Hello.
20,000 Days was not a film I was expecting to have such an emotional grip on me. I am fully aware that seeing it once was not enough. I will more than likely go back to see it, because I want to pick up any details I may have missed out. Anyone who loves and adores Nick Cave would quite happily sit through an hour and half of him reading the phonebook- that’s not the point. What he did with this film was quite simply make me understand exactly why I love him- his mind. A person’s mind is their best quality. Sure we all say looks do count, but the mind is something really powerful and worthy of getting to know. Just because someone wears a nice shirt and has a good jaw line doesn’t mean their mind is any good. They may be really vacant upstairs and can only tell you what the TV tells them.
A few things Nick said during this film have really stuck with me. Like a line from a song that you feel was made just for you. I’ll start with this one:
– “Your limitations make you the wonderful disaster you most probably are.” There is no one on this planet who has never fucked up. Remember that. I balls things up on a daily basis, I can’t imagine not ever making a mistake daily. As you get older, you stop caring. I’ve recently been panicking about turning 28 in a few months, and I’ve kept my insecurities to myself, I always have. Hearing someone who I deem as a hero say these words has made a lot of things easier. Those who have never fucked up have never lived. Remember that also. I know what I can do, and what I can’t do. The things I cannot do no longer bother me, I simply accept that they are things I’m just not meant to do or even acknowledge. I’m alright with that. We are all disastrous in our own way, but it doesn’t have to rule you.
-“Mostly I write. Tapping and scratching away, day and night sometimes. But if I ever stopped for long enough to question what I’m actually doing- the why of it- well I couldn’t really tell you… I don’t know. ” This one really does speak for itself, I suppose. If you ask anyone why they do something they love, it comes to a point where they can no longer tell you- it just is a part of them that they cannot define. I think, sometimes if you cannot explain why you love something that is enough. When you have a career based on words, sometimes you realise that words aren’t enough to describe it. Does that make sense? In my head it did, but written down it probably doesn’t. I once tried to figure out why I love writing about music, it freaked me out slightly so I stopped. I panicked a little and went back to whatever level of normal I am.
-“Songwriting is like putting a child in a room with a Mongolian warrior and then adding a clown and if the clown doesn’t work you kill the clown.” Quite possibly may have misquoted it, but you get the point. His description on how to write a song is pretty accurate. It is a form of torture but also an intense release. His songs have a glorious sense of euphoric madness to them, and he’s not someone you listen to casually on and off. He’s someone who, once you listen to whether it be The Birthday Party or with the Bad Seeds, that’s you hooked for life. For me, it was The Birthday Party that did it for me. I loved their somewhat aggressive sound, and I do think that Rowland S. Howard was one of the greatest guitarist of all time. Combine that with Nick’s genius way with words, and you have an untouchable band. Nick’s way with words can teach you what love is. Love in the way that no one else has ever really portrayed. It isn’t all leisurely walks in the parks whilst gazing at the sky. It goes deeper than that. It challenges you and the person you love. For better and for worse, it is there. His way with words is not enviable at all, he just makes you realise that there is nobody quite like him and you couldn’t imagine anyone ever coming close to just how brilliant he is. The world would be a better place if we all took time out from our day to listen to Let Love In from start to finish, every single day.
I don’t know what I was expecting from the film, or if I was expecting anything at all- but I learnt a lot. I cried at some parts during the film. When he spoke about his father, and when his father said he looked like an angel on stage- that got to me. When he said losing his memory/mind was something he feared, that hit me right in the gut. When the woman in the front row cried during Stagger Lee (it was Stagger Lee, right? I could be wrong) as Nick was holding her hand, that got me teary eyed. The film was made up of beautiful moments that just made me love Nick Cave more than I thought I possibly could.