Blesok no. 98, September-October, 2014
Nick Cave: First Four Encounters
The first encounter took place in my hometown. His name was written on the wall of a building. I had no idea who Nick Cave was. I was just a kid but I did remember that name. It stayed etched in the back of my mind as a map for the future.
Jesus and Mary Chain, Lou Reed, Cure, Clash, Iggy Pop, Gang of Four… and Cave, they are the names from building façades, handwritten but the good ghosts of my childhood. At that time I was childishly obsessed with rockabilly tunes and Bruce Lee, I loved Elvis, Ðavoli from Split and Idoli from Belgrade.
Later, I discovered a connection. Unlike the majority who appreciated Elvis’ beginnings and his role in the early days of rock and roll, Nick Cave pointed out how he was always more fascinated by the latter part of the King’s career, the collapse in Las Vegas, loneliness at the top of the world, without real friends, with weaker heart rate, and the comfort of sedatives. According to the repertoire of the first London gigs, his new/old band Caveman performed the song In the Ghetto, one of the biggest hits from the beginning of the end of Elvis’ career. And his life.
Caveman, under that very name, lasted for six months. In eighty-four they released their first album From Her to Eternity, officially credited as featuring Nick Cave Bad Seeds and In the Ghetto is the eight track as well as the single from the same album. The album opens up with a darker version of an already dark Cohen’s song Avalanche, from his 1971 album Songs of Love and Hate.
My second Cave encounter could bear a code-name Ship Song. It was a part of my life dedicated to the search and shapes of bodies, bodies of strangers able to bring peace and put an end to the everlasting search in the minds of travelers. Beautifully naive thoughts, quite logical for certain days, quite impossible for some others. That was a time of poetic quests for the impossible, time of voices on the terrace of the big house in the suburbs, while Ship Song played on. And everyone was in love with everything, nothing was impossible and all troubles got erased in those five minutes of Cave’s magic.
Ship Song was recorded for the sixth Bad Seeds album The Good Son. In the meantime the band changed its entire lineup, except for its two members who along with Cave formed The Seeds. They were his Australian classmate Mick Harvey, a comrade and multi-instrumentalist, and a unique treasure from Berlin – Blixa Bargled, Einstürzende Neubauten. Unfortunatelly, neither of them play with Cave today.
The album was recorded in Brazil, where the band finally settled after London, Berlin and New York. Cave gave up drugs, got married and devoted himself to piano ballads. Another classic from this album is Weeping Song duet with Blixa. The opening tracks Foi On Cruz and The Good Son, were inspired by traditional songs, first by a protestant hymn, and the second by an African-American one Another Man Done Gone.
I never made it to Brazil. I stopped in Nicaragua. Panama is the southmost point of my destinations. But my Brazil happened more than a decade ago, in Barcelona. I traveled there with the best of my friends. Such a trip doesn’t happen to many. It was a road trip from Mostar to Barcelona and back. If there were such a thing as a trip of a lifetime that would have been it. My friends were like the people from the Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow video. That could so easily have been a song for them. I don’t know where they are now. But I do know that they are dancing as well as people in that video. Including the best ones, Jarvis Cocker and Jason Donovan.
For us, Barcelona was the magical southern world of art and attempted revolutions. The scents of anarcho-syndicalism and Gaudí fairy tales at every turn. Las Ramblas as the ultimate promenade if only tourist could somehow be whisked away somewhere else, making way to the port and the former Chinatown. Parks, oh what parks… I went on this trip with As I Sat Sadly by Her Side, and came back with a gift called No More Shall We Part, in all of its forms.
The fourth encounter took place in Zagreb. It was a concert advertised as Nick Cave Solo, but in that same lineup and with the same energy shortly after they’ll rise as Grinderman. Marko waited for me at a nearby cafe, drinking away his ticket money and listening to Cave over the speakers. It was the faintest of our encounters. The fabric dreams are made of is hardly ever the same in flesh and blood. At least for me. Marko and I toasted to our illusions, no one stayed thirsty that night, while the rest of the coins jingled in our pockets…