They were joined by Einstürzende Neubauten member Blixa Bargeld and Hugo Race, and former Magazine member Barry Adamson. With this line-up, the band recorded and released their debut album, From Her to Eternity (1984) which included a cover of Elvis Presley‘s In The Ghetto.
The First Born Is Dead (July 1985) took Cave’s fixation with the blues and Presley further, with mixed results. While Cave’s emotional range was intact, he left himself open to accusations of romanticising a culture he had never known.
Fortunately, tracks like Tupelo, Black Crow King and a cover of Bob Dylan‘s Wanted Man did not sound like a man singing from a position of ignorance.
In November 1986 Nick Cave released his fourth album with The Bad Seeds, Your Funeral . . . My Trial. The irony of the title is that on the eve of the album’s release, Nick faced a somewhat tenuous vagrancy charge in New York, and his former Birthday Party compatriot, Tracy Pew, died from a brain haemorrhage.
The group went through many personnel changes, with Cave and Harvey remaining the constants.
Cave and the Bad Seeds made a cameo appearance playing From Her to Eternity in Wim Wenders’ 1987 feature film The Wings of Desire.
The album Tender Prey (September 1988) was a powerful return to form and yielded the taut, violent single The Mercy Seat (which would later be covered by Johnny Cash) and the milder Deanna.
By the close of 1989, Cave had relocated the band to Brazil where they recorded The Good Son in São Paulo. The album produced two singles – The Ship Song and The Weeping Song.
Henry’s Dream (1992), the band’s seventh album, was vibrant and melancholy, moving and mournful. It became Cave’s most successful album to date when it reached #25 on the Australian charts and #29 in the UK.
Although a morbidly enjoyable romp (especially the duet with Kylie Minogue on Where The Wild Roses Grow), 1996’s Murder Ballads was a holiday for Cave, and with The Boatman’s Call (1997) he returned to his searingly personal approach to making music.
The monochrome visage of Cave that adorned the cover let you know that this one was not going to be played for laughs, and he delivered with 12 beautifully crafted songs of heartache and doubt.
Widely feted as one of rock’s great break-up albums, The Boatman’s Call was said to have been inspired by Cave’s entanglement and subsequent split with P.J. Harvey – whom West Country Girl and Black Hair appear to be about. It’s the sound of a man’s heart breaking.
The Bad Seeds returned in the 21st century on the occasion of their 30th anniversary to release their 15th album, Push The Sky Away – their first LP not to feature co-founder Mick Harvey.
Kid Congo Powers
Martyn P Casey