January 23, 2014

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - John the Revelator, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, and the Higgs Boson Blues

In the sidebar is a small item from Metropolitan magazine with a middle-aged Nick Cave on the cover. A commenter asks, "Nick Cave who?"

Well, he's not Van Morrison, but who is? These days not even Van Morrison is Van Morrison.

Still, as we used to say way back on the floor of The Avalon Ballroom in 1967:


In fairness, Cave is an acquired taste. Here's some samples. You've been warned.

Nick Cave singing 'John the Revelator' by Blind Willie Johnson. This is from one of the classic Hal Willner concerts that took place in 1999 and 2001. This can be found on The Harry Smith Project: The Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited.


Steven Wallace: "John the Revelator" is a traditional gospel blues call and response song. It has been called "one of the most powerful songs in all of pre-war acoustic music ... [which] has been hugely influential to blues performers". American gospel-blues musician Blind Willie Johnson recorded "John the Revelator" in 1930 and subsequently a variety of artists have recorded their renditions of the song, often with variations in the verses and music.

"The song's title refers to the early Christian, John, the author of the Book of Revelation, and quotes several passages from the Bible in the tradition of African-American spirituals. Traditionally, this author has been considered the same person as John the Apostle and John the Evangelist, although some modern scholars attribute the book to another person, referred to as John of Patmos."


"He ended up like so many of them do, back on the streets of New York City
In a soup queue, a dope fiend, a slave, then prison, then the madhouse, then the grave
Ah poor Larry.

But what do we really know of the dead
And who actually cares?

Well, I don't know what it is but there's
Definitely something going on upstairs. "

And more recently he seems to be catching up with particle physics:

Can't remember anything at all
Flame trees line the streets
Can't remember anything at all
But I'm driving my car down to Geneva

I've been sitting in my basement patio
Aye, it was hot
Up above, girls walk past, the roses all in bloom
Have you ever heard about the Higgs Boson blues
I'm goin' down to Geneva baby, gonna teach it to you


And, since nobody is ever cut off from the baby steps of their youth anymore, 1978's "These Boots Are Made for Walking:"

The Boys Next Door's promo-video for the single 'These Boots Are Made For Walking' (Nancy Sinatra cover - March, 1978), taken from the 1978 compilation LP 'Lethal Weapons' (released by Mushroom record's punk offshoot label Suicide).

Quote from Chris Löfvén:
"What a Blast to see that after all this time! A good copy too. I do recall that the set was The Boys' idea and they made the hearts themselves. Do I get a credit as director, cameraman & editor?
Cheers, Chris."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 23, 2014 9:09 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

“Cave is an acquired taste”

I’ll have to take your word for. To me, Scotch is an acquired taste, Cave is just another bad musician. Rather like the Romones, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and host of long (thankfully) forgotten others, that critics, the music professionals and “aficionados” and the rest that “get it“, who all supposedly know more and appreciate music more than us mere mortals just love. But yet…nobody has any of their music in their collections.

How does that work? The masses are just to ignorant of the brilliance of these folks? Sure. Let’s go with that and pass me some Yoko Ono. Yum.

Posted by: tim at January 23, 2014 10:07 AM

Gerard, Good news ... I see he's going to be in your neck of the woods on July 2.

Tim, just because Nick Cave doesn't suit your taste doesn't mean the same for others. It's unfortunate that Gerard used the phrase "acquired taste". In my opinion he should be unapologetic in his likes and dislikes ... that's why we read or don't read blogs.

I'd much rather sit through a Nick Cave concert trying to acquire the taste for his music than be chained to a chair while Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus enjoyed one of their narcissistic screech fests. And their loathsome little fans ... Ugh.

Posted by: edaddy at January 23, 2014 10:19 AM

I like to think that if Jim Morrison had grown up, kicked his addictions, studied literature and generally matured he would be like Nick Cave. His albums seem to each have a theame connected to serious literature. Dig Lazarus Dig has an underlying theme from Homer. The Boatman's call feels like a Book of Psalms written by a spiritually thirsty person. His latest Push the Sky away, with its angst and mermaids has the feel of T.S. Eliot. After listening to Higgs Boson Blues I feel a spiritual exhaustion simular to what I feel after reading The Wasteland.

Posted by: Warren at January 23, 2014 11:21 AM

"unfortunate that Gerard used the phrase "acquired taste". "

Well, as we all know, I can be as assertive as I wanna be and am not, in general, shy.

I finessed it with acquired because I wanted to lure in the unsure reader. There will always be some.

That said, I feel that just because a musician doesn't do "pretty music" doesn't mean he doesn't do important music. Not everything is melodious.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 23, 2014 11:33 AM

“Tim, just because Nick Cave doesn't suit your taste doesn't mean the same for others.”

edaddy, I was under no delusion that I was speaking for anyone but myself. How you came to interpreting my opinion as something else alludes me.

And Gerard, “Not everything is melodious.” True. And not everything is good either. And as far as “important” that is for the listener to decide, no?

Man, can anyone politely disagree? Especially about something so subjective? Is only applause allowed? I thought I was being considerate and respectful, I certainly wasn’t churlish or launching bombs. WTF?

For the record, I had no objection to your “acquired taste” wording, just Cave’s music or rather musicianship. When I wrote , “I’ll take your word for it“, I meant just that, nothing more nothing less. I listened and it wasn’t my taste. The acquiring via repeated listening just isn’t gonn’a happen for me. No big deal.

Carry on & good day.

Posted by: tim at January 23, 2014 1:11 PM

My former acquaintance and I had purchased tickets to see Cave at the Beacon, and then those planes tore into the WTC. Show was cancelled. I stopped listening to music, just stopped turning on the stereo, didn't realize it until much later on. Used to love to see him do his unhinged mid-nineties version of Stagger Lee live. After that September, I started to wonder what my attraction was to it all, Gotham, the brokenness, etc. Took me ten long years. I'm starting to understand.

Posted by: Will at January 23, 2014 1:20 PM

Goodness I didn't know Nick was in that boy band. Hilarious to see that.
I like ol Nick quite well...especially some of his latest. Huh, named well isn't he? haha

Posted by: pbird at January 23, 2014 5:08 PM

Not so much to my taste. For dark with more passion try Leonard Cohen, Joan of Arc on Songs of Love and Hate.
Maybe not in your collection is a German movie from 1987 by Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire. A very trippy movie with maybe a glimpse into the German soul in the 80's. Features two performances by Nick Cave with the Bad Seeds. I felt the performances clashed with the theme of the movie which was a celebration of life. Bonus feature: Peter Falk as himself as an ex-angel.

Posted by: jdwill at January 24, 2014 4:47 AM

Loved the Birthday Party, Cave solo never really grabbed me. Agree with jdwill--if I want to listen to Leonard Cohen, I'll listen to Leonard Cohen.

Posted by: Jason in KT at January 24, 2014 9:55 AM