Ace Records has an unusual name on its roster: that of Australian musical iconoclast Nick Cave. An artist who’s lived up to his description as rock’s “Prince of Darkness,” Cave has nonetheless drawn on a wide array of influences in crafting his own intense, personal and powerful songbook. Ace has rounded up the original versions of 25 songs recorded over the years by the artist on the collection entitled Nick Cave Heard Them Here First. This anthology follows the label’s similar sets for The Ramones, The New York Dolls, David Bowie, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard.
Cave first rose to prominence as a member of The Birthday Party. The band had its roots in the groups formed by Cave, Mick Harvey and Phil Calvert while they all attended school together; with the addition of Tracy Pew and Rowland S. Howard, the group solidified as The Boys Next Door. Punk had taken hold of Australia, and The Boys had transitioned from covers of Lou Reed and David Bowie to original songs inspired by punk, new wave, rockabilly, blues and garage rock – all with a dark, gothic twist. After recording four albums (including one as The Boys Next Door) and enduring some personnel changes, The Birthday Party disbanded.
Vocalist Cave and multi-instrumentalist Harvey pressed on in 1984 with the birth of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Between 1984 and 2013, the group (originally consisting of Cave, Harvey, guitarist-vocalist Blixa Bargeld, guitarist Hugo Race and bassist Barry Adamson) has released fifteen studio albums beginning with 1984’s From Her to Eternity. Though the line-up has changed over that period, Cave has consistently pushed the envelope with his dark, theatrical and altogether uncompromising brand of post-punk art rock. He’s also formed a side project, Grinderman, and has collaborated with various other musicians including Bad Seeds member (since 1995) Warren Ellis.
“Covers” have long been a part of Cave’s repertoire dating back to his earliest days. The opening track of Nick Cave Heard Them Here First, The Stooges’ proto-punk explosion “Fun House,” was performed by The Birthday Party on tour and can be heard on the band’s only officially sanctioned live album. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ third album, 1986’s Kicking Against the Pricks, was entirely a “covers album,” with eleven diverse tracks inspired by artists ranging from The Velvet Underground to Glen Campbell. Six tracks from that LP are heard here in their original recordings including Gene Pitney’s “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart,” The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s “Hammer Song,” The Leaves’ “Hey Joe,” and Johnny Cash’s “Muddy Waters.”
Cave and the Bad Seeds have subsequently recorded a number of musical reinterpretations for singles, one-off projects, soundtracks and anthologies. Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” opened The Bad Seeds’ very first album; they returned to Cohen’s songbook with “Tower of Song” (heard here) for the 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan. Bob Dylan’s “Death is Not the End” from 1988’s Down in the Groove was covered by Cave for a 1996 collection of Murder Ballads. A famous ballad of a murderer, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s “Moritat” (a.k.a.”Mack the Knife” in Marc Blitzstein’s translation), was recorded by Cave for a 1997 Kurt Weill tribute in its harsher, 1970s-era Ralph Mannheim/John Willett translation. Ace presents Harald Paulsen’s 1928 recording of the Threepenny Opera melody. Amidst the blues (John Lee Hooker, Blind Willie Johnson) country (The Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams, Australia’s own Chad Morgan) and gospel (The Pilgrim Travelers) recordings here, you’ll find some unexpected choices, too, like Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s steamy “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus” and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s “Bedazzled,” both of which Cave recorded in 1995 with Anita Lane.
With its potpourri of rock, pop, country, blues, gospel, and folk, Ace paints a compelling portrait of Nick Cave’s influences on Nick Cave Heard Them Here First. This set includes a full-color, 16-page booklet with track-by-track notes by Ian Johnston. It’s also indicated where both the original recordings and Cave’s covers first appeared. Duncan Cowell has remastered. This collection is available now at the links below!
- Fun House – The Stooges (Elektra LP EKS 74071, 1970)
- I Put a Spell on You – Nina Simone (Philips LP PHS 600-172, 1965)
- Muddy Waters – Johnny Cash (Columbia LP 36086, 1979)
- The Long Black Veil – Lefty Frizzell (Columbia 41384, 1959)
- Jesus Met the Woman at the Well – The Pilgrim Travelers (Specialty 329, 1958)
- Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart – Gene Pitney (Musicor 1252, 1967)
- Hammer Song – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Vertigo LP 6360 081, 1972)
- Hey Joe – The Leaves (Mira 207, 1965)
- Long Time Man – Tim Rose (Columbia 44387, 1967)
- Tower of Song – Leonard Cohen (Columbia CD 44191, 1988)
- Bedazzled – Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (Decca F 12710, 1967)
- Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus – Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (Fontana 260.196 MF, 1969)
- Death is Not the End – Bob Dylan (Columbia CD 40957, 1988)
- Knoxville Girl – The Louvin Brothers (Capitol 4117, 1959)
- The Big Hurt – Miss Toni Fisher (Signet 275, 1959)
- Moritat – Harald Paulsen (Homocord 3747, 1928)
- Disco 2000 – Pulp (Island CD CID 8041/524165-2. 1995)
- I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams (MGM 10560, 1949)
- I Feel So Good – J.B. Lenoir and His African Hunch Rhythm (USA 744, 1963)
- There’s No Night Out in Jail – Chad Morgan (Columbia DO-4465, 1964)
- John the Revelator – Blind Willie Johnson (Columbia 14580-D, 1930)
- Burnin’ Hell – John Lee Hooker (Sensation 21, 1949)