Boy on Fire. The Young Nick Cave
By Mark Mordue
Lou Reed famously used the phrase "Growing Up in Public", but it's seriously arguable that he ever grew up at all. As represented in "Boy on Fire", Nick Cave grew up in public, and it's that Odyssean journey which we want to follow. 'Cause success, well, that's over-rated. It's nice that you're not poor anymore, but boy, if you had problems before, you could easily have a worse time dealing with them.
So author Mark Mordue begins with some of what he already knew, and of what we already know, before plunging down a rabbit-hole beset on all sides with imminent spiteful criticism, fact-checkers, poor-memory merchants and "it wasn't that way at all" keyboard numptys.
That he suspects what he's in for is quite clear from his early observation of the bond between Nick and his mum before Cave heads off to accept an ARIA Award in 2007. To his credit, although he was only nominated himself, Cave also inducted the other members of The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds on the night. (Most annoyingly, he forgot to mention the band's original drummer, Phill Calvert).
Like I said, brave or damned foolish; it's hard to be a writer, not a hack, and make any money (Mordue has a day job, he's no fool). "Boy on Fire" deserves to be purchased for yourself, your friends and anyone you know interested in music. Period.
One reason is that, if you know enough about Cave, you'll also know that any decent book about him should always have a modicum of humour. I found myself chuckling out loud on the bus within minutes of beginning and, while it's not written with laughter in mind, you will find the several threads which Mark sets up quite early, vividly rewarding. Cave himself, an adventurous mischief-maker, possesses a savage and spontaneous wit, and his company can be addictive. Small wonder that so many who have encountered him either don't comprehend him, or find him boorish, or jaw-droppingly fascinating.
Filth, Blood & Roses, Dead Rabids, 4 Stooges, The Light Brigade et al
Twenty-twenty is a phrase used to demonstrate a standard of visual acuity. Providing a Top Ten list for the year of that name using normal standards of vision presents certain difficulties.
The harbinger of our civilization's downfall was, of course, the motion picture "Cats". This was a movie that spent its first hour-and-a-half introducing a series of characters played by celebrities in bad valley CGI mode licking themselves inappropriately whilst singing and dancing. Spoiler: It ends with the ritual suicide of the most downtrodden character by balloon.
Its similarity to the year it announced were too staggering to avoid. All year, we have been bombarded by celebrities entertaining (themselves) us from their living rooms in bad clothes and makeup whilst the poor and broken down die gasping for breath.
What stands out in the year that broke the world? And make no bones, the world is broken. Certainly, rock and roll is broken. It has been a long time coming but that bucket has been firmly kicked.
There has been illness for a while now. We've all been getting old. Most people stop adding new songs to their playlists in their early 20s. Some of us have kept our ears open much longer but that ultimately makes no difference. You could make the most stunning new music and no one would be there to listen. The old aren't interested in the new and the young aren't interested in the old.
"Pizza, Punks & Prophets"
Barfly Top Ten 2020
Dean Darkloud of The Dark Clouds
(Anthony Mitchell photo)
“Rock n Roll ain’t dead. It just sounds a little different”
10. Wreckless Enterprise. Hats off to these two DIY Crazy Cats for doing what they do. With passion and intent, tirelessly flying the flag of creative support. 2020 saw them release, amongst other things the third instalment of their "Short Fuse" compilation series: 15 tracks, all under a minute jammed packed onto a 7” (or CD). It’s a punk rock smorgasbord.
Wreckless Enterprise: keeping the underground above ground. So, if it’s a home grown, all you can eat punk rock buffet that you are after; check out this blossoming grass roots label. "Short Fuse" we salute you!
9. Mike Foxall. The man behind the Art of Fox. You may know him as Inverted Crucifox, guitarist extraordinaire in Neptune Power Federation whom in my opinion are one of Australia's best modern live acts.
Making orange juice from oranges...Sid Griffin and The Long Ryders. Tom Gold photo.
“There wasn’t anything called Americana when we started, but we helped create it, so I’m happy to be associated with it,” Long Ryders singer and guitarist Sid Griffin laughs, when I ask him if he has any empathy with the loosely-defined genre. “I like the Americana thing. I’m not one of those guys who says their band aren’t this or that.”
But while The Long Ryders were at the vanguard of the movement – as well, from a different musico-cultural perspective, the so-called Paisley Underground scene of the early 1980s, Griffin reckons Americana existed long before The Long Ryders formed in LA in 1980.
“People say that Sun Records was Americana, because of the marriage of rhythm and blues with country and western. But the other one that people miss is The Lovin’ Spoonful. They’re definitely Americana. Americana has always been here. No-one said Americana or alt.country until the end of The Long Ryders’ days.”
The Barman sent me a message asking some folks to tell us all about our 2020 top tens.
Apart from new recordings from the likes of Hugo Race, Velatine and Michael Plater, and the other few I've written about during the year, I've not been listening to a lot of music. Read a lot (including the three books I've reviewed here - the best three music books I've read this year), including a few Stephen King, Clark Ashton Smith, John Wyndham and a few books on plagues past and present.
But really. 2020, huh? What a trip. So many dead. Wept more than a few times myself - but hey, my life's a doddle by comparison to the misery of so many.
But hey! First, we got to see an utterly evil President of the United States trainwreck, taint (and generally fist-fuck with studded gloves) any world-wide respect the USA ever had. I don't use the term 'evil' lightly.
Apart from being genuinely narcissistic and wilfully ignorant, Papa Ubu took great delight in splitting the country into a condition very close to civil war, while being utterly unmoved by the hundreds of thousands who got ill, and the thousands who have died, of which he is a goodly part to blame. If you wrote a modern take on Pere Ubu, Trump would be your starting point.
Top 10 releases for 2020
Wrtiter for Redback Rock and Vynil Records label honcho
Bad Dreems- “Doomsday Ballet”
Snotty, raggedly beautiful, punkesque pop that's as honest as a day's work. One beautiful yellow and black splatter platter of endearing, edgy popnificence. Ten double plus!
Dune Rats - “Hurry up and Wait”
The perfect blend of pop and punk, that’s as catchy as a case of COVID. On permanent rotation.
Space Boozzies- “Living’ Up The he Coast”
Summer...beer gardens…downin’ tinnies on the bonnet of the EH wagon down at South Narra. The perfect beachin’ garage album for summer.
Gold Hearts- “Beach Butts” (single)
The Gold Hearts' sounds are pure 60s wahine surf pop...wahoos and all. Gorgeous.
Lachlan Edwards- “Once More” (EP)
From the very first, this is a total charmer. The title track is an instant creeper... gorgeous sparse guitar...semi-yearning vocals and cruisy riffs that crawl right on in.
Little Quirks - “Florence’s Town” (single)
Gorgeous vocal harmonies...that folk tinged heart warming popestry...and songwriting skills that are way beyond their years.
Small Moments of Glory By Jack Howard
Another in the Best Books I've Bought All Year Category.
Jack Howard kept a journal from before he joined Hunters and Collectors, and through most of his career with them; his horn work with other musicians predates Hunnas, continued while he was with them, and continues now. Clearly it's a life sentence.
Jack Howard avoids innumerable pitfalls by presenting a book which is purely one thing: older musician looks back on his life with accuracy and smarts, confesses that his early years were riddled with angst and neuroses and, clearly recoiling from his diaries in horror, declines to share the cringeworthy evidence. Instead (and instead of making up some cool-sounding mythology) Jack just says that it happened. And he moves on. Something we could all do well to remember.
"Small Moments of Glory" does not tell Jack's story from the perspective of a (cue neon sign, huge throbbing cathedral organ and scantily-clad models) ROCK GOD, but of a bloke who plays an instrument and starts playing in a few bands and, after a lot of hard touring and yakka and angst, one of these becomes a significant part of our country's backdrop.
Frank Meyer, guitarist and vocalist
The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs
James Williamson & The Pink Hearts
Online and TV producer
Los Angeles, CA
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2020
1. Armored Saint - Punching The Sky
My favorite metal band of 2020 was my favorite metal band in 1984…the mighty Armored Saint. This is their best in a decade and one of the best of their career. John Bush is the Paul Rodgers of metal, a swaggering bluesy beast over vintage yet modern power metal. I fucking love this band.
2. Kix - Midnight Dynamite Re-Lit
Producer Beau Hill went back and stripped away all that bad ‘80s reverb and my favorite Kix album it sounds the like AC/DC meets Aerosmith album it always should have. And the demos are way cool, junior!
3. Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
The piano in the opening song “I Want You To Love Me” literally made me burst into tears when I first heard it. And every time since. Not kidding.
4. The City Kids - Things That Never Were
Best OC Punk band Leeds ever produced! These guys got a Social Distortion by way of Backyard Babies vibe that just won’t quit.
Vocalist, Fangin' Felines
1) As far as 2020 goes, over all it has deepened my sense to an even greater degree about what really matters and how we spend our short time on this planet.
2) While I am still grieving the organic aspect of how live shows used to be, the upside is bands came to us via live stream!
3) Reigning Sound- live stream at B Side Memphis, presented by Goner Records. Having Reigning Sound play live in our lounge room one morning while wearing my PJs was a thrill!
4) "Vibrations, Yours & Mine" - Johnny Casino. Wonderful album by a wonderful human.
5) It was inspiring to see Australian venues working creatively to keep live music afloat. As much a struggle as it was/is for venues, musicians, crew to keep afloat…..
6) "My Love for You" - The William Loveday Intention (album.) Will there ever be a day that you’re hung like a thief? Good ol Billy Childish rides again!
7) "Shadow Show" - Silhouettes (album). Girl group trio from Detroit- love their blend of '60s garage psychedelia with their own modern twist.
8) Chimers' debut single "Mono". A Wollongong two-piece - a husband and wife and good mates of mine - released a ripper debut single!
9) Fangin Felines weekend live analogue recording at The Pin Shed with Jez Player. Pinheads was a fun experience.
10) March 2020 with Fangin' Feliners supporting The Schizophonics at Lalalas & Marrickville Bowlo. These will forever be remembered as not only really fun shows (also with Los Tones, Drop Offs & DJ Rusty & Boonge) but our last live shows, pre COVID. Lockdowns occurred the week after.