The Birthday Party – She’s Hit (1983)

‘She’s Hit’ at the Hacienda Club in 1983.

Tx to saigonbill

I found a Birthday Party vid I hadn’t seen before, notable for the harrowing closeups of Cave’s exhausted, heroin-ravaged face. You can see him getting to the end of his tether, both physically and emotionally. The crowd is enraptured by Cave’s presence, seemingly unconcerned at his condition. The girl in white touches his face tenderly, another takes and gives back his cigarette. Such intimacy. It occurs to me that his death-like demeanor was entirely in keeping with fan expectations that Cave might, before their eyes, perish through self-immolation. He was their grand experience with Death Personified.

In Ian Johnstons’s Bad Seed, Rowland S. Howard has this to say about Cave, as the Birthday Party began to self-destruct:

“He was almost expected to be superhuman to an extent. It got to the point where we would get to the gig and Nick would be sitting backstage saying, ‘Oh my God, I just can’t do it. I can’t drag my shattered frame through another performance.’ You can’t go on stage and do that sort of performance, night after night, when you’re incredibly unhealthy, basically. When Nick cleaned up he said that before he had always felt eighty years old. I found it amazing how long he kept it up for. Nick has an incredible constitution, he’s got away with things that not many people could have survived” (123).

No wonder Nick Cave is Legend. Thankfully, still among us.

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About Morgan Wolfe

I write contemporary LGBTQ fiction that explores the dark & light of human love and desire. Interests: Progressive politics, visual arts, vintage illustration, mid-century design. French films, Queer cinema. Literary quotes. J'adore Paris. Ich liebe Berlin.

4 thoughts on “The Birthday Party – She’s Hit (1983)

  1. Hi Kate,

    What kind words! Thank you. When I started this blog and separated it Morgan’s Musings, I wasn’t sure it would take off. You mentioned the fan sites and I’m quite sure those pages get gazillions of hits for one reason or another. But I wanted to do something completely different here. It appears to be working. I’ve received encouraging letters from many who visit here.

    One person’s native language is Farsi, and she is struggling with And the Ass Saw the Angel. It is nearly impossible to read, let alone understand the nuances behind, phonetically spelled English, which is how Nick wrote Eucrid’s dialogue, so I credit her. You’re right, the fan who typed those lyrics phonetically deserves a huge round of applause.

    Yes, we’ve had summer weather for about three weeks now. Serious heat waves with coolish rainy periods mixed in. June was a wet one. Lots of mosquitos were born and continue to thrive. My legs are so spotty, it looks like I’ve got chicken pox. Take care of that hayfever.

    *Hugs*
    Morgan

  2. Thanks, Morgan! πŸ™‚

    I love that Dylan Thomas line – its so beautifully powerful and evocative, and popped into my head as soon as I watched Nick and the lady in white on the video… you’re quite right – isn’t it fascinating that she’s dressed as a bride? She stands out from the crowd right from the beginning, and is faintly luminous in her white gown – and almost dream-like the whole way through – and incredibly calm and still, in contrast to Nick’s exhausted and slightly jerking stance.

    Its a wonderful capture of Nick and the band as they were at that time – and is very, very compelling – although not easy – viewing…

    I love the Wild World reference – perfect! I don’t know that song as well, but think its on the ‘Hits’ album I just got, so will have a proper listen…

    I absolutely agree with you and Debra – Nick’s determination to keep working, and his loyalty to his work and the band – in spite of the damage done to his body – is absolutely amazing, and I have the deepest respect for him as an artist and a man. It must have taken great strength of will – and great passion and devotion to his music – to have kept going through so much.

    Its interesting that you mentioned your need for integrity, respect and ethics when writing about Nick – as that’s what came over very clearly when I first came across your blog. I was really impressed not only at your dedication to Nick’s work, and the amount of thought and insight that goes into your writings and observances – but also the amount of respect that you clearly have for him.

    You’re absolutely right to draw a line, and not to spread gossip or rumour, and to only discuss those aspects of his life and work that are already public and accepted knowledge. I get very tired of fan sites – for anyone famous, not just Nick – that make all kinds of assumptions and spread unsubstantiated rumours or discuss aspects of lives that would rather be forgotten – it seems disrespectful and unfair – and unkind – to the the artist. At the end of the day, the singer/artist/writer/actor/musician in question is just a human being – just as flawed and prone to mistakes and mess-ups as anyone else, and in the weirdly vulnerable public position of being a ‘celebrity’ – and so an easy target for rumour and gossip. They deserve just as much respect as the rest of us.

    So many thanks to you for celebrating Nick’s life and work, but also for staying true to your ethics, and drawing a line where its needed. Quite right too. πŸ™‚

    I LOVE the lyrics site! Bloody brilliant! πŸ˜€ how clever to have written them out phonetically – its so evocative, specially with the likes of King Ink and Mutiny in Heaven – to be able to ‘hear’ in your head how Nick would sing them – well done, that fan! πŸ™‚

    Thanks again Morgan – have a great Wednesday! πŸ™‚
    Kate
    p.s. hope the weather isn’t as hot where you are now? The summer has finally hit us here in the UK, which is lovely, but now I have raging hayfever, aaaaargh….

  3. Fabulous response, Kate. I love your insightful observations, particularly concerning Nick’s fragile physical state (wonderful reference to Dylan Thomas there) and his interactions with the girl in white. She is dressed like a bride, which I found irresistably macabre, given the circumstances. You can see she is flushed with pleaure and joy at being so close, and therefore absolutely oblivious to his agony.

    I’m reminded of the exhausted soul bleeding lover in Wild World, who denies himself the luxury of oblivon in order to please her:

    hold me up baby for I may fall
    hold my dish-rag body tall
    our bodies melt together
    we are one
    post crucifixion baby
    and all undone

    One thing I’ve discovered in all of my research on Nick Cave is that he wasn’t a complainer, even when dope-sick, and he never shirked his work load. (Debra mentioned this today, as well). In fact, he did more than was ever asked of him, completely beyond the pale in terms of artistic committment and devotion to The Performance. Like you, I cannot bestow appropriate admiration or gratitude to this man, who has given of himself so completely. All he ever asked for was to be left alone.

    It pricks my conscience a bit to be writing about his past and present life, particularly the stuff he’d rather forget, like Polly Harvey. So I try to maintain a certain level of integrity – there are things I refuse to discuss here or anywhere. I’m not publishing somebody’s gossip. If it’s already in print and public knowledge, and has some value, insofar as helping fans appreciate the sacrifices and trevails that this beloved performer had made to render his art, that fits my ethical guidelines.

    Thank you, Nick Cave, for what it’s worth.

    BTW: I found a great site for Birthday Party Lyrics. Amazingly, the person typed them from the records, phonetically, according to how Nick sings them.

    MUTINY!
    THE BAD SEED
    PRAYERS ON FIRE
    JUNKYARD
    HEE-HAW

    Cheers, Kate, and all you Nick Fiends.

  4. Morgan, thank you *so* much for posting this – and thanks to saigonbill too, for finding it and Youtube-ing it.

    I’m not as familiar with as much of Nick’s early music, and with The Birthday Party – so this is riveting to watch – and although its intensely uncomfortable to see Nick looking so ravaged, I just can’t look away. Its an extraorindarily intimate video…almost hypnotic…

    Just you said, you can see the crowd are completely spellbound and seem unpeturbed by the physical and emotional knife-edge he’s walking along. The bit with the girl in white, who touches him so gently and compassionately – is deeply moving – he almost seems to be screaming to her for help, for absolution…

    I’m watching it a second time as I type – its actually really scary to follow – Nick looks as if he’s about to crumple to the floor, as if its a huge effort to hold himself up and keep singing – and yet his voice is still deep and rich and beautiful, even as he howls out the lyrics…raging against the dying of the light, as it were…

    The more I find out about Nick, the more respect I have for him – and the more astonished I am that he’s not only survived, but that his work and music has got progressively better and more powerful over the years, and that he seems to go from strength to strength. I have the greatest respect for this extraordinary man, who’s created so very much, and inspired so many people – and on top of which, also manages to be (by all accounts) a fantastic and loving Dad and husband.

    Nick Cave, I salute you! πŸ™‚

    And thanks again for putting it up, Morgan, and for your wonderfully insightful comments!

    *hugs*

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