TENDER PREY & THE TRAIN WRECK OF 1987
‘Nineteen eighty-seven, it was a disastrous year ‘ – Mick Harvey
“Yes. ‘Tender Prey’ took a long time… Altogether there was a lot of wasted time and a lot of illness. I can’t really remember how Tender Prey is.”
-Blixa Bargeld(Johnston 222)
‘It was all at a peak when we started Tender Prey, really hitting it, especially the speed, which was real motherfucker. Tender Prey was like the end of me for a while.’ – Tony Cohen(Johnston 222)
‘Everyone was desperate for me to come back because he was in trouble and a lot of people were really scared…
– Anita Lane (Johnston 215)
TIME LINE YEAR 1987:
Jan/Feb – Nick Cave is arrested for and found guilty of heroin possession, London UK.
Jan/Feb – Blixa Bargeld is in Hamburg with Einstürzende Neubauten, rehearsing for Peter Zadek’s play Andi, a project that will take up most of 1987.
Feb 10 – The Bad Seeds are filmed for Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.
Feb 19 – Nick Cave’s first public reading from And The Ass Saw the Angel, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg.
Apr 10 – Anita Lane responds to Nick’s pleading phone calls and returns to him in Berlin, only to find he is dating another woman (a blonde named Bunny). Lane says: ‘I was the only person that [Nick] ever listened to or trusted… I came back but … we wound up in a very messy triangle. [Bunny] was a very, very nice girl, really beautiful, but I was a bit jealous of her.’ (Johnston 215).
May 17 – Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) premieres at Cannes.
May/Jun – Die Haut, Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Kid Congo Powers, and Anita Lane record “Headless Body In A Topless Bar” at Hansa Ton Studios, Berlin.
Jun – At Trident Studios, UK, Anita Lane records ‘Dirty Songs’ with Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Barry Adamson, and Thomas Wydler.
Jun 13 – Early in the morning, Nick and Anita get into a vicious argument. It is unclear how, but Anita falls through a glass table and is hospitalized.
Jun 13 – German premiere of Wings of Desire. Drugs, drunkenness, mayhem.
Jul – Nick goes to Hamburg with Bronwyn Adams to edit And The Ass Saw The Angel.
Aug 15 – Kings of Independence Tour, Knopf Hall, Hamburg Germany
(See my ‘Stranger than Kindness’ post .)
Sep 7 – Berlin, The Bad Seeds begin recording Tender Prey
SOURCES / CREDITS:
- Bad Seed: the biography of Nick Cave, Ian Johnston (1995)
- From the Archives – Nick Cave chronology
Kid Congo Powers on Tender Prey
New York Night Train Zine
15 Jan 2006
“The creative process with the Bad Seeds seemed to be very different and unpredictable. Usually it started out with drums, maybe piano or a guitar part that Nick or Mick would come up with. Then me and Blixa or whoever else were left to fill in the blanks really and see what kind of sound would come up that would be good for a song. The first thing I did was learn songs they already were doing because I was filling in on a tour so I was just learning other people’s parts. Sometimes stuff was pieced together and left and come back to, sometimes it was a band dynamic. But there actually wasn’t one process really. Usually it was like they do something, ‘OK Kid, you go do something. OK Blixa you go do something. Show me what you’ve got.’ Definitely Tender Prey was much more like that. Later The Good Son was a little more structured. And it was the experimental era in the Berlin way and very democratic. Mick and Nick would obviously have the last say so in things but it was a very kind of free environment.”
“Nick was really working hard at the time on his book And the Ass Saw the Angel. So he really just made music and wrote that book. I didn’t really hang out with Nick so much. I mean I knew him well and obviously we toured together. At that point I knew Anita much better and Mick Harvey and Thomas and Roland Wolf. Actually me and the keyboard player Roland Wolf were the new guys in the band and so we bonded on that kind of level – we weren’t sure what we were doing there but made our way in. Everyone else was just going along with what they’d been doing.”
“Berlin at the time was full of speed and drugs. That (Tender Prey) is a very druggy sort of record. I know Mick and Nick refer to it as a really black period in their lives. There was a lot of heaviness going on – mostly do to probably drug-taking – just life was very heavy at the time with relationships with different people.” LINK.
New York Night Train Review: Tender Prey (MUTE 1988)
What hasn’t been said about Tender Prey? While there are plenty of places to read about the amazing songwriting, unique vocals, and general circumstances behind the album, not much has been spoken about the extraordinary guitar team cut by Blixa Bargeld and Kid Congo Powers on this slab o’wax. I would attribute this to the fact that 1) there are so many other things going on, 2) the guitars often have a more ambient function, and, 3) most importantly, they’re not as high in the mix as with a usual rock-based ensemble (see what happens when the musical leader of the band takes up the bass!). While you can find them spicing up the breaks with their unique collective approach, look a little closer and notice that they are the atmospheric and rhythmic secret weapon – coloring and accenting a lot of the best songs.
On “Up Jumped the Devil,” while Mick Harvey’s bass, his xylophone, the string section, and Roland Wolf’s piano are up at the top of the mix, at points the guitars are chuck-a-chucking against the song – syncopated in unusual places – and briefly squealing for the slaughter in the right spots. Though they are still not as loud as Harvey’s bass, they are brought up for a brief solo interlude almost about two-and-a-half minutes into the song. While Mick Harvey’s doing Tracy, Blixa and Kid’s dual solo is reminiscent of some of Junkyard’s Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard duals – totally different tones panned and dancing around one another in atonal harmonies (or is Mick also one of the guitars on that one?). However subtle, the dynamic duo save the song from the becoming a complete generic gothic Broadway/Music Hall cartoon – particularly as they fan the flames at the end. I always wish that damn section was longer.
Or check out the weird guitars on “Deanna.” Just like Cave’s discussion of “the murder plan,” neither guitar does anything near what you would expect on an upbeat soul-pop-garage sing-along. The first taste is on the breaks. Then throughout the second half of the song the two do some kind of odd rhythmic mutated R&B string-bending and string-banging as they asymmetrically lock into one another in a much more artful fashion than Gang of Four ever managed – plus create some unreal feedback as well.
On “Mercy” Kid and Blixa are pure dark smoky atmosphere – again – barely in the mix. As for “City of Refuge,” you can hear Mick busting out the acoustic guitar – foreshadowing his future role in the bad and sounding almost like something from Henry’s Dream. The electric guitars again are again very driven yet super-subtle until the conclusion when they finally explode into dual feedback. LINK