tender is the prey

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

ORAL HISTORY:

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. Kid Congo, Blixa, 1988 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


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15 thoughts on “tender is the prey

  1. I thought about Anita Lanes comment about Nicks girlfriend “Bunny” in Johnstons bio. I have read that book a few times and also always thought: Wow, Anita is really a special person in the way she handled that. I think she suffered very much. In the other bio “The Life and Music of Nick Cave” she is quoted saying in 1999: “I wish I would never have met this man”. Very heavy that statement, but really understandable when you think about all the things she had to deal with which are written down by Ian Johnston.

    Good luck with your technology/management-issues Morgan!

    • Anna,

      I agree that Anita Lane suffered. Not just in the way that so many rock wives/girlfriends suffer, i.e. competing with the constant flow of females and coping with drug addiction, but also because Anita had no life of her own apart from Nick.

      Far from home and family and without financial means of her own, she was vulnerable to Nick’s sexual opportunism and numerous drug-related misadventures. She was in dire straits economically, physically (by then also addicted to heroin), and emotionally.

      What is not usually said is that Anita also suffered artistically. Her creative identity seemed to be at odds with her situation as Nick Cave’s girlfriend. It seemed she could write songs for him but not for herself.

      We’re veering off on a tangent but that’s the way my mind works when I write these chronological litanies.

      At the time Anita Lane wrote the lyrics for ‘Stranger than Kindness’, she was in despair, describing her emotional state of overwhelming sadness in physical terms: ‘it felt as if it was raining in my chest’.

      Yet, she perseveres, and by the summer of 1987 has gained artistic support from Blixa, Die Haut, and Mick Harvey, each of whom joined with her in various collaborative efforts over the years. Consider:

      Without Anita Lane, there would have been no ‘From Her to Eternity’ or ‘Blume’. These iconic songs held the power to alter the creative course that each band followed, particularly Einstuerzende Neubauten.

      ‘Blume’, included on Lane’s ‘Dirty Pearl’ LP (1993), is a critical part of EN’s Tabula Rasa triptych. With TR, the lyrics are what determine the content, form, and intensity of the music. So, then, the linguistic, poetic approach replaces the mathematical, problem-solution approach wherein Blixa constructed words and metaphors that fit the band’s musical installations.

      Without the transformative experience of creating and performing ‘Blume’, Blixa might not have survived the sudden departure of F.M. Einheit during the 1995 Ende Neu sessions. With Mark Chung’s departure in 1994, the band was literally collapsing. Yet, out of the ruins cames a love song, the breathtaking duet between Bargeld and Meret Becker, ‘Stella Maris’.

      Stella Maris (Ende Neu 1996) (Live in Berlin 2000)

      With ‘Blume’, one might say that a woman had finally tamed the mighty Neubauten, with her fragile words and breathless baby-voice. That would be a hopelessly romantic over-simplification of the events. That said, I do love the sound of such an interpretation.

      Blume (Tabula Rasa 1993) Promo vid directed by John Hillcoat
      Introduced by Nick Cave.

      Anita Lane Discography:
      http://home.claranet.nl/users/maes/cave/seeds/lane.html

      • tender prey would have to be my fave i think. i remember it being released, have it on vinyl still. i was bringing up baby who was 1-2yrs old at the time and the song and vid for deanna sent a shiver down my spine. it embodied the whole essence of nick at the time. oh yeah, he was ragged, he was plotting murder and mayhem, he looked the best i had ever seen him. the way he holds the micro phone and the ciggie (*winks at morgan). not long after he went to rehab. i even fancied that he was singing to me and that deanna was a take on my two christian names!!! – after all a girl can dream can’t she?
        re anita, she was lucky to get out alive. how she must have suffered. i feel she has long gone uncredited for the part she played in song writing etc. as you said morgan she was integral in a lot of what went on with the “scene” at that time. i love her strong, strong spirit. i remember her being a tiny thing (maybe we all were??) when i used to see them at gigs in the late 70’s, but i can feel such a strength in her to have survived and moved on.

      • Thank your for the interesting facts. I wish my English would be more fluent, so i could easier tell my thoughts about that. Especially the facts about EN are really interesting.

        I also think that Anita suffered artistically. If i remember correctly, in Johnstons book she says in one chapter that Nick often treated her lyrics like shit, bunging them into the trash can etc. I really wonder how she survived all that. I would have been gone long before she did i think…trying to do something on my on and live in a more stable environment to lick my wounds (i know she tried and did that a while but then was called back to help Nick, who was in trouble)…luckily Mick Harvey, Blixa and Die Haut recognised her talent and supported her and her strength made it possible like damselfly already said.

        “Stranger Than Kindness” is btw one of my all-time favs – a song with an incredible beauty, also sad in a way that really, really touches me. A masterpiece – i always feel deeply moved when i listen to that song.

    • Anita is my little obsession with her frailty and charm of a porcelain doll. Being aware of what she had to suffer one can imagine her voice would sound more like Marianne Faithfull’s and her songs would be as bitter. She is this kind of tragic heroine of rock’n’roll, together with Marianne, Edie Sedgwick and many more. So unfair for her she is so underestimated and perceived as Nick’s satellite, being talented and charismatic enough to manage on her own.
      By the way, what is happening to Anita now? Is she recording anything? I have heard that she started a family, but that’s all.
      I am always touched by Die Haut’s ‘Subterranean World’ with Anita and Blixa Bargeld, it’s obvious that the two enjoy working together. There is a certain charm about Blixa that makes him a perfect company when it comes to singing with the ladies. More duos are welcome, Herr Bargeld. 🙂

  2. Great comments, folks, thanks for all of the insight and feedback on Tender Prey. I’ll be back a bit later with more text as well as a post on Neubauten.

    I have time management/technology issues. 😦

    • TEXT ADDENDUM

      Who was Deanna?

      At a club in Melbourne, [Nick] had met a charismatic and precocious girl named Deanna with whom he would enjoy a passionate, intense relationship. During their brief affair Deanna would exert a powerful influence over him. The physical intensity of the couple’s mutual obsession, combined with their prodigious consumption of amphetamines, led them to shun the company of outsiders in her ‘house on the hill’ … The song spoke of a love that validated any antisocial or criminal act beyond the law and the moral dictates of society:
      ‘We discuss the murder and the murder act
      Murder takes the wheel of the Cadillace.
      And death climbs in the back.’ (Johnston 236)

      The ‘Deanna’ video shoot

      On the afternoon of 3 Aug (1988), Mick Harvey was patiently awaiting Cave’s arrival at Mute’s offices on the Harrow Road. Harvey had planned to film Cave performing against a white wall in an office in the building for a video he was directing for ‘Deanna’, the next Bad Seeds’ single. He had hoped to use the natural daylight that streamed through the window but by the time Cave eventually staggered into Mute it was nightfall. ‘He’d just been running around doing as many drugs as he could before he went into the clinic,’ recalls Harvey, ‘and all the natural light had gone. So he ended up looking really dark and grainy in the video because that was all the light that was left.’ (Johnston, 240).

      Morgan note: Strangely, in the ‘Deanna’ intro segment for The Videos DVD, Blixa Bargeld claims the shoot took place at his house, using the white walls – ‘of which I have a lot’ – as the background. Yet, Mick Harvey clearly states he was at Mute’s offices. Did Blixa ever have a house in London, let alone in 1988? Bizarre.

      THE CLINIC

      Tour manager Jessamy Calkin describes the situation:
      “Trying to get Nick into that clinic, my God , it was a nightmare. …I’d taken it upon myself to get him on the train and into this place. He was doing a lot at the time. I thought, I’ve got to go to his flat this evening to make sure he gets up the next day. I got there and the light was on but no one was answering the door…
      Finally I managed to get in. He overdosed twice while I was there. I thought he was going to die. It was very worrying. When he came round he kept saying, ‘I’m all right,’ He was sort of enjoying that. I was in such a state but he wasn’t worried at all. The next day I got him on the train and as it pulled out Nick said, ‘Why do I have to do this, Jessamy, why can’t people like me the way I am?’ It was so sad with his head poking out of the window… I went to see him a week later and he was strutting around in his suit like he owned the place… he hadn’t detoxed yet, he was still taking pills. Everyone loved him and he was chatting and communicating, doing all the things he wasn’t meant to do.” (Johnston, 240-241)

      Mick Harvey reflects: “One tendency that Nick has is to rewite history from his current perspective. .. In 1987, during Tender Prey, he was getting so fucked up but now he sees it as being confused about [finishing] the record, recording in four countries and half a dozen studios. He can’t see that his drug addiction was having an effect. At the time, in 1988, it was affecting his work. …If that hadn’t been the case, he’d still be using now.” (Johnston, 241)

      On 19 September, Tender Prey was at last released and hailed as a masterpiece by the British music press. Sean O’Hagan [in NME]: ‘The ongoing reincarnation of Saint Nick remains one of contemporary pop’s most intriguing rites of passage.’ (Johnston, 243)

  3. One of my favourites too.

    ‘Slowly Goes the Night’ is one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard. Nick’s voice is as raw and off-key as his emotions. Visceral. I believe if you were to hear his voice without understanding the words/language, you would still feel in your gut what the song is about.

  4. Yeah, one of my favorites, too. I always can`t decide between “Your Funeral My Trial” and “Tender Prey” – the output in the mid-80s was definately too great to decide for me 😀

    I often have the opposite thoughts of Vinny. I forget that he has had a time where he was the suave, gentlemen poet, because most of the time he was a freak for me, a poetical freak, but definately a freak *giggles* Nice that he can do this and that and not always stays the same – maybe that makes him always so interesting, even if there are sometimes things i don`t like which is really seldom *g*

  5. I thought Nick was arrested for heroin much later in his career? Or is he a multiple offender? Pretty nice of the UK courts to let him go to Germany to read his book a month after the conviction 😛
    Anyways, I always find these stories of the Old Seeds really interesting. For me, Nick is the suave, gentlemen poet seen from No More Shall We Part and up. I often forget he and the band were once wild animals!
    Always love the time lines. Keep up the great work!

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