Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree

Wings of Desire

I’m not sure, but I think the first time I encountered the music of Nick Cave and Cave himself was in Wim Wender’s movie, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin). I really liked the film and how Cave’s music enhanced the film’s eerie emotionally intense atmosphere.  Cave’s music, though not Cave, was also in Wings’ sequel Faraway, So Close.

Cave seemed to pop up regularly in my meandering musical journey, but I never stopped to listen very long. That was a mistake and I’m trying to catch up.

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Nick Cave

Out of ignorance, I thought Cave was either American or English and living in Germany.

He is Australian and surprisingly survived his tumultuous teens. Those years included excessive underage drinking, sexual assault (pulling down a school girl’s pants), the subsequent school expulsion, stripping in public for fun, and gangster obsession. His teens ended with the death of his father in a car crash. His mother told him of the death as she bailed him out of jail for burglary.

Cave has said that he has no memories of his father’s funeral, but remembers that “he died at a point in my life when I was most confused.” Cave later wrote that “the loss of my father created in my life a vacuum, a space in which my words began to float and collect and find their purpose.”

Cave Music

While still in school, Cave and some other students started a cover band called Concrete Vulture. As the name might imply, the covers were by artists such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Alice Cooper.

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016
Boys Next Door

Out of school and still in Australia, they changed the band’s name to The Boys Next Door. Their Cave-led performances successfully got them banned from venue after venue.

Birthday Party

The Boys Next Door made one album and went to London and became The Birthday Party. The stage act, often described as riotous with Cave yelling, howling, and jumping around the stage.

John Peel, a disc jockey, record producer,  and journalist announced their “Release the Bats” the best record of 1981 and success followed.

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016


In 1983 Birthday Party moved to Berlin where it dissolved and some pieces reformed as The Bad Seeds. Simon Reynolds has described Cave’s songwriting as  “the fullest, most hideously voluptuous flowering of the abject in rock.”

Life imitates Art

Cave’s career has careened through other arts such as the above mentioned acting as well as screen writer, author, playwright, and lecturer.

Cave and Viviane Carneiro had a son Luke. Cave had another son Jethro who lives with his mother in Australia.

Cave controlled his demons and found family life in Brighton, England and with his third wife Susie Bick had twins, Earl and Arthur.

On July 14, 2015 darkness descended on Cave. His son Arthur, 15, under the influence of LSD,  suffered a fatal brain injury after plunging onto the underpass of Ovingdean Gap in Brighton.

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Skeleton Tree  is Cave’s 16th album with the Bad Seeds. Arthur Cave’s death occurred during Skeleton Tree‘s writing and recording and sadness surrounds each song. Though the circumstances are somewhat different, I am reminded of David Bowie’s Blackstar.

Knowing what we know, it is a wonderfully difficult album to listen to. W.B. Yeat’s “terrible beauty.”

The album’s fifth song, “Anthrocene” expresses that horrible sadness best:

All the things we love, we love, we love, we lose
It’s our bodies that fall when they try to rise
And I hear you been looking out for something to love
Sit down beside me and I’ll name it for you
Behold, behold
The heaven bound sea
The wind cast its shadow and moves for the tree
Behold the animals and the birds and the sky entire
I hear you been out there looking for something to set on fire
The head bow children fall to their knees
Humbled in the age of the Anthrocene
Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Post Skeleton Tree

In May 2017, Mark Mordue interviewed Cave in the Guardian during his first tour since Arthur’s death. Mordue wrote, “he is…slowly attempting to come back into the world, step by step. I suspect it won’t be long before he is up and running at a terrifying pace; Cave possesses a momentum that can knock you over through sheer proximity alone. He tells me he is already writing new songs. “Not to answer Skeleton Tree,” he emphasises, “but to artistically complete the trilogy of albums we began with Push the Sky Away.” 

Nick Cave Skeleton Tree 2016

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Mary Louise Smith Ware

October 21, 1955
Refused to give up bus seat

Mary Louise Smith Ware

As unfair as it may sound, being historic sometimes depends on whether others think you can be historic. In other words, you may do something historic, but others feel that you do not look the part and thus your historic act is left to wither.

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Irene Morgan

The right to chose a bus seat regardless of one’s race was not possible under the enacted Jim Crow laws of many states as well as the unspoken norms of most states. On July 16, 1944, 27-year-old Irene Morgan, recovering from a miscarriage and traveling by bus from Virginia to Baltimore for a doctor’s appointment, refused to give up her seat to a white couple.

Angered by the refusal, the bus driver drove the bus to the Middlesex County town of Saluda and stopped outside the jail. A sheriff’s deputy came aboard and told Morgan that he had a warrant for her arrest. She continued to refuse and police had to physically subdue her. Authorities jailed her for resisting arrest and violating Virginia’s segregation law.

Because interstate travel came under the auspices of the federal government, civil rights lawyers challenged Morgan’s later conviction. On June 3, 1946, in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, the US Supreme Court (6 – 1) ruled in favor of Morgan declaring that  segregated seating on interstate buses an “impermissible burden on interstate commerce.”  

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Claudette Colvin

Few know the name Claudette Colvin, but on March 2, 1955 the 15-year-old Colvin boarded a city bus after school to head home. As it filled up, a white woman was left standing, and the bus driver ordered Colvin to get up and move to the back. She refused. Police dragged Colvin off the bus in handcuffs.

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Mary Louise Smith

On October 21, 1955 police arrested 18-year-old Mary Louise Smith for violating segregation laws in Montgomery, Ala. She had refused to change her bus seat.

Her father bailed her out of jail and paid the nine-dollar fine. The incident was initially known only to family and neighbors. Nothing more was said or done about it.

At first.

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Rosa Parks

Of course, most of us know that Rosa Parks, considered the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement, did the same thing on December 1, 1955. Parks certainly deserves that honored recognition.

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Browder v. Gayle

On February 1, 1956, attorney Fred Gray and other attorneys filed a civil suit, Browder v Gayle in the US District Court, challenging state and local laws on bus segregation. Mary Louise Smith was one of the five plaintiffs. Others included Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, Susie McDonald, and Jeanette Reese. Reese soon left the case because of intimidation.

Ironically, the case did not include Rosa Parks herself. Gray had made the decision to avoid the perception that the defendants were seeking to circumvent Parks’s prosecution on other charges. Gray ‘‘wanted the court to have only one issue to decide—the constitutionality of the laws requiring segregation on the buses’’

The women testified before a three-judge panel. On June 13, 1956 the court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional, based on equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Montgomery and Alabama appealed the case and eventually the US Supreme court took the case. 

On November 13, 1956, the US Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling and on December 17, it declined an appeal by the city and state to reconsider, and on December 20 ordered the state to desegregate its buses.

This final decision ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott that had begun with Rosa Parks refusal and with Rosa Parks as the figurehead of the subsequent boycott. 

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Mrs Ware

Smith married a Mr. Ware and they had four children together. They later divorced. Smith Ware continued to work for civil rights such as for voting rights before the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and participated in the March on Washington in 1963. Her sister Annie’s son was a plaintiff in the lawsuit to desegregate the Y.M.C.A. Smith is active with her 12 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She enjoys reading, and she is active in several of her church auxiliaries and senior citizen clubs. When Rosa Parks died in October 2005, Smith Ware, then 68, attended the memorial service in Montgomery. “I had to pay my tribute to her,” Ware said. “She was our role model.”

Here is a link to a 2013 Democracy Now piece on all these heroic women.

In the comments below, William Waheed refers to a YouTube video he  helped put together. It is called “More Than A Bus Ride Documentary”

Mary Louise Smith Ware

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

Remembering and appreciating
October 20, 1925 – October 27, 2002

Tom Dowd

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

The Triumvirate

The Atlantic Records triumvirate: Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, and Tom Dowd.

Thomas John “Tom” Dowd was born on October 20, 1925 in New York City and into a musical atmosphere: his father was a concertmaster, his mother an opera singer.

While attending Columbia University the military drafted him, but he continued to attend Columbia University and also working on the Manhattan Project” the secret development of the atomic bomb.

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

Physics lab to recording studio

He thought he would continue his studies in nuclear physics, but decided to work in music.

According to his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bio, “After the war, he was hired as a sound engineer at a New York studio in 1947 and began doing freelance work for Atlantic Records in 1949. Under Dowd’s direction, the label switched from recording onto acetate discs to tape, resulting in improved fidelity and preservation. He introduced the label to stereo recording in 1952. Atlantic hired him as a full-time engineer in 1954. In addition to engineering countless sessions, he built the label’s recording console and designed its eight-track studio.sole and designed its eight-track studio.”

In his memoir, Rhythm & the Blues: A Life in American Music, Jerry Wexler described the relationship between Ahmet Ertegun, himself, and Dowd: “Our gig [Wexler and Ertegun] was to get the music played right and righteous in the studio; Tom’s job was to capture it on tape. It was up to him to find a mix of timbres, bass, treble and midrange; to load a much volume as possible without distortion. Tom pushed [the volume controls] like a painter sorting colors. He turned microphone placement into an art.”

Whose music was Dowd an integral part of? The list is a who’s who of great music over the decades:

  • Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife
  • John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things
  • Aretha Franklin’s Respect
  • Cream’s Disraeli Gears
  • Allman Brothers Idewild South, Eat a Peach, Live at the Fillmore East
  • Derek and the Dominos’ Layla
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Ronnie Van Zant
  • Eric Clapton
  • Rod Steward
Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

In his own words…

Here he speaks about the evolution of recording music

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd

Lifetime Achievement

In 2002 he was presented a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Dowd died October 27, 2002 (NYT obit) and in 2003 an outstanding documentary about his life  came out: Tom Dowd and the Language of Music.

Tom Dowd was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Recording Engineer Tom Dowd