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Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave

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Ian Johnston's Bad Seed offers a superb overview of Nick Cave's career to date. Through Cave's fronting of the incendiary bands The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, producing music of unfettered expression and explosive intensity, to his creative collaborations outside of the rock industry in film and literature, Bad Seed illustrates a life lived in barely controlled chao Ian Johnston's Bad Seed offers a superb overview of Nick Cave's career to date. Through Cave's fronting of the incendiary bands The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, producing music of unfettered expression and explosive intensity, to his creative collaborations outside of the rock industry in film and literature, Bad Seed illustrates a life lived in barely controlled chaos: and unravels the motivation and unique appeal of a reluctant icon whose songs, according to Rolling Stone, possess 'the authority of the most primal kind of myth'.


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Ian Johnston's Bad Seed offers a superb overview of Nick Cave's career to date. Through Cave's fronting of the incendiary bands The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, producing music of unfettered expression and explosive intensity, to his creative collaborations outside of the rock industry in film and literature, Bad Seed illustrates a life lived in barely controlled chao Ian Johnston's Bad Seed offers a superb overview of Nick Cave's career to date. Through Cave's fronting of the incendiary bands The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, producing music of unfettered expression and explosive intensity, to his creative collaborations outside of the rock industry in film and literature, Bad Seed illustrates a life lived in barely controlled chaos: and unravels the motivation and unique appeal of a reluctant icon whose songs, according to Rolling Stone, possess 'the authority of the most primal kind of myth'.

30 review for Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kaila

    4/5 stars I'm finding it hard to rate this book, or even give my honest thoughts for it. I feel as if I'm rating someone's life events, as this is a biography, and that's a strange thing to do. There were times in which I admired Nick, but there were others in which I was scared for him and his behaviour, but that was his life and I don't want to judge the book by it. One things for sure, this book definitely didn't glamorise the 'rock and roll' lifestyle, but rather gave a raw and intriguing por 4/5 stars I'm finding it hard to rate this book, or even give my honest thoughts for it. I feel as if I'm rating someone's life events, as this is a biography, and that's a strange thing to do. There were times in which I admired Nick, but there were others in which I was scared for him and his behaviour, but that was his life and I don't want to judge the book by it. One things for sure, this book definitely didn't glamorise the 'rock and roll' lifestyle, but rather gave a raw and intriguing portrayal of Nick Cave's life. I found this to be a very interesting and compelling read, mostly because I'm such a fan of the artist so it was good to hear context to his songs and his life. I especially appreciated the use of interviews by band members and friends throughout the novel, making it seem like an honest portrayal of events. I really enjoyed this read, but I still feel quite apprehensive about rating it or judging its content. I was so excited when I found this book! I'm a huge fan of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so of course I had to buy this book. I'm not sure if someone who didn't know their music would have enjoyed this book because it was quite specific. In saying that, this book also dealt a whole lot with the music industry, rock and roll culture and music history. I'm not very knowledgable about music history, but this book made it easy to follow without information dumping. I'm really interested with how the entertainment world works, so the parts that dealt with the production side of music made me really intrigued. It's also interesting to compare the workings of this world from the 80s till now. Even though this is the biography of Nick Cave, it felt more like an evolution of him and his band. This wasn't necessarily a good or bad thing, especially since it ties well with the style of the book. There were a lot of interviews and quotes from various band members, producers and friends with the author, but none of Nick Cave. The only snippets of Nick Cave that we got were from other interviews conducted. I actually really liked this, because it gave many different perspectives of events. Sometimes there were two contrasting recounts if the same event, which really highlighted the differences of each and member and the direction that they were going. I think it was an interesting, outsider look into Nick Cave's life and what he was like to others. This book definitely doesn't romanticise the rock and roll or punk lifestyle. I know that these people didn't live the most pure life, but I wasn't expecting such a nefarious book. It was so interesting and dark, but then it hit me that these people actually lived like this and it feels kinda strange to have a dark enjoyment in their story. I think this was everything I was expecting from such a mysterious group of people, and more. Some parts of this book I did find quite slow and hard to chew, but I think that's only because it was a non-fiction biography. I'm not used to reading non-fiction, because I usually stick to fast aces books that I can read as fast as possible. The book definitely wasn't boring, it was actually the complete opposite. I was so intrigued in everything, the band, the music and the people. I especially loved it when they talked about a song that I've heard, and what actually went in behind it. I felt like I was apart of this weird inside joke in a way. This isn't exactly apart of the review, but I did find this very strange while I was reading. This book was written in the 90s, and Nick Cave has had a long career after this date. I feel weird thinking that I know more than he does about his life whilst I'm reading. Does that even make sense? Like, I'm reading about these people and their thoughts, but they don't even know what's coming in their lives, and I do. I'm really excited to read a biography of Nick Cave written later in his life. Perhaps then I'll feel less strange about it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    adrianna

    wiecie no fajnie się czytało o tym jak powstawały niektóre płyty słuchając ich, ale koleś ewidentnie nie umie pisać, tłumacz też schrzanił sprawę, a na prawie każdej stronie była literówka i ogólnie trochę się męczyłam

  3. 5 out of 5

    East Bay J

    I really love and appreciate and even respect Nick Cave as a singer and songwriter. I was really looking forward to reading Bad Seed to find out more about this guy, especially The Birthday Party. And, while Bad Seed is full of well researched information, there's something about Johnston's writing style that just doesn't deliver. I wouldn't say the book is boring or even difficult to get through but the writing is almost amateurish. I did feel like I got to know Cave a little better and what I r I really love and appreciate and even respect Nick Cave as a singer and songwriter. I was really looking forward to reading Bad Seed to find out more about this guy, especially The Birthday Party. And, while Bad Seed is full of well researched information, there's something about Johnston's writing style that just doesn't deliver. I wouldn't say the book is boring or even difficult to get through but the writing is almost amateurish. I did feel like I got to know Cave a little better and what I read certainly reinforced my impression of him as a truly unique individual, completely unaffected by the music industry or entertainment media. I love that he hates critics and identify with that thoroughly. Any time I read a music bio, I end up wanting to listen to the music discussed and reading Bad Seed showed just how little of Cave's work I have in my collection. The tales of The Birthday Party were pretty good and there was a great deal of attention paid to the events of Cave's life but this book comes off like a timeline that was fleshed out a bit for publication. The facts are here if not the fire. Having said that, I will definitely seek out and read Johnston's bio on The Cramps and I would recommend Bad Seed to fans of Cave, The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds alike. However, if I hadn't been so into the subject, I may not have enjoyed this book as much as I did.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    This bio was, so, so incredibly boring I could not even believe it; HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE NICK CAVE SO GODDAMN BORING????

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    2.5 ⭐️ This should be titled ‘Evolution to the Bad Seeds’ as it reads like a chronology of events taking the reader from formation of The Boys Next Door, through The Birthday Party to The Bad Seeds with a few personal events of evolving band members mixed in. It seemed to be missing so much essential matter to me; to be a biography of Nick Cave, it needed way more Nick. He is there, and I did glean a better understanding of him, but he’s a bit too obscured by a plethora of tour dates and album r 2.5 ⭐️ This should be titled ‘Evolution to the Bad Seeds’ as it reads like a chronology of events taking the reader from formation of The Boys Next Door, through The Birthday Party to The Bad Seeds with a few personal events of evolving band members mixed in. It seemed to be missing so much essential matter to me; to be a biography of Nick Cave, it needed way more Nick. He is there, and I did glean a better understanding of him, but he’s a bit too obscured by a plethora of tour dates and album releases, and a cast of extraneous characters. The narration also ends too abruptly on the release of Let Love In (maybe that’s what comes of a biography that ends when the subject is only 37 and his life events continue on). I did enjoy being side tracked to Nick’s early movie appearances and Bad Seeds’ sound track contributions, and the documentary ‘The Road to God Knows Where’ (available on YouTube) is great insight to The Bad Seeds on the road in early ´89) I have gained a huge appreciation for Mick Harvey, and the Nick Cave who emerged from rehab, but overall, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    If you're fascinated by endless song title lists and sets and the finest details of recording contracts, then this is the book for you. If you wanted to read something more akin to a story of someone's life, not mere vignettes of their worst moments, sandwiched between record industry tables, then go ahead and save your money for Nick Cave's actual novel And the Ass Saw the Angel or for his records.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This is the second time I read this book and I gave it three stars both times. Sometimes it seems really obvious that the book was written without Nick’s participation, though the author does manage to piece together a coherent story. The book ends in 1994 so there is a lot of information not covered here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brent Ecenbarger

    Prior to reading Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave, I was a bit of a Nick Cave fan. I own all of albums, 16 studio albums by the Bad Seeds, two by Grinderman, a few soundtracks by Cave and Warren Ellis, and a few Birthday Party records. I've read both of Cave's prose novels, And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Monroe, and bought and enjoyed the films he has written, particularly Lawless and The Proposition. I've seen Cave in concert twice, once in Chicago as part of the "Dig Laza Prior to reading Bad Seed: The Biography of Nick Cave, I was a bit of a Nick Cave fan. I own all of albums, 16 studio albums by the Bad Seeds, two by Grinderman, a few soundtracks by Cave and Warren Ellis, and a few Birthday Party records. I've read both of Cave's prose novels, And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Monroe, and bought and enjoyed the films he has written, particularly Lawless and The Proposition. I've seen Cave in concert twice, once in Chicago as part of the "Dig Lazarus Dig" tour, and again in Louisville for the "Push the Sky Away" tour. So, take the rest of my review with however main grains of salt because odds are you won't line up on the Cave fan spectrum at the same level as myself, for good or bad. That disclaimer out of the way, the biggest takeaway I had from reading Ian Johnston's book was that it was way to early in Cave's career to write any sort of a comprehensive biography. Johnson's book came out in 1995, which was prior to "Murder Ballads" being released. That's eight studio albums ago. That's before Grinderman was a band, and released two more. The most prolific collaborate or Nick Cave's career after Mick Harvey is Warren Ellis, who is not mentioned until page 302 (the book is 304 pages long). The book ends a decade before Cave published another novel or wrote his most successful films. So if you're looking for a book to discuss all of the amazing work in his career, this book will leave you with less than half of it. The strength of this book is as a a biography of The Birthday Party band, extensively documenting their early years, discography and breakup. This portion of the book is 150 pages, or roughly the first half. The following half gets into Nick Cave's sobriety and increasing artistry, but as already outlined it is certainly an unfinished story. The writing of the book is very detailed and features extensive quotes from people with firsthand knowledge of events. This ends up being the books greatest weakness however as well, as often Johnson will spends over a page quoting the same source and as a reader I would often lose track of who was recanting a story because a quote would go on for so long. It also seemed like for a work of scholarship the number of sources cited outside of interviews was on the low side. It's obvious Johnston agrees Cave is a genius, and I learned a lot about Cave's early years and the critical reception of Cave early in his career by reading this book. I also got more of an idea as to his creative process and the personnel on the classic Bad Seeds albums. Perhaps a part two in another twenty years will help finish where this book leaves off, as Cave was just getting started when this came out.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eleanore

    While a bit dry, it covers Nick's early days with The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party in great detail, as well as the formation of the Bad Seeds up through the release of "Let Love In," which was released shortly before the book. It only took me so long to finish thanks to the head cold that knocked me out for the past week, which basically turned my concentration to shit. I'd love to read anything as thorough on Cave's career for the past 20+ years; it's crazy to realize that he's been cr While a bit dry, it covers Nick's early days with The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party in great detail, as well as the formation of the Bad Seeds up through the release of "Let Love In," which was released shortly before the book. It only took me so long to finish thanks to the head cold that knocked me out for the past week, which basically turned my concentration to shit. I'd love to read anything as thorough on Cave's career for the past 20+ years; it's crazy to realize that he's been creating music for so long at this point that you'd need at least two books to cover it all up to this point.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne Williams

    I was really only familiar with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds so this gave me all the background and context for the Birthday Party years. I found it really useful and coupled with some youtube searches gave me an appreciation of the early years and maybe some insight into Nick Cave as a person. Amazing most of them lived to tell the tales.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    3.5 stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick Milinazzo

    While not terribly well-written, I would say this is still a *must* for any serious Nick Cave fan. Gives great insight into the music.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Miller

    Not exceptionally well written, structured or edited as well as it could be and Johnston's obvious love is the Birthday Party here but Bad Seed is still compulsively readable and easily devoured for Nick Cave fans. For those that came to NC in the 90s after his decade + of explosive nihilism was beginning to come in for a landing (of sorts) and the man of refinement and tailored suits was beginning to fully form, the early life and career of Nick Cave is a bit of shock. Pre-croon, pre strings, p Not exceptionally well written, structured or edited as well as it could be and Johnston's obvious love is the Birthday Party here but Bad Seed is still compulsively readable and easily devoured for Nick Cave fans. For those that came to NC in the 90s after his decade + of explosive nihilism was beginning to come in for a landing (of sorts) and the man of refinement and tailored suits was beginning to fully form, the early life and career of Nick Cave is a bit of shock. Pre-croon, pre strings, pre-piano ballad albums there was a raging, screaming demon of a youth trying to carve out a career in music and art in blood splatter, punk nihilism, dirty needles and wretched shooting gallery obliteration. It's a bit incredible that he survived to live a 2nd and 3rd act in life and headed strongly toward a 4th and final as a world wide star. The book is long and heavy on the debauched tales of Birthday Party era nihilism and vicious hi-jinx. Then the chapters seem to speed up as the albums go on and it ends at the completion of Let Love In. Commercial success and new artistic heights were just around the corner. At this point Let Love In is less than a half way point in Cave's career so to read Bad Seed now is to engage with a past artifact of sorts and certainly not one that has the vantage point of historical overview. But in some ways that also makes it an interesting read in that it is somewhat of the moment it writes about or at least closer to it. Much of the book is focused on Cave's epic, public battles with the press, their condescension and belittling of Cave at every turn and just how much the UK press meant to bands in the 80s. Cave's incredible life and legacy deserves a first rate biography but for now Bad Seed serves to throw on Henrys Dream or Junkyard, loud, late night, a greasy slice of pizza in one hand and a cheap beer in the other and pour through Johnston's tabloid tales of Cave's youthful overdoses and spitting, burning hatred of the whole world. In that, Bad Seed serves, fully.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Godzilla

    Whilst I approached this book as a fan of Nick Cave's work, there's always a fear that a biography will be either a smear job or a sycophantic fan's ramblings. This book is neither of those: it presents a timeline of Cave's work with a warts and all approach, balancing the good stuff with the character flaws. There are lots of direct quotes, both from Cave and his associates, making the book feel real and engaging. There are some wonderful insights into his methiods of wroking and how he diversifi Whilst I approached this book as a fan of Nick Cave's work, there's always a fear that a biography will be either a smear job or a sycophantic fan's ramblings. This book is neither of those: it presents a timeline of Cave's work with a warts and all approach, balancing the good stuff with the character flaws. There are lots of direct quotes, both from Cave and his associates, making the book feel real and engaging. There are some wonderful insights into his methiods of wroking and how he diversified into writing books and appearing in films. There are awkward moments throughout the book, but it deals openly and honestly with a complex character and how he has interacted with other talented individuals to produce a staggering body of work. Like him or not, anyone would have to concede that he's a prolific artist, who has battled through tough times (some of them self imposed granted!) to produce some startling music. The book has added a lot to my appreciation of his work.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    although this only covers up until the release of 'let love in,' the first 150 or so pages is pretty much everything you want to know about THE BIRTHDAY PARTY which is worth the price alone. its amazing that only tracey pew died but the music that the band made will never be equaled in its panic and klang and johnston does a great job of showing the increasing lack of barrier between cave the man and cave the singer. aside from the heroin, there are riots, fights, electrocutions, stolen cars, ex although this only covers up until the release of 'let love in,' the first 150 or so pages is pretty much everything you want to know about THE BIRTHDAY PARTY which is worth the price alone. its amazing that only tracey pew died but the music that the band made will never be equaled in its panic and klang and johnston does a great job of showing the increasing lack of barrier between cave the man and cave the singer. aside from the heroin, there are riots, fights, electrocutions, stolen cars, exploded cars, and some real insights out of some of the best music to come out of australia.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    This book is an enjoyable read. But the writing is a bit stilted, mostly due to the author composing the book largely out of long, often multi-paragraph quotes interspersed with his own descriptions and analysis of of the goings on in in the lives of Cave and his bandmates. The most jarring issue I had with Johnson's writing was the rather frequent insertion of seemingly unrelated anecdotes in the middle of descriptions of otherwise cohesive narratives. That said, I'd definitely recommend this b This book is an enjoyable read. But the writing is a bit stilted, mostly due to the author composing the book largely out of long, often multi-paragraph quotes interspersed with his own descriptions and analysis of of the goings on in in the lives of Cave and his bandmates. The most jarring issue I had with Johnson's writing was the rather frequent insertion of seemingly unrelated anecdotes in the middle of descriptions of otherwise cohesive narratives. That said, I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Cave's work.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nickstarfield

    This is a great biography. It gives a detailed account of Nick Cave’s musical journey from his early days in The Boys Next Door, to the wild years of The Birthday Party, up to his first ten years as frontman of the Bad Seeds. We too journey with him, traveling from Melbourne Australia, to London, Berlin, New York and San Paolo. This was a good read and an excellent way to give a listen to all his discography again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tomcat

    this book totally satiated... favourite scrap... great description of growing up melbourne, reminds me of my own pull towards sydney, phoenix & rollins: "...the work of his favourite painter at the time, brett whitely, seemed to offer some focus for his rebellious attitude towards moribund suburban melbourne. cave was intrigued by the intensity and diversity of the themes that the sydney-based painter included in his landscapes" this book totally satiated... favourite scrap... great description of growing up melbourne, reminds me of my own pull towards sydney, phoenix & rollins: "...the work of his favourite painter at the time, brett whitely, seemed to offer some focus for his rebellious attitude towards moribund suburban melbourne. cave was intrigued by the intensity and diversity of the themes that the sydney-based painter included in his landscapes"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I really hope that someday there will be an extensive and completely awesome biography of Nick Cave. Until then this book is lackluster, but much better than nothing. In case anyone is wondering, the timeline of this book begins with Cave's childhood and ends between the release of Let Love In and the very beginnings of Murder Ballads.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Bright yet functional account of a mythically fun modern rocker. Never escapes the 'and then the band started work on this album/ and then they went on tour/ but not before this happened' structure of the majority of rock biography, but the anecdotes themselves are funny and ridiculous enough to satisfy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Interesting subject and story. The biases of the author are fairly transparent, and he seems to have placed great reliance on one source in particular. Sadly, the book seems to have lacked much editorial oversight - bad grammar and misused words abound.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James Ricci

    Fortunately this text doesn't take away from the mythology of Cave. He is still every bit the gorgeous and mysterious creature he was before I picked the book up. It chronicles all releases up until 'Let Love In'. A fantasy drive, a post-punk western, sharp in the tooth and short on breath.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jan Jørgensen

    Jeg må komme med en ordentlige anmeldelse senere. man kan kun sige at den er fyldt med smæk lækre anekdoter og fortællinger. Jeg troede ikke at jeg var til biografier men den her bog har givet mig blod på tanden til at vide mere om mine ynglings musikere.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13651543 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13651543

  25. 4 out of 5

    David

    Enjoyable but felt it didn't get into the depths of this interesting creative force.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Early going for this book. Wanted to know more about this enigmatic musician and where he came from. I'll get more into it once I'm done with HOTEL CALIFORNIA.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    My love for Cave goes beyond the rational. That said, this book was entertaining, not overly sycophantic as celebrity bios tend to be, and very informative. It was over all too soon!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maj

  29. 5 out of 5

    William

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kaltsektion

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