Nick Cave’s Albums: Murder Ballads (1996)

So have you heard the good news? NC is saying it’s time to record a new album! What’s he/them going to do next? I guess, we’ll see/hear sometime next year!

Anyway here’s my next post following this one linked here, just about another one Cave album, maybe one of his most well-known? I’m following the next one on YouTube Bad Seed Teevee listen a-long thingy, which was the Murder Ballads by Nick Cave & The Bad Seed of 1996. Which seems he’s now doing a whole brand new record that might be the last of those thing? A few interesting things popped by the main four members. Nick named a couple more songs that inspiration which maybe, he could have given credited to before? Blixa didn’t say much other that “I’m listening” I think, many fans wanted a bit more from him or something? But I just found it very funny because it’s called a “listen a-long” so that’s what BB was doing, just listen, typing that! I guess, he did elaborate by saying he’s never listened to this album after their finishing recording. Had to keep typing he was “listening” but he did say the flow of insane comments down the side of that website made him dizzy. Before that I think, it was Mick Harvey saying that thing was giving him headache or something like that? NC typed pretty much while every single song was playing they’re “fucked-up” at some point. Warren Ellis did join in as well, after Nick made even more beard jokes. I don’t know, if Harvey was joking or serious about him wanting to re-joining the band but maybe it was only because fans would liked that idea? Cave didn’t type anything about that at all, not surprising at all! I guess, I do miss both Mick and Blixa in The Bad Seeds but totally love what they’re doing right now so it doesn’t matter but some fans just love that older line-up above everything else. Woz did even say something about they should do original/early NC&TBS line-up reunion tour but didn’t say the only problem is zero tours happening at the moment or anytime soon, most likely! Mick was pretty great at remember who played want on which track? But he was always great like that! Nick says Kylie was invited to join them too but didn’t so he say maybe she was just watching/listening? The three video clips were shown and the non-video clips songs had pretty cool lyrics with animated album cover type of thing going on. If you missed it? That’s kind-of what happened, I was trying note down what the four Bad Seeds members were saying than typing shit in comments bit but I’m typing a whole pile of shit about it now! Hope someone out there enjoys it?

If you don’t wanna press over and over below, get your own copy out if you have one or here’s Spotify link here. If anyone is interested? I still have my old 90’s Digipak with red CD which is pretty beat-up by now, it looks like this on Discogs website linked here. Also only a few years ago got it on vinyl which is color of blue & yellow opaque split but the tracklisting was in a different/wrong order too, that’s on Discogs link here. Did have it on cassette tape in the dark past but that was eaten by one of my car’s tape deck at some point? Sorry to say never did get the 2011 CD/DVD reissue of this one but I did updated some of my more fave NC&TBS albums and I think, that’s my buying copy’s of Murder Ballads in whatever years that is? That’s three copy’s in three different formats is pretty good, I think? Does anyone care about that type of thing? When did you get your own copy, do you even remember that? Can you tell different of one copy to the next? Does anyone care out there, I don’t know? Anyway now I can make a whole long blog post embedding all the songs, also including older Traditional songs or what inspired them plus my own favorite three MB covers too:

Opening song is Song of Joy which NC say his inspiration on that listen a-long was May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister by Charlie Poole. Both O’Malley’s Bar and Song of Joy was recorded at the pervious album session of 1994’s Let Love In album but were not included because someone came up with idea of whole album of murder so seems fitting one of them is how it kicks off:

Second song is Stagger Lee is the first of a couple of traditional songs on this album but off course the words was re-written very heavily. Plus the music co-written credited is given to all the Bad Seeds members. The only Murder Ballads number that’s really became a very popular live favorite, everything else has been dropped from setlists along ago. Some fans ask why don’t they play more these albums tracks live? Not that they gave any kind-of answer, to that question! The song has become a live fave, even ending shows or encores and easy this album’s song I’ve seen the most live, off course!

As far as I known the very first recorded of this song was in 1923 by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians titled as Stack O’ Lee Blues which is an instrumental but was off course, was around far early than that and many others have gone on to record covers of it. Briefly here are just a few: Ma Rainy in 1926 as Stack O’ Lee Blues, Frank Hutchison in 1927 did his as Stackalee which that’s the one included in Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. Mississippi John Hurt recorded his in 1928 as Stack O’Lee, Woody Guthrie in 1941 as Stackolee, Lloyd Price had a big hit single with it in 1958 as Stagger Lee, Wilson Pickett also had Stagger Lee as a hit single in 1967, James Brown also did it in 1967, The Clash in 1979 as Wrong ‘Em Boyo, Bob Dylan did his version of Stack A Lee in 1993, The Black Keys did it as Stack Shot Billy in 2004 etc. I’m also embedded the earliest known recording with words by Ma Rainy. My fave “newer” cover embedded is by Aussie band Magic Dirt which is closest to the NC&TBS version of Stagger Lee of 2006 and off course the video clip with Cave wearing that Take That loves you pink t-shirt:

Third track is Henry Lee duet with PJ Harvey is next traditional song on this album so here’s a very brief history of that song: sometimes entitled Young Hunting, Love Henry, The Proud Girl, Earl Richard and has been covered by Dick Justice from 1929 which was included on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music released in 1952, Judy Henske did her Love Henry in 1964, Bob Dylan did his Love Henry in 1993 so that means his album World Gone Wrong had both Stack A Lee and Love Henry too, Jolie Holland did great version of Love Henry in 2008 maybe some others but way less compared to Stagger Lee. Seen it performed live but not as a duet, just Nick singing the whole himself once or twice. Here’s NC & PJ video clip and Dick Justice:

The fourth is Lovely Creature is the second and last song Cave co-written with almost all The Bad Seeds with Blixa Bargeld, Martyn P. Casey, Mick Harvey and Thomas Wydler. It’s Katharine Blake of the goth band Miranda Sex Garden on the backing vocals, it’s Terry Edwards from Gallon Drunk plays Horns and Mick Harvey playing the “Wind” Organ making what someone at the listen a-long was asking what’s that weird wind sound?

Fifth is Where the Wild Roses Grow featuring Kylie Minogue on vocals but do love the Blixa Bargeld version better, if you want to know? Maybe because I’ve seen them do it live once! The best cover of this song I think, is by Chicks on Speed / Kreidler which the genders are reversed by the vocalists so the male sing Kylie’s bit:

Sixth song is The Curse of Millhaven on the listen a-long NC say they’re trying to make TV show based on this song, also he was saying his couple of novels And the Ass Saw the Angel of 1989 and The Death of Bunny Munro of 2009 are in the works being made into TV shows but I guess, we’ll see if they make it into production? I would love to see all three of them but somehow I find it very unlikely! Warren Ellis gets his next Bad Seeds album credit after a couple of tracks on 1994 Let Love In album playing both Violin and Accordion, on the listen a-long he say he was “on speed” while recording this song. Gotta point out the second guitar was played by Hugo Race who was an earliest Bad Seeds member re-joining them, who a lot forget about him? I think, it was the album’s co-producer Tony Cohen who named The Moron Tabernacle Choir which was credited as the backing vocalists, members were Astrid Munday, Brian Hooper, Clare Moore, Conway Savage, Dave Graney, Geraldine Johnston, Ian Johnston, James Johnston, Katharine Blake, Martyn P. Casey, Nick Cave, Rowland S. Howard, Spencer P. Jones, Thomas Wydler and Warren Ellis.

Seventh is The Kindness of Strangers is my favorite song on the whole album by far and very easily. It’s the words in reverse of 1986’s Strangers Then Kindness co-written by Anita Lane & Blixa Bargeld which Cave says is his fave Bad Seed song of all-time. Ten years later came this track, crying is done by Anita Lane who was NC ex-gf plus the additional backing vocals is by Mariella Del Conte, who’s worked mainly with Hugo Race’s bands. I’ve been including three of greatest or my own fave Murder Ballads covers so here’s the last one! By Marissa Nadler from comp various artist album entitled Todo Muere Volume 4 of 2014:

Eighth is Crow Jane inspiration NC pointed out on that listen a-long was Skip James song with the very same title. The NC words to Crow Jane were published in his first book of lyrics called King Ink in 1988. Martyn P. Casey has a co-writing credit for that groovy bass line!

Ninth was O’Malley’s Bar which was the first to be recorded for this album. MH pointed out on the listen a-long the first recording was as kind-of mini-Seeds with only Harvey on bass, Wydler played drums and Cave does piano and sings plus then organ was done by Conway Savage but was added later. Is 14 and half mins. long, there was more verses but it got edited down to this “shorter” version, you know?

Final or closing track is Death Is Not The End was written by Bob Dylan in 1988. This cover featuring on vox with Nick Cave was Anita Lane, PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue, Shane MacGowan, Thomas Wydler and Blixa Bargeld. Gotta say on bass is Brian Henry Hooper which I think, it was Ellis who remind everyone on the listen a-long about that fact. From these sessions it’s Hoops, Conway Savage, Rowland S. Howard, Spencer P. Jones and album’s co-producer Tony Cohen who are the ones no longer with us:

The Murder Ballads B-sides included in my little/long post as extra bonus songs. I think, it was Mick Harvey asked if they were going to play the B-sides? I would say, these four B-sides are better than most of the songs on the album, well that’s just my opinion but I might be wrong? I totally love to death The Ballad of Robert Moore and Betty Coltrane song, at least that one should have be on this album. It seems someone has made a video clip of it, funny badly acting out what is sung about but they need a bit more fake blood thrown about:

The Willow Garden is a traditional song sometimes called Rose Connelly. Bad Seeds cover is sung by keyboard player Conway Savage plus was NC inspiration for writing Where the Wild Roses Grow too. I do remember seeing them play this one live with NC on lead vox at the Big Day Out fest in 96. In 2015 Mark Kozelek recorded a couple of version his own cover of this very same song as Down In The Willow Garden, I love the longer second one best:

King Kong Kitchee Kitchee Ki-Mi-O is yet another traditional song covered by NC&TBS that was on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music was done by Chubby Parker & His Old Time Banjo. Sometimes the song called Frog Went a-Courting which has been covered by a lot of artists too:

Knoxville Girl is yet another traditional song, that’s English indie rock band Gallon Drunk’s James Johnston on acoustic guitar who was briefly a touring member of Bad Seeds in 90’s for America’s Lollapalooza tour and then rejoined again again in mid-2000’s around the times of Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus album. Let’s also included The Louvin Brothers version of 1956:

Extra extra bonus songs, revisiting the album’s songs with some of the best live versions I can find on YouTube too: Stagger Lee at Austin City Limits in 2014, now at almost ten mins long with extra bit added about killing the Devil:

Both NC & PJ on English TV show White Room doing Henry Lee together in 1996:

Where The Wild Roses Grow at Glastonbury only last year in Kylie’s set in the middle of the day, she should have been headliner:

The Curse of Millhaven which was the encore on DVD called God Is In The House recorded at Le Transbordeur Lyon, France on 8th June 2001. Cave intro each member who they then do some of the worst/bad solos ever played, I think Jim Sclavunos’ triangle solo is at least the funniest!

Death Is Not The End is going to be my closing song today from MTV most wanted show with the vocals shared by Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue, Shane MacGowan & Blixa Bargeld from 1995. Which they do like to re-playing this live version on Bad Teevee a lot so why not end my little/long post with it?

The SBS TV channel here in Australia back in 2008 made a doco all about Murder Ballads album in the second and final series entitled Great Australian Albums, here’s imdb page about which doesn’t have much really. I did re-watch after the listen a-long and is pretty good viewing includes interviews with Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, Kylie Minogue, Conway Savage, Martyn P. Casey, co-producer Tony Cohen and Dave Graney etc. So might as well included here in my post because someone has uploaded it too YouTube, you might want to watch it too? Edit: looks like it’s been taken down because of copyright, sorry! Maybe, you can find it somewhere else or on DVD?

Well, Mute Records remastered reissue of the record in 2011 bonus disc talking heads short film called Do You Love Me Like I Love You Part 9: Murder Ballads is on YouTube. The most interesting interviews are Blixa Bargeld, Mick Harvey, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos, James Johnston, Terry Edwards, co-producer Victor Van Vugt and then some people who did the backing vocals who just seem to be their friends who some are musos and some are not but just happened to be visiting the studio to see them. A whole pile of fans have something to say too but the superfan Annie Clark aka St. Vincent bit is pretty cool too. Here it is so watch it before it’s taken down too:

Gotta pointing here this was one of the last album’s he’s recorded in Australia, 2003’s Nocturama was the last one, so far! I always wonder if you can still call him an Aussie? Yeah, he was born here, grown-up here but the last time he lived here was when he was a teenager and how old is he now? He’s an expat at the best, I guess? American drummer Jim Sclavunos was official named a Bad Seed on this album as the newest member too! Was the ninth album of NC&TBS, what else? Oh yeah, killing or death count is 65 on the album but 75 if you count the B-sides which I do, off course!

Sorry to say but I would rated it as one of NC&TB worst album ever! Well, I’m still not giving it a score or anything but it’s bottom of a huge pile of work and yeah, I know it had a huge hit single and is still is their highest selling albums of all-time or something like that? Off course, the worst by him/them is still pretty bloody great compared to just about everyone else! I’ll say or explain a little more the novelty of a whole album just about murder didn’t last long for me at all, do you know what I mean? I know some fans love it so much and can rave on and on about and yeah, I guess I’ve put together this whole post about it so you could say I’m going on and on about it because it’s really a very, very long post!

BTW a whole book just about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads album is soon to be published or just been published by the mini books on album series entitled 33 1/3 written by Santi Elijah Holley and it’s their 151th volume, linking it here. I’ll most likely buy/read that but haven’t got a copy yet!

The main feature image below, as you can see is NOT the front album cover but but NC with book called American Murder Ballads and Their Stories written by Olive Woolley Burt which was published 1958, I’ve never seen/read it but linking goodreads’ page about it here. Who has read it?

NC reading American Murder Ballads book!
The Bad Seeds Teevee listen a-long flyer!

That’s very long post and I think, will be my very last before Xmas, it’s a very jolly/merry subject matter so if I don’t get back before then happy holidays to everyone! Please feel free to add anything you like about the Murder Ballads album below, like wanna tell me what’s your own favorite song from it is?

Cheers! 🙂



  1. This was fascinating William. I’d heard quite a fair few of these but not ‘O Malley’s bar’. Shit, I’m never, ever going there. It caught my ear how there was a Bellows surname in that song and ‘Kindness of Strangers’. And what a performance of Stagger Lee at the end, with that extra verse about the Devil. Cracking stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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