- The Birthday Party (band)
Infobox musical artist
Name = The Birthday Party
Background = group_or_band
Years_active = 1977–1983
Missing Link Records, 4AD, Shock Records
The Boys Next Door Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Crime and the City Solution These Immortal Souls Honeymoon in Red
URL = http://www.thebirthdayparty.com.au/
Nick Cave Mick Harvey Tracy Pew Phill Calvert Rowland S. Howard
The Birthday Party was an
Australian post-punkgroup, active from 1977 to 1983.
Despite being championed by
John Peel, The Birthday Party found little commercial success during their career. But though often indirect, their influence has been far-reaching. They've been called one of "the darkest and most challenging post-punk groups to emerge in the early '80s." [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:bx1m967o3ep3~T1 All Music Guide] ]
While their early music was sometimes classified as
gothic rock, the band disdained the term, and their sound was very different from most goth music, closer to No Waveat the time. However, the Birthday Party did have an influence on deathrock, a genre of music related to gothic rock.
Despite their limited commercial success, the creative core of the Birthday Party have gone on to acclaimed careers:
singerand songwriter Nick Cave, multi-instrumentalist Mick Harveyand singer, songwriter and guitarist Rowland S. Howard.
The Boys Next Door
The nucleus of the band first met at the private boys school
Caulfield Grammar School(in suburban Melbourne) in the early seventies. A rock group was formed in 1973 with Nick Cave(vocals), Mick Harvey(guitar), and Phill Calvert(drums), with other students on guitar, bass and saxophone. Most were also members of the school choir. The band played under various names at parties and school functions with a mixed pre-punk repertoire of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Alice Cooperand the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, among others.
After their final school year in 1975 the band decided to continue with friend
Tracy Pewpicking up the bass. Greatly affected by the punk explosion of 1976 which saw Australian bands The Saints and Radio Birdmanmaking their first recordings and tours, The Boys Next Door, as they were now called, began performing fast original New Wave material in 1977. [ [http://www.messandnoise.com/articles/1301167 "Lethal Weapons" 30 Years On, by David Nicholls] ]
Rowland S. Howard joined in 1978, and about this time, the group's sound changed dramatically. The addition of Howard's guitar was certainly a catalyst (his later use of
audio feedbackbeing a hallmark of the group) but there were other changes, as well: their sound drew upon punk, rockabilly, free jazzand the rawest blues, but transcended concise categorisation. Many songs were driven by prominent, repetitive basslines and drumwork that sounded like an angry Gene Krupa. Though the band was tightly rehearsed, the instrumentalists often sounded as if they were on the verge of collapse, this quality only emphasising the newfound mania of Cave's singing, and his expressionistlyrics. In producer/engineer Tony Cohenthey found a willing accomplice to their experimentation and their refusal to repeat themselves; and in manager Keith Glass they found an enthusiastic financial backer. Glass' label Missing Link Recordsreleased all of the early Birthday Party records.
London and beyond
After recordings and moderate success in Australia (including hundreds of live shows) they headed for
Londonin 1980, changing their name to the Birthday Party and launching into a period of innovative and aggressive music-making. They resided in London, with trips back to Australia and tours through Europe and the U.S. before relocating to West Berlinin 1982.
Above the barely-controlled racket, Cave's vocals ranged from desperate to simply menacing and demented. Critics have written that "neither
John Calenor Alfred Hitchcockwas ever this scary," [ [http://trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=birthday_party Trouser Press] ] and that Cave "doesn't so much sing his vocals as expel them from his gut" [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:2sj20roal4aj All Music Guide] ] . Though Cave drew on earlier rock and roll shriekers; especially Iggy Popand Suicide's Alan Vega, his singing with the Birthday Party remains powerful and distinct.
Calvert was ejected in 1982; he was reportedly "unable to nail down the beats for 'Dead Joe' to everyone's satisfaction" [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=33:08jgtq4zzuhp All Music Guide] ] , and Harvey moved to drums. When Pew was jailed for
drunk drivingand petty theft also in 1982, Barry Adamsonand several others replaced him on records or live appearances. Pew rejoined the band, but died some years later during an epilepticseizure.
In 1982 a spin-off group with
Lydia Lunch, Honeymoon In Red, recorded an album which was eventually released in 1987. Harvey and Cave were reportedly so unhappy with the mixing and overdubbing done after their involvement, that they requested their names be withheld from its liner notes. Howard and Pew apparently had no objections to being credited by name.
Blixa Bargeldfrom the German band Einstürzende Neubautenplayed guitar on the track "Mutiny in Heaven", tension between Cave and Howard came to a head. The Birthday Party disbanded in 1984, due in part to the split between Cave and Howard, and work and drug-related exhaustion.
Legacy and influence
Several groups rose from the Birthday Party's ashes:
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds(featuring Cave, Harvey, Adamson and Bargeld), Crime and the City Solution(featuring Harvey and Howard, later just Harvey) and These Immortal Souls(featuring Howard). All of these bands shared a similar aesthetic, though perhaps they showed unequal deftness in expressing it.
Due in part to their legendary status and to the continuing success of
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party's back catalogue has been re-released on CD several times. In recent years Mick Harvey has overseen releases of rare or previously unissued recordings.
Rock acts that have cited The Birthday Party as an influence include
The Jesus And Mary Chain, Coil, My Bloody Valentine, Deerhunter, Cocteau Twins, The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, Melt-Banana, Big Boys, Dinosaur Jr., Billy Raygun, Tindersticks, The Horrors, The Witch Hats, Turn Pale, The Wahasand The Devastations.
Brooklyn, NY punk soul orchestra
The World/Inferno Friendship Societyquote the intro to "Sonny's Burning" in their song "Me V. Angry Mob" on the " Red-Eyed Soul" album.
U.S. Indie label
31G Recordshas released a tribute albumto The Birthday Party called "Release the Bats".
In October 2007 Cave alone was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, Cave took it upon himself to 'induct' the Australian members of the
Bad Seeds(including Harvey), plus Howard and Pew from The Birthday Party.
Some sources say the band took its name from the
Harold Pinterplay "The Birthday Party". [ [http://www.heathenworld.com/bandname/a-e.html Heathenworld.com] ] , others (including Ian Johnstone's Cave biography) state it was prompted by Cave mis-remembering or intentionally mis-attributing the name to a non-existent birthday party scene in the very lengthy Dostoevskynovel " Crime and Punishment".
;The Boys Next Door
* "Door, Door" (LP, 1979)
;The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party
* "The Birthday Party" (LP 1980). Originally credited to the Boys Next Door. Later re-released and attributed to The Birthday Party. Re-released on CD in 1988 with the band's early recordings, under the title "Hee Haw" (see below; not to be confused with the "Hee Haw" EP of 1979).
;The Birthday Party
Prayers on Fire" (LP, 1981)
* "Junkyard" (LP, 1982) [UK #73]
It's Still Living" (LP, 1985)
Best and Rarest" (LP, 1985)
* "Hee Haw" (CD, 1988)
Mutiny/The Bad Seed" (CD, 1989)
* "Hits" (CD, 1992)
Live 1981–82" (CD, 1999)
The John Peel Sessions" (CD, 2001)
ingles and EPs
;The Boys Next Door
These Boots Are Made For Walking/Boy Hero" (7" single, 1978)
* "Hee Haw" (EP, 1979)
Shivers/Dive Position" (7" single, 1978)
;The Birthday Party
Mr Clarinet" (7" single, 1980)
The Friend Catcher" (7" single, 1980)
* "Hee Haw" re-edition The Boys Next Door single as The Birthday Party (EP, 1980)
Nick the Stripper" (12" single, 1981)
Release the Bats" (7" single, 1981)
Drunk on the Pope's Blood/The Agony Is The Ecstasy" (12" EP; music by Lydia Lunchon one side)
* "The Bad Seed" (12" EP, 1983)
* "Mutiny "(12" EP, 1983)
The Peel Sessions" (12" EP, 1987)
* "The Peel Sessions" (12" EP, 1988)
Pleasure Heads Must Burn" (VHS, 1984)(DVD, 2003)
*"Inner City Sound",
Clinton Walker(Wild & Wooley, 1981; revised and expanded edition, Verse Chorus Press, 2005)
*"The Birthday Party & other epic adventures", Robert Brokenmouth (1995)
Clinton Walker( Pan MacMillanAustralia, 1996) ISBN 0-7329-0883-3
*"Bad Seed: A biography of Nick Cave", Ian Johnstone (1996) ISBN 0349107785
*"The life and music of Nick Cave: An illustrated biography", Maximilian Dax & Johannes Beck (1999) ISBN 3-931126-27-7
*"Kicking Against the Pricks: An Armchair Guide to Nick Cave", Amy Hanson (2005) ISBN 1-900924-96-X
*"Nick Cave Stories", Edited by Janine Barrand (2007)
* [http://www.thebirthdayparty.com.au/ The Birthday Party Official Site]
* [http://www.fromthearchives.com From The Archives] : a site with discography, concert history, videography, bibliography, etc. Also features
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Einstürzende Neubautenand related artists.
* [http://www.howlspace.com.au/en/boysnextdoor/boysnextdoor.htm Article on The Birthday Party] from [http://www.howlspace.com.au/ HowlSpace]
* [http://www.nick-cave.com/_discography_tbp.php The Birthday Party discography] from [http://www.nick-cave.com/ Nick Cave Online]
* [http://www.innercitysound.com.au/ Inner City Sound Website] : a site dedicated to Clinton Walker's book "Inner City Sound" which lists The Birthday Party and other alternative Australian bands of that era.
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