The Triffids | 30/05/08

Image: Nick Cave

AT EASTER IN 1990, I attended a massive Aussie Diaspora picnic in Peaslake, Surrey. I don't know why. I was probably drunk. Dave McComb was there. He was definitely drunk. As Peaslake, Surrey is in England, it rained. As it was an Australian picnic, which by definition means a lot of alcohol and no food, we got drunker. By the time we were helped into the back of the van to go back to London we were Singing-drunk. Singing-drunk is mid-way between hugging-drunk and fightingdrunk. It is the station that the Irish and the Aussies stop at for a while and the English go screaming past. Dave and I sang to each other.

These were the songs:

Maxwell's Silver Hammer, I Threw It All Away, Walk On By, This Guy's In Love, Leaving On A Jet Plane, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Lemon Tree, On Top Of The World, Georgie Girl, Thunder Road, Blue Moon, California Dreaming, Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft, Say A Little Prayer, The Boxer, Suspicious Minds, Kentucky Rain, Bird On A Wire, Morningtown Ride, Cecilia, Yesterday, Anything Goes, What?ll I Do, Last Night (I Didn't Get To Sleep At All), Close To You, Belle Isle, Tonight, I'll Be Staying Here With You

We know this because the next morning Dave, weirdly, made a list. Dave was a list-maker: girls I have loved, books I have read, Indian meals I have regretted. I remember marvelling, in the back of that van, at Dave?s capacity, not only to remember lyrics, but to sing in tune. This was brought painfully home to me when I started up 'California Dreaming' and Dave asked (not unkindly) what key he should sing the backing vocals in. Then an argument ensued over the lyric, "I got down on my knees and pretend to pray". I was wrong. Dave was right. And then we got fighting-drunk until Dave launched into the magnificent 'Calling Occupants'and made everything all right. As I got to know him better, I realised that his abilities extended far beyond the norm. He actually did have the capacity to telepath messages through the vast unknown, if songs can be telepathy. Like many of the songs we sang that first day, his own songs call from the strangest places and at the oddest hours. Whether calling from the baking salt pans of the West Australian desert or the darks of a broken heart, whether praying or pretending to pray, their gist is hopeful and brave: "We are your friends", say the songs. Interplanetary, ultra-emissary and quite extraordinary friends.

Nick Cave
June 2006