Nicholas Edward Cave was born in 1957 in Warracknabeal, 180 miles north-east of Melbourne, his father Colin was a teacher and his mother Dawn a librarian and they were a typical middle-class family, Nick had two older brothers, Tim and Peter and a younger sister Julie. The family relocated to Wangaratta in 1959 and his parents took up positions at the local high school, Nick sang in the local church choir but did not distinguish himself, he was fast becoming a disruptive influence at school and felt distant from his father, he was expelled at the age of 13 in 1970 and commenced as a boarder at Caulfield Grammar (Melb) in 1971.His bad behaviour at school continued, he was an aggressive, violent and scary extrovert, only showing interest in English literature and art, his parents ultimately relocated to Aidry Road, Caulfield and Nick became a day pupil at Caulfield Grammar. At school he felt oppressed and alienated but he did connect with several other third form students there who would join him on his musical journey – Mick Harvey, Tracy Pew, Phil Calvert and briefly John Cochivera . After several name changes the group would become became the Boys Next Door, their musical influences were emerging punk groups including MC5, The Stooges, The New York Dolls, the Ramones, and later the Sex Pistols.
In 1975 Cave would leave Caulfield Grammar (impromptu class photograph of Cave above) and transfer his boredom, frustration, anger, nihilism and anti-authoritarian demeanour to a Fine Arts course at Caulfield Technical College, where between interminable drinking sessions he showed promise as an expressionistic artist, but ultimately the relationship with his lecturers became adversarial, and he quit the course in 1977, later remarking in 1987 “I think it was my two very unrewarding years at art college that were my training in hatred for all critics.” The Boys Next Door played their first gig as a punk band at an Ashburton church hall in 1977 which descended into chaos when skinheads invaded the premises, they lacked technical skills and Cave’s vocals were underwhelming, but they were getting noticed. At their next gig at Swinburne Technical College in August of the same year, their set was a curious mix of blues (I Put A Spell on You), mod rock (My Generation) and pop (These Boots Are made For Walkin’), here they met fellow art student Howard S Roland (above) who was then with a group known as the Young Vagabonds. Roland would join the Boys next Door, in what would become their definitive line-up, Nick Cave (vocals), Howard Roland (guitar), Mick Harvey (guitar), Tracy Pew (bass), and Phil Calvert (drums). Roland also introduced Cave to 17-year-old art student Anita Lane (below), the chemistry between them was instant, she dropped out of art school and her and Cave dabbled in drugs, and adolescent vandalism, graduating from spraying graffiti and smashing telephone boxes, to stealing cars and joyriding, they would remain together until 1983.The Melbourne music scene at the time was dominated by pub rock-orientated bands like the Sports, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, and the Sharks, and mainstream pop acts – Sherbet, Skyhooks, Air Supply, and the Little River Band. But Mushroom Records were keen to cash in on the new wave /punk scene and created Suicide as a subsidiary label, signed up Teenage Radio Stars (who would later become the Models), The Boys Next Door and others, Barry Earl became their manager and Skyhooks bassist Greg Macainsh their producer, neither of these relationships gelled with the band and Les Karsky was brought in to replace Macainsh, several tracks were recorded which would form part of the band’s debut album Door Door.In 1978 Nick’s father Colin was killed in car accident, by this time Cave was injecting heroin and amphetamine sulphate and becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable at live performances, a third producer, Tony Cohen (below) was assigned to work with the band. Cohen was young, like-minded, used drugs, and preferred musical experimentation to standard rock music tropes, and he would develop a long-term relationship with the band, even though the debut album, Door Door, failed to transfer the violence and anarchy of the band’s live gigs to vinyl, when released in 1979. The standout track was Shivers, written by guitarist Howard S Roland at age 16, when he was with the post-punk Melbourne band the Young Charlatans, it was a slow new wave ballad recorded at Alan Eton Studios and Richmond Recorders in Melbourne in 1979, and lifted off their debut album.Shivers explores themes of suicide and angsty teenage relationships and was infused with a cynical humor, that Roland felt was lost in the gravitas of the vocal interpretation by Nick Cave. Discussing the song’s origins Howard said – “Shivers was intended as an ironic comment on the way that I felt, people I knew were making hysterical things out of what were essentially high school crushes. It’s the only song people ever come up to me and talk about … they tell me some anecdote about how it saved their lives. It was larger than life in its melodrama to affect people like that.”
The irony and sarcasm that Roland had intended to convey evaporated once the future Black Crow King uttered the opening lines “I’ve been contemplating suicide/ But it really doesn’t suit my style/ So I think I’ll just act bored instead/ And contain the blood I would’ve shed,” in what would become his familiar melodramatically theatrical style.
Roland has said that “…the group did have a pop sensibility in those days,” but ironically it was about musical differences that Cave and Mick Harvey would clash with Rowland, and see him leave the band, despite the fact that at this time it was Howard’s innovative guitar playing and arrangements that had broadened the scope of the band’s sound, but at the same time it highlighted the huge differences between his songs and those that Cave was writing.
A promotional video was made by two Swinburne Tech College film students Paul Goldman and Evan English which was screened locally and received positive reviews, Cave emerges from shadow into a spotlight to grip the mic and intones the opening lyrics, he is dressed in wing collar shirt and cravat, which gives him a slightly Edwardian look, his delivery is passionate, even tortured, and his hand gestures are Bryan Ferryesque. It was simple but effective, even though Cave came to hate the song and has described their debut album thus “It reeks of a band trying to be musically intelligent and write clever witty lyrics. It’s a complete wank” The fans agreed, the single never charted and the album limped to #93 and disappeared after 4 weeks, by 1980 the band had relocated to England.
Pub rockers Screaming Jets delivered a creditable cover of the song in 1993 and didn’t stray too far from the original Nick Cave/Howard Roland template, it charted #19 when lifted from their second album Tear of Thought, the song also featured on the soundtrack of the Michael Hutchence movie Dogs In Space, in 1986, and has also been covered by Marie Hoy and Courtney Barnett.