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“Nick is on his hands and knees… he crawls up to a large woman and bites her on the ankle…”
In March 1983 Nick Cave and Henry Rollins met one another for the first time at a gig by the Minutemen at Club Lingerie in Los Angeles: the two singers bonded over gig ‘war wounds’ – Cave remembers Rollins rolling up his trousers to show legs covered with cigarette burns caused by Black Flag fans stubbing out cigarettes on his shins – and their conversation that evening initiated a life-long friendship which endures 40 years on.
“We spent most time together when I was writing my novel in LA in 1984,” Cave recalled in a 1997 interview with The Independent. “I was there for about four or five months. He used to come around the house and do push-ups on our living-room floor, much to our delight. I’d be banging up speedballs while he was doing press-ups in the same room.
“I can’t really remember a lot of anecdotes,” Cave admitted. “All sorts of shit was happening in LA, we were getting up to things, but fuck knows what happened. I was taking enormous amounts of drugs, and I don’t remember a lot, to be perfectly frank. It was an insane period.”
Fortunately, with Henry Rollins being scrupulous about keeping a diary at the time, not all of his pal’s “insane” adventures in Los Angeles have been lost to history. In Get In The Van, the singer’s fascinating memoir documenting his time in Black Flag, Rollins details a July 1984 night out with Cave at the Australian Consulate in LA which was hosting a refined, sophisticated soirée celebrating the art of Australian film-makers. Cave fooled the organisers into inviting them to attend, but it would not take terribly long for the pair to be escorted from the building.
“The place was intense,” Rollins wrote in his diary. “Security all over the place. All these people dressed up, and then there was us. Nick had his bright green skintight Elvis outfit on. Looked like he hadn’t slept for a few days.”
At first, the interlopers contented themselves with eating and drinking as much free food and alcohol as they could lay their hands on, while lying through their teeth to fellow guests about who they were and why they were in attendance: “We gave them so much bullshit,” Rollins remembered. “They were so stuck up and polite that they had to take it.” But soon enough Cave began to up the ante.
“Nick went up to one woman and put his index fingers and thumbs together so they looked like a triangle,” Rollins recalled. “He looked through them at her and told her that he was looking to set up a shot and could she please stand still. He told her that the reason that he had his fingers like this was because he was the only director in the world to use triangular film. She asked him where he was from. He replied, ‘Nazi Germany’. She just stared and walked away to a group of people and pointed at us from afar.”
“Nick is drinking and eating grapes by the handful,” Rollins continued. “I talk to some old man who knows me. A few minutes later I look over and Nick is on his hands and knees crawling around on the grass. He crawls up to a large woman and bites her on the ankle. She bails. It looks like it’s time to go.”
Men “with wires coming out of their ears” move swiftly to eject the Cave-Rollins party, but not before Cave has stuffed his mouth with cheese, which he will later hurl at passing motorists “as a symbol of my discontent.”
As far as we’re aware, Cave was rather better behaved when attending the coronation of King Charles III in London two weeks ago.
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A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne’s private jet, played Angus Young’s Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.
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