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Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Bleddyn Butcher: A Little History – Nick Cave and Cohorts, 1981 – 2013

  by Melanie Smith

published: 14 / 11 / 2014

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Bleddyn Butcher: A Little History – Nick Cave and Cohorts, 1981 – 2013


Melanie Smith is impressed by Bleddyn Butcher's new book of photography which documents Nick Cave's career from the early 1980s to the present time

This is a dazzling photography book, which documents the work of an esteemed rock photographer; the subject is Nick Cave, with his various musical buddies. Bleddyn Butcher has been documenting Cave's career for more than thirty years. He was born in the UK, but, now living in Australia, his work was featured in the 'NME' in the 1980s where he captured the high profile bands of the era. Photography is the perfect format to document a time, place, occasions and emotions; and this is exactly what Bleddyn manages to capture in his book of photographs of Nick Cave and his cohorts. They resonate so heavily on Cave that he says of the book “these photographs have become the props around which my memories collect.” There is no more clarification or praise required. This says it all! Let's start with the actual book cover. It is in large format, a stunning black and white photograph of a very handsome young Nick, staring into the camera lens with his soulful eyes, an appropriately moody expression, and his long black hair slicked back. It was taken in London at the Averard Hotel, Bayswater on 03/10/87. I’d buy the book alone for this image and it certainly represents the great quality within. The foreword is by Sean O’ Hagan, where he attempts to explain the appeal of Butcher's photography and his subject matter. Butcher first witnessed Cave in the wildness of the post punk band, the Birthday Party in 1981 and this is where the book begins. It opens with some stunning black and white photographs capturing those heady days using his old Nikon F2AS (pre DSLR). This book captures the various moments in time, from portraits, live shots, snapshots in candid moments, in the studio, band rehearsals, and of, course, throughout the process we observe Cave literally emerging into one of the greatest artists of our generation. What a great opportunity for any photographer, and it appears that Butcher became more than a little obsessed from that first moment when he shot the Birthday Party. It became the catalyst for the remaining years where he diligently followed their career, and in doing so, as the book says, made a little history. Whether this was the intention or not I am unclear, but for me he has certainly captured the excitement of the many aspects of Cave’s musical career. Sadly some of the former band members are no longer here to tell their tales - Roland S Howard (guitarist with TBP) lost his life to liver cancer in 2009, Tracy Pew (bassist for TBP) died at the age of 28 of a brain haemorrhage in 1986, Roland Wolf who played keyboards on ‘Tender Pray’ died in a car crash in 1995. They are all featured here, plus other photographs such as the now disgraced Rolf Harris, meeting Bob Dylan, Kylie Minogue, a surprising meeting with Mark E. Smith and Pogues front man Shane MacGowan in 1989. I love the way Nick and others are obviously so at ease around Butcher. This is the secret to a great photographer - making your subject feel they are in good hands. On some key photos we have personal stories, on how he got the shot, which made the photos come to life. There are conversations with Nick and comments such as Nick confessing he would gladly give up his talent for writing songs if he could paint like Raphael. I would have liked to read more of these short stories within the book, as there are a few blank pages, which could have opened themselves up for some text, but that is my only gripe. My personal favourites are in those more private moments, the non musical themed photos, where you can look into the photograph in more depth, look at the surroundings. What does he have on the wall. What art does he like? What are the strips of human hair behind him? I like playing the voyeur - take this shot below for example - Nick in his one room apartment in West Berlin on 03/08/85. The book has been released around the same time as the award winning spectacular documentary movie ‘20,000 Days On Earth’, and Cave is now hot news. He is such a cool musician, very relevant to our times, he is both creative and intelligent, and in fact this book would be the perfect accompaniment to the DVD. None of this would be possible without the photography skills of Bleddyn Butcher, it’s a solid piece of work which documents everything that is exciting about music photography, with both nostalgic black and white images and colour. If you are a Nick Cave fan this book has to be an essential purchase, stunning photography throughout, poetically endorsed by Nick Cave, what are you waiting for – go and welcome this book into your arms! “Soul-stealer and dream-catcher – here he comes then – with his book of rescued moments” – Nick Cave

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Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Bleddyn Butcher: A Little History – Nick Cave and Cohorts, 1981 – 2013

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