I think I first heard The Birthday Party when they were still called The Boys Next Door. If memory serves, I heard the “Hee Haw” 12” EP being played in a small record store in London, England – probably fall ‘79. I wrote to whatever address that could be found in Australia – only to be told, “They’re in England now”.
I wrote to the address I had been given in England – thanking them for their wonderful music, and asking what “The Hair Shirt” was about etc. Well, ‘they’ wrote back! Likely, it was Nick Cave doing the writing, though I eventually started receiving letters from Mick Harvey (at least signed by him). We wrote to each other for a few years, back and forth – them inviting me to gigs I could never attend, and me regaling them with my adventures in New Zealand.
The cold winds blew – and eventually, they were scheduled to come to Los Angeles, and play at The Roxy theatre. I showed up, got Nick’s attention (if that was at all possible) while he was on stage, and met them after the show (which was overpoweringly forceful). They were in L.A. for a few days – we made plans to ‘hang out’. I believe they were staying at a small hotel on the Sunset Strip that is no longer there.
The following night, I took everybody (except Rowland S. Howard) out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd., then to a party in Silver Lake at the home of a member of Devo. Later on, I remember talking to Nick at length about how he recorded his vocals, how much he liked Berlin…all of them – Tracy Pew, Mick Harvey, Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard – they all signed my records. I noticed later that they even signed my records for the person who was no longer in the band (my Phil Calvert signatures were likely courtesy Mick Harvey?)
I never quite got in line with Nick Cave’s solo career. I ran into him at LAX towards the end of the 80’s – and he remembered me. “Hi, Nick!” “Er, Hi….Ron….” But his legend continued to grow in stature. I remember impressing some new wave folks with my many Nick Cave / Birthday Party handwritten lyrics, autographs etc.
Years and years later – I don’t remember who it was, but I casually mentioned that I ‘knew’ Nick Cave – and the person I mentioned it to was completely shocked. “You know Nick Cave?” Yes, I do. I bet Old Nick would still remember me – though perhaps not in the mighty crowd of his present-day long-term admirers.
But once upon a time, I was just about the only person on Earth who was writing to a struggling Australian band called The Birthday Party as they waited around London to play their next gig….or record their next album. Mick Harvey would definitely remember me.
R.I.P., Tracy Pew and Rowland S. Howard – they were both nice guys to me. I think the site of Tracy Pew on stage wearing his cowboy hat was just about the funniest thing I had ever seen on a stage on L.A. at that time.
Photo of Nick Cave on stage at The Roxy in L.A. by Ron Kane