All of which is partly an excuse to tell you about my favourite Nick Cave song, since it’s sadly ineligible for Backed with. ‘Gates to the garden’ sees Nick ghosting round the mean streets of my old home town – ‘the bell from St. Edmunds informs me of the hour’ – which would be a surprising place to find the leader of the Bad Seeds but for the fact that his poetically mortal sensibility has him making a beeline from the Angel hotel to the cathedral cemetery. There he muses on the ‘fugitive fathers, sickly infants, decent mothers, runaways and suicidal lovers’ beneath the ground, lying ‘in unlucky rows, up to the gates of the garden’ until it’s time to meet someone who’s very much alive at those gates, which will take the couple through to the Abbey Gardens, leaving the listener behind with barely a glimpse of the paradise beyond, and only the angels and the dead for company.
With its graceful sway of ebony notes and hints of cathedral organ, such a contrast to the carefree abandon of its near relation, the Smiths’ ‘Cemetery gates’, Nick suggests enough to allow the listener, should he or she strain hard enough, to see the garden’s central circle of perfectly-planted flower beds, the skyward pointing fingers of the ruins of the monastery, and the geese and ducks gathering for bread beneath the bridge over the River Lark. They might even see me meeting a girl for the first time there, or cider-drunk miscreants throwing a bench into the fish pond in the dead of night. Closer observation still will yield the bank of shrubs planted by none other than my friend Robert, and as the song fades, muddy under the tape onto which Nick Cave has recorded his song, those with excellent hearing will be able to discern a fleeting glimmer of the young Jack Boulter singing ‘Angel Hill’.