Het lot nog eens geholpen om mijn Birthday Party op te vrolijken. Als Covid-19 een themalied had gekozen, het had dit kunnen zijn.

Vrij accurate beschrijving van de explosie die The Birthday Party was (bestond al vanaf 1973 met Nick Cave en Mick Harvey als “The Boys Next Door”, maar veranderde van naam toen hun sound gevonden werd door Roland S. Howard als gitarist in te lijven en naar Londen te verkassen in 1980): “Above the barely-controlled racket, Cave’s vocals ranged from desperate to simply menacing and demented. Neither John Cale nor Alfred Hitchcock was ever this scary, and Cave doesn’t so much sing his vocals as expel them from his gut

De groep geraakte niet verder dan een underground invloed, maar die invloed bleek later dan wel heel aanzienlijk, niet in het minst door de lancering van Nick Cave met zijn Bad Seeds na het uiteenspatten van de groep in 1983. Ook de andere leden vormden nog groepen die een tijd meegingen: Crime & the City Solution (met Mick Harvey en Roland S. Howard) en These Immortal Souls (met Roland S. Howard).

Release the Bats werd opgenomen in 1981 met procuder Nick Launay (die eerder PiL’s Flowerd of Romance had gedaan): “I first met them [The Birthday Party] when they turned up at the Townhouse Studio. I had managed to get cheap studio time in Studio Two, after midnight only, which suited them perfectly. They arrived with their gear at about eleven and I remember the receptionist calling me and saying ‘I think your band has arrived – at least, they look like one of your bands. Can you get them out of reception? They are scaring the other clients’. I think Queen were in the other studio. The daytime session in Studio Two was Phil Collins, who had finished and gone home by now. They walked in looking like they hadn’t slept in days, all smartly dressed in black like they had just come from church but maybe the church was a ruin with rats, and they hadn’t washed in weeks. Being Australian they were actually very polite, but impatient to start – a trait that Cave has never lost. The term goth did not exist at that time, certainly not in the way we would use it these days, but I will say that recording a song called ‘Release The Bats’ with people who looked like vampires was pretty fucking exciting!” (in deze “If This Is Heaven I’m Bailing Out: The Death Of The Birthday Party” op The Quietus)

“Release the Bats” is het dichtst dat The Birthday Party bij een hit kwam, in gidsland UK noteerde het immers ook in de charts, op 3 maar liefst, met dien verstande dat het in de Indie Charts was. De vampire song vond immers gretig aansluiting bij de dan beginnende “Goth” scene.
Het nummer stond niet op een van de 3 als The Birthday Party uitgebrachte LP’s, maar werd op de CD versie van hun derde, Junkyard, wel als extra track meegenomen.

Ook verkrijgbaar op een Peel-sessie, de 2de van 4 die ze opnamen. Op de John Peel wiki: “Peel found that many new bands he listened to either copied or were inspired by the Birthday Party, and while he lauded the intention warned that they had created a considerable benchmark to be surpassed. At one point he is said to have cited Phil Calvert as his favourite drummer. He named Release The Bats as his single of the year in 1981 and chose it for that year’s Peelenium.

Of geheel live heroin chic, gecapteerd op de VPRO in 1982, een mooie blik op het ongeleide projectiel dat de jonge Nick Cave was:

B-kant van de single was het al even gewelddadige “Blast Off”. Producer Nick Launey daarover: “We recorded two songs, ‘Release The Bats’ and ‘Blast Off’, in one night. About halfway through I recognised the disappearing to the bathroom thing, but I’m glad to say it only added to the fuel and edginess of the night. There were some notable arguments that broke out; some were, I thought, unfairly aimed at Phill. My feeling was that he was the one that didn’t fit in, he was kind of nice, and I think not on drugs. Whatever was going on there was not to do with that night, it was a difference of opinion that had built up over time, and not for me to know. You may be surprised to hear that the other target of abuse was Nick. Mick and Rowland were definitely driving the session, they were the opinionated ones. I remember when Nick was out in the studio singing the vocal to ‘Blast Off’, they insisted that he redo the “Blaaaaaaaaaaaast off” bit in the middle section of the song many, many times. Poor Nick was completely out of breath and almost collapsing, giving it his all. Meanwhile Rowland and Mick were pissing themselves laughing, they said “get him to do it again, get him to do it again [laughs]”! After a while I made a decision that the first take was actually the best and played it to them with the best of a serious frown a twenty-year old can make. They came to their senses and agreed the joke was getting old, time to pick on Phill again!
Boys Next Door will be Boys Next Door, i guess.

VoilĂ  en nu tijd om mijn Birthday Party een Blast off the geven.