Nick Cave’s Music Merchandise as Heirlooms


Music merchandise is ephemeral, tied to particular albums and tours. This is what makes it collectible, of course, but could it go beyond that and be something passed down through generations? Beyond the usual tote bags and t-shirts Nick Cave has been involved with some extraordinary projects with artists … a toy car designed by hot rod illustrator Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth taken from the cover of the Birthday Party’s album Junkyard … a spooky embryo by artist Mark Ryden that was temporarily on coffee mugs and t-shirts … and most recently his wife Susie’s project with jeweller Annoushka which made gold and jewelled charms that interpret his songs.

This made me think of creating a 1980s World of Interiors Magazine style feature that would revolve around eccentric family that collects ephemera and mixes it in with the grand Doulton and Wedgewood plates, crystal wine glasses and silver cutlery, heirlooms that are in everyday use. (The magazines features back then were often fascinatingly batty and deeply unusual.)



The photograph here is of the drawing room of the castle where Downton Abbey was filmed. I’d set up a shot of morning tea, replacing the tray on the footstool with a jazz age inspired Art Deco cocktail tray that would have a “Bedevilments of Creativity” tea towel, a section from the Sick Bag Song, spread across it. The Sick Bag Song was has the quality of an Odyssey from Greek and Roman mythology about it, something that might have been, in an earlier century, running around the edges of the edges of Wedgwood’s myth-crockery … Nick is on tour in America but just trying to get home to his family, and simultaneously maintain his creative process while bedevilled by … “Procrastination through fear. Procrastination through indecision …” and scaling on upwards to apocalyptic level.

There would be dry wholemeal toast on a Beatles commemorative plate, its decal worn with use. A Mark Ryden Bad Seed mug with chamomile tea with honey stirred into it with a 1939 New York World’s Fair teaspoon.

Music itself is an heirloom of sorts. The Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree would be playing. It’s the most brilliantly warm and polished album, yet has a directness, dark and mournful but ultimately suggesting hope and the enduring power of love. Its sound would swirl and lift beautifully in that space.



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