Nick Cave Monday #36: “Dead Joe”


Even though we’re in the month of May, we can always use a little bit of Christmas spirit. The Birthday Party, Nick Cave’s pre–Bad Seeds band, gave us a song that we can sing anytime of year.

There was this dude named Joe. Well, he’s dead, totally mangled in a car wreck. It’s such a bloody mess and the bodies are so torn apart you can’t even tell the girls from the boys.

It’s Christmastime, Joe. Speak to Nick.

“Dead Joe” in July 1982:

There’s just an unrelenting fury with “Dead Joe” that always hits me in the gut. Especially the tempo and Rowland S. Howard’s brilliant guitar accompaniment.

“Dead Joe” in 1982:

Oh, to have been lucky enough to have lived during that era of The Birthday Party. Notice how Nick gets right into the crowd. He was about 25 years old at the time. Over 30 years later, he still engages fully with the crowd.

From here, let’s go ahead and fast forward to Grinderman performing at Coachella. One of the reasons I won’t be caught dead at these festivals is because of idiot ladies on their lunkhead boyfriends’ shoulders. Oh, the sense of entitlement is sad.

But the way Nick handles her, it makes me laugh every time. Of course the whole song is great, but if you’re pressed for time, fast forward to the 5-minute mark, where we start to see her arms in the air flinging around above the crowd.

“Kitchenette” at Coachella:

Who is this funny old man? she thinks to herself…while Nick politely grabs her hand. And I love how she tries to pull it back. Wait, oh, this dude is kind of scaring me, and if I pretend I’m on drugs maybe he’ll stop focusing on me.

By the 7-minute mark, she’s off the shoulders, after he lures her again to hold his hand and screams, “TIPPY TOE TIPPY TOE.”

“Yeah hippy, I’m Nick Cave, and 10 years before you were even sperm I have been doing this.”

Back to “Dead Joe.”

Check this out from 1992:

Oh, ho, uh, what?

We are proud to have a major following in Poland. Thank you for your continued support. Here’s Nick Cave performing “Dead Joe” with Polish subtitles so you can fully indulge in the experience:

I can picture the conversation in which Nick suggests that The Bad Seeds perform the song during one of their sets.



There is a lesson to be learned. If you happen to be in a car with a man named Joe and it’s anywhere near Christmastime, politely ask to get out of the car.

“I can walk from here.”

“But, it’s five more miles—and snowing.”

“I’m a Bad Seeder, and I know what happens next.”

“Ho-oh-oh-OH-oh-oh, oh oh oh oh oh oh/ De-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ead Joe.

Thanks for reading, and come back next week for another edition of Nick Cave Monday.

Tony DuShane is the author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk. His writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Penthouse, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer. And, if you’re a Nick Cave fan, check out Nick Cave Monday. More from this author →