The Birthday Party ¦ Prayers On Fire

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Prayers on Fire
Studio album by
Released6 April 1981 (1981-04-06)
RecordedDecember 1980 – January 1981
StudioA.A.V. Studio 2 and Richmond Recorders, Melbourne, Australia
LabelMissing Link
ProducerTony Cohen, The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party chronology
The Birthday Party
Prayers on Fire
Drunk on the Pope’s Blood

Prayers on Fire is the debut studio album by Australian rock group The Birthday Party, which was released on 6 April 1981 on the Missing Link label in Australia, later licensed to the 4AD label. This was the band’s first full-length release on an international record label and the first after changing the group’s name from Boys Next Door to The Birthday Party. It was recorded at Armstrong’s Audio Visual Studios in Melbourne and Richmond Recorders in the nearby suburb of Richmond, between December 1980 and January 1981.


In February 1980 Melbourne-based new wave group, The Boys Next Door, changed their name to The Birthday Party.[1] They consisted of Phill Calvert on drums, Nick Cave on vocals, Mick Harvey on guitar, Rowland S. Howard on guitar and Tracy Pew on bass guitar.[1] They relocated to London and soon signed with the 4AD label which issued the extended play, The Friend Catcher in the United Kingdom. In July, their Australian label, Missing Link Records, released „Mr Clarinet“ from the EP as a single.[1] In November Missing Link followed with a compilation album, The Birthday Party under the band names The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party, which combined previously issued EP and singles tracks with some previously unreleased material.[1]

Also in November 1980, The Birthday Party returned to Australia and toured.[1] According to Australian music historian, Ian McFarlane, „It was during this time that the band cemented its reputation as a peerless live act, with its omnipresent influence settling over the Melbourne scene“.[1] On 6 April 1981 they issued the album and followed in June with its lead single, „Nick the Stripper“.[1] The group returned to London.[1]

Members of Melbourne jazz rock band Equal Local contributed the brass section to „Nick the Stripper“ – tenor saxophonist Mick Hauser was mis-credited as Mick Hunter. Equal Local had formed in 1980 by Dean Richards on guitar, Philip Jackson on synthesisers, trumpet and rhythm generator, Melissa Webb on synthesiser and piano, Bryce Perrin on acoustic bass, and Hauser.[2] Richards and Jackson were bandmates from post punk rockers, Whirlywirld and contemporaries of The Boys Next Door.[2] Equal Local disbanded in early 1982.[2]

Composition and recording

In Melbourne, in December 1980 and January 1981, they joined engineer and producer, Tony Cohen, in Armstrong’s Audio Visual Studios (A.A.V. Studio 2) and Richmond Recorders, to record their tracks.[1] Music journalist, Toby Creswell, noted that the band „struggled with creating their own identity some of them also began indulging an appetite for alcohol and heroin“.[3] Cave was embarrassed by „Zoo Music Girl“ but noted „we were digging for something and we kind of just found it with some songs“ and cited „King Ink“ as an example of „a certain kind of sound that we wanted to work with on records after that“.[3] Eight of the eleven tracks on Prayers on Fire were written or co-written by Cave, „[it] was a kind of reaction to the major disappointments we felt when we went to England... [we] began to see a vision and I don’t think we were positively influenced ... we didn’t want to be like the English New Wave pop groups of the time“.[3] Pew observed „[it] stinks, quite honestly ... The engineer slept through the entire session for a start“.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
The Austin Chronicle[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[7]
The Great Rock Discography8/10[7]
MusicHound Rock4.5÷5[7]
Record Mirror[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[11]’s Anthony Carew felt Prayers on Fire was able to „capture the qualities of their infamous live-shows on record ... the evocatively-produced set dared dress key cuts in blaring brass; giving a sense of perverted-cabaret to their mordant racket, turning Cave from nihilist, self-destructive savant to theatrical, flamboyant showman“.[4] AllMusic’s Greg Maurer found „a fascination with the dark, (self-)destructive side of religion is more than evident in his later work... While there might not be any of the explicit Biblical imagery on [the album] that Cave would later ejaculate, the title ... is apt“.[5] Ian McFarlane stated it showed the band was „irrevocably and unashamedly changing for the better, being more aggressive than anything they had ever recorded“.[1] SoundStageDirect described it as „a creepy carnival of tribal rhythms, wonky discordance and garbled surrealism“.[12] Music critic Ed St John summarised, „this is an expression which ebbs out beyond the confines of proficiently played music ... [it] is akin to watching a film of Jackson Pollock painting or listening to Dylan Thomas in full alcoholic flight“.[3]

The track „Ho-Ho“ is featured in the 2004 German film, Head-On.


Neil StraussUSThe 100 Most Influential Alternative Albums1993-[13]
SoundsUKThe Top 80 Albums from the ’80s198943[7]
The GuardianUK1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die2007-[14]
UncutUKThe 100 Greatest Debut Albums200693[15]
The Ultimate Record Collection - The 1980’s2018-[16]
RockdeluxSpainThe 100 Best Albums of the 1980s199057[17]
Rolling Stone AustraliaAustraliaThe 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s199033[7]
Triple JAustraliaHottest 100 Australian Albums201566[18]
PasteUSThe 50 Best Post-Punk Albums201637[19]
PopMattersUSThe 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever201741[20]

Track listing

No.TitleLyricsMusic byLength
1.„Zoo-Music Girl“Nick CaveRowland S. Howard2:38
3.„Capers“Genevieve McGuckinHoward2:39
4.„Nick the Stripper“CaveCave3:52
6.„Figure of Fun“CaveCave, Howard2:48
7.„King Ink“CaveCave, Howard4:41
8.„A Dead Song“Anita LaneCave2:13
10.„Dull Day“HowardHoward3:04
11.„Just You and Me“CaveMick Harvey2:03
CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleLyricsMusic byLength
13.„Kathy’s Kisses“CaveCave4:05


The Birthday Party members[21]
Equal Local members on „Nick the Stripper“
Recording details
  • Producer – Tony Cohen, The Birthday Party
  • Engineer – Tony Cohen
  • Studios – Armstrong’s Audio Visual Studios (tracks 1–5, 7–9, 12–13), Richmond Recorders (tracks 6, 10, 11)
    • Mixing studios – Armstrong’s Audio Visual Studios (tracks 6, 10, 11)
Art work

Chart positions

Chart (1981)Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[22]96
UK Independent Albums (Record Business)[23]4


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McFarlane, ‚The Birthday Party‘ entry. Archived from the original on 9 August 2004. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b c McFarlane, ‚Equal Local‘ entry. Archived from the original on 13 August 2004. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Creswell, Toby (2007) [2005]. 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them (RocKwiz ed.). Prahran, Vic: Hardie Grant. pp. 324–325. ISBN 978−1−74066−458−5.
  4. ^ a b Carew, Anthony. „Definitive Albums: The Birthday Party ‚Prayers on Fire‘ (1981)“. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Maurer, Greg. Prayers on Fire – The Birthday Party“. AllMusic. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  6. ^ Stegall, Tim (27 June 1997). „The Birthday Party: Junkyard (2−13−61) / Hee-Haw (2−13−61) / Mutiny/The Bad Seed EP (2−13−61) / Prayers On Fire (2−13−61)“. The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e „The Birthday Party: Prayers on Fire. Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  8. ^ „Nick Cave - Birthday Party - biografia, recensioni, streaming, discografia, foto“. OndaRock.
  9. ^ Total, Mark (16 May 1981). „The Birthday Party: Prayers on Fire“. Record Mirror. p. 21.
  10. ^ Sisario, Ben (2004). „Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds“. In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 151–152. ISBN 0−7432−0169−8.
  11. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1995). „Birthday Party“. In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 43–44. ISBN 0−679−75574−8.
  12. ^ Prayers on Fire (180 Gram)“. SoundStageDirect. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  13. ^ Schinder, Scott, ed. (1996). „100 Most Influential Alternative Albums“. Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-a-Rama. Delta. ISBN 0−385−31360−8.
  14. ^ „1000 albums to hear before you die – Artists beginning with B (part 1)“. The Guardian. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  15. ^ „Uncut’s 100 best debut albums“. Uncut. 8 May 2015. p. 2. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  16. ^ „Ultimate Record Collection: 1980s“. Uncut. 2020.
  17. ^ „Lo mejor de los 80: 100 álbumes internacionales“. Rockdelux (in Spanish). April 1990. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  18. ^ „Industry Results | Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time“. Triple J. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  19. ^ „The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums“. Paste. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  20. ^ Fitzgerald, Colin (22 January 2017). „The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party“. PopMatters. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  21. ^ Prayers on Fire (liner notes). The Birthday Party. 4AD. 1981. CAD 104.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 35. ISBN 0−646−11917−6.
  23. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). „The Birthday Party“. Indie Hits 1980–1989: The Complete U.K. Independent Charts (Singles & Albums). Cherry Red Books. ISBN 978−0−9517206−9−1. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2014.

External links


Veröffentlichungen von The Birthday Party die im OTRS erhältlich sind/waren:

Prayers On Fire ¦ Live 81-82

The Birthday Party auf Wikipedia (oder andere Quellen):

The Birthday Party
Allgemeine Informationen
Genre(s)Post-Punk, Gothic Rock[1][2]
Nick Cave
Phill Calvert (bis 1982)
Gitarre, Keyboard, Saxophon
Mick Harvey
Ehemalige Mitglieder
Rowland S. Howard
Tracy Pew
Barry Adamson

The Birthday Party war eine australische Rockgruppe der frühen 1980er Jahre. Sie gilt als eine der einflussreichsten Post-Punk-Bands.


Mitglieder waren Nick Cave und dessen ehemalige Schulkameraden von der Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne Mick Harvey (Gitarre, Keyboards, Saxophon) und Phill Calvert (Schlagzeug). Später kamen noch Tracy Pew (Bass) und Rowland S. Howard (Gitarre) hinzu. Sie veröffentlichten unter dem Eindruck der Punk-Bewegung, die 1978 auch Australien erreichte, 1978 als „The Boys Next Door“ ihre erste LP Door, Door, die aufgekratzten, aber noch verbindlichen, gitarrenlastigen New Wave enthielt.

Im Jahre 1980 siedelte die Gruppe von Melbourne nach London um und veröffentlichte die LP The Birthday Party, bei welcher sie von ihrer Plattenfirma sowohl unter „The Birthday Party“ als auch unter „The Boys Next Door“ geführt wurde. Diese LP markierte die radikale Änderung ihrer Stilmittel und eine Erweiterung der Konventionen der populären Musik insgesamt. Ihre neue, ungewohnt klingende Mischung aus der aggressiven Energie des Punk, der Tradition eines sehr rohen Blues, die sich, von Pews stoischen Basslinien getragen, regelmäßig in chaotische Lärmorgien steigerte, brachte der Band die Anerkennung der Kritik und die Unterstützung des einflussreichen BBC-Moderators John Peel ein.

1982 erfolgte ein zweiter Umzug der Gruppe nach Berlin (West). Es folgten weitere LPs, die musikalisch ebenso kompromisslos blieben wie das Debütalbum. Cave entwickelte dabei als Verfasser der meisten Songtexte die thematischen Vorlieben seiner späteren Karriere. Teils waren es comic-hafte Gruselgeschichten mit Schmutz, Angst und bizarren Gestalten (King Ink, Nick the Stripper), teils Geschichten von Mördern (Deep in the Woods), Verlassenen, Besessenen, von durch Sümpfe gejagten Wahnsinnigen (Swampland), oft surreal und mit religiösen Bezügen (Big Jesus Trash Can), denen Cave mit hemmungslos expressivem Gesang oder mit dunkler Grabesstimme eine beängstigend reale Dimension gab.

Trotz der Anerkennung der Musikwelt hielt sich der kommerzielle Erfolg zum Unmut der Band sehr in Grenzen, was angesichts des hohen Kakophonieanteils in ihrer düsteren Musik aber kaum überraschen konnte. Der Trouser Press Record Guide schrieb, dass „weder John Cale noch Alfred Hitchcock jemals so Furcht einflößend waren“[3]. Treffend war auch die Rückseite einer Live-Mini-LP untertitelt, die sich die Band mit Lydia Lunch teilte: „16 Minutes Of Sheer Hell“ („16 Minuten schiere Hölle“). Für die musikalische Exzessivität der Band mag auch der Alkohol-, Heroin- und sonstige Drogenkonsum einzelner Mitglieder verantwortlich gewesen sein.

Calvert verließ 1982 die Band, woraufhin der Multiinstrumentalist Harvey das Schlagzeug übernahm. Als Pew im selben Jahr wegen Alkohols am Steuer in Haft kam, ersetzte ihn Barry Adamson (Ex-Magazine) bei Aufnahmen und Live-Auftritten.

The Birthday Party löste sich 1984 auf Grund von Unstimmigkeiten zwischen Cave und Howard auf, die mit Harvey die meisten Songs geschrieben hatten.

Aus The Birthday Party gingen mehrere Bands hervor: Neben Caves bis heute erfolgreicher Band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds sind hier Crime and the City Solution (mit Harvey und Howard) zu nennen sowie diverse Projekte Howards, am bekanntesten These Immortal Souls.


Boys Next Door

  • 1979: Door Door
  • 1979: Hee Haw (EP)

The Birthday Party


  • 1980: The Birthday Party/Boys Next Door
  • 1981: Prayers on Fire
  • 1982: Junkyard
  • 1982: Drunk On The Pope’s Blood
  • 1985: It’s Still Living
  • 1985: Best and Rarest
  • 1988: Hee Haw
  • 1989: Mutiny/The Bad Seed
  • 1992: Hits
  • 1999: Live 1981–82
  • 2001: Peel Sessions


  • 2003: Pleasure Heads Must Burn



  1. Reynolds, Simon: Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber and Faber, 2005, , ISBN 0−571−21569−6, S. 429–431.
  2. Lewis, Luke: Release The Bats – It’s The 20 Greatest Goth Tracks. 5. März 2009. Abgerufen am 2. Juni 2012: „7. The Birthday Party – Release The Bats. Knuckle-dragging drums. Sickening, scything distortion. Barely comprehensible vocals in the Vic Reeves ‚club style‘: here was a compelling sonic template for goth’s lunatic fringe. Most gothic moment: Nick Cave’s blood-curdling shriek: „Whooaaargh! BITE!“ It was a story about vampire sex was promoted by an advert with the words „Dirtiness is next to antigodliness“.“


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The Birthday Party ¦ Prayers On Fire
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