Who: Tim Burgess, Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
What: Listening/watch party of 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 2014) with live tweeting
Where: Tim’s Twitter Listening Party
When: Sunday, June 28, Twitter free, film rental here, 11:00 pm EST
Why: During the pandemic, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans has been hosting listening and watch parties with live tweeting, highlighting such records as Camper Van Beethoven’s Telephone Free Landslide Victory, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Dazzle Ships, Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, and Duran Duran’s Rio, with band members chiming in as the album plays. On June 28 at 11:00 pm EST, Burgess goes audiovisual with live tweeting during a watch party of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 2014 documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth. (You can rent the film here.)
The film might sound like a 1950s low-budget sci-fi cult classic you’ve never seen, but actually it’s an unusual and vastly inventive document of the life and times of Australian rocker, poet, novelist, film composer, screenwriter, and all-around bon vivant Nick Cave. In their debut feature, installation artists and curators Forsyth and Pollard collaborated closely with Cave, mixing reality and fantasy as they follow Cave during a rather busy day. “Who knows their own story? Certainly it makes no sense when we are living in the midst of it,” Cave, who is now sixty-two, says in the deeply poetic voiceover narration he wrote specifically for the film. “It’s all just clamor and confusion. It only becomes a story when we tell it, and retell it, our small, precious recollections that we speak again and again to ourselves or to others, first creating the narrative of our lives, and then keeping the story from dissolving into darkness.” Forsyth and Pollard journey with Cave as he delves into religion and his relationship with his father with psychoanalyst Darian Leader, visits with longtime collaborator Warren Ellis (who shares an amazing story about Nina Simone and a piece of gum), drives around as people from his past suddenly appear in his car (friend Ray Winstone, duet partner Kylie Minogue, former bandmate Blixa Bargeld), lays down tracks in the studio (“Give Us a Kiss,” “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Push the Sky Away” with a children’s orchestra), watches television with his twin sons, and goes through his archives of photographs and other ephemera from childhood to the present day.
The film reveals Cave, the leader of cutting-edge groups the Birthday Party, Grinderman, and the Bad Seeds and author of the novels And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Munro, to be an intelligent, introspective, engaging fellow with a wry, often self-deprecating sense of humor and a hunger to create. “Mostly I write. Tapping and scratching away day and night sometimes,” he says while typing away with two fingers on an old typewriter in his home office. “But if I ever stopped for long enough to question what I’m actually doing? The why of it? Well, I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t know.” The film begins with a barrage of images of Cave and his influences throughout the years, whipping by machine-gun style on multiple monitors, and ends with Cave onstage with the Bad Seeds, becoming the fearless musician that has defined his career. In between, he’s a contemplative husband, father, son, and friend, an artist with a rather unique view of the world and his place in it. (Sadly, in 2015, Cave’s son Arthur died in a tragic accident, something Cave dealt with creatively in the 2016 documentary One More Time with Feeling, about the recording of the album Skeleton Tree.)
On September 20, 2014, I attended a special event at Town Hall in which Cave participated in a postscreening Q&A with Forsyth and Pollard, performed solo songs at the piano (playing what one fan described as a “dream setlist”), and spoke often about “transformation.” In its own way, 20,000 Days on Earth is a transformative documentary, a groundbreaking, unconventional, and thoroughly imaginative portrait of a groundbreaking, unconventional, and thoroughly imaginative artist.
[Note: Tim’s Twitter Listening Party continues with such other albums as the Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues, the Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight, Superchunk’s Majesty Shredding, Madness’s One Step Beyond, and Joy Division’s Closer.]