“Scum” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
This song is most notable due to its lyrical viciousness being waged against the addressee, who in the vocalist’s opinion is the titular “scum”. Indeed you may listen to this piece and think to yourself ‘this sounds too personal to be fictional’.
And if that is your presumption, dear reader, then you are in fact correct. And whereas Nick Cave has apparently never gone as far as to publicly reveal who he’s singing about, someone claiming to be this addressee himself actually has.
Addressee of “Scum”
And the said addressee would be one Mat Snow who at the time was working for NME, which is perhaps the UK’s top periodical related to the music industry.
The way Mat Snow has described the backdrop of this narrative is as he and Nick Cave originally being hangout buddies. They were actually part of the same crew which fundamentally spent their time listening to music and getting high. All facts considered, this would have been back during the early-to-mid 1980s, when Nick also would have been about in his mid-20s.
And their relationship was all good at first, as Mat perceived him to be some type of wild and crazy guy, in a fun-loving type of way.
But at the time Cave and his girlfriend, a fellow singer by the name of Anita Lane, needed a place to crash, and Snow accommodated.
Relationship between Mat Snow and Nick Cave Sours
And you know how the old saying goes – familiarity breeds contempt. But initially upon moving out of Mat’s place the pair lost contact with their former host, and you know, all’s well that ends well.
Now the sequence of events directly after is a bit unclear. For instance, Snow claims that he wrote favorably about “From Her to Eternity”, i.e. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ debut album, in NME. But it’s not clear if he did so before or after Cave lived with him.
Either way, he went on to insinuate, once again on record, that the band’s second full-length was not as slappin’ as their first. Then about a year later he was tasked with interviewing Nick, upon which Cave, via a number of offenses including referring to Snow as “an arseh*le”, seemingly let him know, in a roundabout way, that he didn’t take kindly to that review.
Or something ticked him off, because either way “Scum” was released a few weeks later, and Mat knew it was about himself.
The Lyrics of “Scum”
And even though our job is to break down this song, we’re not going to get too deep into what is clearly a personal beef against an identified figure, despite the fact that Nick Cave has made it very much public. But here is the gist of what’s going down.
The vocalist considers the addressee to be a despicable human being, i.e. “scum”. And considering the plethora of characteristics this person possesses which he references to prove the point, it is also evident that, at least for a time, he and the addressee were closely associated, i.e. living in the same residence.
One notable accusation the narrator levies against this person is that he has herpes, or something like that. Indeed the addressee is depicted not only as an appalling physical specimen but also some type of a sexual deviant. But apparently at the heart of this tirade is the vocalist perceiving him as some type of a “Judas”.
So with all of the above in mind, as in if Mat Snow’s theory about this song is correct, then we can conclude that Nick Cave was in fact most likely offended by what Mat wrote about him. We don’t know the emotional circumstances by which Cave moved out of Snow’s residence.
But either way, Nick evidently perceived his former buddy saying something less-than-favorable about his music publicly as being tantamount to treason. Yes, this artist is reportedly easily enraged, especially as far as journalists are concerned.
So perhaps at the end of the day, we can say that Snow should be happy that at least Cave didn’t namedrop him, although Mat himself has found this track to be “very funny” and one of the band’s “best songs”.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Scum” was the only single issued from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 1986 project “Your Funeral… My Trial”, which was their fourth album. More specifically it served as the bonus track on the compact disc edition of the project.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is a band from Melbourne. Their first album, “From Her to Eternity”, came out in 1984. And as of 2019, they have dropped 19 albums in total and 7 since the turn of the century.
Nick Cave, who has been a member of the group throughout, serves as the lead vocalist. And the other members when this song was dropped were as follows:
- co-founder Mick Harvey, who specialized in bass guitar
- guitarist Blixa Bargeld
- bassist Barry Adamson
- drummer Thomas Wydler
And as of the writing of this post in 2021 only Wydler, who originally joined in 1985, remains a member of the Bad Seeds.
The aforementioned Anita Lane was also a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds or in the very least closely associated. She also dated Nick Cave for a while, officially from 1977 to 1983.
The band has actually proven most popular in the UK, as in that being the country where their songs tend to chart the most. The biggest hit they had in that regard, as well as in their homeland, was 1995’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow”, which reached a peak position of 11 on the UK Singles Chart and 2 on ARIA’s listing.
Said track is actually a collaboration with another Aussie musician, a musical legend from Down Under actually, named Kylie Minogue.
Credits for “Scum”
“Scum” was written by Nick Cave and the aforementioned Mick Harvey. And the track was produced by Tony Cohen (1957-2017) and another musician known as Flood, the latter of whom also has a history of being a regular U2 and Depeche Mode collaborator.