“It’s just over...”

Nick Cave has spoken about the end of his relationship with PJ Harvey.

The two became involved in the mid 90s, and the demise of their time together prompted his heart-on-sleeve 1997 album 'The Boatman's Call'.

Nick Cave was asked about the relationship in the latest missive from The Red Hand Files, his slow-communication ask-me-anything with fans.

One fan queried: "Why did you give up on your relationship with PJ Harvey in the 90s? I love her music. I think she’s an amazing person and she writes brilliant songs."

To which Nick Cave responded:

The truth of the matter is that I didn’t give up on PJ Harvey, PJ Harvey gave up on me. There I am, sitting on the floor of my flat in Notting Hill, sun streaming through the window (maybe), feeling good, with a talented and beautiful young singer for a girlfriend, when the phone rings. I pick up the phone and it’s Polly.

“Hi,” I say
“I want to break up with you.”
“Why?!” I ask.
“It’s just over,” she says.

It seems that narcissism, the creative temperament, and rampant drug use - "I was so surprised I almost dropped my syringe" - drove the two apart, with the Australian songwriter explaining:

I still had a certain amount of work to do on my understanding of the concept of monogamy, and Polly had her own issues, I suspect, but I think at the end of the day it came down to the fact that we were both fiercely creative people, each too self-absorbed to ever be able to inhabit the same space in any truly meaningful way. We were like two lost matching suitcases, on a carousel going nowhere.

Songwriting completely consumed me at that time. It was not what I did, but what I was. It was the very essence of me. Polly’s commitment to her own work was probably as narcissistic and egomaniacal as my own, although I was so deep into my own shit that I can’t really comment on this with any certainty. I remember our time together with great fondness though, they were happy days, and the phone call hurt; but never one to waste a good crisis, I set about completing 'The Boatman’s Call'.

Released in 1997, 'The Boatman's Call' remains a curiously open, highly affecting point in Cave's catalogue - it even includes a direct ode to PJ Harvey, in the form of 'West Country Girl'.

The Red Hand Files is evolving into something incredibly special - Clash writer Josh Gray goes deep in this opinion piece.

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