The Story Behind The Song: Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue’s dark delight ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’
On October 2nd, 1995, the world saw Kylie Minogue prove that she was more than your run of the mill pop star when she collaborated with fellow Australian national treasure Nick Cave on his gloriously dark song ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’. The two artists joining forces was one of the greatest weird but wonderful collaborations that have ever occurred. While on paper it sounds like a disastrous mix, Kylie slotted in perfectly to the world of Nick Cave and his dastardly Bad Seeds.
If the roles were reversed and Cave was invited to do a Kylie track, odds are he wouldn’t make the pivot to her genre quite to the same success as the pop sensation did when she was accepted his proposal to appear on ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’. Their paths would cross for the first time in the mid-1990s when Kylie’s then-boyfriend, Michael Hutchence, was lured in by Cave who had expressed his desire to sing with Kylie. “Michael said to me: ‘My friend Nick wants to do a song with you,’” she once recalled in an interview with the Guardian. “I didn’t know who Nick Cave was. And I just said: ‘Oh, that’s nice,’” she said, with a wry smile on her face.
Little did Kylie know that Cave was secretly a huge fan of her work and, at the time, already had ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ primed and ready for her contribution. He knew, at the time of the song’s conception, that Kylie was the perfect partner in crime to contrast his vocals on the track.
Recalling a time when he created the song, Cave once said: “‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ was written very much with Kylie in mind. I’d wanted to write a song for Kylie for many years,” he is quoted as saying in Molly Meldrum presents 50 Years of Rock in Australia. “I had a quiet obsession with her for about six years. I wrote several songs for her, none of which I felt was appropriate to give her. It was only when I wrote this song, which is a dialogue between a killer and his victim, that I thought finally I’d written the right song for Kylie to sing. I sent the song to her and she replied the next day.”
This was the start of a blossoming friendship, one which was more important than Cave scoring his most commercially successful single with ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ and the two have performed the track together on numerous occasions over the last quarter of a century. Perhaps the most iconic live performance of the song came in 2019 when Cave made a wonderful cameo during Kylie’s legend’s slot at Glastonbury Festival on the Pyramid Stage in front of 100,000 doughy eyed fans who waved pre-planted red roses.
“It was a miracle that she agreed to do that song,” Cave later recalled to The Daily Telegraph in 2014. “I think her management wasn’t that happy about it – I mean we were just a bunch of junkies sitting in the studio, and she walked in full of life and love and goodwill.
“It was so different to have somebody like that around for a few months, and we had this hit, we became defined by Kylie and Kylie’s presence – so that little slice of life is Kylie’s, in a way,” he sincerely added. “We really liked each other.”
Even though the collaboration was like nothing that Kylie had done prior to that moment, it was met with adoration by her fanbase who loved seeing this darker side to her. Although, we’d have loved to have watched the reaction of countless Minogue fans who went out to buy Murder Ballads off the back of ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’, seeing their face drop as each track depicts a different murder, our imaginations must suffice on that front.
In truth, Cave was aware that hoards of Kylie fans at been out to purchase his record at the time, later noting “I was kind of aware that people would go and buy the Murder Ballads album and listen to it and wonder ‘What the fuck have I bought this for?’ because the Kylie song wasn’t any true indication of what the record was actually like.”
The mainstream success that came with the track put the music of Cave into a world that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with, one which eventually led to him successfully receiving a nomination for ‘Best Male Artist’ at the MTV Awards. However, Cave would later insist that his nomination was removed as he didn’t want people to think he was the one-hit-wonder that some people perceived him to be — a moniker which couldn’t be further from the truth in his case.
Cave has always been proud of the song and the success that came with it but he’s managed to stop it solidifying itself as the material that defines him, an achievement that is a testament to his artistry rather than him seeking commercial gains. In reality, it could have been easy for Cave to ride the wave that came with ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ and try to stir his career down a mainstream path—but that’s not the mantra of a Bad Seed.