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Remembering Nick Cave, Mark E. Smith and Shane MacGowan arguing over drinks, 1989


Sometimes ‘features’ for magazines can fall a bit flat, trust us, we know. But sometimes features are just pure gold – this 1989 NME feature is most definitely the latter.

The feature, titled the ‘Pop Summit’ was quite simply getting Nick Cave, Mark E. Smith and Shane MacGowan into a pub and asking them a series of questions.

Hosted by James Brown (not that one) and Sean O’Hagan, the trio are treated to £20’s worth of drinks and given free rein to talk, of course, only for Smith to then take over the conversation and offer his opinion on everything.

Here’s the conversation in full:

Mark E. Smith: “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal.

“We had jazz arrangements in ‘82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.

“Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grandparents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth.”

Smith continues to find sparring partners wherever he turned his head with MacGowan providing himself as the target when talking about Nietzche:

M.E.S: “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.”

SM:The Will To Power. Try reinterpreting that statement. You can’t, it says what it says.”

M.E.S:He wasn’t a Nazi – you’re only saying that ‘cos some polytechnic fuckin’ lecturer told you he was.”

SM: “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically [racially?] impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t got a strong body, perfect features…”

M.E.S: That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German, pro-Semitic person…”

SM:His books were full of hate.”

M.E.S:You just said you’re full of hate when you go on stage.”

SM:I don’t go round saying Socrates was a c***, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I?”

M.E.S:Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all them socialists and communists – second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.”

SM:Listen to him.”

M.E.S:Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal!”

[MORE] – The Beginning Of Something Special: Remembering When Nick Cave Met Kylie Minogue

The fever of the conversation continues when Mark is asked whether he considers himself a cynic:

M.E.S:No. Cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you’re down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.”

SM:You are nobody.”

M.E.S:Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.”

NC:Bullshit! That’s bullshit. I take offence at that.”

M.E.S: “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like you being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.”

SM:You’re not reasonable, though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.”

M.E.S:OK, I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy. ”

[MORE] – Mark E. Smith Reveals His Favourite Books, Film And Music In Classic 1981 Interview


SM:You’re into Presley, Nick.”

NC:I think his best period was the Vegas years.”

M.E.S: “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like, the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.”

SM:That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army, that was one of the causes. “Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60s after the army – ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In The Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’, ‘That’s Alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you, is it?”

M.E.S: “I’m not sayin’ that but everybody writes the later stuff off…”

SM: “Who ever writes off Elvis?”

M.E.S:Look , Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fuckin’ argue right through you!”

SM: “What!? He’s off again.”

M.E.S: “I’m into Merseybeat at the minute – The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”

If we were you we’d head over to The Quietus to catch the full transcript of the interview as it’s quite possibly the best thing we’ve read (other than ourselves) in a very long while.