Where The Wild Roses Grow
Album: Murder Ballads
According to Rolling Stone, Nick Cave had an obsession with Kylie’s drive and positive view regarding the fickle pop music buisness. “This song… is dealing with a kind of obsession I had with her – on a professional level. Her un-cynical approach to things in the face of what I guess she goes through. There was something very much about the person she was, that she was able to maintain, in a quite honest way.”
A young woman is murdered out of love in the captivating and grim “Where The Wild Roses Grow.”
Mournful strings begin the single. Backed by the strings and the Cave’s pitiless strumming, Kylie says she was nicknamed “The Wild Rose” but her real name was Elisa Day. She’s puzzled as to why she was no longer called by her actual name. (“They call me The Wild Rose/But my name was Elisa Day/Why they call me it I do not know/For my name was Elisa Day.”)
Cave remembers the first day he met her. Immediately, he knew she was going to be his forever. She looked deeply into his eyes and gave him a wide smile. Her lips were painted a bold red, which resembled roses he had seen at the river. (“From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one/She stared in my eyes and smiled/For her lips were the colour of the roses/That grew down the river, all bloody and wild.”)
According to Kylie, they met later at her house. She was scared and nervous of the stranger might be. However, he soothed her with a secure hug. She decided she would lose her virginity to him when he brushed away the tears from her eyes. (“When he knocked on my door and entered the room/My trembling subsided in his sure embrace/He would be my first man, and with a careful hand/He wiped at the tears that ran down my face.”)
The next day he returned to her home with a single rose. He is awestruck and jealous of her beauty at the same time. He believes he doesn’t deserve to be around such a kind, pretty woman. He asks her if she knows where the wild roses are. (“On the second day I brought her a flower/She was more beautiful than any woman I’d seen/I said, “Do you know where the wild roses grow/So sweet and scarlet and free?”)
After giving her the rose, Kylie remembers him asking if he could take her pain away. She said yes and motioned for him to join her in the bed. He asked if she wanted to see the roses which are as gorgeous and innocent as she. (“On the second day he came with a single red rose/Said: “Will you give me your loss and your sorrow”/I nodded my head, as I lay on the bed/
He said, “If I show you the roses, will you follow?”)
Kylie begins the third and final verse. The third day, they went to the river together to view the flowers. They share a passionate kiss. She bends down to touch the roses but becomes alert when she hears him mumbling. When she looks up, she sees him grinning and throwing a heavy rock at her. (“On the third day he took me to the river/He showed me the roses and we kissed/And the last thing I heard was a muttered word/As he knelt (stood smiling) above me with a rock in his fist.”)
Cave remembers her gently holding a rose. He told her “all beauty must die.” However, in his mind, the murder is romantic and necessary. The rock becomes a rose placed in her teeth. (“On the last day I took her where the wild roses grow/And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief/ And I kissed her goodbye, said, “All beauty must die”/And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth.”)
Kylie’s voice trembles as she repeats her original name at the end, “for my name was Elisa Day.” She is still struggling to accept her death.
Nick Cave’s character removes himself from the violence and pretends it doesn’t exist. He believes once a woman is no longer virginal, her beauty is spoiled and immoral. Kylie, on the other hand, believed it was a whirlwind romance which would develop into something more. She fell in love with him and pictured being with him for a long time. Ultimately, she is punished for her naivete and loving nature.
The challenging “Where The Wild Roses Grow” is not an easy listen. Cave’s unemotional vocals are sinister. Kylie, however, delivers a superb vocal performance. She plays against type. She is able to be innocent and unknowing about the man she meets. In the chorus, she is lost, wondering why she’s not alive. Finally, in the final verse she is both joyful and scared.