Nick Cave’s 30 best songs

As chosen by his Bad Seeds and Grinderman bandmates, famous fans including Guy Garvey, Richard Hawley and Bobby Gillespie, and Cave himself…

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9 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From the Bad Seeds album, Let Love In (April 1994)
“She had a heart full of love and devotion, she had a mind full of tyranny and terror” – heavy on madness and obsessive love, with a great swaggering chorus from the Bad Seeds.

ED KUEPPER (The Bad Seeds/The Saints): “Back in the early to mid-’90s I got asked to perform ‘Do You Love Me?’ at an Aussie award ceremony. The organisers told me they needed someone of good standing to perform it as it was being awarded Australian Song Of The Year. In reality, it’s more likely they couldn’t afford Nick or that he didn’t want to do it. I agreed. As is usual for these shows, a foreign dignitary is employed to MC, add credence to the proceedings, and boost TV ratings. At this event, it was Billy Joel. Towards the end of the evening as I was waiting outside, Billy, who was also leaving, got his driver to pull up and called out a friendly, ‘Nice song, Nick.’ To which I waved back and replied ‘Thanks, mate.’

“I didn’t know Nick particularly well at this point. In fact I hadn’t been paying that much attention being totally wrapped up in my own stuff. But hearing ‘The Mercy Seat’ blew me away and after that point I did start paying attention. However I’d always thought before performing ‘Do You Love Me?’ that Nick’s songs were fairly singular and that in some ways couldn’t be covered as they were unique to his own performance. This lent itself well to interpretation, even if that interpretation was perhaps a bit overly prettified by me.”



8 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From the Bad Seeds album, The Firstborn Is Dead (June 1985)
Not just a riff on John Lee Hoooker’s song of the same name, but also a reference to Elvis Presley’s birthplace. Indeed, the parent album refers to Jesse Garon Presley, the stillborn identical twin of The King.

ALAN VEGA (Suicide): “I love that song, because of John Lee Hooker’s original ‘Tupelo’ – there has to be a connection, I know Nick listens to the stuff. When I heard Nick did the song, I went, ‘Holy shit!’ It’s about Mississippi in the time of the flood. There’s that great line in the Hooker version, sitting in his porch ‘watching his shoes going floating down the river’. That wasn’t in there, but there was thunder, lightning, crazy vocals, and they had this great guitar player twanging shit. It’s punk-something. I can’t say it’s country or blues, but it has all those things in it, and Nick the surrealist, doing his thing, writing about Elvis and his still-born twin. [Mute Records founder] Daniel Miller introduced us in the late ’90s. We’re looking like punks, and he’s in a white tuxedo, really spiffy. And I swear to God not a word passed between us! Next time, it was handshakes and hugs…”



7 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From the Bad Seeds album, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! (March 2008)
“Prolix! Prolix! Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix!” Cave takes The Almighty himself to task on a couple of salient points…

MICK HARVEY (ex-Bad Seeds): “Much of Nick’s work has probed at the big questions. Whether searching for the essence of our emotional foundations in his love songs or throwing up moral conundrums in a murder ballad – through a wealth of subject matter in between – it’s the deeper, inner human workings that Nick repeatedly probes. They can be gut-wrenchingly confronting, heartbreakingly delicate, disturbingly violent, or just plain funny, and sometimes all of these at once. But they are always pushing at the boundaries of the listener’s own emotional and moral positioning.

“Occasionally the music is more of a vehicle (though usually a pretty cool one) to transport the lyrical content. And so it is with ‘We Call Upon The Author’, a song which literally purports to be asking The Big Question, or at least confronting the Great Architect head on. A heady rush of rough verbiage, self-effacing observations and raw humour, it’s typical of a kind of wild-word-roller-coaster which Nick has used throughout the years. As one of the songs on my last album with The Bad Seeds which helped me continue that love affair, it has a special place.

“It’s hard for me to pick out just one song and write about it after so many years and songs that I love; the songs which were the reason I was around from first to last. At the end, after 30 years, I was still deeply affected, impressed and inspired by what Nick was writing. Long may that continue.”


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