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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6 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
From the Bad Seeds album, Henry’s Dream (April 1992)
Love in the face of apocalypse! Towers of ivory crumble, swallows sharpen beaks and Mick Harvey provides a Dylanesque organ riff…

MARC RILEY (6 Music DJ and former Fall member): “I remember the first time I saw Nick with The Birthday Party, at Rafters in Manchester in November 1981. He’d said in an interview that Fun House by The Stooges and Slates by The Fall – the band I was in at the time – had kept him sane in Australia, so a few of us went to see them. It was a pretty wild set, which culminated with Nick unscrewing a presumably red-hot lamp from above the stage and throwing it into the crowd. It whizzed past my ear and shattered on [Fall bassist] Steve Hanley’s shoulder. We played with them quite a few times and they were always eventful.

“One of the great things about Nick is how he’s managed to age with dignity. He grew up loving Iggy and Leonard Cohen – and as time passed he was less the former and more the latter, writing some of the most beautiful songs of the last 20 years. At his best, his songwriting is equal to Cohen. And ‘Straight To You’ is a brilliant example of that. It sounds like a classic Cohen song.


“I once introduced Nick and the Bad Seeds at a bash to celebrate John Peel’s 40 years in broadcasting with the words ‘…and if he does “Into My Arms”, prepare to see a grown man cry’. Now he has Grinderman as an outlet for his reckless side, I suppose Nick proves you can have your cake and eat it. I also think he’s currently the world’s best frontman…”


5 The Birthday Party
Birthday Party single, August 1981
First conceived as a jokey filler, this went on to become an early live favourite. The tongue-in-cheek sentiment was largely lost on legions of Goths, who made it a dancefloor staple.


NICK LAUNAY (Birthday Party/Bad Seeds producer): “This was one of the first songs I ever produced, when I was 20 years old. I got a call from their record company, 4AD in London, and they asked if I wanted to work with The Birthday Party. The funny thing about that session was we went into the studio after midnight, because that was the only time we could get cheap studio time. It was done in a recording studio where, during the day, I was a studio assistant working with Phil Collins. It was very odd, it felt like at night I opened the door and all the bats flew in, it all got very dark and angry. We bashed out ‘Release The Bats’ and [B-side] ‘Blast Off!’ in one night and it felt like I was messing with the Devil. I was going to the dark side. They were all on heroin, I think, but I was very innocent of all that because I hadn’t been around it. I just thought they all had attitude. It felt like I was working with vampires, and it has helped me get into gothic nightclubs ever since. That’s another reason it’s one of my favourites.”


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