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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27 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
SAINT HUCK
From the Bad Seeds album, From Her To Eternity (June 1984)
The first song the Bad Seeds recorded. A cautionary tale imagining Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn trading “the Mighty ol’ man River for the Dirty ol’ Man Latrine.” Needless to say, it doesn’t end well for poor old Huck…

HUGO RACE, ex-Bad Seeds: “Nick has a lot of presence. And a great sense of humour. People don’t tend to see that, but it’s there. He can tell a joke, but he’s more about picking up on a conversation and steering it somewhere else, which often reveals something about the people who are talking. The first time I played with Nick was learning the songs from the ‘Mutiny!’ EP when we were touring Australia.

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“The Bad Seeds’ brief was to come up with a new take on everything; Nick was really looking for originality and authenticity. With ‘Saint Huck’, the bass work was already there when I joined the band, then we added things. The lyrics were rewritten a lot, too. That process of elimination was key to the way we worked. For Nick, From Her To Eternity was an important record. He had to make a break with the past, as well as do something that didn’t reflect The Birthday Party but had the same energy.”

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26 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
HENRY LEE
From the Bad Seeds album, Murder Ballads (February 1996). Released as a single: February 1996.
Based on a trad folk song about a woman who kills her man for failing to love her. Recorded here as a duet with then-partner PJ Harvey.

ALISON MOSSHART (The Kills/Dead Weather): “It’s a beautiful story, and I love the way Nick sang it with PJ Harvey. The storytelling is very visual – when he rejects her, she stabs him with a penknife and throws him down a well. It’s a pretty normal story. It’s about love that goes really wrong. And love that was always meant to go wrong, I guess. His lyrics are amazing, I don’t know if anyone else could sing them. He never sounds fake. I’ve admired Nick for years. But when I did finally get to meet him, it was pretty weird. I went over at a party and he was screaming over my shoulder, as I was trying to shake his hand. I was heartbroken, and for two years I thought Nick Cave was a horrible person.

“Then the next time, the Bad Seeds were playing the same venue as us and we went to see them play, and afterwards I talked to Nick all night, about a million and one things. He swore he didn’t believe me about our first meeting, he probably thought I was delusional. But I got him to recreate it, and took a photo of it, with him screaming in my face and getting ready to punch me…”

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