This wall I built around you
Is made out of stone-lies
O little girl the truth would be
An axe in thee
—Nick Cave, “Say Goodbye to the Little Girl Tree”
Nick Cave has been many things in his long, fascinating career—lewd punk-country crooner for the assaultive Birthday Party, prophetic troubadour and Biblical balladeer, founder of the gritty, sleazy Grinderman, novelist and poet of the darker realms of human experience. He has been many things, but sentimental has rarely been one of them, though he can be quite tender and vulnerable. These qualities stand as some of the many reasons I trust Cave to make a list of love songs worth a damn. Not only has he written some of the finest tunes about heartbreak, betrayal, regret, and desire but he has done so with an attitude of reverence for influences like Leonard Cohen and Nina Simone, artists with their own complicated relationships with love.
Earlier this year, Cave revealed to readers of his blog The Red Hand Files a selection of his “hiding songs”—music that “I can pull over myself,” he wrote, “like a child might pull the bed covers over their head, when the blaze of the world becomes too intense.”
The list includes Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” and Simone’s heartbreakingly somber “Plain Gold Ring.” When Cave is hiding, it ain't in a happy place, but then sad songs usually give us the greatest comfort. Maybe they also offer the best way we have to understand love, “this strange, inscrutable feeling that tears away at us, all our lives,” Cave writes in answer to two of his fans from Australia and Brazil. He leaves them, and us, his list of top ten love songs below.
01. “To Love Somebody” – Bee Gees
02. “My Father” – Nina Simone
03. “I Threw It All Away” – Bob Dylan
04. “Comfort You” – Van Morrison
05. “Angel of the Morning” – Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts
06. “Nights in White Satin” – The Moody Blues
07. “Where’s the Playground Susie?” – Glen Campbell
08. “Something on Your Mind” – Karen Dalton
09. “Always on My Mind” – Elvis Presley
10. “Superstar” – Carpenters
“Maybe some songs are the embodiment of love itself and that’s why they move us so deeply.” No one needs to tell us: love is never easy, and hardly ever just a feeling of euphoria. Like every emotion and experience, it has its melancholy shadows, and the best love songs capture this in their lyrics, chord progressions, etc. The ten love songs Cave chose—“simple, plainspoken, incendiary devices that bomb the heart to pieces”—are all classics from the sixties and seventies, decades he draws from liberally in his “hiding songs” playlist.
He favors artists with big personalities, country and folk leanings, and oftentimes a more commercial sound than his own. Nonetheless, those familiar with his music will hear the influence of Elvis, Van Morrison, and maybe even the Bee Gees on his work with the Bad Seeds. He has a new album coming, the follow-up to 2016’s harrowing Skeleton Tree. While we wait to hear what his wife calls “his Fever Songs,” listen to his top ten love songs here.
via Brooklyn Vegan
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness