Nick Cave Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Songs–His Favorite “Hiding Songs”

For all of the indis­pens­able pur­pos­es music has served over thou­sands of years of human his­to­ry, at no time before the age of mass pro­duced record­ed music was it ever a col­lectible commodity—something we could own, believ­ing it was made just for us, even when it reached mil­lions of oth­er peo­ple. Music has, of course, con­tin­ued to play a sig­nif­i­cant com­mu­nal role, and in some ways maybe even a stronger one in the age of glob­al mass media.

Yet the expe­ri­ence of lis­ten­ing to music has also become, over the course of the past cen­tu­ry, an unprece­dent­ed­ly pri­vate affair. Whether you grew up with LPs, tapes, CDs, or stream­ing dig­i­tal, you know what it’s like to have a col­lec­tion of songs that seem like they were writ­ten just for you, sum­ming up your life in some uncan­ny way: songs that feel like emo­tion­al refuges, wel­com­ing some dis­placed part of your­self.

These are songs Nick Cave calls “hid­ing songs,” and the leader the Bad Seeds and, for­mer­ly, The Birth­day Par­ty and Grin­der­man, has writ­ten his share for many of his fans; many of the same fans who write him with deep per­son­al ques­tions, hop­ing to con­nect. On his blog The Red Hand Files, Cave posts the let­ters that most move him and offers can­did respons­es gen­er­ous­ly thread­ing the con­ver­sa­tion through his song­writ­ing and musi­cal influ­ences.

In a post from Jan­u­ary, when asked to cre­ate a list of his “favourite pieces of music,” Cave revealed ten of his own “hid­ing songs,” but not before explain­ing them with a quote from his poem, “The Sick Bag Song.”

Leonard Cohen will sing, and the boy will sud­den­ly breathe as if for the first time, and fall inside the laugh­ing man’s voice and hide.

He will realise that not only are these songs sacred, they are ‘hid­ing songs’ that deal exclu­sive­ly in dark­ness, obfus­ca­tion, con­ceal­ment and secre­cy. He will realise that for him the pur­pose of these songs was to shut off the sun, to draw a long shad­ow down and pro­tect him from the cor­ro­sive glare of the world.

Cohen, unsur­pris­ing­ly, tops the list. Cave may be an old-fash­ioned songwriter—preserving some of the best impuls­es of his lit­er­ary heroes—but he is also an adept hand at the list, a short­hand form that buries its emo­tions in par­en­thet­i­cal com­men­tary. When it comes to hid­ing songs, songs about “con­ceal­ment and secre­cy,” maybe there isn’t much more to say.

Maybe we’d like juicy per­son­al details. What was going on in Cave’s life when Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cru­el” gave him a place to hide? What about Neil Young’s down­beat “On the Beach” or Nina Simone’s aching “Plain Gold Ring” (hear him cov­er it live at the top) or Big Star’s incred­i­bly depress­ing “Holo­caust”? We may nev­er know, and we may nev­er need to. Sure­ly we each have such a list of songs that speak to us alone, of feel­ings only we can under­stand.

For an artist like Cave, how­ev­er, the pri­vate expe­ri­ence of record­ed music has a very pub­lic dimen­sion. The songs he lists, he writes, “are the essen­tial pil­lars that hold up the struc­ture of my artis­tic world.” The only ques­tion left may be, what songs were all these artists hid­ing in when they wrote the songs below? Hear all of Cave’s “hid­ing songs,” with a bonus eleventh, “Moth­er of Earth,” his favorite Gun Club song, by fan request.

Avalanche, Leonard Cohen

Katie Cru­el, Karen Dal­ton

On the Beach, Neil Young

Tupe­lo, John Lee Hook­er

T.B. Sheets, Van Mor­ri­son

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Bob Dylan

Plain Gold Ring, Nina Simone

Holo­caust, Big Star

Becalmed, Bri­an Eno

One Fine Morn­ing, Bill Calla­han

Moth­er of Earth, The Gun Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Nick Cave Cre­ates a List of His Top 10 Love Songs

Nick Cave Answers the Hot­ly Debat­ed Ques­tion: Will Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Ever Be Able to Write a Great Song?

Lis­ten to Nick Cave’s Lec­ture on the Art of Writ­ing Sub­lime Love Songs (1999)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.