Issue #243 / July 2023
I’m listening to you on Louis Theroux podcast right now and I have to confess, whilst I know the name Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, I’ve not taken the time to listen to your catalogue.
I’ve always felt somewhat pedestrian in my music choices, falling into listening patterns from my youthful dance floor days (late 80s & early 90s).
I’m keen to expand my playlist so if I wanted to delve into your back catalogue, can you recommend a chronological list of songs to help me get started?
AOTEAROA, WELLINGTON, NZ
Spent all day down a rabbit hole with your songs after hearing an interview with Louis Theroux on Spotify. I am completely confused by your music. Can you help me? What should I listen to?
ADRIAN, NEW YORK, USA
I just listened to your interview with Louis Theroux. It was fascinating but I don’t know anything about you. Can you help me get started with your music. Can you do a playlist of 15 of your best songs to get me started?
DAPHNE, TORONTO, CANADA
Dear Aotearoa, Adrian and Daphne,
It seems that a whole lot of uninitiated people have come to The Red Hand Files this week, following my interview with Louis Theroux. I am afraid that I don’t think I am the right person to help you navigate my music though. My relationship to my songs is too entangled with their personal history, and I have no clear understanding as to which are the good ones and which are not.
For instance, I think that ‘Brompton Oratory’, which was recorded in one take on a Casio I found in a junk shop, is a way better song than ‘The Mercy Seat’, which took months to write, weeks to record and had multiple ‘producers’ mix it; for a whole lot of despairing reasons, I think Ghosteen is, by any metric, the best album the Bad Seeds have ever made, however The Bad Seeds song I love the most is probably ‘Sad Waters’ from Your Funeral, My Trial — I cried at its slippery beauty when I first played it to my then girlfriend, Elisabeth, as we sat on her bed in Schöneberg, Berlin; I think the song, ‘From Her To Eternity’, is probably the best early Bad Seeds song, primarily because of Blixa Bargeld’s extraordinarily eccentric guitar playing, although perhaps Blixa’s most inspired moment was his blood-curdling scream at the end of ‘Stagger Lee’; I think ‘The Spinning Song’ lyrics might be as good as I can do, although I have a soft spot for the amphetamine-fuelled lyrical lunacy of ‘The Curse of Millhaven’, as does my wife, Susie; I think, in hindsight, that I probably agree with journalist, Matt Snow’s, wounding summation of The Firstborn is Dead as “lacking dramatic tension”, but I think the song ‘Scum’, which I wrote about him in response, is a high point in the Bad Seeds’ catalogue of infamy; I think the oscillator solo on ‘Red Right Hand’ is the best thing on Let Love In, but — controversially — I don’t think ‘Red Right Hand’ is the Bad Seeds’ greatest achievement; and for a whole lot of complex, nostalgic and defensive reasons, I would prefer to listen to the album Nocturama than Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! any day of the week. I could go on! I think that ‘Shoot Me Down’ should have been put on the Nocturama record and ‘Babe, I’m on Fire’ should have been left off. And so on and so forth.
But all this is highly subjective, super-confusing and completely debatable, and I know that actual Nick Cave fans out there, who have a long and hard-earned understanding of my music, would disagree with much of this stuff.
So, I wonder if those fans could help us out by writing in with a 15 song playlist of the Best of Nick Cave, and perhaps you could add your age, just for interest’s sake. I’ll then put some of the playlists up on The Red Hand Files. It would be a lovely act of kindness to Aotearoa, Daphne and Adrian to welcome them and give them some idea of where to start.
All this is a long way of saying a big hello to all of you new Red Hand Files subscribers and, hopefully, future Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds advocates! Welcome! We are happy to have you here!