In September of 2018, Nick Cave began answering questions from fans via his forum, The Red Hand Files. That first question came from a certain Jacob in Łódź, Poland. In short, the opening enquiry asked Cave whether he thought his writing was changing, owing to a strengthening union he was experiencing with fans.
Cave answered in a typically earnest and candid fashion, expressing that the loss of his son, Arthur Cave, caused his writing to cease. “For a year it has been difficult to work out how to write,” Cave answers. “The centre had collapsed and Susie and I had been flung to the outer reaches of our lives. We were kind of outlanders floating in deep space.” He goes on to explain that the vital creative impetus of being awestruck by something and trying to explain it into acute poetic existence had failed in the depths of his despair.
The Bad Seeds frontman found solace away from this despair and discovered he was able to diminish the heap of his burden through ‘community’. As Cave writes: “So how do we return to our lives – to the awe of existence – and reclaim a sense of wonder? Well, for me, it had something to do with work but it also had something to do with community. Work and community. I kind of realised that work was the key to get back to my life, but I also realised that I was not alone in my grief and that many of you were, in one way or another, suffering your own sorrows, your own griefs. I felt this in our live performances. I felt very acutely that a sense of suffering was the connective tissue that held us all together. It was these two things – community and work – that showed Susie and me a way forward.”
Thereafter, he has continually updated the platform, imparting his wisdom and love upon the legions of fans who find a much-welcomed balm to the grind of life in their inbox most weeks. This transcendent nature singles Cave out as a symbol of the spiritual heights that a rockstar can rise to with the right core of sincerity.
Over the last year or so, with the globe-sweeping pandemic descending the world into a sort of communal sense of mourning, his words have become all the more important and offered a beatific escape from the world around us. He has gorgeously elucidated the toll that the virus and the resultant restrictions have taken on our lives and mental health, whilst championing the deliverance that music and art can provide in all its exultant glory. The Red Hand Files along with Idiot Prayer and Carnage have represented this very fact by transfiguring our collective hardships into something beautiful.
Aside from answering questions, he has also welcomed fans into the creative mausoleum that inspires him. From his adoration of Elvis Presley to his favourite love songs, and a list of his favourite guitarists, he has continually drip-fed little pellets of nourishing musical recommendations. These include hiding songs, which Cave defines as “songs that I can pull over myself, like a child might pull the bed covers over their head, when the blaze of the world becomes too intense. I can literally hide inside them. They are the essential pillars that hold up the structure of my artistic world,” by the likes of Leonard Cohen and Karen Dalton. As well as a list of top ten love songs and his favourite protest song.
We’ve worked our way through the beautiful archive and prose, poetry and philosophical musings and mined every song that Cave has alluded to loving for this gilded little playlist below.
The complete list of Nick Cave’s recommendations:
- ‘Ten Hiding Songs’ – The Gun Club
- ‘Mother Earth’ by The Gun Club
- ‘One Fine Morning’ by Bill Callahan
- ‘Becalmed’ by Brian Eno
- ‘Holocaust’ by Big Star
- ‘Plain Gold Ring’ by Nina Simone
- ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ by Bob Dylan
- ‘T.B. Sheets’ by Van Morrison
- ‘Tupelo’ by John Lee Hooker
- ‘Katie Cruel’ by Karen Dalton
- ‘Avalanche’ by Leonard Cohen
- ‘Superstar’ by Carpenters
- ‘Always on my Mind’ by Elvis Presley
- ‘Something on Your Mind’ by Karen Dalton
- ‘Where’s the Playground Susie’ by Glen Campbell
- ‘Nights in White Satin’ by The Moody Blues
- ‘Angel of the Morning’ by Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts
- ‘Comfort You’ by Van Morrison
- ‘I Threw It All Away’ by Bob Dylan
- ‘My Father’ by Nina Simone
- ‘To Love Somebody’ by Bee Gees
- ‘This Charming Man’ by The Smiths
- ‘Reel Around the Fountain’ by The Smiths
- ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ by The Smiths
- ‘Cosmic Dancer’ by T. Rex
- ‘On The Beach’ by Neil Young
- ‘Maggot Brain’ by Funkadelic
- ‘Starless’ by King Crimson
- ‘Murder Most Foul’ by Bob Dylan
- ‘My Sweet Lord (live)’ by Nina Simone (George Harrison cover)
- ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues ft. Kirsty MacColl
- ‘How Great Thou Art’ by Elvis Presley
- ‘Kentucky Rain’ by Elvis Presley