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Music

The hilariously vitriolic song Nick Cave wrote in response to a bad review

@SamWKemp

We’ve all said things we’d rather take back, but when those comments have been published in a leading music publication, backtracking becomes a good deal less easy. Mat Snow learned this the hard way when he became the subject of a particularly vitriolic Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song, which Cave wrote in response to a review of his second album, The Firstborn is Dead.

Snow, a budding journalist, got to know Nick Cave when he was just starting to write for a living. “He made great music, I wrote gushing reviews,” Snow told The Guardian. “In 1983, he and his then-girlfriend Anita [Lane] stayed in my flat in Brixton when they needed a room and I needed rent money. When they moved out, we lost touch, until in 1986 I came to interview him for NME.”

Far from receiving the warm welcome he had expected, Snow was greeted by a distinctly frosty Nick Cave, who gazed at him with utter disdain: “The previous year I’d mentioned in print that I found his forthcoming album ‘disappointing’. I was, he told me, ‘an arsehole’. And he’d written a song that developed this theme. Weeks later, I bought for £1 a green seven-inch flexidisc called ‘Scum’ off his merchandise stall at a Bad Seeds show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.”

‘Scum’ track is nothing if not direct. Backed by grindcore beats, Cave recalls his time living with Snow in their shared flat: “He reminded me of some evil gnome / Shaking hands was like shaking a hot, fat, oily bone.” He then goes on to label Snow a “miserable shitwringing turd”, as well as a “fuckin’ traitor, chronic masturbator, shitlicker, user, self-abuser,” before concluding: “You gave me a bad review / maybe you think that it’s all just water under the bridge / Well my UNfriend, I’m the type that holds a grudge.” Clearly.

Surprisingly, Snow was able to turn the other cheek. “It’s a brilliant record, he said,” he commented. Although he did have one complaint, which was that Cave hid ‘Scum’ from view, only including it as a bonus CD track on his album Your Funeral, My Trial. “I’d rather be memorialised as the spotlit object of a genius’s scorn than a dusty discographical footnote,” Snow continued. “Still, my Cave-fan wife-to-be was mightily impressed when, on our first date, I unrolled the story (not for the first time). Seven years later, ‘Scum’ is ‘our song'”.

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