I am a Nick Cave fan. The first song I recall hearing was the 15 minute ‘Babe I’m on Fire’ – an epic love song (to himself?) that can, like much of Cave’s work, polarise opinion on him. the video to the song just makes me laugh and I regularly play it on a Friday to get me ready for the weekend.
My favourite song, without doubt though, comes from ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and is ‘Far From Me’. the opening 3 lines appear to be the start to a beautiful love song…
For you dear I was born
For you I was raised up
For you I live and for you I will die
Beautiful, poetic concise and precise, how we might love to say this to someone, or to have someone say it to us. Then we get:
For you I’m dying now
The emotion, the sense of all consuming, enduring, deep love for this person is dissipated by the ‘punch’ line. The love for the subject of his devotions is actually detrimental to him and is killing him.
This is one of the things I love most of all about Nick Cave, there is always a ‘but’. This could be a positive, redemptive note arising from a bad situation or, as in this case, a negative counter point to uplifting nature of the songs opening lines.
Last week I was fortunate to attend the premiere of a documentary about Nick Cave and his latest album release ‘Skeleton Tree’. The record was written and made around the time that Cave and his family were mourning the death of his 15 year old son who died in tragic circumstances.
The premature loss of a child must be one of the most unbearably painful things that can happen to us. I wrote recently on the loss of my mother and how I was essentially mourning a part of me that was no longer there. But that was much more a part of my past. The death of a parent, whilst profoundly sad and upsetting, somehow fits into the normal pattern of life, we expect to outlive them. The premature death of our offspring upsets that order to such an extent that, as Cave explains in the film, we not only no longer know who we are but we don’t know how that person is supposed to think or feel or behave.
In terms of losing part of oneself we lose a part of our future self, there’s a person we might have hoped or expected to become that never comes to pass and the rest of our lives appear a very dark and unwelcoming place.
On ‘I need you’, one of the tracks on Skeleton Tree, the pain and almost desperation in Cave’s voice as he repeats the words ‘I need you, I need you, nothing really matters, nothing really matters anymore…’ is painful,palpable, powerful and upsetting.
But, there is always a but, despite all that they have been through, the pain, the self examination (‘did we take our eye off something, did we fuck up somewhere along the line?’) there is a part where Cave describes how he and his wife have decided to be happy. They will go on and they will be there for their other child and each other and try to be happy again.
What ever ‘this’ is, whatever ‘now’ has to offer us it is not the end of the story. So we turn the page and we hope the story turns in our favour. It probably won’t though, we know that we will not live happily ever after but that knowledge, in itself, should not stop us trying to do so.