225. Ghosteen




Like David Lynch’s films, I once thought people could only love or hate Nick Cave, and his Bad Seeds.

He was most definitely for me. But, with his voice like an Old Testament prophet, Biblical references all over the shop, and his songs about death and murder and the deep addictions of love and sex and drugs and rock n roll and alcohol, with burning images of good and evil fighting toe-to-toe, he wasn’t for everybody.

He didn’t give a flying one. His fans loved him. Yet despite himself, perhaps, he became something like commercially popular. There was the duet with Kylie, “Where the Wild Roses Grow”.  The song in the Harry Potter movie, “O Children”. And, of course, the dynamic intro to ‘Peaky Blinders’, “Red Right Hand”. The beautiful “Into My Arms”, which featured in the film ‘About Time’, was another gem.

Then, in 2015, his son Arthur died, aged 15. Fell off a cliff near Brighton.

Four years later, he has written and released ‘Ghosteen’. Ghost Teen?  It’s a pouring out of a vast, intensely personal grief. With achingly beautiful melodies and harmonies, pushed by piano, strings and synthesiser, taking his voice to its furthest limits. Almost no guitar or drums.

 To draw you in, then completely break your heart, it is split into two parts. First, slowly building out the ghost’s viewpoint, patient, still there.

I am beside you, look for me

I am in you, you are in me

 I’m by your side and I’m holding your hand.

Peace will come, while a spiral of children climbs up to the sun.

 I’m just waiting for you to return.


After the briefest of intermissions, part two. The parents’ grief.


There goes the Moonlit man

Got his suitcase in his hand

He is moving on, down the road

Things tend to fall apart, starting with his heart

But he kisses you lightly and leaves your sleeping body curled and dreaming

Around your smile


These words melt me.


The three bears watch the TV

They age a lifetime, O Lord

Mama bear holds the remote

Papa bear he just floats

and baby bear he is gone…to the moon in a boat


The past, with its fierce undertow

Wont ever let us go

If I could move the night I would

And I would turn the world around if I could

There’s nothing wrong with loving something you can’t hold in your hand


There is little room for wonder now

Little room for wildness too

We crawl into our wounds

Towards a climax

And I’m just waiting now for my time to come, for my place in the sun, for peace to come


Darling your dreams are your greatest part

I carry them with me in my heart


And then the killer verse.


Now I’m standing on the shore

And the animals roam the beaches

Sea creatures rising out the sea

Everyone begins to run

The kid drops his bucket and spade

And climbs into the sun


All love must turn to suffering, then transmute back to love.


Everybody’s losing someone

It’s a long way to find peace of mind

And I’m just waiting now for my time to come, for peace to come


It’s an old idea that artists can dig into their pain, put it out on display, and find catharsis, and forms of redemption. Hope it worked for you, Nick.

‘Ghosteen’ is penetrating all my mental orifices at present. I’m singing and humming snatches when I meditate, cycle and walk. When I go to sleep and wake up.

It’s a masterpiece. Mandatory listening. A compassionate musical hug for all those who have mourned, and who will grieve.

As a reference point, the nearest thing that comes to mind is David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’. But that was dark, laden with occult signs. ‘Ghosteen comes from the heart. And you can listen to it again and again, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwlU_wsT20Q


Ghosteen dances in my hand

Slowly twirling, twirling all around

Glowing circle in my hand

Dancing, dancing, dancing all around







4 thoughts on “225. Ghosteen

  1. Just reading the lyrics was making me emotional. I can’t even imagine what the actual music will be like.

    “If I could move the night I would
    And I would turn the world around if I could”

    No wonder we love movies like Superman, because when Lois was dying in a ditch, that’s exactly what Superman did–raced around the world in the opposite direction to make it run backwards and undo what had been done.
    But what’s left in real life when we can’t do that? Creation, I guess. It must have been beyond painful for Nick to pull this work out of himself but hopefully, like you said, it worked for him.


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