Malibu brænder Nick Cave

Nick Cave’s nyeste album Ghosteen var sidste år et af de sværeste albums at komme ind i for mig. Et nummer derfra, den 14-minutter lange endgame-afslutter ‘Hollywood’, var dog øjeblikkeligt en undtagelse. For her fandtes det liv, den musikalske stemning og den dynamik, resten af albummet nemt kan synes sært foruden. Samt nogle fantastiske sangord oveni. I sin brevkasse The Red Hand Files spørges Nick Cave i dag ind til baggrunden for det mægtige slutnummer. Svaret synes så interessant, det fortjener også at blive bragt her…

Please tell us everything you can about the song ‘Hollywood’. It’s one of the most powerful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and I want to know everything you can tell me. JON, OSLO, NORWAY

Dear Jon,

At around 8’ 30’’ into the song ‘Hollywood’ the narrator stands on the beach, looking out to sea. Malibu is on fire and the animals have been driven down from the hills to the shore. A sea serpent rises out of the ocean. A small boy drops his bucket and spade and climbs into the sun. Jon, this series of images came to me while in the back of a car driving around your city of Oslo on the last Bad Seeds’ tour, and was the first step toward the writing of Ghosteen. Within this sudden vision the whole of the album presented itself. It is rare in songwriting to be given such a rich and sustaining gift.

Some months later I wrote what would become the second verse of ‘Hollywood’ – the image of my wife, as a white cougar with ‘a terrible engine of wrath for a heart’, roaming the Hollywood Hills. This single image of rage-filled, carnivorous grief sat in my notebook waiting for a home.

The Buddhist story of Kisa and the Mustard Seed, that would eventually be the final part of ‘Hollywood’, had been of great significance and comfort to me for years and at some point I jotted it down in verse form, completely independent of anything else, and with no intention of it being a song.

Early in 2018, at the initial ‘improv’ recording sessions in Brighton, Warren threw down the driving ‘Hollywood’ loop and at the same time played the beautiful circular synth chords. Meanwhile, I sat jamming at the piano and dumping lyrics onto it. I had all these disparate images rolling around in my head, unmoored and desperate for a home – Malibu on fire, the cougar roaming the hills, the terrified animals on the shore, the breaching leviathan, the kid and the sun, Kisa and her baby – and the restless propulsion of the loop allowed me to just spill them out. I didn’t at the time know what they meant, or how they connected to each other. We played non-stop for hours, lost to it. 

Listening back, in the studio a week or so later, most of the extended jam was unusable, but there was a fifteen minute section, towards the end, that was mysterious and compelling and so we edited it out and kept it. It included within it the cougar scene, the beach and the fire, and the Kisa story. The remainder of the lyrics were there as well, extemporized yet complete. We added some strings, backing vocals, Tommy’s beautiful drumming, tidied up the vocal a bit and it became ‘Hollywood.’ It was effortless and enigmatic and it spoke to us from another place, crying from the future whilst callingfrom the past.

In the song ‘Ghosteen’, a man is saying goodbye to a sleeping woman – he is leaving, heading somewhere, we don’t know where. ‘Hollywood’ is a continuation of this song. It is the leaving, the driving away, heading out of LA, along the Pacific Coast to Malibu. Malibu is on fire. 

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