In the latest instalment of Nick Cave‘s online question and answer series The Red Hand Files, the singer was asked whether he felt it necessary to edit lyrics which haven’t aged particularly well in the modern day.
Specifically, the fan references the line “a fag in a whalebone corset dragging his dick across my cheek,” from ‘Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry’, a song from Cave’s 1992 album Henry’s Dream.
“Do you ever feel the need to change lyrics, when performing live, which may be problematic in 2020?” wrote the fan, named Gavin.
“Or are you happy to preserve the lyric as a product of its time, and respect the original content?”
Cave’s response leans heavily towards the second option, replying, “What songwriter could have predicted thirty years ago that the future would lose its sense of humour, its sense of playfulness, its sense of context, nuance and irony, and fall into the hands of a perpetually pissed off coterie of pearl-clutchers? How were we to know?”
Cave goes on to explain that while perhaps he could have been more considered with his words, editing songs in light of a more progressive culture would be placing blame on the songs themselves.
“Songs are divinely constituted organisms. They have their own integrity. As flawed as they may be, the souls of the songs must be protected at all costs. They must be allowed to exist in all their aberrant horror, unmolested by these strident advocates of the innocuous, even if just as some indication that the world has moved toward a better, fairer and more sensitive place.
“If punishment must be administered, punish the creators, not the songs. We can handle it. I would rather be remembered for writing something that was discomforting or offensive, than to be forgotten for writing something bloodless and bland.”
It’s not an entirely surprising answer from the songwriter, who took to the website last year to comment that he was “repelled” by “wokeness,” writing that it was “for all its virtues… an ideology immune to the slightest suggestion that in a generation’s time their implacable beliefs will appear as outmoded and fallacious as those of their own former generation.”
Cave released latest Bad Seeds album Ghosteen back in October.