“The Ship Song”, today’s Song of the Day, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds has very personal significance to me. Quite possibly my favorite Nick Cave song (with a few others as contenders), this song became exponentially something more to me when I met, and fell in love, with my boyfriend. It not only became connected with us, and our burgeoning feelings for each other, but it became the theme song to the chronicling I’ve done of our relationship (tagged “We Make a Little History”, lyrics from “The Ship Song”).
I vividly remember sending him this song, back when we used to send each other music every day (something I miss greatly). There are a few other Cave songs that we sent back and forth, and that have also become part of “our history”. Perhaps I’ll write about those another day.
Recently, my boyfriend and I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seed perform live. When he sang this song I was deeply, and emotionally moved, and was grateful to be experiencing not only the song live, but to be sharing the experience with the person who helped to make this song so important to me. I meant to do a review of the show, but unfortunately the current stress and upset in my life made it hard to write about. Maybe someday. But, until then (if there is a “then” for that review), I will say that it was one of the highlights of the night, for me. A moment, shared with my boyfriend, that I will keep with me forever.
“The Ship Song” is the fifth track off of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1990 album, The Good Son. It was the sixth album released by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, an album that has been noted to be a significant departure from the two albums that came before, that have been described as both “dark and harrowing” (from Wikipedia) It has been presumed that the change in moods had to do with Nick Cave falling in love with Brazilian journalist Viviane Carneiro at the time of the album, as well as a spell in rehab where Cave was said to have worked through a lot of despair and sadness from his life.
Nick Cave has said himself, about The Good Son:
“I guess The Good Son is some kind of reflection of the way I felt early on in Brazil. I was quite happy there. I was in love and the first year or two was good. The problem I found was … in order to survive you have to adopt their attitudes towards everything, which are kind of blinkered.”
(from “Album by Album with Nick Cave”, in Rolling Stone Australia, 1998)
You can certainly hear and feel, the love in “The Ship Song”, which is much of the reason it became one of our falling in love songs right at the start of our relationship.
My favorite version (that I’ve found) of “The Ship Song” is the live recording below:
“The Ship Song” (live) by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
originally from the album, The Good Son (1990)
Song of the Day
“Come loose your dogs upon me,
and let your hair hang down.
You are a little mystery to me,
every time you come ’round.”
So, what about covers of “The Ship Song”? I’ve always been a fan of a good cover, but sometimes if a track has significant meaning to me, it’s hard to take in someone else’s version. With “The Ship Song” though, there have been some memorable ones, that stay both true to the spirit of the song and showcase the individual sound and style of the artist covering it.
Two of my favorites are by Concrete Blonde, and Lissie.
“The Ship Song” by Concrete Blonde
from the album, Still In Hollywood (1994)
Although I’m fond of this cover version, and a longtime fan of Concrete Blonde, I do wish Johnette Napolitano was the lead vocal, or only vocal, in this. As soon as she starts singing I’m all in.
“The Ship Song” by Lissie
from the cover EP, Covered Up with Flowers (2011)
My favorite of the covers I’ve heard of “The Ship Song”. I love the vulnerability of her voice in this version, and the stripped down, almost acoustic, arrangement. It is reminiscent of the live Nick Cave (see above) that I love so much – though Cave’s version is my forever favorite.