Rant of the Week

Nick Cave's Towering
Tower of Song

Unfortunately, I can't trace the origin of this story, but here it is:  Nick Cave was asked to do a cut for the 1991 Cohen Tribute album "I'm Your Fan".   But he didn't want to.  But he loved Leonard Cohen, so he had to.

This is not the same as the more mainstream tribute 1995 album "Tower of Song", which featured some regrettable and embarrassing choices (Don Henley singing "Everybody Knows", Elton John butchering "I'm Your Man",  Billy Joel singing "Light as a Breeze".   Now that I mention it-- how can any album with a Don Henley cut on it be a tribute to anything?) 

Where was I?  Oh yes-- Nick Cave did not like tribute albums.  He thought they were tacky and tasteless and, you know, Don Henleyesque.  But he loved Leonard Cohen.  So he showed up at the studio and then took his band to a bar across the street and got everybody totally smashed and then came back into the studio and worked up "Tower of Song".  Apparently, he did several versions and the engineers later patched them altogether.

I was not impressed, the first time I heard it.  Or the second or third.  It was there in the middle of an album that I enjoyed very much, otherwise.  And then a funny thing happened.  The first  I remember of it was this: I began listening for the belch.  Yes, about 2/3's of the way through Nick Cave's cover of "Tower Song", he lets go one very loud, ornery, rude belch.  Then I began to listen more carefully to this whacked out pastiche of bizarre interpretations-- one minute he's Elvis, the next he's Hank Williams, then Heavy Metal, then Lou Reed...   

It's really quite charming.  It's simultaneously off-putting and embracing, passionate and excoriating.   It's a throw-back to Cohen himself, in his old "Dress Rehearsal Rag" days.  It's a paean to pure unbridled passion and spirit and despair, and a great party song.

Copyright 2008  Bill Van Dyk  All rights reserved.