I am a fan of Nick Cave, and subscribe to his Red Hand Files communiques in which he answers questions about music, poetry, life, etc., from all sorts of people. I actually take the trouble to read those posts – and I am often very moved by what he writes. Today’s post was a real punch to the gut. He comments on a cover version of a song that he had written for The Flaming Lips, called Girl in Amber. I am quite serious about lyrics, I listen and think about them: about how poetic they are, about whether they work or scan, about how they match with the music, and whether the song as a whole, is meaningful, or moving, or beautiful. This song does. It is short and sad, but the melody is sweet and harmonious, and the lyrics are simple yet deep.
What a disturbing, yet fitting image: a girl, an event, heartache, caught forever in fossilized resin.
Part of the charm is the husky, young voice of the vocalist, Nell Smith. She’s so ridiculously young, and so ridiculously talented – from the unlikely spot of Fernie, a small town on the CP Rail line in British Columbia, Canada. She’s got a big future in music, that’s for sure.
Go ahead, give it a listen. Here’s Nick’s post, and below that, the lyrics and the video. You’ve got to appreciate that it takes enormous talent to create something so small, but so good. I’m not responsible if, on this Friday, it makes you cry.
The Red Hand Files ISSUE #165 / SEPTEMBER 2021
|Did you know about the forthcoming album The Flaming Lips made with a 13-year old fan of theirs on vocals, consisting of covers of your songs, and what do you think of the idea, and if you’ve heard it yet?|
FRANÇOIS, PARIS, FRANCE
Dear François, I didn’t know about this project, so thank you for alerting me to it. I have a whole lot of time for The Flaming Lips — really like a lot of their stuff, have been an admirer since watching them play most evenings on the Lollapalooza Festival tour in ’94, maybe even sang with them there, and wrote a song for one of their records. This version of Girl in Amber is just lovely, I was going to say Nell Smith inhabits the song, but that’s wrong, rather she vacates the song, in a way that I could never do. I always found it difficult to step away from this particular song and sing it with its necessary remove, just got so twisted up in the words, I guess. Nell shows a remarkable understanding of the song, a sense of dispassion that is both beautiful and chilling. I just love it. I’m a fan.
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Copyright © 2021 Nick Cave Productions, All rights reserved.
Girl in Amber
Songwriters: Nicholas Cave / Warren Ellis
Some go and some stay behind Some never move at all Girl in amber trapped forever Spinning down the hall Let no part of her go unremembered Clothes across the floor Girl in amber lumber slumber Shuts the bathroom door The phone, the phone the phone it rings The phone it rings no more The song, the song, the song it spins Since nineteen eighty-four The phone, the phone, the phone it rings The phone it rings no more The song, the song It's been spinning now since nineteen If you want to bleed Just bleed If you want to bleed Just bleed And if you want to bleed Don't breathe A word I get lucky I get lucky 'cause I tried again I knew the world it would stop spinning now Since you've been gone I used to think that when you died You kind of wandered the world In a slumber 'til you crumbled Were absorbed into the earth Well, I don't think that any more Any more Any more If you want to bleed Just bleed If you want to bleed Just bleed And if you want to bleed Don't breathe A word If you want to bleed Just bleed If you want to bleed Just bleed And if you want to bleed Don't breathe A word Source: LyricFind Songwriters: Nicholas Cave / Warren Ellis Girl in Amber lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., BMG Rights Management
About the header
Nell Smith, 13, pictured with her cat, Colin. (Image submitted by Jude Smith in Bob Keating, B.C. teen embarks on unlikely pandemic collaboration with The Flaming Lips, CBC News, posted: Dec 21, 2020; last updated: December 22, 2020; rtrvd. 10-Sept-2021)