Nick Cave Monday #10: “The Carny”


When we die, “The Carny” will be our soundtrack. Us humans, who have been jonesing for beliefs and answers about the afterlife in this existence…. We will enter a red tent and DJ will drop the needle on the second track from “Your Funeral, My Trial.”

The dwarves will invite us to play on the trampoline with them, if only we can get past the bearded ladies aching to sodomize us.

“The Carny” feels like a blend of romance and horror, of beauty and violence. How does Nick Cave do it? How does he create something that sounds like a children’s story and yet strikes fear through our souls?

This is the soundtrack of death, not of a man, but the death of a horse named Sorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen, “The Carny”:

I covet that notebook he’s reading from. What else is in there? Drawings? Lyrics to future songs?

“The Carny”:

I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness, so I always get a sinister kick when Nick makes biblical references…..especially Moses and Noah as dwarves in this song.

Side note: When I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “The Witness Song” by Nick Cave was my theme song.

“The Carny” at Pinkpop, Blixa has guitar issues and the greatest mullet ever:

I love how Blixa chimes in as Boss Bellini…..he sounds so evil. “Bury this lump of crow bait.”

I get shivers.

“The Carny” for MTV:

In San Francisco, we have a horn player who performs in a bunch of bands and played with Tom Waits for many years. His name is Ralph Carney. So, whenever I see him and he says “goodbye” and walks away, I sing, “No one saw the Carny go, I say it’s funny how things go.”

That last line always kills me, “I say it’s funny how things go.”

Such a perfect ending to the song, and an oddly comforting reminder that everything comes to pass sooner or later.

Thanks for reading and come back next week for another Nick Cave Monday.

Tony DuShane is the author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk. His writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Penthouse, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer. And, if you’re a Nick Cave fan, check out Nick Cave Monday. More from this author →