I remember a girl so very well
The carnival drums all mad in the air
Grim reapers and skeletons and a missionary bell
O where do we go now but nowhere

In a colonial hotel we fucked up the sun
And then we fucked it down again
Well the sun comes up and the sun goes down
Going round and round to nowhere

The kitten that padded and purred on my lap
Now swipes at my face with the paw of a bear
I turn the other cheek and you lay into that
O where do we go now but nowhere

O wake up, my love, my lover wake up
O wake up, my love, my lover wake up

Across clinical benches with nothing to talk
Breathing tea and biscuits and the Serenity Prayer
While the bones of our child crumble like chalk
O where do we go now but nowhere

I remember a girl so bold and so bright
Loose-limbed and laughing and brazen and bare
Sits gnawing her knuckles in the chemical light
O where do we go now but nowhere

You come for me now with a cake that you've made
Ravaged avenger with a clip in your hair
Full of glass and bleach and my old razorblades
O where do we go now but nowhere

O wake up, my love, my lover wake up
O wake up, my love, my lover wake up

If they'd give me my clothes back then I could go home
From this fresh, this clean, antiseptic air
Behind the locked gates an old donkey moans
O where do we go now but nowhere

Around the duck pond we grimly mope
Gloomily and mournfully we go rounds again
And one more doomed time and without much hope
Going round and around to nowhere

From the balcony we watched the carnival band
The crack of the drum a little child did scare
I can still feel his tiny fingers pressed in my hand
O where do we go now but nowhere

If I could relive one day of my life
If I could relive just a single one
You on the balcony, my future wife
O who could have known, but no one

O wake up, my love, my lover make up
O wake up, my love, my lover make up


Lyrics submitted by stanlavisbad2, edited by Mellow_Harsher

Where Do We Go Now but Nowhere? song meanings
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16 Comments

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  • +5
    General CommentNick Cave has written many sad and beautiful songs - but i agree with Dollarshort - not only do i think is this the saddest Nick Cave song - this is one of, if not THE saddest song i've ever heard. This album came out over 10 years ago, and this song, after a decade, still tears the heart clean from my chest. Warren Ellis' violin, at the beginning of the "If they give me my clothes back" verse is absolutely gutwretching - and the "Around the duck pound..." verse directly after is literally the most depressing sequence of words i've ever seen anyone put together. "Grimly mope....gloomily and mornfully....and one more doomed time and without much hope, going round and around to nowhere" holyshit Nick, i think my soul just killed itself without my bodies permission.

    From what i understand, Nick does not care for this album - which i find sad, because it's my absolute favorite. If i remember correctly, he says the whole thing is just too personal, and music should never be as personal as this album is - but i disagree, especially considering this song. He is vague enough about events, poetically alluding to them while retaining emotions so evocative and universal that it speaks to anyone who has had a relationship with someone they truly love dissolve right in front of them. These few comments above me are proof of this - this is no idle tune....number 7 of 12. This song, like so many of Nick's songs (particularly from this album) wails and moans and haunts and, like a ghost, might never find peace.
    StickityWicketon July 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI see this song as being written of the collapse of a relationship in the wake of a child's death. When I hear the stanza beginning with "From the balcony..." I see a father, mother, and son watching a parade or festival from a balcony. The child for some reason falls, the father grabs his hand, yet he cannot hold on and the child tragically dies. Afterwards, the mother is so stricken with grief, she suffers a total collapse. The father tries keeping it together, tries to salvage what he can, namely, his wife/lover. After trying to kill her husband with a poison cake, the wife is committed and doped up. This is just one more thing to add to the husband's mound of guilt, and he tries keeping his own sanity intact by pleading for his lover to wake up, to come out of her mourning. Truly one of the saddest songs ever written in my estimate.
    DollarShorton September 22, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf anyone has experienced a loved one fall into the grasp of mental illness, this song will crush their heart.

    I feel like Nick wrote the story of the end of a serious relationship of mine. When I first met him, he was so full of energy and life. An artist, a painter. We had all sorts of wild fun adventures together. Then things started falling apart. He would hear things that weren't there, would think people were against him, even the innocent waiters at restaurants. Ended up in a mental hospital with schizophrenia. These lyrics perfectly describe my visits. Sitting there, under the bright lights, in the white visitors' room, as he rocked back and forth and was clearly not really present. Where did my lover go? He sits in front of me but he is not there!
    "O wake up, my love, my lover wake up"!!

    "The bones of our child crumble like chalk" - We had planned a life together, getting married, having kids. And it all crumbled away.

    I cry every time I hear this song.
    lunabelle77on August 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationConsidering that this album is probably one of Cave's most personal ones, I'd go for the rehab interpretation. I honestly don't know who the girl in question is though.

    She was probably helping him through his addiction problems, visiting him from time to time (see "clinical benches" where patients and visitors hang out) being some sort of hope (carrying the "missionary bell") among all the grimy imaginery of death that surrounded him at the moment ("grim reapers and skeletons").

    My thought is that she probably got tired of the situation, got angry at him because of his difficulties trying to detox, so the one who was meant to soothe him turned against him: "The kitten that padded and purred on my lap
    Now swipes at my face with the paw of a bear" and he couldn't react at all because he knew it was his fault after all "I turn the other cheek and you lay into that."

    Images like the ones of the colonial hotel are probably just memories from a past that seemed promising for both of them, maybe at the peak of their love, when they dreamed of having a baby; the hope of the baby dies when their relationship starts to fall apart because of the addiction, and they become progressively consumed by it, that's why while they "have nothing to talk" about, " the bones of our child crumble like chalk", in a metaphorical way, like a dream that vanishes.

    In my head, when he sings: "If I could relive one day of my life
    If I could relive just a single one
    You on the balcony, my future wife
    O who could have known, but no one"

    he's remembering the day the girl visited him to the clinic for the last time. Or maybe the old times at the "colonial" hotels, when they were happy and in love and he dreamed to marry her.

    Maybe I got it all wrong. But I had to say something, I love the song.
    sashikion January 14, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI Think its about an abortion his lover had. She felt pushed into it by the narrator. Hence her anger and need to punish him (from kitten to bear, razorblade etc.) He regrets the decision too and dream of what could have been(son's hand in his etc)... Something was destroyed that Day and he wishes he could do it over. Cause where to go from there but nowhere..
    Mkfon May 03, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationSanitariums and mental facilities have been mentioned, but to me, the phrase "glass, bleach and my old razor blades" speaks of addiction - specifically heroin addiction. So I've always felt he was describing a rehab facility. Similar activities and architecture, walking around the duck pond could be something you do to pass the endless hours. Maybe a baby lost due to addiction, a miscarriage.
    bob1389612on December 20, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI do not know what this song is about and maybe my analysis is completetly wrong...

    I think it is a song about the lost emotion. About the dreams and the hopes, the love and the laughter that in time have been replaced by an everyday ritual of "doing our jobs" and moaning.
    He remembers the day they were in love and didn't care for anything else. He remembers the girl as an image of light and joy and now he searches for that girl which is no longer here.
    And he knows that she accuses him for that as well as he accuses her. But still they are in love or at least he believes so, and all they need to do is remember their love remember the way to be in love and playful again.
    That is why he repeatedly pleads "wake up my love..."

    For me this is a song of desperation and of love trying to surpass the desperation.

    But as I said this might be, probably is, completely wrong
    uodvraxzon July 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think the kid necceserily fell of a balcony, but maybe he was sick. The "clinical benches" and "chemical lights" makes me think of a hospital, as well as the part about "clean, antiseptic air". The part about the balcony and the little fingers pressed in his hand might just be a happy memory, and that when he says "Full of glass and bleach and my old razor blades" he might be refering to his wife, i.e. that she tried killing herself. I don't know, just another way of looking at it.
    Apfelstrudelon December 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think mixing your views so that the child did die of a disease and the wife tried (maybe only metaforacly) kill the husband, would give the best explanation. But this isn`t from cave`s life, is it? Or did he have a child that died?
    kalastaja774on January 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think mixing your views so that the child did die of a disease and the wife tried (maybe only metaforacly) kill the husband, would give the best explanation. But this isn`t from cave`s life, is it? Or did he have a child that died?
    kalastaja774on January 06, 2007   Link

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