"The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave cover)" as written by and Mick Harvey Nicholas Edward Cave....
It all began when they took me from my home
And put me on Death Row
A crime for which I'm totally innocent, you know

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
And all things either good or ungood

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

My killed hands tattooed E.V.I.L.
across it's brother's fist
That filthy five!
They did nothing to challenge or resist

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of His Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold.
It's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And, anyway, I never lied

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this twistin' of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And, anyway, there was no proof
And I'm not afraid to die

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smokin'
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all these looks of disbelief.
A life for a life
And a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die

And the mercy seat is smokin'
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that's helping
To be done with all this twistin' of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a truth for a truth
And, anyway, I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie.


Lyrics submitted by geordie_bri

"The Mercy Seat" as written by Mick Harvey Nicholas Edward Cave

Lyrics © MUSIC SALES CORPORATION

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The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave cover) song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentI can't believe no one has commented on this song yet. kudos to nick cave for writing a kick-ass song, but the music just doesn't match the lyrics. That is why I love Johnny cash's later albums. He takes obscure songs, songs that nobody would ever think that he could change, and he does change it, and for the better. Johnny's version is infinitely times better. So much more emotion. I actually feel sympathy for this convict. And the last line has to qualify as one of the best last lines ever in all of music
    adam1986on March 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti don't agree that sympathizing with the singer makes the song less powerful - it emphasizes the brutality of the "mercy seat" and even makes the "kill hand" part more awful, because his disgust with his other hand - the one that did nothing to challenge or resist as it was being labeled EVIL - becomes more believable.

    i also wonder which lie he told - that he's innocent, or that he's not afraid to die?
    jalopyon August 04, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really really like this song. I think it's a Nick Cave song.. either way JC does an excellent job with it. Love the last line.
    Aztechyaon October 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree that he takes other's songs and makes them his own, but I wouldn't exactly say that they are obscure songs.
    samwaltonon April 18, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is originally nick cave's, but johnny cash vocals is amazing in this!! Makes the hairs on my neck stand up!
    HitmanMCon May 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not sure it's infinitely better, either. I mean, I absolutely adore Johnny's version of this song, but I think he missed out a pretty important part of Nick Cave's version that Adam actually highlighted: he's trying to make us sympathise with the character. Nick's version was massively sinister, and you get the impression more and more as the song goes on that the character is less and less good. But because Johnny's is meant to be a good character, the lines like "My kill hand's tattooed E.V.I.L" really fall flat. That said, I agree that Johnny made this one his own in a good way! I just think the original had a bit more impact.
    Appers66on July 29, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about guilt, delial, and acceptance for what the man has done. He wrestles with the guilt so much that he finally looks at his punishment by death in the electric chair as a relief. He is so eaten up with guilt that death would be more merciful than living with what he's done.
    motrhed13on March 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere are some examples of covers exceeding their original.
    There are literally only a handful of covers truly transcending their original.
    In my humble opinion this is one that does.
    KirkOlsonon November 05, 2010   Link

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