Head Like A Hole (song)
"Head Like A Hole" is the first track on the 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine. It was the first commercial success Trent Reznor had and received wide radio rotation at the time. Though Reznor doesn't dislike the song, he was quite surpised it became as big as it did, especially due to its relatively easy writing process compared to some of the lesser recognized tracks on Pretty Hate Machine ("That's What I Get" and "Kinda I Want To" most notably).
Head Like A Hole
The version that appears as the first track on Pretty Hate Machine, it's perhaps one of the most well known Nine Inch Nails songs. Its pounding synth bassline, tribal rhythms and chants, layered guitar and catchy double chorus are all signature aspects of the song. The stereo wipe at the end fades into the beginning of "Terrible Lie."
Head Like A Hole (Slate)
The first track on the Head Like A Hole single, this version contains more treble than its cousins and a somewhat dancier beat than most, along with higher pitched synths playing the bassline as a lead instead. Its intro is similar to the "(Clay)" remix. The instrumental melody of the original has been replaced and there is no guitar part in the chorus. It also lacks the stereo wipe outro and instead simply loops as it fades out. As indicated on the credits of the "Head Like A Hole" 12" vinyl single, this remix was completed in June 1989.
Head Like A Hole (Clay)
The second track on the Head Like A Hole single, this is the version that was used in the video for "Head Like A Hole." The only major differences are a different intro (one that features the second half of the chorus and some rhythmic chanting), a shorter pre-chorus in the second verse, and an unadulterated and extended version of the outro stereo wipe.
Head Like A Hole (Copper)
Present on the Head Like A Hole single, the "(Copper)" remix seems to be a cut and paste of the various remixes above, containing bits and pieces, loops and interruptions of the other songs. It contains the dance beat of "(Slate)" but has the layered guitar of the original version as well as a slightly modified instrumental intro. Its outro, unique to this mix, is the "Bow down before the one you serve/you're going to get what you deserve" lyric over a swinging drum-machine loop sampled from "Body Language" by Queen; the drum loop includes part of a scream by Freddie Mercury. The section sampled (from the cymbal crash to when Freddie shouts "Yeah!") is heard from 3:04 to 3:08 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqLyjg-klhE. As indicated on the credits of the "Head Like A Hole" 12" vinyl single, this remix was completed in January 1990.
You Know Who You Are
The fifth track on the Head Like A Hole single, this song is an instrumental composed of the background synths and various tribal rhythms and chants that compose the song. It's more or less a wordless "dub" version of the song and is notable for being the first instrumental piece appearing on an official Nine Inch Nails release. The outro of the song is the actual intro to the original version of "Head Like A Hole." (This song is not to be confused with "You Know What You Are?," the second track off of the album With Teeth.)
Head Like A Hole (Opal)
Exclusive to the UK version of the Head Like A Hole single, the mix is notable for it's "realistic" drums and strange instrumentation, much of which isn't present on any of the other remixes. It is perhaps the most unique remix, having a few lyrical differences from the original version of the song (in particular, the verses clearly say "God of money" rather than "God Money"), as well as using an inverted version of the bassline rather than the bassline itself and a totally different drumbeat. The only element that found its way over from the other mixes is the wood percussion intro from the original version of the song, which the drum beat follows exactly. The song ends by fading away while Reznor whispers "You know... you know who you are" repeatedly. This line is found only on this version, though it does appear in the printed lyrics on the Pretty Hate Machine album. It has been billed as "Head Like A Hole (Demo)" and "Head Like A Hole (Go-Go Mix)" on various bootlegs. As indicated on the credits of the "Head Like A Hole" 12" vinyl single, this remix was completed in November 1990.
Head Like A Hole (Soil)
The longest remix of the group, it starts off with a distorted version of the "(Clay/Slate)" remix intro. It has the original drumbeat, but lacks the synth bassline which actually comes in during the middle of the song to lead as a bridge with some odd sounding synths. There are also some odd steel drum sounding synths which stereo wipe back and forth at various points in the song.
Head Like A Hole (And All That Could Have Been)
The 13th song on the CD (16th on the DVD/VHS versions), it falls directly after "Closer" and is the end of the regular set. The lights are bright and the LCD displays behind them show mostly interference snow in time with the music. At the end of the song, the band completely destroys all the instruments and the music melts into dissonance, hanging for a bit while the strobes increase in intensity (almost to the point where it's impossible to see) before the lights shut off completely. This minute delay or so gives the band time to prepare for the encore.
Head Like A Hole (Beside You In Time)
Like the And All That Could Have Been version, this version is performed very closely to the album version, though it is much more aggressive (especially Reznor's vocals), and features a hard drumming solo by Josh Freese. At one point, Alessandro Cortini and Aaron North jump on Cortini's keyboard. At the end, North jams his guitar in an amplifier, and then throws it at the crowd. The song concludes the concert.
"Head Like A Hole" has been played at nearly every Nine Inch Nails concert and is a staple of the live set. Often it closes out the concert.
"Head Like A Hole" is usually the last song of the show (With Teeth era) or last song before the encore (Self Destruct, Fragility, and Lights in the Sky eras). At the end, the band usually destroy their instruments.
Since the With Teeth era, Trent has left singing of the chorus to the other members of the band. This is possibly due to vocal strain.
The video contains three different sequences, used at different intervals of the song. During the verses, footage of tribal dancers is undercut with rotating cybernetic heads, creating a strobe effect. For the main chorus and instrumental interludes, the band is seen playing in a large cage with wires and magnetic tape at their feet. The sub-chorus features black-and-white footage of Reznor lowering his head into a tub filled with water and bringing it back up. At the end of the video, Reznor's feet have become entangled in the tape and wires as he is lifted off the ground, hung upside-down and writhes in mid-air. The video features two drummers, one being Chris Vrenna and the other being Martin Atkins.
An extended version of the video also exists, which is set to the "Copper" mix. This version was used when the video was shown on Beavis And Butt-Head in 1993. The video was originally going to be directed by David Lynch, whom Reznor would later work with on the Lost Highway Soundtrack and the "Came Back Haunted" music video.
Reznor on the songwriting
"I don't remember what i was thinking about at the time, but it was pretty much about yelling at a beast without putting a face to it. I wrote it at the last minute as a throwaway. The rest of 'Pretty Hate Machine' was already written, and we'd revised everything else about nine times. Up until then song-writing had been a meticulous and agonising process, but this took me 15 minutes in my bedroom. The fact that it produced this huge reaction really pissed me off becuase i hadn't agonised over it. I was still back in Cleveland, and I had a job working at a studio where I'd spend time at night learning how to record and engineer things and I tried to work out how my voice sounded. I was playing everything myself but I had no confidence in playing guitar. I was convinced that if any real players heard it they'd laugh. Now i know that's bullshit but at the time I was very insecure."
God Money I'll do anything for you God Money just tell me what you want me to God Money nail me up against the wall God Money don't want everything he wants it all No you can't take it No no you can't take it (You can't take that away from me) Head like a hole Black as your soul I'd rather die than give you control Head like a hole Black as your soul I'd rather die than give you control Bow down before the one you serve You're going to get what you deserve God Money's not looking for the cure God Money's not concerned about the sick among the pure God Money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised God Money's not one to choose No you can't take it No no you can't take it No you can't take that away from me Head like a hole Black as your soul I'd rather die than give you control Head like a hole Black as your soul I'd rather die than give you control Bow down before the one you serve You're going to get what you deserve You know who you are
The final line appears only in the liner notes and in the Opal remix.