"Terrible Lie" is the second track on the 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine and begins directly at the end of "Head Like A Hole" (the end of the latter providing a segue into the beginning of the former).
The second track from the album Pretty Hate Machine, its intro beat bleeds in from the outro of "Head Like A Hole" and pops up occasionally throughout the song. The song is almost entirely synthetic and is extremely layered when compared to most of the other songs on the album.
Terrible Lie (Sympathetic Mix)
Present on the Head Like A Hole single, this version is essentially the same as the album version with a few slight differences such as an unadulterated intro, a bit less layering and different arrangements, as well as a different outro and ending. Due to its similarity to the album version, however, it's often considered more of a "single mix" for the song, which is used as a B-Side to Head Like A Hole.
Terrible Lie (Empathetic Mix)
Present on the Head Like A Hole single, this version is notably more remixed than the other version, lacking the normal intro and is much more upbeat as well with different arrangements of the main parts of the song, though the flow of the song remains intact. The background noises are much clearer as well and the song is noticeably extended in this version. Some of the lyrics (such as the distorted "Hey God!") are much clearer in this version as well. It also has a different ending as well.
Terrible Lie (Closure)
"Terrible Lie" is the first song from a live performance shown on Closure. It follows footage from Nine Inch Nails fans and protesters alike as well as backstage footage. The classic "Pinion" intro leads into "Terrible Lie" and a spotlight projects the silhouette of Reznor onto the screen. The band is covered in cornstarch as per usual for the era and Reznor finishes up half singing/half saying "you promised me" into the mike. The video then goes to more fan and backstage footage and is eventually followed by "Piggy." On the DVD leak of this release, an older Lollapalooza '91 performance of this song is featured in the Appendage section, following "Now I'm Nothing." Both are recorded in bootleg-like quality.
Terrible Lie (And All That Could Have Been)
The first song on both the CD and DVD/VHS versions of And All That Could Have Been, the song takes place with just the multi-colored set lighting on and does not have any special motif to it. During certain shots, one can see the sunset through the opening at the top of the stadium. Reznor can be seen wearing cornstarch makeup and mascara during this song, though most of it does not last through "March of the Pigs." The song starts out with the recorded "The New Flesh"/"Pinion" intro typical to the Fragility 2.0 shows, though this is entirely cut off along with the actual intro to the song on the CD version. The song ends with Reznor screaming "You fucking promised me!", before seguing directly into "Sin."
Terrible Lie (Beside You In Time)
The live version of "Terrible Lie," as performed on Beside You In Time, is much moodier than previous versions. During the choruses (during which "terrible lie" is chanted), a previously unheard riff is played by guitar and bass. Also, Reznor seems much more desperate while singing the "Don't take it away from me…" lines in the song. The added "live" solo at the end of the song has also been modified. These changes can likely be attributed to the fact that this is an almost completely new live line up. The music is also much more cleaner and defined than the Fragility tour and on And All That Could Have Been. At the end of the song, the band doesn't play the extended live ending. Instead, they finish the song abruptly, as in the album version.
"Terrible Lie" is often the opening song of Nine Inch Nails shows following an introduction, which may be "Now I'm Nothing" (Lollapalooza '91, NIN/JA 2009) or, often, a manipulated pre-recorded version of "Pinion." The live version typically omits the keyboard and bass harmony for the first half of the first chorus, a feature of the Sympathetic mix. The ending of the song is extended when performed live and is often concluded with Reznor screaming "you promised me" repeatedly. A brief sample of the words "who do you think you're fooling?" often surrounded the song in performances prior to the Fragility tour, most often at the end of the song (though also used at the start of the song on Pretty Hate Machine tours as it emerged from the sample collage). The variation performed on the Wave Goodbye Tour is mostly the same as the version introduced during Live: With Teeth. However, as the live band is now only 4 members, all synthesizer parts are absent, leaving only loud guitar riffs (this is most noticeable in the chorus, and right before the outro where there is usually a 'hammer-synth' countermelody played over the chorus progression). Due to the hectic nature of the song, the band will often destroy instruments and/or the stage during the song. This can be seen in the 1989-1991 footage that was added as an appendage to the "DVD" version of Closure.
Aaron North solo tabStandard tuning
Hey God, why are you doing this to me? Am I not living up to what I'm supposed to be? Why am I seething with this animosity? Hey God, I think you owe me a great big apology Terrible lie Hey God, I really don't know what you mean Seems like salvation comes only in our dreams I feel my hatred grow all the more extreme Hey God, can this world really be as sad as it seems? Terrible lie Don't take it away from me I need someone to hold on to Don't take it away from me I need someone to hold on to Hey God, there's nothing left for me to hide I lost my ignorance, security and pride I'm all alone in a world you must despise Hey God, I believed the promises, the promises and lies Terrible lie You made me throw it all away My morals left to decay How many you betray You've taken everything Terrible lie My head is filled with disease My skin is begging you please I'm on my hands and knees I want so much to believe I need someone to hold on to I need someone to hold on to I need someone to hold on to I need someone to hold on to I give you everything My sweet everything Hey God, I really don't know who I am In this world of piss.
The last two lines only appear in the album booklet for Pretty Hate Machine
It should be noted that the following line was changed on the recording:
Hey God, I believed your promises, your promises and lies