Something I Can Never Have

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"Something I Can Never Have"
Album: Pretty Hate Machine
Length: 5:55
Tempo: 108 BPM
Versions: Something I Can Never Have
Something I Can Never Have (Natural Born Killers Soundtrack)
Something I Can Never Have (Still)
Something I Can Never Have (Closure)
Something I Can Never Have (Beside You In Time)
Live: "Pretty Hate Machine" Promotional Tour through NIN 2013 Festival Tour
NIN + QOTSA Tour through NIN 2014 Europe/UK Tour
I Can't Seem To Wake Up 2017 to present

"Something I Can Never Have" is the fifth track on the 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine. It is apparently a song about lost love and missed chances, though the true story about the song isn't widely (or at all) known. It is the first chronological song in which Trent Reznor plays a piano and in which he uses the word "fuck" ("fading fucking reminder").

A stripped-down version can be found on Still, which has an accompanying performance video released at the time on

Song Credits

  • Production: Trent Reznor, John Fryer
  • Engineer/Mix: John Fryer






Something I Can Never Have

This is the original album version. It begins with the decending pitch drone that segues in from "Sanctified" as the piano that dominates for most of the song creeps in. The song is notable for its ambient backing, including conflicting sounds of machinery and nature such as the buzzes, hisses and door slams that accompany the music as well as the ambience of wind and chirping birds buried far behind the "industrial noises." The song itself is fairly straightforward and gets louder as it progresses; notably, Reznor's vocals seem to grow in volume and emotion as the song progresses, the song surging up as it enters the last chorus. After it, the ambience suddenly drops out on the last few lines, draining away and only leaving the chirping birds in the background. The "atmospheric keyboards" in the song are sampled from an unused This Mortal Coil session. On the 2010 remastered vinyl edition, the song begins the second side; as such, it lacks the drone guitar at the beginning, simply starting with the lone piano motif before the bass synth joins in and the song proceeds as usual.

Something I Can Never Have (Natural Born Killers Soundtrack)

Running Time: 4:04

An edited/remixed version of the song appearing on the soundtrack to the motion picture, Natural Born Killers, which was arranged and produced by Reznor himself. The song only contains the first verse and chorus, after which it deviates into an alternate piano section which slowly wanders to the song's end. The song also contains samples from the movie as well as several sound effects including:

  • A thunderclap (at the very beginning)
  • Nocturnal birds (during the fade off of the thunderclap)
  • A movie sample of the two main characters (Mickey and Mallory) arguing (just after the piano starts)
   Mickey: Let me tell you something, this is the 1990's. Alright?
        In this day and age, a man has to have choices.
        A man has to have a little bit of variety.
   Mallory: What are you talking about, variety? Hostages?
        You want to fuck some other women, now?
        Is that what you're talking about, Mickey?
        Why'd you pick me up? Why'd you take me out 
        of my fucking house and kill my parents with me?!
        Ain't you committed to me?! Where are we fucking going?!!
   Mickey: Just relax, alright?  It's me, your lover, not some
        demon, not your father. Alright, relax.
   Mallory: No, you're not my fucking lover. You're not my fucking-
        You've been loving me?! You've been fucking loving me?! Huh?!
        You've been loving me real...(fade out)
  • A rattlesnake (during the movie sample after the man speaks the second time)
  • Fire crackling and hissing (towards the end)
  • Native American chanting (just after the fire sounds)

Even with the extended piano part, the song is a full minute and forty seconds shorter than its album counterpart.

Something I Can Never Have (Still)

Running Time: 6:39

This stripped-down reworking consists of Reznor on piano and vocals, and Jerome Dillon on guitar. It is the first track on Still and follows the general arrangement of the song, though it completely lacks any of the "industrial ambience" of the original version save for an odd guitar whine during the latter half of the song. It is also nearly a minute longer than its Pretty Hate Machine counterpart.

Song Credits

Something I Can Never Have (Closure)

Indicative of performances from the Self Destruct Tour, this live performance video has the stage blanketed in purples and blues. The arrangement retains its album instrumentation and structure, but features additional drum parts.

Something I Can Never Have (Beside You In Time)

After Reznor sings "just a fading fucking reminder," strange "bell-ringing" sound effects are heard in the background (which are more audible on the 5.1 surround tracks). At the end of the second chorus, Reznor seems to be weeping.


A difference from the studio version for many years was noticeably louder drums that are persistent in the choruses. The keyboard part is usually played by the bassist (Danny Lohner and Jeordie White). However, since joining the band in 2009, Ilan Rubin also plays keyboard and the song is played with no drums.

During Woodstock '94 and Self Destruct, Trent ended the song with "I can never have... and you will never, ever, ever understand... how I feel." Since Live: With Teeth, the last chorus has seen an additional rising guitar screech.

The version from the Bridge School Benefit, like all the songs from this particular performance, is performed entirely with string instruments and Reznor on vocals. No synthetics were used at all during this performance, but the arrangements seem to correlate with extended live version of the song played in concert by Nine Inch Nails.



    I still recall the taste of your tears
    Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears
    My favorite dreams of you still wash ashore
    Scraping through my head till I don't want to sleep anymore
    Come on tell me
    Make this all go away
    You make this all go away
    I'm down to just one thing and I'm starting to scare myself
    Make this all go away
    You make this all go away
    I just want something
    I just want something I can never have
    You always were the one to show me how
    Back then I couldn't do the things that I can do now
    This thing is slowly taking me apart
    Grey would be the color if I had a heart
    I just want something I can never have
    In this place it seems like such a shame
    Though it all looks different now, I know it's still the same
    Everywhere I look you're all I see
    Just a fading fucking reminder of who I used to be
    Come on tell me
    Make this all go away
    You make this all go away
    I'm down to just one thing and I'm starting to scare myself
    Make this all go away
    You make this all go away
    I just want something
    I just want something I can never have
    I just want something I can never have
    Think I know what you meant
    That night on my bed
    Still picking at this scab
    I wish you were dead
    Your sweat and Perry Ellis
    Just stains on my sheets

The very last verse only appears in the Pretty Hate Machine booklet.

External Links

Previous track - "Sanctified" Track 5 from Pretty Hate Machine Next track - "Kinda I Want To"
This page was last modified on 4 April 2019, at 02:47. This page has been accessed 200,824 times.