be achy head

Head Like a Hole

"Head Like a Hole" (also known as halo three) is the second single by Nine Inch Nails for the 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine.

"Head Like a Hole" was Nine Inch Nails' first single to chart on Hot 100 Singles Sales and enjoyed heavy rotation on the radio at the time. It has also been covered by influential New Wave/Post-Punk band DEVO.

Live performances

The song has been the set closer for most NIN shows, or the last song before the encore if an encore took place. There are live videos of "Head Like a Hole" on the DVDs And All That Could Have Been and Beside You in Time.

During Lollapalooza '91 Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, Gibby Haynes and Ice-T joined Nine Inch Nails onstage as additional guitarists for "Head Like a Hole". For the Nights of Nothing mini-tour in 1996, Richard Patrick made a brief return to the band to perform guitar and vocals on "Head Like a Hole" at the Irving Plaza show in New York. In the June 7, 2006 radio performance at Atlanta, Georgia, Trent Reznor and Peter Murphy played a reworked version of "Head Like a Hole".

Lisa Kennedy Montgomery once sang the song loudly to Reznor to win a $20 bet. To express the evolving state of his values, Reznor said in 1997 that "I don't want to be singing "Head Like a Hole" at age 50.

Music video

A music video was made for the "Clay" remix of this song. It was directed by Eric Zimmerman, released in March 1990 and later in 1997 on the Closure VHS. The video became popular on MTV and helped fuel NIN's early success. A slightly different edit of the video was also released for Flood's remix of the song. The video features band members Trent Reznor, Richard Patrick and Chris Vrenna along with guest drummer Martin Atkins performing in a cage.


Head Like a Hole is the third official Nine Inch Nails release, containing remixes of three different songs from Pretty Hate Machine. It is longer in duration than the album itself.

A three-track version of this single was released in the UK. This version contains "Head Like a Hole (Opal)", which is not included on the US release, and starts using the beginning of "Tamborine" by Prince, taken from his album Around the World in a Day; it continues using a drum loop sampled from "Release It" taken from another Prince record, Graffiti Bridge. The saxophone in "Release It" can be heard before the drum loop begins.

"Down in It (Shred)" and "Down in It (Singe)" were previously released on the Down in It single. The latter track has been extended by 18 seconds.

The unlisted eleventh track is Kelly Ripa yelling "Let's hear it for Nine Inch Nails! Woo! They're good!" This is a sample from Dance Party USA during a NIN appearance on the show.

The 11 track US version of the single has recently been re-packaged and re-released. This version was also finally released in the UK.


Track listing

US version

  1. "Head Like a Hole (Slate)" (remixed by Trent Reznor, Flood) – 4:13
  2. "Head Like a Hole (Clay)" (remixed by Keith LeBlanc) – 4:30
  3. "Terrible Lie (Sympathetic Mix)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 4:26
  4. "Head Like a Hole (Copper)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 6:26
  5. "You Know Who You Are" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 5:40
  6. "Head Like a Hole (Soil)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 6:38
  7. "Terrible Lie (Empathetic Mix)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 6:11
  8. "Down in It (Shred)" (remixed by Adrian Sherwood, LeBlanc) – 6:51
  9. "Down in It (Singe)" (remixed by Sherwood, LeBlanc) – 7:21
  10. "Down in It (Demo)" (remixed by Reznor) – 3:55
  11. (unlisted track) – 0:04

UK version

  1. "Head Like a Hole (Clay)" (remixed by LeBlanc) – 4:30
  2. "Head Like a Hole (Copper)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 6:26
  3. "Head Like a Hole (Opal)" (remixed by Reznor, Flood) – 5:18
  4. Track 1 is mistakenly listed as "Head Like a Hole (slate)" on the CD.

Critical reception

In its review of the song, Allmusic described "Head Like a Hole" as "grand theater", elaborating further by saying the "backing music was immaculately crafted and produced". In its review of the single, Allmusic was largely positive towards the song selection, even saying that the inclusion of "Head Like a Hole", "Terrible Lie", and "Down in It" "renders Pretty Hate Machine mostly unnecessary". As for the other tracks included on the single, Allmusic was less positive, saying "This is one case where quality definitely would have sufficed without the quantity.


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