I was challenged to do a show on Swines this week, but even I would have a hard time coming up with 30 odd songs about pigs. But with Swine Flu in the news, I get the connection with doctors and hospitals. So, time for a show that looks at the medical fraternity.
We opened with BAD CASE OF LOVING YOU from Robert Palmer, which was a bit of a cheat because the challenge was to create a playlist that didn’t rely on just lovesickness. And you know I’m a girl who likes a challenge! So doctors, nurses, hospitals…. even TB got a look in!
One of the really interesting things about listening to songs about doctors is hearing how successive generations of musicians have dealt with the medical profession. A doctor’s surgery or hospital is unique because it can be the best or worst place in the world to be, depending on the circumstances. Think of babies being born in one ward, while someone is dying in another.
ST. JAMES INFIRMARY BLUES is one of the greats of American folksong, and Louis Armstrong – among many others – revisited the death of “his baby there” many, many times between 1928 and his own death in 1971. Eighty one years later, this song is still incredibly powerful and Armstrong’s version a stand-out.
Public Enemy couldn’t even get to the hospital, thanks to the hopeless ambulance service in the United States. “If your life is on the line,” they sing, “you’re dead today.” The song? 911 IS A JOKE. Check out the video clip:
Kraftwerk’s ELEKTRO KARDIOGRAMM begins with some compelling, yet creepy, sound effects (breathing apparatus, pulsating beats), but it really grows on you. Another interesting track was from the Eels – THE MEDICATION IS WEARING OFF from their album ‘Electro-Show Blues’.
Stepping back in time, 1968 to be exact, the Rolling Stones offered up DEAR DOCTOR from their ‘68 album ‘Beggars Banquet’ and that was followed by Aretha Franklin’s version of DR. FEELGOOD.
The White Stripes are just so prolific and their GIRL YOU HAVE NO FAITH IN MEDICINE got the studio rocking, as did The New York Dolls’ with PILLS, where a visit to the hospital seems an almost festive occasion. Dreadful behaviour may have put them there, but happily (for them), the rock’n’roll nurse does a little more than just dispense pills.
Beatnik Filmstars came to my attention with a song called APETHETIC ENGLISH SWINE, which if I was doing a show about Swines, would be a sure-fire inclusion. The band is based in Bristol, England, and the song I included in this show was HOSPITAL WARD. These guys are special, as seen in this great clip, which appears to have a budget of about ten bucks. Excellent!
I never get sick of listening to Jackson Browne’s, DOCTOR MY EYES, from his 1972 debut album Jackson Browne, and his first major hit. Or Gregory Isaacs, for that matter. It was the very sensual NIGHT NURSE that I included in this show. Death Cab for Cutie’s WHAT SARAH SAID is a brilliant study of death and the cruel absurdity of watching someone you love slip away while you stand amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines of a typical hospital. A bit of pop trivia for you: the band took their name from the title of the song written by Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall and performed by their group, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, in the Beatles 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.
The early 60s saw the appearance of two successful doctor series on television. Both series began and ended in the same years, running from 1961 to 1966. The programs were Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey. So, it was fun to play the pop tune CALLIN’ DR CASEY that was written and performed by American singer-songwriter John D. Loudermilk in 1962. He is probably better known for the classic ‘Tobacco Road’.
Beres Hammand used his smokey voice to beg his baby to come back to him on DOCTORS ORDERS and Doc Pomus entertained us with SEND FOR THE DOCTOR. Pomus had polio as a boy and got around on crutches. Due to post-polio syndrome, he eventually used a wheelchair. So, as well as calling himself ‘Doc’ he probably knew a little bit about the bona fide practitioners. John Lennon asserted that the Beatles song DR ROBERT was about him, because he was the one who carried the pills back then. OK.
Now as my loyal listeners know, I try to include a Roy Orbison song each week, and I’ve never failed to find a song of his to fit the weekly theme. Well I nearly came unstuck this week until at the last minute I fell upon a rare film, shot in 1967, called ‘The Fastest Guitar Alive’. Starring Roy Orbison in his only starring role as an actor, it’s a musical western set near the end of the American Civil War with Orbison portraying a Southern Spy with a bullet-shooting guitar given the task of robbing gold bullion from the United States Mint in San Francisco, in order to help finance the confederacy’s war effort. The poster is a doozy: “Roy Orbison on the screen at last as a Singin’… Shootin’ Son of a gun”, it screams. It would definitely be a collectible today and I would love to get hold of it, or the movie. Anyway…. The soundtrack from the film features music from Roy Orbison and Hank Williams and this is where I found this week’s song: MEDICINE MAN. I agree its not his finest moment, but hey, it’s a theme show, not the ‘best of’’!
To make up for it I followed with a great song by Ry Cooder “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” which could have got me started on the state of the hospital system in this country and how the hell anyone without a substantial bank account can afford to get sick these days. But instead, I let Ry Cooder say it for me.
And then it was the fabulous Dinah Washington with her risqué jazz tune, LONG JOHN BLUES, about a dentist who knows a thing or two about filling cavities. “You thrill me when you drill me”, sings Dinah. Gotta love a girl that looks after her dental hygiene.
A great set followed, with Graham Parker and the Rumour singing about their LADY DOCTOR, Steely Dan about DOCTOR WU and The Replacements pleading TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL.
Another great song, if a little lengthy, is Van Morrison’s T.B. SHEETS. The story, as told in the song, takes place in a hospital room where a young girl lies dying of tuberculosis and is visited by the storyteller. T.B. SHEETS was the opening song, and featured prominently, in the 1999 movie “Bringing Out the Dead”, directed by Martin Scorsese.
Our final song was one that echoed one of my pet hates: SMOKERS OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL DOORS, by The Editors. I’m sure you’ve seen it too…. patients, visitors, doctors, nurses ….. all lurking outside hospital doors, smoking! What are they thinking!
I’m obviously getting way too serious here. So, next week a show that shouldn’t ruffle any feathers: Women’s Names. I promise to try and be a bit creative with this one. And just to keep things equal, Men’s Names the week after. So, if you have anything a bit out of left field for either show, send me a message!
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) – Robert Palmer
St. James Infirmary – Louis Armstrong
911 Is A Joke – Public Enemy
Elektro Kardiogramm – Kraftwerk
The Medication is Wearing Off – Eels
Dear Doctor – Rolling Stones
Dr. Feelgood – Aretha Franklin
Pills – New York Dolls
Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine – The White Stripes
Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne
Hospital Ward – Beatnik Filmstars
Roses in the Hospital – Manic Street Preachers
Night Nurse – Gregory Isaacs
What Sarah Said – Death Cab For Cutie
Callin’ Dr. Casey – John D. Loudermilk
Doctor Robert – The Beatles
Send For The Doctor – Doc Pomus
Doctors Orders – Beres Hammond
Medicine Man – Roy Orbison
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live – Ry Cooder
Call The Doctor – J.J. Cale
Long John Blues – Dinah Washington
Lady Doctor – Graham Parker & The Rumour
Doctor Wu – Steely Dan
Take Me Down To The Hospital -Replacements
T.B. Sheets – Van Morrison
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors – Editors
Next week: Women’s Names
Listen to Lyn at The Theme Park on Bay FM 99.9FM 2-4pm Tuesdays, Sydney Time. Also streaming at http://www.bayfm.org
Posted on May 12, 2009, in Broadcasting and media, community radio, music - nostalgia, music, blues, music, r&b, music, soul, Radio Program, Roy Orbison, Uncategorized and tagged Australia, Blues, Byron Bay, Dinah Washington, hip-hop, music, pop, R&B, radio, rock 'n' roll, Roy Orbison, Theme music. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.