When it comes to popular music, there’s crazy and then there’s CRAZY. According to a lot of the songs in our play-list today, crazy is how you feel when you’re infatuated with someone and hey, while that can be confusing, its also a lot of fun. Even Sigmund Freud acknowledged: “one is very crazy when in love”.
The good thing about being a bit loopy is that it can produce some great songwriting. And while we included a lot of “crazy in love” type tunes in the show this week, we also entered into some heavy territory with material written by a few of our tortured souls. The truth is that any song about mental illness can make you uncomfortable to some extent, either because its too frivolous or because its too close to the bone. But you know that here at the Theme Park we like to live dangerously.
We opened the show with Gary Jules’ cover of the Tears for Fears song MAD WORLD. I first heard this version on the brilliantly eccentric movie Donnie Darko. Requested by Clare, it proved to be a great start to a show full of songs about trying to stay sane in this crazy, crazy world.
We moved on with a couple of fairly harmless tunes about losing your marbles – and from completley different ends of the musical spectrum: I THINK I’M PARANOID from Garbage and TWISTED from jazz legend Annie Ross, with help from Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks.
A country tune that regards the issue of mental health very seriously indeed is called PSYCHO. The version we played was by Jack Kittel and, to be honest, it really creeped me out. So I was happy to follow with the more innocent NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, essentially an upbeat love song from the great Eddie Cochran.
Let’s get the Australian attitude to insanity into perspective: I had an email during the week from Sue, asking me for the origin of the expression ‘mad as a meat axe’, meaning ‘nuts, crazy or insane’. Here’s what I discovered: this is a uniquely Australian expression that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It joins a whole group of expressions that start with the words ‘as mad as’ such as ‘mad as a beetle’ (the insect that is), ‘mad as a dingbat’, ‘mad as a gum tree full of galahs’ and ‘mad as a cut snake’. These expressions are recorded as far back as 1910 and are nothing more than verbal creativity gone wild.
And talking of wild, we had to include James Brown’s song about his fear that, if his girlfriend leaves him, he’ll GO CRAZY. And then it was one of the craziest songs (and videos) ever: The Avalanches with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST:
Had to include Gnarls Barkley’s hit CRAZY because, not only is it pop perfection, it was requested by both Lynden and Robyn. Al Royal from BayFM’s Friday 10pm slot, asked for INSANE IN THE BRAIN from Cypress Hill. And how could I refuse?
There’s always room for a great jazz standard and this week we included Peggy Lee with YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY. Judi tells me she’s a huge Patsy Cline fan and so, as predictable as it might be, there was no way we were leaving out the queen of country’s signature tune, CRAZY.
Changing the tone somewhat, it was time for a track from someone who knows just a little bit about crazy behaviour: Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath with PARANOID. And you’ve got to love Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s YOUR MISSUS IS A NUTTER, supposedly about Posh & Becks.
According to The Pixies songwriter, Black Francis, WAVE OF MUTILATION is about “Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they’d failed in business, and they’re driving off a pier into the ocean.” Wild concepts like this make The Pixies a hard act to follow, but Beth Hart gives it a good shot with a cover of Belinda Carlisle’s LEAVE THE LIGHT ON:
The novelty song, HOORAY, HOORAY, I’M GOING AWAY was recorded in 1947, by Beatrice Kay, and it’s an obvious forerunner to Napolean 14th’s 60’s hit, THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY, HA HA. Born in 1907, Beatrice was a singer, vaudevillian, stage and film actress and she even hosted her own radio show. She died in 1979.
Still alive and kicking is the wonderful Mose Allison who gave us one of the ‘crazy in love’ songs that make up a lot of this week’s show: LOST MIND. But if you’re looking for authenticity in your songs about madness, then country singer Porter Wagoner is your man. He wrote THE RUBBER ROOM after spending some time in a mental hospital for a little R&R.
Which brings us to 19th NERVOUS BREAKDOWN from the Rolling Stones. Released in 1966 on the Aftermath album, it’s well known for Bill Wyman’s dive-bombing bass line at the end of the song:
But if you want to talk scary mad, then it has to be the brilliant PSYCHO KILLER from the one and only Talking Heads.
Whew, I was feeling the need for a little more lightness in the list. Relief came with one of the great Blues artists, Little Walter, with CRAZY MIXED UP WORLD. And despite the title of the song, there is nothing but pure joy in the song that gave a certain Ska group their name: from Prince Buster it is, of course, MADNESS. Here he is performing alongside Suggs and Georgie Fame. How good is that?
Green Day’s contribution to our line-up of loony tunes was BASKET CASE and we followed with one of the first grunge/garage bands, The Sonics, with PSYCHO. Love that band! Kurt Cobain cited them as a great influence, so it was fitting that we included a track from the group whose lead singer and songwriter suffered from manic depression and drug dependency that, unfortunately, led to his suicide. I chose the Nirvana song they wrote about another tragic public figure: FRANCES FARMER WILL HAVE HER REVENGE ON SEATTLE.
But if you want to talk influential then The Ramones are on everyone’s list. So much to choose from with these guys and requests by multiple listeners, but for me it had to be I WANNA BE SEDATED.
Bruce Hornsby is a versatile and prolific artist. Known for the spontaneity and creativity of his live performances, Hornsby draws frequently from classical, jazz, bluegrass, folk, Motown, rock, blues and jam band musical traditions with his songwriting. But we didn’t play one of his originals today but instead it was a great version he does of Elton John’s MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER.
Theme Park is followed by a great show called Postmodern Backlash, (still not quite sure what that means!), and its hosted by Hudson. So because I know that he loves his calypso music I also included The Mighty Sparrow with MAD BOMBER.
We finished the show with Pink Floyd’s SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND. The song is their tribute to former band member Syd Barrett who left the band in 1968 amidst speculation of mental illness aggravated by heavy drug use. As gloomy as that sounds it’s a beautiful piece of music and a fitting end to the program.
Next week I’ll be celebrating Australia’s first female Prime Minister (go Julia!) with a show on WOMEN. I’d love to receive your requests and suggestions.
And here’s my final word on madness: Remember what Hunter S Thompson had to say: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
Here’s this week full list:
Mad World – Donnie Darko Soundtrack, Gary Jules
I Think I´m Paranoid – Version 2.0, Garbage
Twisted – Jazz Legends: Divas (Disc 2), Annie Ross +Lambert/Hendricks
Movie Clip – Insane Asylum
Psycho – Jack Kittel
Nervous Breakdown – Eddie Cochran
I’ll Go Crazy – Try Me, James Brown
Frontier Psychiatrist – Frontier Psychiatrist, The Avalanches
Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
Insane in the Brain – Black Sunday, Cypress Hill
You’re Driving Me Crazy – While We’re Young, Peggy Lee
Crazy – Patsy Cline
Paranoid – Paranoid, Black Sabbath
Mad Lad – You Never Can Tell (His Complete Chess Recordings, Chuck Berry
Your Missus Is A Nutter – Goldie Lookin’ Chain
Wave of Mutilation – Pump up the Volume [Motion Picture Soundtrack], The Pixies
Leave The Light On – Leave the Light On, Beth Hart
Hooray Hooray I’m Going Away – Beatrice Kay
Lost Mind – Promised Land, Mose Allison
The Rubber Room – Porter Wagoner
19th Nervous Breakdown – Hot Rocks, 1964-1971 [Disc 1], The Rolling Stones
Clockwork Orange clip
Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
Crazy Mixed Up World – Rock N’ Roll ’50s Blues Essentials, Little Walter
Madness – Prince Buster
Basket Case – Dookie, Green Day
Sound grab: Psycho/The Murder – Psycho/Hitchock, Composer Bernard Hermann/Los Angeles Philharmonic
Psycho – Maintaining My Cool, The Sonics
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle – In Utero, Nirvana
I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones
Madman Across the Water – Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John, Bruce Hornsby
Mad Bomber – King Sparrow’s Calypso Carnival, The Mighty Sparrow
Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd
Next week: WOMEN
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 4-6pm, Sydney time
I’m baaaack! And this week’s theme was influenced by my recent road trip down the coast: STREETS AND ROADS. Street songs also include their close relations avenues, lanes and boulevards. They all tend to be about a particular destination. Songs about roads and highways, on the other hand, are inclined to reflect on a journey of some kind, metaphorical or not. Some of these songs immortalise where they came from, others where they’re going, but all seem to have something significant to say.
We opened the show with the Drifters’ ON BROADWAY – a road that reflects the best and worst of New York. The famous entertainment strip is the epitome of success for some but it’s also a desperate place to be if you are one of the less fortunate. Check out the Drifters doing a great job, but what’s with the outfits? Pyjamas with fringing. What the??????
TOBACCO ROAD was written by country singer John D. Loudermilk and inspired by Erskine Caldwell’s Depression-era novel of the same name. The song reeks of the American south. A group calling themselves the Nashville Teens recorded the original version, although they actually hailed from England. And I don’t think it was even Southern England, cheeky sods!
There are so many versions of the that definitive road song, ROUTE 66, but I rather like the Nat King cole rendition. Eddy Grant took us back to the 80’s with ELECTRIC AVENUE about a market street in Brixton, London. You may remember a cover version by Aussie band Men at Work, but there’s nothing like the original. Check it out:
The wonderful Emmylou Harris dueted with Dave Matthews on GULF COAST HIGHWAY. Now I don’t believe that there is an actual Gulf Coast Highway, but who cares when the song is so beautiful?
It was a toss up when it came to Bruce Springsteen’s contribution to the show – Both Thunder Road and Racing the Streets were worthy contenders but I had to give it to the Oscar winning anthem, STREETS OF PHILADELPHIA.
Louis Armstrong paid homage to his favourite street in New Orleans in BASIN STREET BLUES and although I gave it a spin on the AUTOMOBILE show, Grace Jones deserved another outing with PULL UP TO THE BUMPER, from her critically acclaimed album NIGHTCLUBBING.
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland was going FARTHER UP THE ROAD while Bob Dylan delivered the classic HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED. And here’s some trivia about that particular highway, which travels from New Orleans through to the Canadian border. Bessie Smith met her death in an automobile accident on that road, Robert Johnson was said to have lost his soul to the devil at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49, Elvis Presley grew up in the housing projects built along it and Martin Luther King Jnr would later be murdered in a motel just off Highway 61.
The Beatles sang about PENNY LANE while David Byrne and the Talking Heads took the ROAD TO NOWHERE:
A show about roads needed a bit of hard rock and the obvious, of course, is Acca Dacca and HIGHWAY TO HELL. But I thought I’d give them a rest this week and instead, in celebration of the Deep Purple tour reaching Brisbane next month (yay!) it was HIGHWAY STAR instead. Once listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the Word’s loudest rock band, here they are performing live in 1972. Ian Gillian, you are hot! Can’t wait for them to reach Bris-vegas.
Kirsty MacColl calmed things down just a little with WALKING DOWN MADISON, a song that deals with the disparity between rich and poor on the most expensive street in New York, Madison Avenue. As the song goes: “From the sharks in the penthouse to the rats in the basement, it’s not that far”. Gerry Rafferty sang all about London’s BAKER STREET, probably most famous for the literary address of Sherlock Holmes’ residence.
Lots of our songs this week dealt with being down and out, so it was great to include a number by the wonderful Dinah Washington. She’s definitely got the right attitude as she goes walking ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET. Recorded in 1956 with orchestra under the direction of Hal Mooney, the song was originally composed in 1930 by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields for the Broadway musical “International Revue” starring Gertrude Lawrence. The song has since become a jazz standard recorded by many.
In complete and utter contrast came the Australian Aria award winning hip-hop group, The Hilltop Hoods, with a song about life’s choices: THE HARD ROAD.
Chris Rea’s song, ROAD TO HELL, was apparently inspired by rush hour on a motorway. After being in Sydney I know how he feels! It’s been way too long since I played some Roy Orbison, so I DROVE ALL NIGHT was in, as it fitted so perfectly.
Green Day’s BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS is, I assume, about Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Similar to New York’s BROADWAY, Sunset Boulevard is the primary location for live entertainment, as well as being the red-light district and a hang for the homeless.
A fitting follow-up was Ray Charles with LONELY AVENUE and it was up to Junior Walker and the Allstars to brighten the mood somewhat with ROAD RUNNER.
Another fantastic and, I think, optimistic song about leaving home and heading off for freedom, is VENTURA HIGHWAY, a 1972 hit for America.
The Mamas and Papas sang a song reportedly about the place where they all met, a bar in CREEQUE ALLEY while Ray Charles and the Stray Cats combined on a great version of HIT THE ROAD, JACK.
For anyone living on a rural property, like I do, Lucinda Williams’ CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD will resonate, for sure.
I returned from my trip to Sydney to hear the very sad news that our friend Susie McNair had passed away quietly on Tuesday March 16th. The final song of the program was dedicated to her memory. The Beatles, THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD, was the final single that they recorded as a group. R.I.P. Susie.
Thanks to the following listeners for contributing to this week’s list: Judi, Rebecca and Katie. Next week’s theme is HAIR, so get your thinking caps on!
Meanwhile, here’s this week’s complete playlist:
This week at the Theme Park I’ve been totally indulgent. The theme, GOODBYE TO THE NOUGHTIES, allowed me to play a selection of my favourite tracks from the past decade.
We opened the program with M.I.A. and her breakthrough hit, PAPER PLANES, in which she samples The Clash, brags about being a so-called terrorist, and uses gunshots and a cash register as the focus of the song’s chorus. A wonderfully innovative piece of music that satirises the very real fear of terrorism that swept the globe during the Noughties.
The other interesting bit about M.I.A. is that she came to prominence in early 2004 through file sharing her singles on the Internet. Ten years ago no one was listening to music on anything other than a radio or CD player. Now it’s on your phone, your iPod, your computer and your TV. Pro Tools is no longer just for pros and with basic software, we can make our own music and share it on the World Wide Web. We can even make a video clip and put it up on YouTube. We could, theoretically, also program our own radio station. And then there’s podcasting, blogging and, not to mention Facebook and Twitter. Whew. If the Noughties stand out for one thing, it’s that technology has revolutionised the entertainment business with its peer-to-peer digital communication. Goodbye conventional notions of creativity and distribution, hello independent artist. Viva La Revolution, I say.
Outkast released their double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below in 2003 and it’s a classic example of the decade’s soul/dance/hip hop fusion. The expansive, split-personality masterwork paved the way for artists like Kanye West, Dizzee Rascal and others. In the same year The White Stripes released their attention-getting rock album Elephant. Check out SEVEN NATION ARMY:
LCD Soundsystem’s LOSING MY EDGE is a fabulous piece of satire that puts the boot into the ageing hipster who depends on an encyclopedic knowledge of cultural references to keep him or her relevant. Sound like anyone you know? Hilarious and scary, all at the same time.
Amy Winehouse’s YOU KNOW I’M NO GOOD has got that classic soul sound. Mix it up with some unfortunate self-destructive tendencies, and you have one of my favourite singer/songwriters of the decade. Just forget the tabloid sensationalism, close your eyes and listen to the Back to Black album. Heaven.
Another great singer songwriter is Lucinda Williams. WORLD WITHOUT TEARS is the kind of song she does best. It’s from her 2003 album of the same name. Seemingly tragic, the song is really a celebration of life over death. Here she is performing the song live.
And now for something completely different! Swedish group Hellsongs’s cover of AC/DC’s THUNDERSTRUCK can only be described as Lounge Metal. They’re an acoustic three-piece. Check it out. You’ll either love it or hate it. I love it:
What can you say about Tom Waites? He’s just the bomb. His Real Gone album of 2004 is almost brutal in its authenticity. The track we played, GREEN GRASS, is melancholic, bluesy, disturbing and hynotic. “Don’t say goodbye to me. Describe the sky to me. And if the sky falls, Mark my words, We’ll catch mocking birds.” Wow.
Possibly one of the Noughties best rap artists is Eminem. On one of the most original rap
tracks of the decade, STAN, he is ably assisted by another terrific artist, Dido. A great combination. The Noughties was also the decade of the mashup/bootleg. A STROKE OF GENIUS, by Freelance Hellraiser combines an instrumental edit of The Strokes track ‘Hard to Explain’ with Christina Aguilera’s pop hit ‘Genie in a Bottle’ and is probably still one of the best examples of the genre. This is where the sum is so much better than its parts. Sort of like peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream. Who thought the combination could be so good?
If you want to listen to perfect rock n roll you can’t go past Queens of the Stone Age and their track NO ONE KNOWS. Here’s why:
I was really happy to receive Roseanne Cash’s new album The List for Christmas. Lots of great tracks to choose from but, for this show, it had to be SEA OF HEARTBREAK which she sings with a little help from Bruce Springsteen. Her Dad, Johnny Cash, gave Roseanne a list of songs that he felt it was essential for her to know and she held onto that list for 35 years. Finally the time was right and she has chosen 12 songs from that original list of 100 for this great album.
Another great album is Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, released in 2002; my favourite track from the album is JESUS etc. Superb. Check it out:
Two of the decades most successful rock bands also made an appearance: Kings of Leon with SEX ON FIRE and Green Day with BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS. But my favourite rock band has to be Radiohead. We played a track from their 2007 album, IN RAINBOWS. Now this album is particularly interesting because it was initially released through the band’s own website as a digital download for which customers could make whatever payment that they wanted, including nothing; the site only advised, “it’s up to you”. Reportedly 1.2 million copies were sold by the first day of release. In March 2008 aniBoom, together with Radiohead’s label TBD REcords, launched the In Rainbows Animated Music Video Contest. Animators from all over the world competed. Out of over one thousand entries, Radiohead chose four grand winners. Each winner received $10,000 to complete their submission. This animation by Japanese artists Kota and Totori perfectly illustrates the track we played: 15 STEP.
The Strokes, in my mind, were one of the first great rock album of the Noughties. Nine years later I still love listening to LAST NITE and all the other tracks on the very cool Is This It album. Another ‘must include’ are Arcade Fire and the track I chose was WAKE UP from their album FUNERAL, released in 2005. They mix the playfulness of Talking Heads with the Gothic quality of The Cure but it’s a sound that is entirely their own. Actually they are just a bunch of nerds having fun. Gotta love that.
I closed the show with the most outrageous of the decade’s gender benders. Lady Ga Ga has nothing on Peaches. And who better to help her out than Bad Boy Iggy Pop. The track is KICK IT. Who said punk was dead?
Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. Play safe and drive carefully. Here’s the complete playlist:
Next week: DUETS
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time.