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
Figuring out who your friends are used to be pretty straight forward. Rarely did anyone I know have more than a handful of best buddies, but in the age of Facebook there’s nowhere to hide and in ten seconds flat you’ve got yourself hundreds of so-called ‘friends’ in your cyber-social network. At least with neighbours there’s no ambiguity. They either live next door to you or they don’t. Except in Byron Bay where, if you live in a holiday rental area, it’s a traveling circus. But that’s another story.
The risk with doing a show with this theme,of course, is that the songs tend to lean towards the warm and fuzzy, so I’ve made sure that if I have included a little bit of cheese, then its good cheese! The brie of pop, in fact. Personally, I prefer a gritty, more realistic look at friendships, so it was a diverse range of viewpoints that we presented in this week’s show. I also went out of my way to exclude any song that’s been used as a theme for a sit-com or reality tv series. And that was hard I tell you. Goodbye Dandy Warhols, The Rembrandts, Stevie Wonder and others.
We opened the show with some pure pop – the Spice Girls, way back when they really were friends, with WANNABE. Yeah, if you wannabe my lover, you better get on with my friends. Well, it’s a given isn’t it? The official video of the song isn’t that great, but you have to give them credit for a clip made with one continuous shot. Check it out:
The uncomplicated friendships formed at school are the source of a number of songs. The White Stripes with, most possibly, their gentlest track, WE ARE GOING TO BE FRIENDS, was followed by The Clash’s wonderful, yet underrated, STAY FREE – a song written by guitarist Mick Jones about his best mate at school who ended up in prison.
Bill Withers’ LEAN ON ME is a genuine heart-warmer. Some may think its cheesy, but to me it transcends that label and represents one of the classic friendship songs. Corrine Bailey Rae gives a nod to Bob Marley in PUT YOUR RECORDS ON: “three little birds sat on my window and they told me that I don’t need to worry.” A beautiful song about the supportive nature of friendship.
Michelle Shocked song ANCHORAGE is about friendship that’s expressed in letters going back and forth. The song touchingly and poignantly captures the pleasure of discovering a friend’s new life while realizing that life moves on and different paths must be followed.
There were at least three songs from The Beatles that fitted the theme but I chose IN MY LIFE, over the more obvious I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS. Because I can.
BAD NEIGHBOURHOOD by Ronny & The Delinquents is notable for the fact that the band included Dr John before he became Dr. John. Malcolm Rebennack (his real name), was a guitarist in that band but his career almost came to an end when his left ring finger was injured by a gunshot while he was defending singer/keyboardist Ronnie Barron. After the injury, Rebennack concentrated on bass guitar before making piano his main instrument; pianist Professor Longhair was an important influence on Rebennack’s style.
Pioneering gospel and blues singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe had some good advice: DON’T TAKE EVERYBODY TO BE YOUR FRIEND. While Jerry McCain and His Upstarts had a whinge: MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR is a very amusing song about a neighbour that can’t stop borrowing stuff.
Not all companionship is welcome. Morrissey comments on the Manchester music scene in WE HATE IT WHEN OUR FRIENDS BECOME SUCCESSFUL. And in ARE ‘FRIENDS’ ELECTRIC? Gary Numan mixes genuine feelings of alienation with Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi fantasies to create a story of a man whose robot buddy has broken down. Awwww.
The Arcade Fire gave us NEIGHBORHOOD #2 from their Funeral album. The song is actually about Laika the first dog to have been sent into outer space, as the song goes, “for the good of the neighborhood”. Hey, isn’t the dog supposed to be man’s best friend? Quite a sad song, really.
Feeling the the need for some R&B to cheer me up so it was the Four Tops with a message that everyone needs to hear every now and again: REACH OUT I’LL BE THERE. And I never tire of the beautiful voice of Dido singing THANK YOU. Here she is with a fantastic acoustic performance of the song:
Country singers George Jones and Melba Montgomery take neighbourly love to a whole new level with LET’S INVITE THEM OVER. I must admit that today’s show throws a whole new light on our country cousins, doesn’t it?
War wanted to know WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? and The Lemonheads delivered a brutally honest song about a certain kind of dependent relationship: MY DRUG BUDDY. Here’s Evan Dando performing the track live with Chris Brokaw:
Sheryl Crowe’s song THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD won a Grammy award in 2001 for Best Female Rock Performance but failed to chart in America. Go figure.
The Cars got all sooky on us with MY BEST FRIENDS GIRL. Yeah, she used to be mine. Oh well thems the breaks guys. Love and friendship is a complex mix. REO Speedwagon told us (they) HEARD IT FROM MY BEST FRIEND. Oh Oh. Can’t be good news. But we had a solution that may interest some: Rachel Yamagata tackled the the concept of bonk buddies in SIDEDISH FRIEND. Here she is performing the song on KCRW radio in 2008:
Even our country singer friends like the idea of a bit on the side. Conway Twitty & Loretta Lyn asked WHAT’S A LITTLE LOVE BETWEEN FRIENDS? Indeedy.
The Grateful Dead’s song FRIEND OF THE DEVIL is from their American Beauty album and the song, like most of the album, is acoustic. It is known for the riff lead guitarist Jerry Garcia plays and it’s the most covered of the Dead’s songlist.
Patti Labelle is at her best when she sings YOU ARE MY FRIEND. Great song, great voice, simple as that. Here she is in her very first live video with the bonus of an amazing intro from Debbie Henry. The year was 1991.
Now how many times have you heard someone say, after they’ve broken up with someone, that not only were they losing a lover they were losing their best friend? Blues artist Little Walter bemoaned the fact in LAST NIGHT.
It was time for a mood lifter and a couple of songs about Neighbours gave us just that. The Small Faces song LAZY SUNDAY (“Wouldn’t it be nice to get on wiv me neighbours) was suggested by Beck. Great. A perfect companion piece was the Rolling Stones, who also don’t seem to be getting on with their NEIGHBOURS. Do you think it might have something to do with them being rock bands? Here are the Stones performing live in Tempe Arizona during their 1981 tour:
Love, love, love DEAD END FRIENDS from Them Crooked Vultures, the rock supergroup formed in 2009 by John Paul Jones, (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age). Go Dave!
It always make me a little sad to listen to Freddie Mercury who died way too young but I had to include Queen’s YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND:
Herman’s Hermits song MY SENTIMENTAL FRIEND sums up a lot of the material in today’s show including our very last song YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND, from Dusty Springfield covering the Carole King standard. That one was for Victoria.
A big thank you to Zoe for helping out with this week’s show.
Next week in the lead up to Anzac Day and the Australian Day of Remembrance, I’m dedicating the show to MEMORY. So, get your thinking caps on and send my your suggestions.
Here’s the playlist:
Wannabe – Spice Girls
We Are Going To Be Friends – The White Stripes
Stay Free – The Clash
Put Your Records On – Corrine Bailey Rae
Lean On Me – Bill Withers
Anchorage – Michelle Shocked
In My Life – The Beatles
Bad Neighbourhood – Ronny & the Delinquents
Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend- Sister Rosetta Tharpe
My Next Door Neighbour – Jerry McCain And His Upstarts
We Hate It When Our Become Successful – Morrissey
Are ‘Friends’ Electric -Gary Numan + Tubeway Army
Neighborhood #2 (Laika) – The Arcade Fire
Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops
Thank You – Dido
Let’s Invite Them Over – George Jones & Melba Montgomery
Why Can’t We Be Friends – War
My Drug Buddy – The Lemonheads
There Goes The Neighbourhood – Sheryl Crow
My Best Friends Girl – The Cars
Heard It From A Friend – REO Speedwagon
Sidedish Friend – Rachael Yamagata
What’s A Little Love Between Friends – Conway Twitty & Lorretta Lyn
Friend of the Devil – Grateful Dead
You Are My Friend – Patti Labelle
Last Night – Little Walter
Lazy Sunday – The Small Faces
Neighbours – The Rolling Stones
Dead End Friends – Them Crooked Vultures
You’re My Best Friend – Queen
My Sentimental Friend – Herman’s Hermits
You’ve Got A Friend – Dusty Springfield
Listen to Lyn McCarthy at the Theme Park on BayFM, Tuesdays 2-4pm, Sydney time