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
Tragically also on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maccalyn
Now I know that in reality fire is pretty frightening, and I don’t take the current fire warnings lightly, but for songwriters, flames represent love, dancing and, above all, passion. And that just can’t be a bad thing.
In reggae and punk, however, fire has a moral – almost purging – quality to it. Recorded as riots swept Britain in 1979, the Ruts incredibly tense BABYLON’S BURNING foresees the demise of western civilisation. Extra points, too, for starting the song with a fire alarm and siren. Excellent.
DISCO INFERNO from the Trammps, would normally be a scary newspaper headline but when you’re grooving away to very this funky track, you know that it’s more about burning up the dance floor, rather than burning down the building. Here’s a clip from the song that is probably best remembered from the film Saturday Night Fever :
The Pointer Sisters know all about passion. Cause when they kiss, its oooooh FIRE. Dido, on the other hand is way more restrained in her rendition of FEELS LIKE FIRE, her contribution to Carlos Santana’s album Shaman. This is a very interesting album and worth a listen with its mix of hip-hop, rap and pop artists.
Last week in our Covers show, Patricia Barber did a great version of the Doors’ LIGHT MY FIRE. I wasn’t beyond playing the tune again, as it suits the theme, but this time it was the very sexy version by the beautiful Julie London. In complete contrast, M.I.A. came out fighting with FIRE, FIRE as she reckons relationships are more like a battlefield. Fair enough.
Country fans weren’t ignored. First it was a classic from Johnny Cash – RING OF FIRE – that I teamed with BABY I’M BURNIN’ from the wonderful Dolly Parton. To round out the set, who else but, Bruce Springsteen burning up the airwaves with I’M ON FIRE.
Time: 1983. Place: Any Disco in Town. Talking Heads creepy dance track, BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, was inspired by the crowd at a Funkadelic concert shouting ‘Burn Down the House’ but David Byrnes’ penetrating delivery suggests that he may have taken it way too literally. At the same time Madonna was emerging as the next big thing and she exhibits the combination of erotic heat and disco fever that would keep her in good stead for the rest of her career. The song, of course, was BURNING UP. Here’s a clip of Talking Heads with BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE, a great example of art-school punks of the 80’s.
In a show about FIRE we can’t leave out Deep Purple’s SMOKE ON THE WATER. So, we didn’t. Here’s a clip of the original Mark II lineup in New York, 1973. One of the final performances, this is one of the only videos of the band performing it in the 70’s with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.
The second hour of the show was suitably launched with the Lord of Hellfire himself, Arthur Brown with FIRE. That was followed by Brian Eno’s strange little song, BABY’S ON FIRE. It started Eno’s post-Roxy Music solo career and owes as much to Robert Fripp’s guitar solo as it does to Eno’s sinister vocals. Then it was time for some lovin’ music and Teddy Pendergrass & Stephanie Mills were definitely burning with desire with their song FEEL THE FIRE.
Last week on our Covers show I played some Elvis, (Presley that is, not Costello), and Mel from BayFM’s Rollin’ program told me that she was sorry that we didn’t hear more of the King on local radio, so who am I disappoint the gorgeous Mel, especially when it fits so beautifully with this week’s theme? So it was one of Elvis’ best: BURNING LOVE.
Here’s a great triple play: Jimi Hendrix with FIRE, Prodigy with their first UK number one single, the controversial FIRESTARTER and then it was the Stones with PLAY WITH FIRE. This track was the B side to ‘The Last Time’. Released in 1965, it was recorded the night before they left to tour Australia. The video for this track is quite pedestrian, so I’d rather show you something wild – and so, the Prodigy’s official video for FIRESTARTER it is. Enjoy.
There was still time for Nirvana’s LAKE OF FIRE and Natalie Merchant’s THIS HOUSE IS ON FIRE. I really liked the combination in this set. And then it was time to finish up with Aussie made good Daniel Merriweather supported by Adele, with WATER AND FLAME. The final song was a guilty pleasure (as if I didn’t include enough of them already!) – a song that I probably should have included in the program on FAMOUS PEOPLE – Billy Joel’s WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE. Check it out and you’ll understand why:
Here’s the complete playlist: