By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2020. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
I hope these songs will make you feel better!
Here is my prescription for a full recovery…
‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ is by the great Cab Calloway. His vocal on this is stunning!
Watch this amazing live performance: https://youtu.be/EcXSbCXxGzw
The song is also featured in this amazing Betty Boop cartoon from 1933 directed by Max Fleischer – one of Calloway’s many collaborations with Betty. Shortly before his gigs in various cities, a Betty Boop cartoon would be screened in order to drum up ticket sales.
Watch the animated version of the song in this Betty Boop cartoon – considered to be one of the best animations ever made.
(Song starts @ 4:00): It looks great in HD!!
Conductor/composer Bernard Hermann scored several Hitchcock films, including the notorious maniacal strings of the shower murder scene in Psycho in 1960. Other Hermann scores were for Citizen Kane in 1941 and an eerie sci-fi soundtrack to The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring the robot character Gort in 1951. He also wrote The Twilight Zone television show theme song in 1959 and scored some of the episodes. The soundtrack to the 1976 Scorsese/Schrader film Taxi Driver was written by Herrmann just prior to his death in 1975.
‘Psycho’ (the fun begins at 4:30): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMTrVgpDwPk
‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’ Is a strange novelty song released in 1966 credited to Napoleon XIV (Jerry Samuels). The escalating insanity, weird echo and increasing speed and pitch of this guy’s voice (achieved by tape speed manipulation) really scared me as a kid. Especially the sirens! At first, we think that the lyrics are about a guy who is driven mad when his girlfriend leaves him. People in white coats come and take him away “to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time…” But in the last verse it is revealed that he was not distraught over a woman, but over his dog that ran away. The sparse arrangement is really strange, using only a snare drum, handclaps and a tambourine. The even creepier B-side of the single was the song played in reverse and titled ‘!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT’ (“Ha Haaa! Away, Me Take to Coming They’re”). The B-side was credited to “XIV NAPOLEON”. Even the label was printed in reverse (a mirror image of the A-side).
Listen: ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzHtm1jhL4
Listen: “!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gbvcEkuFFI
Eddie Noack, a country western singer from Houston recorded the creepy song ‘Psycho’ in 1968. In the chilling lyrics (written by Leon Payne ) a killer confesses his crimes to his mother. Some of Noack’s own compositions were covered by country singers such as Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and George Jones.
The psychotic ‘Steven’ is an orchestrated epic from Alice Cooper from his first solo LP Welcome to My Nightmare, co-written and produced by Bob Ezrin and released in 1975. The album plays out the nightmares of a child named Steven. Alice sings in a childlike voice. The players on this are Lou Reed’s amazing musicians (from his albums Berlin and Rock n’ Roll Animal) including the great Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner who also both played on Billion Dollar Babies in 1974. Onstage, Alice – as Steven – sings this song while wriggling and inching his way out of a strait jacket, only to be subdued by a nurse (his daughter Cali) with a gigantic hypodermic needle.
I must be dreaming
Please stop screaming
Is someone calling me?
I hear my name
Among their great songs, such as ‘Teenage Lobotomy’, ‘Brain Drain’, ‘Mental’, ‘Psycho Therapy’ and ‘Shock Treatment ’, The Ramones had a great song on their sixth album Pleasant Dreams (1981), ‘You Sound Like You’re Sick’
Listen – ‘You Sound Like Your Sick’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPy1TDeOINE
Watch” ‘Psycho Therapy’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bej93aPldHE
Speaking of shock treatment, Lou Reed sang an autobiographical song called ‘Kill Your Sons’ on his 1974 album Sally Can’t Dance about his own experience with EST at the behest of his parents.
Talking Heads had a great song called ‘Psycho Killer’ which was great to see live at CBGB in the early days. It appears on their very first album Talking Heads 1977. The cover was perfect for the autographs I got from the band when I met them in 1977!
‘What’s the New Mary Jane?’ Is an outtake from The Beatles (white album) sessions in 1968, with the lyrics, sung by John Lennon; “What a shame Mary Jane had a pain at the party.” He can’t even get through this song without laughing.
Alice Cooper has an intense song called ‘Pain’ on his album Flush the Fashion. It is sung in the first person, by pain itself. The lyrics are really incredible…
I’m hidden in the scream / When the virgin dies
I’m the ache in the belly / When your baby cries
And I’m the burnin’ sensation / When the convict fries
I’m pain /I’m your pain
Unspeakable pain / I’m your private pain
And I’m the compound fracture / In the twisted car
And I’m the lines on the face / Of the tramp at the bar
And I’m the reds by the bed / Of the suicide star
You know me- I’m pain / I’m your pain
Your own private pain / Unfathomable pain
And it’s a compliment to me
To hear you screamin’ through the night
All night / Tonight
I’m the holes in your arm / When you’re feeling the shakes
I’m the lump on your head / When you step on the rake
And I’m the loudest one laughing
At the saddest wake / Yes I’m pain
I’m just pain / Dear old pain
You need your pain
Watch the rare video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRM0blRaEHM
‘Witch Doctor’ is was a No. 1 hit song in 1958 by the fictional character David Seville, who was actually Ross Bagdasarian of Alvin & the Chipmunks fame. He sings a duet with his high-pitched self in this novelty song, using the same tape speed manipulation technique which he later used for the Alvin & The Chipmunks. The lyrics tell of a man who asks a witch doctor for advice when he is rejected by his girlfriend. The advice he gets is, “Oo ee oo aa aa, ting, tang, walla walla bing bang.” It later appeared on the varmints’ second album Sing Again with the Chipmunks in 1960. Bagdasarian was the co-writer of ‘Come On-a My House’ which was a hit for Rosemary Clooney in 1951.
Listen – with The Chipmunks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEFrOw0sjw0
Bo Diddley’s 1961 single ‘Pills’ (with risqué lyrics about a “rock n’ roll nurse goin’ right to my head”) was covered by The New York Dolls on their debut solo album in 1973. The Dolls version is much faster, and the harmonica rocks!
Listen – Bo Diddley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWbB_vStX_8
Listen – The New York Dolls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3eZuKF_xgE
The Beatles’ pill-dispenser, ‘Dr. Robert’ was most likely Dr. Robert Freymann, a New York physician noted for offering Vitamin B-12 shots laced with amphetamines to wealthy clients. He lost his license in 1975 and died in 1987 after publishing a book called What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?
John Lennon: “Another of mine, mainly about drugs and pills. I was the one that carried all the pills on tour. Later on the roadies did it. We just kept them in our pockets, loose, in case of trouble.”
‘Mother’s Little Helper’ is The Rolling Stones’ ode to the distraught housewives of the world and to valium. It was the opening song on their album Aftermath in 1966 and was released as a single. It’s humorous now that the main theme of the song is ‘What a drag it is getting old…’ When it’s really most likely referring to women in their 30s and 40s. It lists the difficulties as cooking and baking, without a verse about the real headache of most mothers – kids! In the first verse, she takes two pills, and in the second she needs four. By the end she is completely tranquilized and on the verge of an overdose.
…Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day
Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old
“Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight
‘Sister Morphine’ was written by Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It was the B-side of her 1969 single ‘Something Better’. The Rolling Stones also recorded it in 1969 for their album Sticky Fingers. Marianne recorded another version in 1979 during her Broken English album sessions. It was not on the album but was released as the B-side of a 12-inch single with the song ‘Broken English’. It was also a bonus track on the 2013 release of the album. She also performs it live very frequently throughout her career.
Listen – Marianne Faithfull 1969: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqaC_p9km-Q
Listen – Marianne Faithfull 1989 Live – Blazing Away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q712oEHjlVA
Listen – The Rolling Stones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C39kQoprfP0
Harry Nilsson offers a strange prescription in ‘Coconut’ from his wonderful 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. The song is a one-chord wonder!
Put the lime in the coconut and drink ’em both together
Put the lime in the coconut, and you’ll feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink ’em bot’ up
Put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning
Yes, you call me in the morning, you call me in the morning
I’ll tell you what to do if you call me in the morning
I’ll tell you what to do…
John Lennon included a fun skiffle tune, ‘Crippled Inside’ on his album Imagine in 1971. However, the lyrics were quite serious – about covering up one’s own insecurities.
Listen-Ultimate Mix 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERxX_9R5Bo0
Sparks have a wonderful song called ‘Achoo’ on their fourth album Propaganda (1974), which was a concert favorite!
The album cover of Propaganda launched a succession of hilarious cover shots, presenting the frail Mael brothers (Ron and Russell) in extraordinary predicaments, usually helplessly victimized in some way. On Propaganda they are on the south coast of Sussex England – abducted, bound and gagged at the back of a speeding boat. As with their previous album Kimono My House there was no mention of the band’s name to deface the Propaganda cover art, nor was there a title on the album cover.
“’Achoo’ ended with this really great characteristic long solo… (from Adrian Fisher) and they wiped it off and put on all those horrid multi-tracked sneezes. They figured everyone had heard a guitar solo, but they hadn’t heard us all sneezing.”
– Sparks’ Guitarist Trevor White, Goldmine July 1995
‘The Fever of Love’ by The Sweet is on their fifth album Off the Record from 1977. It was also released as a single. This was a rockier outing for the Glam band, retaining their wonderful vocal harmonies. I love the Dali-esque album cover graphic with the diamond needle in the grooves of a vinyl record.
‘Fever’ was written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and recorded first by Little Willie John in 1956. However, it was the 1958 finger-snapping version with minimal instrumentation by Peggy Lee for which she slowed down the tempo and wrote different lyrics which is most popular. It’s been recorded by many others including Elvis Presley, Madonna and Beyonce.
The popular tune ‘Poison Ivy’ also written by Leiber and Stoller and recorded by The Coasters in 1959 and later by many others. It’s not really about the nasty rash, but instead it’s about a girl named Ivy with a bad reputation. The co-authors confirmed that Ivy was carrying an STD. The lyrics mention several other diseases such as mumps, measles and chicken pox – but in the end, if you catch what Ivy’s got, it will make you itch. The advice given is “you can look but you better not touch”. And the prescription is “an ocean of calamine lotion.”
‘Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu’ was written and first recorded by Huey Piano Smith in 1957. It went gold by Johnny Rivers in 1973. It’s got the same melody as ‘Sea Cruise’ (1968) by Freddy Cannon as it was also written by Huey Piano Smith.
‘Doctor My Eyes’ by Jackson Browne is on his self-titled 1972 debut album. In this deceivingly upbeat song, he questions his awareness, wondering if he has seen too much in this trying world.
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long?
Alice Cooper has an unbearable toothache in ‘Unfinished Sweet’ from Billion Dollar Babies. I was lucky enough to see Alice, wielding a giant toothbrush, chasing people dressed as teeth around the stage during “Unfinished Sweet” on the Billion Dollar Babies tour! On the same album, we have ‘Sick Things’.
Listen – ‘Unfinished Sweet’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT2re5qeC90
Listen – Sick Things – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHGsI3yAG_Q
One of the great songs by The Stooges is ‘I’m Sick of You’. This was on a 3-song EP released by BOMP Records in 1977, backed with “Tight Pants” and “Scene Of The Crime.” All three tracks were outtakes from their legendary 1973 album Raw Power.
The Cramps included ‘I’m Cramped‘ on their debut album Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980). ‘Bop Pills’ (by Macy Skipper; Arthur Melton McNatt) is on their 1990 album Stay Sick. The wonderful Cramps original, ‘Can’t Find My Mind’ is on their 1981 album Psychedelic Jungle.
Listen: ‘I’m Cramped’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErKJmX6z7jc
Listen: ‘Bop Pills’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USlecCXhjek
Listen: ‘I Can’t Find My Mind’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqx_Qw2Jqao
The most joyous and ultimate
Cramps live performance:
Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (June 13, 1978)
‘It’s a Heartache’ was a huge hit for Bonnie Tyler in 1977 which sold in the millions. I love her gravelly voice on this – the result of throat surgery. Cover versions have been made by Juice Newton, Ronnie Spector and by Ron Stewart who also had a smash hit with the song with HIS gravelly voice on his 1986 album Every Beat of My Heart.
Watch – Bonnie Tyler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEOl38y8Nj8
Listen – Rod Stewart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziWg-b-KBtU
‘A Bad Case of Loving You’ (Doctor, Doctor)’ is by Robert Palmer, released in 1979. It’s on his album Secrets. The song was originally written and recorded by Moon Martin. The video includes the female clone models made famous in his other song, ‘Addicted to Love’.
Ian Hunter has a great rocker from 1976 (unreleased until 2000 on a 2-CD set called Once Bitten Twice Shy) called ‘Common Disease’. The song is reminiscent of Ian’s hit ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’. It features the great Jaco Pastorius on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. It’s an outtake from his 1976 All American Alien Boy sessions.
‘Sheer Heart Attack’ is a wild rocker by Queen from their 1977 album News of the World (NOT from their third album Sheer Heart Attack)! Queen were still rocking while Punk Rock was taking over London. Here is my amusing story about this album being recorded at the same time – and in the same studio as The Sex Pistols’ debut album…
MY STORY: Queen Still Rock You!
(Never Mind the Bollocks!)
The Mumps were a great New York band featuring the great Lance Loud on vocals, and my pal Kristian Hoffman. I love their first single ‘I Like to Be Clean’.
‘Sickness’ is a great one from Iggy Pop on his 1993 album American Caesar. In this case, the sickness is love.
This sickness of love
This sickness is haunting me
Till I cannot see
This sickness is what I am
I greet it like a friend
‘O’ Sanity’ by Yoko Ono appears on the album Milk and Honey released in 1984. The songs for the album werewas recorded by John and Yoko during the Double Fantasy sessions in 1980, released three years after John’s death. This one-minute long tune is a yearning for mental liberation. Most people long to be released from their own psychoses, but here, Yoko is asking to be released from sanity. With John’s death, she has experienced a tragedy like no other, yet she is still expected by society to be sane. As in all aspects of her life’s work, she yearns for the freedom to let go. This song was also released as a double single, with John’s ‘Nobody Told Me’.
It’s only sane to be insane
Psychotic builds a castle
And neurotic lives in it
I don’t know what to do with my sanity
When the world’s at the verge of calamity
What am I to do with you
Drink up, shoot up, anything you please
But you’re always standing behind me like a devil in hell
Why don’t you let me go
Let go, let go, cut it out!
NOW FOR SOME HEALING!
There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues,
but here are some other remedies for you…
The Who’s Roger Daltrey sings, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me” on their 1969 rock opera album Tommy. ‘See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You’ is the deaf, dumb and blind boy Tommy’s anthem.
The Sweet have a song called ‘Healer’ on their fabulous 1977 album Give Us a Wink. This is a little bit funky. It is the slowest track on this driving kick-ass album!
I met the healer in the twilight of my life
He was the purity in my madness side
He took me far beyond the sunshine and the snow
My faith in him made nights a charismatic glow
Cure me, cure me, cure me
Cure me, cure me
Cure me, cure me, cure me
Cure me, cure me
He leads me through the twisted chasms of my mind
He saved me from the fated final sacrifice
He spoke to me with the palm of his hand
‘Sexual Healing’ is a funky disco tune, powered by a drum machine. It was a smash award-winning hit single for Marvin Gaye from his 1982 album Midnight Love. This follows ‘Let’s Get it On’ from 1973. I can’t really appreciate the lyrics as he keeps saying ‘Wake up, wake up when asking his partner for his sexual healing. I don’t like to be woken up for anything!!!
The Cure released the really cool track ‘A Forest’ in 1980 on their album Seventeen Seconds. This is not a typical Goth piece – it’s atmospheric and synthetic. Really nice.
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