Saturday, March 6, 2010

Medical Conditions: Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung

Weird Al Yankovic: Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung

Sometimes when I see the theme for a given week here at the Machine, a rush of creativity hits me and my head is filled with songs. I'm overcome with insightful and poignant things to say and songs to fulfill those thoughts.

With a theme like this, you would think this would be one of those times. There are tons of songs about diseases and mortality. Songs that are themselves both insightful and poignant and speak to some of our deepest fears of becoming aged and infirm. Moving songs that can bring the listener to tears by reminding them of loved ones who have suffered and passed.

I thought about all of those songs this week... and still chose "Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung" by Weird Al. Enjoy.

Medical Conditions: 99.9 F Degrees

Suzanne Vega: 99.9 F Degrees


Speaking of elevated temperatures, I have been waiting for Susan’s post, before I put this one up. In due time, Suzanne Vega and Mitchell Froom would divorce. But this one is about the first bloom of love. I wonder how Froom felt producing and playing on a song about himself. I guess that’s the chance you take when music is your life.

Medical Conditions: Fever

Rita Coolidge: Fever


Fall 1972 - my first college boyfriend. I bought the album, The Lady's Not For Sale... which included this amazing version of Peggy Lee's Fever... as well as Dylan and Cohen covers - we wore it out together. He left me for somebody else - I kept the record. I met another guy a few months later... same first name, same birthday - he fell in love with me, and the record too...

We got married - officially together 33 years, another two before that. I just found out the album will finally be released on CD April 6, 2010 - life is good...

Medical Conditions: Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns: Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues


Here's a fine slice of 1959 New Orleans R&B from the man who also gave us the "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu". Though not as well known as some of his contemporaries, Smith is one of the greats, having played piano for more famous pianists Fats Domino and Little Richard, among others.

David Lindley: Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues


Another musician not as well known as the stars he's played for, David Lindley can basically play anything with strings. After the demise of his wonderfully eclectic world-music-influenced psychedelic group Kaleidoscope, Lindley spent most of the '70s backing up the likes of Crosby & Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, and Jackson Browne. His version of "Tu-Ber-Cu-Lucas and the Sinus Blues" comes from his first (and perhaps best) solo album, El Rayo-X, from 1981. My only real complaint with this track is it ends far too soon.

Medical Conditions: Cure For AIDS

Dan Bern: Cure For AIDS


Highly political folk rocker Dan Bern presents a typically bitter-yet-hilarious condemnation of the sexually uptight fear society through portrayal of an alternate universe of orgies and acceptance that follows the invention of a simple little pill that cures AIDS.

The song, first published in 1998, still rings true; it may not be front page news any longer, but AIDS remains a gigantic killer, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has a significant impact on economic growth, keeping entire countries from being able to garner the resources and attention they need to join the 21st century. But the sense of sexual urgency Bern pretends would follow such a solution seems improbable and dated, pointing to just how deeply our own culture has internalized AIDS and its subsequent social effects as perfectly normative.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Medical Conditions: Cardiac Arrest

Madness: Cardiac Arrest


This song is an exercise in dissonance. The danceable beat and nutty ska stylings contrast sharply with lyrics about a man dying of sudden cardiac arrest on his way to work one morning.

This song is also a warning to everyone with a stressful job. I taught introductory psychology for years at a local college and I will never forget the section on the body's reaction to stress. If we were more rational creatures we would be unphased by sharks and serial killers, which none of us are even remotely likely to be harmed by, but Wes Craven would make horror movies about persistent stress and salty snacks.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Medical Conditions: Ready or Not

Jackson Browne: Ready or Not


Wikipedia states:

A medical condition is a broad term that includes all diseases and disorders, but can include [injuries] and normal health situations, such as pregnancy, that might affect a person's health, benefit from medical assistance, or have implications for medical treatments.

This definition does not even begin to take into account *emotional* health and other implications... such as new appliances... and outgrown clothing - fortunately, Jackson Browne has that covered (pun semi-intended... :-)

I've been a fan of JB's since his eponymous debut album in 1972 (still referred to by some as Saturate Before Using)... but this classic tune is from For Everyman, his sophomore recording released the following year - my husband and I met in college about this time, and the album played an integral role in the soundtrack of our courtship...

In a tracklist of mostly mellow, heartfelt and in-depth songs, the comic relief of Ready or Not was welcome - I've always loved the juxtaposition of the opening lines vs. the second verse, as her jeans become the metaphor for the relationship...

Someone's going to have to explain it to me
I'm not sure what it means
My baby's feeling funny in the morning
She's having trouble getting into her jeans...

I met her in a crowded barroom
One of those typical Hollywood scenes
I was doing my very best Bogart
But I was having trouble getting into her jeans

I also adore the way Browne sings the line "she's gonna be a mother", his voice laden with affection and pride (I've read that the tune is autobiographical) - after all of the hemming-and-hawing about being prepared, it appears a family is a sweet fait accompli...

She says she's ready for some meaning
After all of her running around
Well bless my soul, she's got a rock-and-roll bandman
Thinking 'bout settling down

Medical Conditions: Sickbed Blues

Delta blues giant Nehemiah Curtis ´Skip´ James (1902-1969) recorded some legendary sides in 1931, and then wasn´t heard of again until 1964. Blues hunters John Fahey, Henry Vestine and Bill Barth tracked him down to a hospital in Tunica, Mississippi, and soon after Skip found himself on stage at the renowned Newport Folk Festival. As opposed to many other rediscovered old bluesmen, and despite his poor health, Skip´s eerie high voice and unique playing style were still top notch, as the haunting Sickbed Blues from ´68 illustrates.

"The doctor came, lookin' very sad,
He diagnosed my case and said it was awful bad,
He walked away, a-mumblin' very low,
He said, "He may get better but he'll never get well no more..."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Medical Conditions: The Aneurysm Edition

Nirvana: Aneurysm


The older Kurt Cobain got the more obsessed he seemed to become with the human anatomy, bodily functions and medical procedures, and references to all three were rife in his lyrics and artwork.

This original version of Aneurysm appeared on the Smells Like Teen Spirit single in 1991 and on the tour EP Hormoaning a year later, as well as on the With The Lights Out box set in 2004. While certainly good, this version somewhat lacks the intensity of this one:

Nirvana: Aneurysm (BBC Session)


A shorter, faster take recorded for the BBC's The Evening Session and was included on the Incesticide rarities compilation in 1992.

In 1996, two years after Cobain's death, the live album From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah came out and a version of Aneurysm (recorded in California on December 28th 1991) was released as a single.

Nirvana: Aneurysm (live in Del Mar, CA)


And just so we can hear the evolution of the song, here's an earlier live version of it, which features slighty different lyrics. A bootleg recording from the Off Ramp in Seattle on November 25th 1990.

Nirvana: Aneurysm (live in Seattle, WA)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Medical Conditions: Dead of Winter

Eels: Dead of Winter


Though the mix of music drifts from folk to fluid indiepop to a kind of gritty, sparse No Depression balladry, death haunts Mark Oliver "Eels" Everett's 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues. The record is simply stunning, a complex yet ultimately hopeful response to a difficult season of loss - in the year before its release, Mark experienced his sister's suicide, his mother's cancer diagnosis, and the deaths of several friends - and if and when I ever lose someone that close, friends should be forewarned that record is on schedule to become my mantra of grief and reconciliation.

Fragile and slightly out of tune, the first-person narrative of being on the outside looking in at his mother's slow degeneration here is heartbreaking, especially in the way it superimposes the stark description of radiation treatment with the befogged mundania of the still world which Everett inhabits as his mother's illness progresses. Its album counterpart, the soft and beautiful Climbing To The Moon, offers a sense of closure and distance for what would come to pass, and like the rest of the album, it comes highly recommended, too - as does tiny self-reflective b-side After the Operation, which I first posted here in our Shorties theme almost exactly a year ago.

Medical Conditions: If I Didn't Have a Goiter

Johnny Socko: If I Didn't Have a Goiter


I felt I had to post this as a transition song from "If" into "Medical Conditions", it's just too perfect, and really, how many songs out there are there that will fit both?

A fun-loving novelty 90's ska song (by a band who did many such kooky songs) about all the things he'd do if you didn't have that annoying goiter. And yes, I went with the album art instead of a picture of the malady. You're welcome.