Category Archives: Songs For The Pandemic

Dear Doctor

The Hotel Doctor post was a rousing success so it’s time for a few doctor songs. Given the times in which we live, these tunes will make house calls because office visits are fraught. I wonder if the hotel doctor would wear a mask?  .

When I throw these posts together, it’s usually off the top of my head. I make no pretense to be comprehensive in my selections. In fact, I enjoy having missing songs pointed out to me, especially if I’ve never heard them before. New music is always welcome. Today’s selections are mostly old favorites so I’ve contradicted myself again. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

We begin our journey with some country doctor honk from the Rolling Stones.

We move from a Beggar’s Banquet to a feast for one’s eyes. I’m talking about Jackson himself. He remains a sensitive sex symbol after all these years.

I hate the term yacht rock so much that I refuse to capitalize it. It’s vague, meaningless, and a slur on sophisticated bands like Steely Dan. It makes me want to call Doctor Wu to ask if Katy really lied.

I mentioned Doctor Feelgood earlier today. Here’s Aretha with the details.

Next up is one from some hometown heroes with one of their most Little Feat-like songs.  It’s followed immediately by a house call from Lowell George and company.

It’s important to get a second opinion. In this case it’s a dissenting one. The last word goes to Humble Pie:

Medicine

I wrote a rare, for me, angry post this morning. It felt good but I need a cure for what ails me. Music usually does the trick.

I’ve posted songs of loneliness, insomnia, time displacement, and other alienated anthems. This time, we’ll focus on that which makes us feel better: Medicine. I’m skipping the Mary Poppins tune because, while I’m feeling better, I’m not feeling chirpy enough for spoonfuls of sugar and the like.

We begin our medicinal musical entry with a song from the pride of Glasgow, Del Amitri:

Next up, the great Aimee Mann who’s busy spinning the medicine wheel.

We continue with two different tunes with the same title. The first is an instrumental written by George Benson and Crusaders’ keyboard player, Joe Sample.

The second Medicine Man was recorded in 1991 by the late, great Johnny Winter. It’s  a bluesy rocker written by Robbie Fisher and Henley Douglas.

Finally, the last word goes to one of my all-time favorite Traffic tunes. It was more often than not their opening number in concert:

Friday Cocktail Hour: John Barleycorn

Let’s cross the pond for some bibulous folk music. Rumor has it that the Brits like to tipple even with all the pubs closed. At least I hope they’re still closed. I know some Thatcherites are getting antsy. Freedom, man.

We’re going to keep it simple this week and post multiple versions of the same song. It’s known as both John Barleycorn and John Barleycorn Must Die.

In case you’re wondering who the hell John Barleycorn is:

The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

It’s hard to be a metaphor but John Barleycorn has borne it with grace for centuries.

We begin with two of the finest recent practitioners of traditional folk music, Martin Carthy, and the late Dave Swarbrick:

Martin Carthy is one of the leading members of the Waterson-Carthy family. It has various branches and tributaries including his wife Norma Waterson and his fiddler daughter, Eliza Carthy. The next bit of Barleycorn comes from the Imagined Village album and features Paul Weller along with the odd Carthy and a more modern sound starting with the second verse:

Up next, a John Barleycorn I’d never heard until today. It’s a typically tricky Tull arrangement featuring the Greek singer George Dalaras:

John Barleycorn sung with a Greek accent? Now I’ve heard everything.

Finally, you didn’t think I’d skip the Traffic version, did you? It was the first rendition of John Barleycorn I heard as a wee laddie:

The last word goes to cartoon Frank, Dino, and Sammy:

Home Is Where The Heart Is

In this edition of Songs For The Pandemic, we focus on the home front. One home in particular, mine. It’s Dr A and my anniversary today. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be home bound with.  As Maybe Cousin Telly would surely say at this point:

That brings me to today’s music. Songs about home: being there, going there, losing your way, and finding your way home.

Our first selection comes from our friends in Fairport Convention. I say friends because Dr A and I met them on our grand English music tour in 2007 and they’re all nicer than nice:

While we’re on the subject of hearts and home, a tune from a former Fairporter or is that ex-Conventioneer?

Can you handle another Winwood song? Just lose yourself in the music:

After wandering about, it’s time to head home.

When you finally return home, it’s time to proclaim: This Must Be The Place:

Open

I’m skeptical about the efforts to “reopen” the economy. Why is it always the economy, not parks or schools? Oh yeah, money.

For your listening pleasure, we have three songs with open in the title. None were hits but I like them. Maybe you will too. The titles get longer as the post goes on. Do you detect a pattern or just patter?

First, Squeeze goes to church; a wedding to be exact. That’s right, a Difford and Tilbrook gospel song:

Next up is the title track of the worst album Yes ever recorded but what a title track. It features swell harmonies from Anderson, Squire, and Sherwood as well as typically stellar bass work by Chris Squire:

Finally, some fusion era jazz from the great Flora Purim featuring another great bass player, Alphonso Johnson:

Many A Mile To Freedom

Who knew one could be slammed while hunkering down at home? That’s where I find myself today. I’m working on a fairly tricky 13th Ward Rambler Column for the Bayou Brief and helping Dr. A research a new iPhone. Her current phone goes down to nothing when she does anything elaborate so it’s time for a change. I blame PD since it’s often caused by photographing that four-legged prima donna.

I did some good work at First Draft last week but one post hasn’t gotten quite as much love as the others. It’s feeling needy. If you haven’t already read it, check out Conspiracy Of Cretins, not Cretans, I like the latter.

On with today’s entry in our Songs For The Pandemic series. Every time we hear some Trumper whine about losing their liberties to the lockdown, Dr A and I say, “Freedom, man.” Those knuckleheads are among the cretins referred to above. Oy, just oy.

I had already planed to use one of Steve Winwood’s most underrated Traffic tunes, Many A Mile To Freedom, as a reminder that this shit is going to be around for awhile. Patience is in order.Then it occurred to me that Winwood has recorded two other outstanding songs with the word freedom in the title. Freedom, man.

I give you Steve Winwood’s Freedom Song Cycle. Here we go:

Since we’re glad to be free, I couldn’t resist posting the first two tracks from John Barleycorn Must Die. They belong together. Freedom, man.

I thought of this next song while watching Governor Whitmer deal with armed cretins in Michigan. Freedom, man.

Freedom, man.

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Friday Cocktail Hour: I Ain’t Drunk

We made it through another week more or less in one piece. Some New Orleans businesses are dipping their toes into the reopening. I’ll be on the inactive list until phase 2. I may not have the Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues but I’m cautious.

The Friday cocktail hour has arrived. We have three toe-tapping tippling tunes for your listening pleasure.

First, Albert Collins Ain’t Drunk, he’s just drinking. Thanks for clarifying that Iceman. This song is hot enough to melt your ice cubes.

This is in the nature of a rejoinder to the happy drunk in the first tune. The songs have one thing in common: a great guitarist. In this case, Robin Trower.

Finally, a song from Van Morrison’s Marin County period:

Cheers. Bottons up.

The last word goes to the Cartoon Rat Pack.

I’m Only Sleeping

I had another bout of insomnia last night. That’s a roundabout way of saying I lost the battle. That allows me to sneak a Yes reference into this post in a roundabout way. That’s a lose-win proposition in my book. Yawn.

We began our week of sleep songs with a Beatles tune. It’s appropriate to finish in the same power poppy manner. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

The opening lines of I’m Only Sleeping reflect how I felt when I awoke at 3:30 this morning, “When I wake up early in the morning. Lift my head, I’m still yawning.”

The tone of the song is cautiously optimistic. It embraces sleep and I need some. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

We have two versions of I’m Only Sleeping: the original and a cover by the great Rosanne Cash:

We have two more musical selections in this edition of Insomniac Theatre. First, wistfulness from Richard Manuel and The Band, followed by some no fucks to give bravado by Warren Zevon. It’s what WZ did best.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

The current wave of insomnia is caused by fear and worries over the plague. It’s hard to sleep as the death toll mounts.  A more common reason for insomnia in popular songs is breaking up, which according to Neil Sedaka is hard to do.

Today on Insomniac Theatre we present three breakup songs. We begin with one of the saddest torch songs ever recorded by Frank Sinatra. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning was written in 1955 by David Mann and Bob Hilliard. It became one of the Chairman of the Board’s signature songs and was the title track of one of his moodiest albums.

In what amounts to a neo-torch song, Tim Finn poses the eternal question: “How’m I gonna sleep without you?”

Finally, I’m not much of a crier or weeper but some of you are. We complete our breakup/insomnia song cycle with a number written by Difford and Tilbrook. It’s dedicated to everybody who’s crying in their sleep:

I’m So Tired

We haven’t broached the subject of sleep or lack thereof in this feature before. There’s no time like the present, which is why I’m posting this in the morning, not the afternoon. I hereby declare this Songs For The Pandemic Sleep Week. Insomniac Theatre is officially (officiously?) open for business.

I’ve long struggled with insomnia but at least I had a sleep pattern. The pandemic shot that to hell. I’m apt to wake up in the wee hours of the morning then need to read myself back to sleep. Mercifully, we have a guest room. I don’t like disturbing Dr A anymore than my restlessness already has. She usually has the gift of sleep.

I’ve also devised what one might call the political junkies’ version of counting sheep. I count Veeps.  In my wakefulness, I’ve done some research on the more obscure occupants of that office. I now know what George Clinton, Elbridge Gerry, William Rufus De Vane King, Henry Wilson, Thomas Hendricks, Garret Hobart, and James Sherman have in common. They died whilst Veep long before the 25th Amendment provided a way to appoint a new second banana. How’s that for sleep inducing trivia?

Back to the music. We have three power pop selections today beginning with this Beatles classic by John Lennon:

Our next insomniac selection comes from those crazy Canadian cutups, BNL. This time they ask a rhetorical question:

The answer is EVERYONE even the 7 Veeps who died in office. Imagine naming your son Elbridge, then don’t do it. I implore you.

Finally, it’s unclear if lullabies help anyone other than infants sleep but it couldn’t hurt. 10cc gets the last word:

Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the Veeps bite.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Snake Bite Love

Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt

Perhaps I should have used Zachary Richard’s Snake Bite Love as our theme song while we were Festing In Place but I couldn’t let go of using Can’t Let Go last week. Besides, it’s never too late for a Zack Attack.

We have two versions of Snake Bite Love for your listening pleasure: the 1992 studio original and a 2009 live version from a Jazz Fest set I attended.

One more snake song before we slither to the break:

Ouch that hurt. Time to turn the virtual page.

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Friday Cocktail Hour: Drinking Again

Unless you’re a teetotaler or recovering alcoholic, the pandemic has either driven you to drink or you’re resisting its siren call. We’re lucky: we never run out of whiskey because people bring it as tribute during Carnival. Dr A makes the odd white wine run and I’m trying to limit my intake since booze lowers one’s immune system. We did, however, have Mint Juleps on un-Derby Day. I’m cautious, not a killjoy.

Drinking Again is a boozy torch song written by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. Mercer was known as a drinking man as to Doris I’ve never kept taubers on her. Ouch. That was so bad it hurt.

We have three versions of this liquid tune for your cocktail hour listening pleasure: Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, and Frank Sinatra whose best friend’s initials were JD:

On with the music.

The last word goes to the cartoon Rat Pack:

Lonely Days

I usually hate sequels. Perhaps I should call this a follow-up to Monday’s Invisible Touch post instead. It’s dedicated to everyone out there who is riding out the pandemic on their own.

We have three lonely tunes for your listening pleasure. I suspect there will be more to come down the road. This shit is going is be with us for a long time.

Before they became known for the disco soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees were a Beatlesque family band known for their tight harmonies.

Rumor has it that I’m a fanatical Smithereens fan. This song comes from their first album and it features Suzanne Vega on vocals.

I’ve always preferred Eric Carmen’s work with the Raspberries but this pop-rock torch song is the best thing he recorded as a solo artist:

Invisible Touch

I feel terrible for people who are locked down alone. I know they manage to touch base with people in other ways, but they can’t touch anyone. I was raised to be a toucher and a hugger even though my mother was a Norwegian Lutheran from Wisconsin. She adapted quite successfully to Greek culture. But she never learned to yell. She left that to my father.

Today’s post is full of touchy tunes. Some are invisible, others are human still others warn you not to touch at all.

We begin with a song that was a monster hit in 1986. It feels oddly relevant in 2020:

Former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel wrote a song with lyrics that are ironic in our touchless times, I Have The Touch:

The time I like is the rush hour, ’cause I like the rush
The pushing of the people, I like it all so much
Such a mass of motion, do not know where it goes
I move with the movement and, I have the touch

It makes one almost miss rush hour; at least for folks like Dr. A who have a short commute:

If you’re missing a Human Touch, watch Bruce Springsteen sing about it as he rides the St. Charles streetcar:

Finally, another tune from The Boss that’s more in tune with these touchless, testy, and tetchy times, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch):

Too Close For Comfort

Social distancing ain’t easy. It’s a struggle even for those of us who believe in it. Somehow the Greeks have pulled it off with great aplomb. Of course, they got used to making sacrifices during their economic meltdown. Plus, it gave them a chance to show up the Italians, always a good thing. The Greeks know how to hold a grudge. It’s where I get it from.

I’m a city boy and we’re used to living on top of one another. The 6-foot rule is essential to safety but will feel weird once whatever passes for reopening happens. Better distant than dead.

Repeat after me: don’t get Too Close For Comfort.

Too Close For Comfort was written in 1956 by Jerry Bock, George David Weiss, and Larry Holofcener for the Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, which is not about Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary even though he calls himself that. The song has nothing to do with the Ted Knight sitcom either. It’s much wittier than that.

We have versions of this song for the pandemic for your listening pleasure by three of my favorite singers: Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, and Ella Fitzgerald. One could even call them the Torrid Trio:

Lagniappe is always nice. The great Jazz saxophonist, Art Pepper, figures in the current season of Bosch. Here’s his instrumental take on today’s tune:

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

A recurring theme of the pandemic lockdown is how hard it is to keep the days straight. The usual landmarks of work, school, and major events are absent. A Tuesday can feel much like a Saturday right now. So much for the title of this old movie:

Of course, today is Wednesday. I’m adrift in a timeless and tourist-less universe, y’all. Btw, I’d forgotten that a young Ian McShane was in the above movie as was Patricia Routledge who later played Hyancinth Bucket and Hetty Wainthrop. Enough teevee trivia…

In New Orleans, Jazz Fest 2020 has been cancelled outright but WWOZ-FM is running what it calls Festing In Place. It’s been great fun. The festivities resume tomorrow. Check it out at their web site. They’ve even replicated the legendary scheduling cubes.

Where the hell was I? Oh, yeah, today’s Songs From The Pandemic entry.  I guess I lost track of time. It happens daily…

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was was written by Duke Ellington’s peers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1939 musical Too Many Girls. It’s been recorded too many times to count or is that countless times? I’m easily confused nowadays. What day is it? What time is it?

I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is a haunting mid-tempo ballad with typically witty lyrics by Larry Hart:

I didn’t know what day it was
You held my hand
Warm, like the month of May it was
And I’ll say it was grand

May is on the way. I somehow doubt Hart foresaw a lockdown but, as I like to say, you never can tell.

We have four versions of this Rodgers and Hart classic by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Taylor and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with the great Wayne Shorter on saxophone.

Take your time and listen to them all. Btw, it’s Wednesday and we’re not in Belgium but some Belgian beer would be nice.

In My Room

Brian Wilson is on the record as an admirer of Duke Ellington. I suspect Duke would look favorably on this entry. It’s certainly a tune for our times.

Along with Gary Usher, Brian wrote In My Room in 1963 for The Beach Boys Surfer Girl album. As with many of the best early Brian Wilson songs, it combines adolescent angst with sophisticated harmonies.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: The Beach Boys original; a 1996 Linda Ronstadt cover, and a pandemic era a capella version by former Journey frontman, Steve Perry.

Living In A Ghost Town

I had other plans for this feature until yesterday. They can wait. The Rolling Stones just released their first original music since 2012. If we could dance in the streets, we would surely do that, but we’re on lockdown, so tapping our toes will have to suffice.

Unsurprisingly, Living In A Ghost Town is about the pandemic. I guess you figured that out by its presence in this feature. D’oh.

The video features eerie footage of empty streets and tube stations in London. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and its never this quiet; a scene replicated throughout the world. It’s just as imperative there as in the US&A. The Tory government of Boris Johnson engaged in the same sort of magical thinking as that of President* Pennywise. Boris, however, never advocated ingesting or injecting cleaning fluids. There’s stupid and there’s supremely stupid. The Kaiser of Chaos takes the cake.

As the lyrics of the song put it, “Life was so beautiful, then we all got locked down.”

Without further ado, ladies and germs, The Rolling Stones:

Here’s some musical lagniappe from Richard Thompson with The Sights and Sounds Of London Town. No, it’s not Saturday, it just feels like it. Warning: there are only sounds, not sights.

 

Wash Your Hands

The fine New Orleans band Galactic has joined in the remote pandemic recording craze. The results are pretty darn good as is the cause they’re supporting. I’m feeling slothful so I’ll just quote Galactic’s YouTube entry:

We are excited to share the release of our adaption of the 1930’s calypso song “Wash Your Hands” (Roaring Lion). Our version features Chali 2na (vocals), Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph (vocals), Ivan Neville (vocals); David Shaw (vocals), Zach Feinberg (guitar), Andrew Campanelli (vocals), Rob Ingraham (sax + vocals) and Michael Girardot (vocals) from The Revivalists, Eric Gordon (trumpet) and Mike Dillon (congas). Each video was recorded within our own homes.

The video is to benefit our Tip-It Foundation. Special thanks to Steve Kelly for video production and Andrew Campanelli for the Covid-19 adapted lyrics. Music produced and mixed by Robert Mercurio.

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling clean after that.

Let’s play the song followed by the Roaring Lion original:

Digging In The Dirt

I don’t garden. I have a black thumb. The best way to kill a plant is to give it to me or ask me to tend it. I’ve drowned many a plant over the years so I stopped trying. Additionally, my much loved black cat Manet was a plant eater and Christmas tree attacker. It was either her or plants. I chose the cat.

I have friends who are into gardening. My friend Greg isn’t good at sitting still so he’s been building new flower beds in his yard. Who knew that they slept? I just bury them, how would I know?

This Peter Gabriel song is dedicated to all the gardeners out there.