Category Archives: Songs For The Pandemic

Overkill/Alone In The Dark

Insomnia day continues here at First Draft. I’ve long thought that Colin Hay is an underrated singer-songwriter. His solo work is even better than the music he made with Men at Work in their 1980’s commercial heyday.

Colin Hay wrote Overkill for Men at Work’s 1983 album Cargo. It was a monster hit Down Under and charted in the US as well.

We begin with the Men at Work version followed by a solo acoustic rendition by the songwriter.

Colin Hay did a guest shot on the surrealist medical comedy Scrubs in 2002. He sang-you guessed it-Overkill:

Our next song, John Hiatt’s Alone In The Dark is a two-fer. It’s about both insomnia and loneliness. Since it’s a two-fer, we have two versions fer your listening pleasure:

It’s hard to top either Ry Cooder or Sonny Landreth on lead guitar so I won’t try.

Hard Times

The New Great Depression is shifting into high gear. It’s obvious what needs to be done: the government should give households $2000 or so a month to help them survive the economic impact of the pandemic. It’s equally obvious that Senate Republicans will not go along with such a plan. The spirit of Herbert Hoover is alive in the land. Freedom, man.

This depressing news has inspired a new subset for this feature: songs of economic hardship.

We begin with a song from my favorite Ray Charles album, The Genius Sings The Blues. He also wrote this song:

Eric Clapton covered the Charles classic in 1989. Here’s a live version from the late great teevee show Night Music with host David Sanborn on sax:

Stephen Foster wrote Hard Times Come Again No More in 1854. Here are three 21st Century versions. I suspect you’ve heard of these artists.

Finally, yesterday was the 108th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. We have two versions of his Great Depression anthem Do-Re-Mi for your listening pleasure by Ry Cooder and the songwriter himself.

Better Be Home Soon

I’ve been working on my next Bayou Brief column, so I felt like keeping it relatively brief here. Shorter Adrastos: I don’t feel like writing about Roger Stone and the latest Justice Department horrors. Suffice it to say, I think Stone’s commutation sucks the big one. I’m also not a fan of those who use the words commute, reprieve, and pardon interchangeably. They don’t mean the same thing. There’s a wonderful thing that can even be found online: THE DICTIONARY. Use it.

An old friend who is familiar with my musical taste pointed out that there were two songs notably absent from different entries of Songs From The Pandemic. Woe-is-uh-me-bop.

I somehow managed to post twice about songs with home in the title Home Is Where The Heart Is and Bring It On Home To Me without using one of the homiest (homeliest?) songs ever written. It’s time to remedy that omission:

In the songs of mortality entry, I forgot one of my all-time favorite Kinks tunes, which is, in part, about cremation:

“I’m scattered here and scattered there. Bits of me scattered everywhere.”

More importantly, Ray Davies wrote Scattered in honor of the deaths of his mother and sister:

Scattered was also the final track on the last album of new Kinks material, Phobia. There have been rumors of a reunion recently but I’m not holding my breath after 27 years. The bad blood between brothers Ray and Dave runs deep as you can see from this lagniappe song from the same album:

Frankly, it’s a miracle that Ray let Dave drive the car in the Scattered video. As the youngest child in my own family, I identify with Dave who’s in the same boat.  So it goes.

Close Up The Honky Tonks

I live in a city where bar culture is important. I stopped being a barfly because of smoke: Dr. A is allergic to it and I hated smelling like an ash tray every time I went to a bar. New Orleans finally banned smoking in 2015, but my  affinity for bars was diminished. But I understand the importance of a favorite watering hole for others.

I think that bars being open during the pandemic is madness, especially with the recent surge of COVID cases. One New Orleans dive bar owner agrees with me, Dave Clements of Snake and Jake’s:

“I’ve been telling everyone this since day one: I’d rather stay closed a month too long unnecessarily than open a day too early,” Clements said. “We’ve been through all this and of course I want to reopen, but trying to reopen even at 50%, I have no idea how we would do that.”

Clements, who was adding space to the Snakes and Jakes backyard on Monday to prepare for a time when he could reopen, said policing his clientele to abide by the governor’s restrictions might be too difficult, even if he could reopen.

“We’re not really known for our responsible behavior here, so I don’t know how much people who are drinking heavily are going to listen,” Clements said.

Wise choice. Wise man.

Let’s move on the music. Close Up The Honky Tonks was written by Red Simpson. It was first recorded by Buck Owens and his Buckeroos in 1964.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Buck’s original, the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, and Dwight Yoakam from Dwight Sings Buck complete with a video. Yeah, boy. Bow, howdy.

Bring It On Home To Me

The second wave of the pandemic appears poised to be even worse than the first. Too many people let down their guard and acted as if it was over. It was not. Please stay home as much as possible and wear a mask whenever you’re in public.

Sam Cooke wrote and recorded Bring It On Home To Me in 1962. It became a big hit on both the R&B and pop charts that summer.

Cooke adapted his song from a 1959 gospel/soul tune by Charles Brown:

Next up is one of my favorite John Hiatt songs featuring some of his finest lyrics.

Now that we’re done “mixing up drinks with mixed feelings,” a more recent song:

Between The Buttons is perhaps the Rolling Stones most underrated albums. And Please Go Home is one of the highlights of that 1967 album. It features some wicked guitar playing by the band’s original leader, Brian Jones.

Finally, if you take a walk, make sure you return home. Nat would insist:

Bury Me In Willow

I’ve tried  not to be too morbid in this feature, but the worst case scenario of the pandemic is death. It’s a slow, painful, and undignified death. I saw a nurse on Maddow the other night and she said: “COVID-19 is a monster, not a disease.” I concur.

Here are some shocking numbers: the United States has 5% of the world’s population and 1/3 of all novel coronavirus cases. As of this writing, 123,000 and counting Americans have died. Difficult numbers, hard truths. Don’t be in that number: please wear a mask and be careful out there.

Now for the music. These songs are all ones that I’ve told Dr. A that I’d like played at my memorial service. Despite the first song, I’m not into the whole body in the box thing. I want to be cremated and have my ashes on the mantle alongside our deceased cats. Now, that was morbid.

When John Wetton wrote the first song in 2012, he was bouncing back from a bout with the cancer that eventually took his life in 2017:

Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook wrote the next song about the passing of the friend who introduced them. We owe her a debt of musical gratitude:

I always associate this Warren Zevon song with the sudden and shocking death of my friend Ashley Morris in 2008:

This beautiful Neil Finn song breaks me up at least every other time I hear it:

Robbie Robertson wrote Fallen Angel as a tribute to his fallen comrade Richard Manuel. He had a little help singing the song from fellow rock god, Peter Gabriel.

Finally, a song that I posted in my tribute to the late, great Johnny Clegg after his death last year. It was written after the passing of his close friend and bandmate Dudu Zulu:

These songs of mortality were merely the ones that popped into my head. There’s more where they came from. How’s that for morbid?

Songs For The Pandemic: Deal

I’ve been busy this morning painting myself in and out of corners for Wednesday’s 13th Ward Rambler column at the Bayou Brief. Shorter Adrastos: I’m all written out for the day.

One thing I write about is my concern over the premature spiking of the pandemic ball. People are acting like the crisis is over. They’re wrong. I’m not gambling with my life. Instead, I’m posting a few gambling songs as part of the Songs For The Pandemic series.

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was an avid user of poker analogies in his lyrics. We begin with two of his finest creations; both performed live on Halloween in 1980.

Dr. John’s contribution to the Deadicated album was a swell interpretation of Deal. It was made for Mac’s voice:

The great Dave Alvin covered Loser on his album of songs by California songwriters, West Of The West:

The Allman Brothers were on the skids in 1975 when they recorded the Win Lose or Draw album. They broke up for the first time not long after recording it. The title track is not about gambling per se, but its bleakness makes it a tune for our times:

Now that we’ve gone to prison with the Allman Brothers, let’s close on a more upbeat note with a gambling song written in 1950 by Frank Loesser for Guys and Dolls. It later became the property of the Chariman of the Board:

Amnesia

Gore Vidal liked to call our country The United States of Amnesia. The Master was referring to our national penchant to forget unpleasant things.

I have something more specific in mind: many people are acting as if the pandemic is over or was “fake news” to begin with. I’m still hunkering, but I keep seeing reports of clueless selfishness. I hope people will remove their unmasked heads from the sand before the second wave kicks our asses.

A reminder:  115,291 Americans have died as of this writing. This is some serious shit, y’all.

On to the music, we’ll move from literal amnesia to the figurative, even reckless, kind.

We begin with some fabulous blues rock from Austin Texas:

Next up, a tune from my old friends The Tubes. I must admit I forgot this one. Hopefully, it’s not because I’m a WPOD.

Ringo Starr gets in on the action with this 2003 song:

If 20% Amnesia is all you have, you’re doing pretty darn well during these confusing and confounding times:

Finally, a song from Richard Thompson’s Amnesia album. It aptly describes the maskless masses:

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

We’re in a somewhat less isolated period of the pandemic right now. But since I’ve done songs with lonely in the title, it’s only fair to post some lonesome songs. I don’t want them feeling either neglected or, well, lonesome.

We begin with the King:

What’s a collection of lonesome songs without Hank Williams?

The last word goes to my favorite Jersey Boys:

More Trouble Every Day

It’s the first day of the hurricane season. It may be an active one, which is particularly fraught during the pandemic. But neither the pandemic nor hurricane season is the subject of this edition of Songs For The Pandemic.

I think you know what I have in mind: the ongoing protests that were inspired by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis but have taken on a life of their own.

Frank Zappa wrote the original Trouble Every Day in 1966 after the Watts riots. It was the centerpiece of the aptly named Freak Out album, but I prefer the live More Trouble Every Day featuring the soulful vocals of George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock:

Bob Marley wrote Burnin’ and Lootin’ for The Wailers’ 1973 album, Burnin’. It was inspired by the same sort of rage and frustration that we’re seeing on our streets 47 years later. I don’t believe in second sight, but if I did, I’d think that Bob Marley had it.

Next up are two tunes inspired by the 1967 Detroit riots. First, Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot was so perturbed by these events that he wrote this song:

The last word goes to John Lee Hooker. The great bluesman lived in Detroit during the 1940’s so he always felt a special attachment to the Motor City:

 

 

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.