Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Great Driving-The-Blues-Away Song

I was suffering a bad mood-slump midweek, which threatened to escalate into a full-blown bout of depression when I suffered in quick succession TWO last-minute cancellations of desperately needed cash-in-hand work gigs and then received some especially disappointing, galling news about a 'full-time' job I was applying for. However, I've managed to shake off the dark clouds in only a day or two, largely by forcing myself to listen to upbeat music rather than the misery-wallow stuff I often like to indulge in rather too much.

My good buddy The Choirboy reminded me a while ago that one of the finest illustrations of this phenomenon - the power of music to exacerbate or ameliorate depression - came from the cult '90s TV sitcom about reprobate Irish priests, Father Ted. There's an episode where the amiable but rather selfish Ted is unreceptive to the need to talk of a suicidally gloomy young priest (Father Kevin, played by the Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan) because he's preoccupied with grooving on down to Isaac Hayes' classic funk fest, Theme From Shaft (40 years old this year!). However, the depressed young man is soon overcome by the infectious rhythms himself, and starts to feel happier, his black mood completely dispelled. Unfortunately, when he's leaving on the bus a few minutes later, some Radiohead comes on the radio... and he's right back in the abyss.

That scene was on YouTube when I last looked a few months ago - but it appears to have been expunged, or at any rate has become invisible to searches (Channel 4 - or the show's producers Hat Trick? - seem to be particularly fastidious in rooting out unauthorised postings of this material). At least you can see Mr Hayes performing the piece live in LA in 1972 (introduced by Jesse Jackson), or a more extended version from a concert in Brooklyn in 2008, only a couple months before his death; you can also listen to the original studio version. Not exactly a 'Great Drinking Song' (particularly as I'm not drinking at the moment), but definitely A GREAT SONG.

I have recently come to especially love this cover version I serendipitously discovered a few months ago from the utterly wonderful Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (they have lots of other fabulous stuff too; check out, in particular, their rendition of David Bowie's Life On Mars).

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