Song of the Week – Buena, Morphine

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I’ve long been a fan of Mark Sandman’s music. In fact, several years ago I chose his band Treat Her Right’s “I Think She Likes Me” as a SotW. So when I heard that Sandman was the subject of a documentary movie I couldn’t wait to see it. Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story finally debuted in 2011 to a very limited theatrical release. I tried hard to keep tabs on when and where it might be showing in the Bay area, but missed it (if it even hit the screens here).

It’s still not available to stream on Netflix (I don’t use their DVD service), but I recently learned it’s available on iTunes. I finally got to see it and it’s pretty good – at least if you’re a Sandman/Morphine fan.

The Sandman story sits among the most tragic in rock history. Here’s the thumbnail.

Sandman grew up in Newton, MA (a Boston suburb), the oldest of 4 children. He was never the conventional child his parents hoped he would be. After HS, they gave him 3 choices – get a job, got to college, or just go. He left home the next day amidst a snowstorm and went on to do extensive world travel. He took interesting jobs (a fisherman off the Alaska coast), worked on his music and learned several languages.

Boston always remained home and he eventually worked his way back and began to focus on playing in bands. But two tragic events were still ahead of him. He lost his two brothers to untimely deaths — Roger from an unusual illness, and Jon from an unexplained fall from a window. All of his life experiences influenced his music, so let’s discuss that.

Morphine was Sandman’s main focus from 1989 to 1999. The band is commonly acknowledged for having one of the most unusual and interesting instrument line ups in the history of rock music. Sandman played a two string, slide bass. Dana Colley was on baritone sax and Jerome Deupree and Billy Conway played drums at various stages of the group’s career. That’s right – the band devised their now famous sound with just bass, bari sax and drums!

My pick for the SotW is “Buena” from Morphine’s second album, Cure For Pain. Although it is one of the more well known songs to serious Morphine fans, it’s probably still unfamiliar to many of you. More importantly, it is the perfect specimen of the trademark Morphine “low rock” sound (that’s how Sandman described it).

In another tragic turn, Sandman died of a massive heart attack, while performing on stage in Palestrina, Italy. Now that’s a rock ‘n roll death! And I mean that most respectfully. Morphine ceased to exist that day.

Enjoy… until next week.