Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Morphine Song for Charity Hospital

Continuing with a song by song review of Ray Davies' Working Man's Cafe. Tonight we present Track 4: Morphine Song

How do you deal with getting shot in the leg? You write a song to go along with the rhythm of the morphine drip in your arm.
Listen to my heartbeat
Yeah all fall down someone help me off of the ground.
We are on a ward at the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, with a trad jazz band playing in the morgue. The pain killer doesn't stop the patient from observing the scenes around him. There's Star his nurse and Nelson his attendant:
Nelson and Starr
He's got ten grandkids, she's the third missus
He grooves around intensive care, strutting his stuff
He's got a perfect mullet hanging down his back
And Starr walks in, gives a little wiggle
Makes old Nelson grin
He tucks me in, touches my feet
"Hey buddy, you know you got a slow heartbeat"
And across the way is Brenda the alkie:
...the bed beside her is full of cables and leads
Nobody visits, nobody grieves.
She's a junkie and in pain but she's not the one getting the morphine so she cries:
"If I don't get better, I'm gonna die
I'll go cold turkey till I'm clean
I'll go to jail but you get the morphine"
The music plays with the rhythms of the slowed down heart and is supported with a charming traditional New Orleans style horn section backing a simple yet affecting acoustic guitar lead. Two voices teeter along in a child-like harmony on the "yeah all fall down" chorus.

It's a song that works on a lot of different levels at the same time. There's the surreality of the song writer finding himself on the ground and shot, then transported to a ward in Charity Hospital. Ray has said that one of his first thoughts while recovering at the hospital was to write a song to get through it.

Ray had been spending a lot of time in NO, was shot there in 2004, and his recovery was quite long. Just as he was getting up and about again, Katrina blasted away the hospital along with so much devastation and loss of life and homes.

The mournful jazz procession winds through a morgue in a hospital that no longer exists. Sure hope Nelson and Starr made it out OK. Glad you got through it, Ray.


CharityDoc said...

Just an FYI: Nelson & Starr made it thru HK just fine. Entire album is great.

Village Green said...

I am really glad to hear they made it through. Thanks for stopping by to let us know. And yes, the entire album is something everybody in America needs to hear.