Morphine Is The Cure For Pain: An Underrated 90s Band

Morphine, one of the great underappreciated bands of the 90s, were as minimal as it gets.  They were a three piece of drums, saxophone and two-string bass.  How do you even make a sound out of that?  Yeah, I’m starting a band too.  I have a kazoo, a whoopee-cushion and a sock full of monopoly pieces that I twirl around for percussion.  But, we don’t actually play music or record though, we just release sheet music to our audience and let them meditate on how it sounds.

Morphine. Photo from

The cheery boys of Morphine. Photo from

Morphine were for real and oh the stuff they did with those instruments!  If I’d have guessed how many people were in their band I would have said at least five, if not a full marching band.  They did add a few things in the studio, but mostly it was made by the three guys.  And the methods they used were so weird.  The singer/bass player Mark Sandman would use a slide on those two bass strings.  They used a tritar, whatever the hell that is.  And here’s the one that really gets me:  The saxophone player often played two saxophones at once.  WHAT?!  There’s no way a human being can do that.  I played saxophone when I was younger and I can’t understand how that’s even remotely possible.  Granted, I couldn’t walk in a straight line and give a thumbs up at the same time, but still, that’s unreal!  I’m more likely to believe that you can drive two cars at once than that you can play two saxophones at once.  And shut up, saxophone nerds, I don’t need a message about how it’s actually quite easy.  Let me have my two-saxophoned unicorn dragon.

Dana Colley from Morphine.  Photo from

Dana Colley from Morphine playing double saxophones. Photo from

Tragedy struck Morphine in 1999 when frontman Mark Sandman unexpectedly collapsed and died of a heart attack at the age of 46 while on stage in Italy.  Supposedly his death resulted from a combination of stress, cigarette smoke and that night’s heat of over 100 degrees.  That’s just perfect.  It’s romantic.  That’s way better than dying at a Chuck-E-Cheese in Muncie, IN, or living to be Billy Corgan.  So there’s no chance of a true Morphine reunion.  Unless Paul McCartney wants to join up, bobble his stupid big head around and play half a bass.  But that’s okay, because they have five stellar albums that you can play in almost any mood.  Okay, that’s not true.  Most moods do not support a Morphine listening.  You don’t get a raise and blast “Cure For Pain.”  You don’t play them at your wedding and I’m almost positive that repeated listening in high school kept my mom’s finger on the last number of the suicide watch hotline.

Here are the times and places that it’s appropriate to play Morphine:

– at 3am while watching TV evangelist Jack Van Impe on mute.

– at 3am after faking your death and moving to Tijuana.

– at 3am while licking toads and drinking salamander venom in the hotel bar from “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas.”

Suggested Morphine listening:
You Speak My Language
Cure For Pain

I Was An Alcoholic Straight-Edger

Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat.  Photo from

Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat. Photo from

How come songs about being sober are so great to drink to?

I grew up loving straight-edge hardcore bands like Minor Threat, Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and the rest.  Some people thought they were bossy and judgy in their songs about not drinking or doing drugs, but to me they were fun.  The lyrics weren’t rocket science.  Every song was about “going for it” or “finishing what you started.”  So instead of heeding their advice to be sober, I just imagined that it was about going for that fake ID or finishing the beer bong that I started.  Maybe it was a touch hypocritical or insensitive to chug Milwaukee’s Best Light to songs about being “True ‘Till Death” or “Nailed To the X”.  Like blasting Bad Religion at church or Snoop Dogg during an anti-pot rally.  In my defense I grew up in pre-internet, small-town Iowa.  Your options were either staring at a cornfield or having a keg in it.  I’m fairly positive some of those bands got into heroin later, so screw ’em anyway.

There’s the irony.  Some of these big preachers of soberness ended up being drunks or drug addicts, like Rick Rodney from Strife or Skip Candelori from Turning Point, who died of an overdose in 2002.  I drank to all these anthems and now today I’m sober.  Was there some kind of spiritual switcheroo like Freaky Friday?  If I join PETA will they start strangling cats?  Not that I strangle cats.

90% of the time this nonsense is spewing out of teenagers’ mouths.  You can’t proselytize about life, or embrace and promote an ideals based lifestyle, until it’s had a chance to fully slap you in the face with soul-crushing disappointment and failure.  Or you turn 21.  There are few things in this world more annoying than a preachy teenager and they are as follows:

1) People who spell “lose” as “loose.”

2) A pedestrian that waves a car through an intersection when they already have the right away.  I have the two ton projectile and you’re in skinny jeans.  How about I make the calls here, Pushy-Pants?

3) Chelsea Handler.

Imagine you’re in high school and some douche of a kid is totally against pickles for some reason.  I guess that’s just his business, right?  Nope, because every day he’s in your face yapping about how cucumbers are more pure and shoving his anti-pickles tattoos in your face.  Then at your 20 year high school reunion you see him chomping on a Vlasic and you’re like “MOTHERFUCKER!”

But I can forgive all that, because the music was so great.  Give me the bands that stood for something, then changed their mind later on and tried to forget about it.

Whatever.  We were all 17 once.

Bad Album Covers By Great Artists: Prince – Lovesexy (1988)

Dear God, please make me famous enough so I can do bat-shit crazy stuff like Prince and get away with it.  We’re talking about a guy here who changed his name to a symbol, wore ass-less gold pants to the 1991 Video Music Awards, knocked on doors as a Jehovah’s Witness in the height of his fame and refused to sell his music online because the “internet is dead”.  In 2010.  I love this man.

How freaking out of your mind do you have to be to think the “Lovesexy” album cover is a good idea?  Name one pop star today that could pull this off?  Lady Gaga only pretends to be weird and there’s no flower in existence big enough for Christina Aguilera’s ass.  I’m pretty sure that Prince rode into that business meeting on a flying purple ostrich shooting glitter and flared pant-suits out of it’s butt like flames behind a sexually ambiguous space shuttle.

Prince "Lovesexy" album cover 1988

Prince “Lovesexy” album cover 1988

RECORD EXEC: Okay, Prince.  Your album is almost ready to hit the shelves.  What do you have for an album cover for us?

PRINCE:  It starts with me sitting on a bunch of big flowers.


PRINCE:  I’m naked.

RECORD EXEC: Of course.

PRINCE: I’m partially covering my nipples.

RECORD EXEC:  Keep going.

PRINCE:  Next to me is a weird, red-tipped flower-dong.

RECORD EXEC: It’s like you’re reading my mind.  Question…Is the flower-dong trying to bite your nipples?

PRINCE:  No, no.  It’s aroused.  Have you ever made love to a plant?  Sheila E and I once had a threesome with a geranium.

RECORD EXEC: My only concern is what you’re going to do with all the money you’ll make from this.

The record flopped.

But what most people don’t know about the “Lovesexy” album cover is that Prince had an alternate cover.  It was called “BrodySexy.”  You’re welcome:

Mike Brody Lovesexy

Photoshop by Tim Brechlin.