We start at the beginning with a lullaby sung to a baby conceived by artificial insemination. Spanish singer Vainica Doble sings of El Niño Inseminado.
“The inseminated child is asleep, like a bird in its nest
Child of an unknown father.
Try and and look like my husband
For he will give you your name and surname.”
Next up is a song called The Nurse by a band called The Nurse. Apparently. My Japanese isn’t what it was but I was assured that this is the case. The lyric escapes me also but this may be a good thing. No worries about being on-topic here. It just sounds suitably manic after the previous soothing gentleness and has the right title. That will do nicely.
“There’s nothing like a broken arm to win your love!”
After the nurse, a song called Hospital. I picked this over DNR, the other Jesca Hoop song nominated, as the playlist was looking a little on the grim side. Turns out the ostensibly jolly pop song with the colourful video is about trying to get your parents attention with “accidents” or even self-harming. Something the medics, I guess, have to deal with all too often.
On to another The Nurse song. This one by the White Stripes and the title definitely used as metaphor.
“The nurse should not be the one who puts salt in your wounds
But it’s always with trust that the poison is fed with a spoon.”
Jack White said in an interview that it was “about someone I was in love with” and the lyric shows a certain ambivalence (to say the least) about whether it was reciprocated.
The caring, nurturing image of nursing provides a great deal of inspiration for (mostly male) songwriters. Here, the idea of The Lady with the Lamp caring for wounded soldiers is employed by Country Joe McDonald. The horrors of war made slightly more bearable by his Florence Nightingale.
The lyric of Sister Morphine was, by her own account, written by Marianne Faithfull, who also recorded the first version. Later, The Rolling Stones recorded their own version for the album Sticky Fingers and eventually gave her a song writing credit. It’s narrated by someone hospitalised after a car crash and desperately wanting the painkiller even if it kills him. It was allegedly influenced by the Velvet Underground’s music but also by the reality of the Stones and their entourage at the time.
“As I was lying in a hospital bed, a rock 'n' roll nurse was going to my head.”
Pills. A more cheerful approach to the kind of medication you might expect in a hospital was released by Bo Diddley and later covered by the New York Dolls. Their version is zedded but his is still eligible so here it is in all its glory and simplicity.
PJ Harvey’s lyric for her song When Under Ether doesn’t make the setting explicit but it is pretty clear that it is about the ordinary, everyday kindness of a nurse in a hospital holding a patient’s hand as they lie on their bed. As the nominator commented:
“At the root of the NHS's place in UK hearts is its unstated, continuous demonstration of human kindness …”
Relatives of the patient also do this, of course. James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers spent many hours by his dying mother's bed in a Cardiff hospital. The song he wrote tells of the only comfort he could offer her. Her favourite Cranberry juice – Ocean Spray.
We follow with another song where one version (Gregory Isaacs in this case) is already zedded. As stated, male song writers do sometimes seem to be fixated on the image of a nurse who – er – cares for them and understands their needs. Sinead O'Connor’s version of Night Nurse changes the genders and in some ways the whole dynamic of the song, Fantastic Daniel Lanois production too.
We have just the one song about a Nursing Home. The other end of life to our opening number. Not an awfully positive one I do have to add. But powerful stuff. And would have made a thunderous, epic finale except that we seem to have left something out.
Finally - an actual celebration of the NHS. And released on the day it was nominated too. "No Profit in Pain," says Gruff Rhys. A summing up of the whole NHS ethos.
The Accident and Emergency A-List Playlist:
Vainica Doble - El Niño Inseminado
ナース (The Nurse) – The Nurse
Jesca Hoop – Hospital
The White Stripes – The Nurse
Country Joe McDonald – Lady with the Lamp
The Rolling Stones – Sister Morphine
Bo Diddley – Pills
PJ Harvey – When Under Ether
Manic Street Preachers – Ocean Spray
Sinead O’Connor – Night Nurse
Ministry – Nursing Home
Gruff Rhys – No Profit in Pain
The Balm For The Soul B-List Playlist:
Tiger – I’m in Love with RAF Nurse
Joni Mitchell – Twisted
Parsnip – Health
Budgie – Crash Course in Brain Surgery
The Ramones – Pinhead
Billy Bragg – A Nurse’s Life is Full of Woe
Poison Girls – Under the Doctor
The Who – Doctor Doctor
The Taxpayers – Healthcare
The Buff Medways – Nurse Julie
Billie and De De and Their Preservation Hall Jazz Band – St James Infirmary
Goldfrapp – A & E
The Black Angels – Medicine
The Marvelettes – You’re My Remedy
Champion Jack Dupree – T B Blues
Jesca Hoop - DNR
The Raw Herbs – She’s a Nurse
Lee Perry – Doctor on the Go
Frida Hyvönen – December
Country Joe McDonald – Thank the Nurse
Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital
The Velvet Underground – Lady Godiva’s Operation
Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
A Spectre is Haunting Europe – Hospital Problems
Guru's Wildcard Pick:
NHS Voices - With A Little Help From My Friends
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Notes for the NHS: songs about nursing and healthcare. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.