While we here at WMMCM are still in the mood for Muenster Mash, there is a fine line to be walked between what might actually be a good or even great song with a dumb name and those other kind of songs. You know, the ones with the dumb name that are also dumb songs?
In fact - believe it or not - it can actually be much harder to find a dumb song with an equally dumb name than a good one that somehow found itself in the musical equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys waiting for King Moonracer to find a spot for it on somebody’s radio play-list.
Over the years Country music has had a great deal of fun with goofy song titles like, “They Call Me Cleopatra, Cause I’m the Queen of Denial” and other famous ones such as the classic “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” Now in rock n’ roll, they usually aren’t quite that clever. Under most circumstances rock songs with Muenster Mash quality names are usually sent to their fate by either a lack of imagination or – more commonly – too much.
Today’s bit of Mega Muenster Mash would definitely fall under the latter category.
In 1967 under the watchful eyes and ears of newly minted producer Norman Smith, a very strange thing was happening. And, it was happening in the very studio usually occupied by the biggest band in the world, The Beatles. Smith had left the post of The Beatles recording engineer the year before as he wanted to become a producer and that certainly wasn’t going to happen with The Beatles as they had George Martin. So Norman Smith quit his job at EMI’s Abbey Road studio and went out and got himself a band.
Being 1967, the psychedelic era was in full swing and it certainly wasn’t difficult to find a strange band with a reasonable amount of skill. And given the year it was, musicality wasn’t perhaps the first priority. So, Smith found a bunch of musicians who had formed their band after meeting at their different schools, including the Regent Street Polytechnic school of Architecture. (Who says that architects are dull anyway? Other than most people…)
Once together in Abbey Road the bass player and occasional singer decided to try his hand at songwriting. The results were creative, imaginative and truly – awful.
As you can tell from the title of said musical atrocity, this is a very young Pink Floyd. It’s actually from their very first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which really did have a not too bad but, badly dated hit single with “See Emily Play.”
One thing that you can tell instantly when listening to the real focus of today’s Muenster Mash, “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk,” is that this is a really weird band and an even weirder song. Even for 1967 and all that psychedelic stuff that was going around, this is a song that sticks out and, not in any identifiably positive way.
In fairness to bass player Roger Waters, it was his first attempt at songwriting and we all know that Waters became a brilliant – if obsessive – songwriter. So, how should we deal with “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk?”
As I said, it’s certainly creative in that it neatly hits dead center in the “sound” of psychedelia. And the lyrics have to be given credit for imagination even if you can’t possibly imagine what Waters was thinking when he wrote them. (Another long term trait of Waters songwriting used to much greater effect a very short time later.)
“Doctor doctor! I’m in bed
Achin’ head Gold is lead
Choke on bread Underfed
Gold is lead Jesus bled
Pain is red Are goon
Grow go Greasy spoon
You swoon June bloom.”
I don’t know how I could improve upon them.
I do know that I would never try to improve on them as I haven’t the slightest idea of what Waters was trying to say and, I am not convinced that Waters had the slightest idea of what he was trying to say either. If anything.
What masquerades as a chorus/ending doesn’t really help to clear things up any.
“Music seems to help the pain Seems to cultivate the brain.
Doctor kindly tell your wife that I’m alive – flowers thrive – realize – realize
Judging from forty-five years later may be a bit unfair of course but, I’m going to do it anyway. “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” is just a bunch of important sounding words tied together trying to be important and what the heck it all means? I know that I’m not concerned with anything deep going on here. It was a first and ultimately failed attempt at writing significant music with meaning.
Shorty after Pink Floyd was starting to enjoy the success of their debut album, lead singer/guitarist Syd Barrett would become enveloped in his increasing mental problems, leaving the band to be replaced by another school friend, David Gilmour who leads Pink Floyd to this day.
With Barrett’s departure and the addition of Gilmour; Pink Floyd, Roger Waters and of course Gilmour, would go on to record some of the most intriguing and fascinating music that exists in the rock n’ roll genre ultimately selling over a quarter billion albums.
You never would have guessed from hearing “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” now would you?
What about old Norman Smith who gave Pink Floyd their big break?
Well a few years later in 1972 Norman actually became a star himself. In the early 1970′s Smith had written a song he wanted his Beatle buddy John Lennon to record. After recording a demo version to eventually play for Lennon, Smith had asked his fellow producer friend Mickie Most to take a listen and tell him what he thought about the song. Most said to not change a thing and release it as a single himself.
Well, Norman Smith did and it was a number one hit in the USA for the guy now known as Hurricane Smith.