Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TV Themes... this time with lyrics (Part 4).

Well after a brief Led Zeppelin interruption, we're back with part 4 of

Covers of TV Theme Songs Known Primarily as Instrumentals
(With Lyrics That You May or May Not Know)

Lastly we have the theme from M*A*S*H a.k.a. "Suicide is Painless" from the 1970 Robert Altman film and the long-running television series, which used a shortened instrumental version of the song. At some point in our lives we all have these small epiphanies: "What? M*A*S*H was based on a movie?" or "What? The M*A*S*H theme has lyrics?" And I am further surprised to learn just now that the film itself was based on a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker. The song was written by Johnny Mandel and Mike Altman, the director's son, who was only 14 years old at the time he wrote the lyrics (pretty remarkable when you listen to it). Apparently he earned more in royalties for the song than his dad did for directing the movie. There have been numerous covers over the years, with and without lyrics, a few of which I've included here.

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see...

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it's too late, and...


The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.


The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
and to another give my seat
for that's the only painless feat.


The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows it grin, but...


A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
is it to be or not to be
and I replied "oh why ask me?"

'Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
...and you can do the same thing if you please.

Manic Street Preachers - Suicide is Painless [originally by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman]
Hearing this cover was the first time I realized the M*A*S*H theme had lyrics. They also do one of my all-time favourite covers of Can't Take My Eyes Off You.

Lady & Bird - Suicide is Painless [originally by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman]
This beautiful acoustic cover is from the 2003 album Lady & Bird, a collaboration between singer-songwriter Keren Ann and Icelandic musician Barði Jóhannsson.

Jay-Jay Johanson - Suicide is Painless [originally by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman]
I really know nothing about this Swedish musician, but this is a pretty good solo radio performance with a hint of lounge singer.

Matt Costa - Suicide is Painless [originally by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman]
Here's another acoustic cover that's really good. I think I like these covers more than the original.

Royal Trux - Theme from M*A*S*H [originally by Johnny Mandel & Mike Altman]
This alt-rock version is from a 1993 edition of the Peel Sessions.

Tripod - Theme from MASH Guy
Australian comedy music act Tripod incorporated the theme from M*A*S*H into one of their songs (Lingering Dad) and as part of the process of getting permission to put it on their DVD, they had to send a copy to the original songwriter. And then they wrote a song about HIM. So is this song about Johnny Mandel or Mike Altman...? If you go to Tripod's official website, you may just find some free cover songs including an unlikely cover of Queen's Seaside Rendezvous and Bowie's Life on Mars?. And we all know how much I love Life on Mars covers...

See also:
Part 1: Theme from Star Trek
Part 2: Theme from House (Massive Attack's Teardrop)
Part 3: Theme from Peter Gunn

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