Morphine Machine

The Music Machine: Turn On! Yes, let’s turn on to 1966 with this amazing garage band. This was one of the first lps I remember buying. Still in high school & ‘innocent.’ I loved the hair, the black leather gloves they wore on stage, the turtlenecks. The front cover is reminiscent of the Beatles but the music is not, even though they do a cover of Taxman. I dug them 🙂 Listening to it now it is well produced with good studio use of echo, even a touch of flute. Reminiscent of early Steppenwolf or Grassroots. 

The lp was worn grey. The band was lost in the wake of the British Invasion & my interest was washed away by Hendrix, the Stones – you know, music that wasn’t built around Farfisa organ & bass. Definitely teen boy music. I bought the cd in September 1994 when I was deeply involved with Bushwack Theatre. I remember walking from the Lab on Britain St. to Sam’s on Yonge St & looking for this in particular. It was there but as a high-priced import, with no bonus tracks. I think I went back to Sam’s twice before I gave in & bought it. That year I played it over a dozen times for the powerful nostalgia it brought. I do not have any specific memories to go with it though 😦 except of me loving it in 1966.

The first track I heard by Morphine was either Honey White or French Fries With Pepper. I don’t remember where I heard it but I loved the sax driven sound. I was also taken by the lyrics & the voice of their lead singer; he reminded me of Tom Waites in delivery & the jazzy sound was perfect for me. I have Cure for Pain; Yes; Like Swimming; B-Sides & Otherwise. All are my favourites 🙂

Because of its instrumentation Morphine is considered ‘alternative.’ It’s definitely not U2 but the music is not that challenging or abstract. Solid, propulsive, hummable & relatable; adult music not teen-boy pop. They were on the verge of going mainstream when their lead vocalist died of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. What a way to go. If you are unfamiliar, start with any of their lps.

This piece goes back to late 80’s.

Anticipation 1

The electronic alarm bubbled. He took several deep breaths. Inhaling he thought “Thank you” held it, breathed out “God.” Then reversed the sequence. He didn’t want to feel he was breathing God out but inhaling the strength that his feeling of God gave him.

The telephone burbled. He thanked God for electronics. No more thought jangling ringing. The telephone continued to burble. Now, was that one burble or two? He wondered, as he picked up the receiver.

“Good morning, Martin.”

“Mother?” What did she want?

“That’s right dear. You remember what day this is?”

Martin glanced as the read-out glowing on his clock. “February 14, 19 …”

“Now Martin don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten …”

“To send you a card? Of course I did but …” Then he remembered. “Not that February 14?” Shit! Shit! Shit! This was not going to be such an ordinary day.

“That’s right Martin dear. The prophesy will be fulfilled today.”

God Thank You God Thank You God, he breathed in & out deeply. “Thank you, Mother.”

“One o’clock.”

“I know! I know! I’ve lived with the damn thing for … ”

“But you forgot.”

“As was foretold. ‘His mother would remind him.’ Isn’ that what it said in The Book. Thank you Mother. Now can I take a shower before …”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, dear. The prophecy will be fulfilled today.”

“Please, mother, give it a rest. Good-bye.”

As he hung up he heard her say, “Christ be with you.” 

Thank God, he breathed in, I’m not, he held his breath, a Christian, he breathed out. He repeated that nine times on his way to the shower. With the water almost too hot to tolerate he remembered the first time he had read The Book. 

It was a week before his tenth birthday. The Book was kept in a chest under his bed since he’d been born. He knew it was in there from having seen his parents look at it late at night when they thought he was asleep.

For the few months before his birthday he’d felt an urge to see it. As soon as he thought they were asleep he pulled the chest out & lifted up The Book. It seemed to resist him the way like poles of a magnet repel each other. It wasn’t very thick but took all his strength to lift it. The cover, as thin as it was, resisted his effort to open it. Once he had it open the heaviness was gone.

In the half-light of the moon he couldn’t make out what was printed on it. The typewritten pages, ragged along the edges, were covered with finger smudges & circle stains where cups had been set on them. As he turned the pages they became clearer & easier to see & to understand.

His heart beat faster & he uttered a little cry when. at the top of one page he saw, in capital letters, MARTIN. His eyes skimmed the page & fell on ‘At ten years of age he shall be told, but he will already know. He will want to escape, but he will never stop knowing.’

Suddenly fearful, he shut The Book & shoved it back inside the chest, pushed the chest back under his bed, ran to the bathroom & vomited.

(what else is in The Book – tune in next week for another trilling episode)

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One thought on “Morphine Machine

  1. Interesting, there are many of those groups from the early and late sixties that now sound pretty good and had there not been Beatles and Stones they might have gone somewhere. I still like listening to The Sonics…
    All the best,
    FBC.

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