Electricity, let it wash all over me

I’ve just found a fantastic article that discusses the representation of epilepsy in contemporary rock and hip hop. It was published last year in the neurology journal Epilepsy and Behaviour and is both fascinating and funny owing to the contrast between the stuffy academic journal style and the lyrics drawn from the street.

For example, where else are you likely to read anything like the following:

In “Ballad of Worms,” Cage, a New York rap artist with a troubled psychiatric past, rails against God for giving his girlfriend (previously “the hottest bitch”) meningitis.

It’s a fascinating review, not least because most of the songs that mention epilepsy are from death metal bands, lyrical singer-song writers or hip hop artists.

I was a bit confused at first because it misses out some obvious tracks, but I quickly realised it’s just sampling from lyrics about epilepsy, rather than trying to give a complete overview.

For example, we mentioned a Beastie Boys track where Adrock gives props to his own epilepsy back in 2007. Beck also gives a nod to his epilepsy in his 2006 track Elevator Music:

I shake a leg on the ground
Like an epileptic battery man
I’m making my move

Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis famously developed epilepsy and had several seizures on stage. Their pulsing 1979 track She’s Lost Control, although not explicitly about his own experiences, vividly describes a girl having a seizure in the street.

There are many more examples, and after doing a search I was surprised at quite how often epilepsy and seizures are referenced in rock n’ roll.

The review notes that epilepsy is often linked to the historical themes of madness and cognitive impairment, but interestingly contemporary music also uses it as a metaphor for all consuming love and sexual desire, as well as wild abandon in dancing – which are not traditional themes.

The paper is by clinical neuropsychologist Sallie Baxendale, who does some compelling and diverse research into epilepsy, including a recent article on the representation of epilepsy in movies.

Link to ‘The representation of epilepsy in popular music’.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

2 Comments

  1. Posted January 26, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    “Neuroculture” in its best. Nice post!

  2. carsick
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    “My hands are shaky and my knees are weak
    I cant seem to stand on my own two feet
    Who do you thank when you have such luck?
    I’m in love
    I’m all shook up”
    -“All Shook Up” Elvis Presley


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