Rockin’ all over the ward

Paste Magazine has an article on ‘Eight Musical Homages to the Asylum’ about some of the most famous, and infamous, songs and videos about being institutionalised.

It was kindly posted by Mind Hacks reader Clifton Wiens in response to our previous post about jazz legend Charlie Parker having written what I thought was the only known song about an artist’s own stay in a psychiatric hospital (and not just admission to mental hospitals in general, of which there are lots).

However, the Paste Magazine article notes that James Taylor’s “Knockin‚Äô ‚ÄôRound the Zoo” is about his 1965 stay in McLean Hospital.

Another reader, Hugo, noted in the comments that Scandinavian metal band Diagnose: Lebensgefahr wrote an album called Transformalin about one of the member’s stays in hospital, although forgive me if I remain a little sceptical about the somewhat traditionally theatrical claims of black metal, although I could be wrong.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered that there was a whole concept album based around an artists’ stay in a mental hospital – by who else – but Alice Cooper. The album was called From the Inside and was apparently inspired by Coopers’ admission for alcoholism.

Any other suggestions gratefully received.

Link to ‘Eight Musical Homages to the Asylum’.

5 thoughts on “Rockin’ all over the ward”

  1. I can’t believe that Paste didn’t mention “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” the 1966 Billboard Top 100 hit by Napoleon XIV (aka Jerry Samuels). Or maybe I’m the only one old enough to remember it!

  2. There’s no way for me to know for sure, but I can’t help but thinking the Paste article was a direct response to your Charlie Parker post. I was going through a list of possible suspects myself, and came across Taylor’s “Knockin’ Around The Zoo.” Not two hours later, the Paste article came across my RSS Feed.
    Another possible suspect I’ve been thinking about is the great Texas singer/songwriter Townes van Zandt, admitted to the UTexas-Galveston Hospital for three months during his college years for insulin shock therapy. Many of his songs allude to his substance abuse, but none that I knew of addressed his time inside. Then I found “Sanitarium Blues,” released posthumously. Sample lyrics:
    Big ole nurse all dressed in white/
    Slaps you on a table in the middle of the night/
    Then he straps you down real tight/You’re wonderin’, what’d I do?
    They hose you down, make sure you’re clean/Wrap you up in hospital green/Shoot you full of Thorazine/The sanitarium blues…

  3. Elliot Smith in Memory Lane off the From a Basement on a Hill album…
    ‘This is the place you end up when you lose the chase/
    Where you’re dragged against your will from a basement on the hill/
    And all anybody knows is you‚Äôre not like them…
    It’s all written on my chart/
    And I take what’s given me/
    Most cooperatively/
    I do what people say and lie in bed all day/
    Absolutely horrified.’

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