Midnight Album Feature: Morphine - Cure For Pain

Hi, I’m DJ Michele. Every Friday night I host a show on KEXP called Nite Life. Usually I spend about 3 hours preparing for my show. Then at 9pm I get to hit the air with danceable sets for your Friday night madness. Every week at 12 o’clock I do a Midnight Album Spotlight. This Friday it’s Morphine’s sax-infused melodic rock masterpiece Cure for Pain. Morphine’s from Boston, and this is their second album.

Released in 1993, this baby has sold more than 300,000 copies. When I first heard this at a friend’s house, I asked her the album name and she said, “Cure for Pain. It works.”

Morphine singer Mark Sandman died on stage during a concert. The official report was that he was hit with a sudden heart attack while playing a festival in Palestrina, Italy -- near Rome. Mark’s love affair with drugs and his recurring depression were no secret though. And although this album is a statement about how music pulled him through, it didn’t save him. Here’s the title track to Cure for Pain:

Mark was 46 years old when he went down. Like many brilliant artists who died young, tracing his history is like watching a shooting star. His best songs have this feeling too. Fiery, fast and doomed. Check out “Buena”:

The trio Morphine were together for 9 years. They formed in 1990 and on this album you can hear Mark Sandman on the two-string slide bass, Dana Colley on sax, and two drummers: Jerome Dupree and Billy Conway.

Morphine’s sound is totally unique. There is no guitar in this band. And no other group integrates sax into rock and roll like this one. And I love the sensitivity of Sandman’s lyrics on all the songs. His vocals on “In Spite of Me” are especially soft. He’s so perceptive too. This song is like opening a window during a rainfall. It’s an obscure, unusual Morphine track. And if you weren’t listening to KEXP, I doubt you’d ever hear it.

Join Michele Myers for Nite Life every Friday night at 9pm on KEXP.

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9 Comments

  1. Anthony Lombardi
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Really nice write up on Morphine, If anyone ever is in Cambridge, MA stop by Sandman square. The two string bass was another unqiue part of their sound.

  2. Posted February 21, 2008 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “Mark’s love affair with drugs and his recurring depression were no secret though.”

    Really? I’ve never heard that about him before, and it seems strange to me that you could make such an assertion about such a famously-private person. I’m not saying it’s not true, I haven’t done any kind of research about him, I’m just saying I’m surprised to hear this claim for the first time. The only factor I’ve ever heard about in connection with the heart attack was that he was stabbed in the chest when he was a cab driver in his 20s.

  3. DJ Michele
    Posted February 23, 2008 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Just listen to the lyrics to Cure for Pain. If that’s not honest material I don’t know what is.

  4. aikanae
    Posted July 6, 2008 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    There’s an interview (somewhere) explaining the band’s name of morphine was a play on sandman’s name. personally, i didn’t care either way - the music’s great, but i agree, this is the first mention i’ve heard of sandman + drugs.

  5. Courtney
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Having talked to the remaining band members I can assure you that mark Sandman was not into drugs. Coffee & cigarettes, yes. NO Drugs.

  6. dana colley
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    My name is Dana Colley I am the sax player from Morphine. I understand how misinformation gets perpetuated regarding Marks lifestyle. However I always feel compelled to set the record straight. Mark WAS NOT a hard drug user. Period. His heart attack WAS NOT a result of complications from being stabbed. In “Cure For Pain” the drugs he throws away are the household variety that many of us use to get us going: caffeine; nicotine; alcohol; sugar; salt; and yes the evil weed. The point of the song is to show the double standard during the “War On Drugs”. Where certain drugs are classified as illegal and fail to even acknowledge that the habitual intake of socially acceptable intoxicants can be even more harmful and even deadly. That humans have always looked to take the edge off and when we stop feeling we will no longer need to mask our pain.
    It is easy to make ass-u-me-ptions about someone who is in the public eye. But before you make an ass out of you and me... think. This is a persons life and legacy.

  7. Jason Steinkamp
    Posted January 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dana for clearing that up. I discovered Morphine long after around 2005 and have been catching up ever since. I want to thank you for keeping the music alive through Sandbox, live shows, At Your Service, etc. It means alot to people like me who did not get to experience the band before and I’m sure it means just as much to fans that have been there from the start. Don’t ever stop keeping the music alive...

    All The Best,

    Jason

  8. scott
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    the second greatest thrill of my life was hearing morphine in the very beginning when they rehearsed at a music store / rehearsal space owned by a wonderful man ,known to me as freddy ,who owned freddy g’s in everett, ma. just across the bridge from d-town boston ! i was sweeping the floors at the time after having letting the three greatest musicians into jerome deupree’s rehearsal room . i was sweeping the floors ,it was pretty late and morphine was the only band in the building . as i passed the room i heard this sorta dangerous , dark , hypnotic and addicting music coming from behind the closed door . i remember sitting outside that room , when tears filled my eyes . i could not believe something so ,well, cool was from this planet !!! it was everything charles bukowski loved ....”it wasn’t obvious ...” i stood outside that door for quite some time ,before this overwhelming spirit took hold , and i actually knocked on the door ....the band let me sit in the room and listen ....again i felt tears inside ...it was true rock n roll without the boring guitar (sorry keith ) i knew they would one day make a huge impact on the music world ..it was undeniable .....it was too real to be ignored ...too creative too fall into some flavor of the month pile of crap ...it shook my bones ,like the first time someone tells you the story about robert johnson and the infamous crossroads or blind willie mctell’s tragic life ....i know morphine will carry that same sort of mystery ..the mystery we all love ..the legend ..of four guy’s from boston mass. “at your service..” they willtake their place in new england history and lore ..just like the 2004 boston red sox (my third favorite moment in life............the best moment aside from getting married ,
    was when mark sandman took me up to this greasy late night donut shop , bought me a coffee and a donut and we smoked a cigarette together gazing at the late night boston skyline !! it was like playing catch with ol’ babe ruth ...it was hanging with a legend !!!! they” made it !” and they never let me down ! thanks for the memory of a lifetime...........since then , the stars have shined a little brighter than they ever would ,had i not heard those first rehearsal and that damn coffee and cigarette !! thank you mark,dana,jerome and billy !! here’s to life...........

  9. Cecily Crebbs
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    WOW. Big thanks to Dana. And seriously loved Scott’s post. I have been working on Mark Sandman’s biography for way too long and have more to slog. But obviously the irony of naming a band “Morphine” is lost on most people, even though with a little looksie around you can find out the dibs. (I.e. the albums are named “Good” “Yes” etc) Google..... I use it all the time. It’s interesting to me that it’s more interesting to people that Mark died of a drug overdose than that he died of a massive heart attack on stage. Coated in flowers. The reality is he died in a place that has an intense spiritual connection between this world and the spiritual world. There is so much more to this story than the surface. Don’t sell him short.

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