Back in the day, SVB was a big fan of Morphine that formed in Cambridge, Mass back in 1989 featuring Mark Sandman on bass & lead vocals, sax player Dana Colley, and drummer Billy Conway after he replaced Jerome Deupree. After their indie debut the band signed with Rykodisc Records and had a handful of “hits” (loosely defined) including songs like “Buena,” “Honey White, “Buena,” and “Thursday.” At the time they were a unique creative force in indie music; when they toured it was just sax, drums and bass – no guitars or keyboards, although on record additional touches of instrumentation were added to fill the band’s sound out. While Sandman was typically the center of attraction with his amazing bass playing the other players brought elements of jazz, prog and blues in to the mix. They were one of the great underrated power trios of all time. Sandman’s double bass lines crushed, the sax was always wailing (Dana would often play two saxes at once), the drums charging and driving it all, and Sandman’s deep dark sexy growl was always right up front in your face. The band signed to Dreamworks in the mid-90’s and as their stars were ascending Sandman died of a heart attack in 1999. It was an unfortunate loss. So it’s with bittersweet news that I’m excited to hear about Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story coming out through Gatling Pictures sometime in 2011.
I got to know Mark a bit during this time; the radio station I’ve worked at over the years – WXPN – were big fans of Morphine’s from the start. We supported each release and the band came by a few times to perform on World Cafe with David Dye. Sandman was a tortured, sweet guy. Not really so sure what the demons were about, but he was a hard drinking, hard rocking musician who you could always tell by looking in his eyes that there was some intense shit going on there. I had a chance to be in New Orleans, I think it was back in 1997 for a music industry gathering, when Morphine opened up a show for PJ Harvey at Tipitina’s. It was one of the few industry showcases I’ve ever been at where people actually watched both bands play without the drunken chatter that so often distracts from the show. It was a great night, made better by the fact that Mark and I and some of our mutual friends were drinking shots of whiskey in between sets and having a pretty radically fun time. He also talked for about 1/2 straight about his love of Muddy Waters which led to my going out and buying like five classic Muddy Waters when I got back home tp Philly. It was one of the great moments I’ve had in rock and roll and every time I play Muddy Waters, I think about Sandman and that nite in New Orleans.
Check out the trailer below for the forthcoming documentary w/a thx Captains Dead for the tip, and below a video of a live performance of “Honey White.”