Ten years ago today one of my favourite singers, Mark Sandman, had a heart attack on stage and died. He was the frontman of Morphine and I hadn’t heard of them then. I heard about his death, though, because it was on Triple J’s music news and my mum thought the Australian comedian The Sandman had died.
Months later in February 2000, I started hearing this song I loved on Triple J. I thought it was by Nick Cave, because the voice sounded similar, but it was more haunting and smooth than anything Cave has done. I was working in a noisy bus station and I kept missing the DJ’s announcement of what the song was.
Eventually I discovered it was Morphine’s the Night. On my 19th birthday, 5 March 2000, I went into the Wesley CD store in the city and asked if they had it. And they did – the posthumous album had arrived that very day.
Since then, I’ve got all Morphine’s albums and they’ve never had a song quite like ‘The Night’, but I’ve come to love a lot of their music and feel sad that they were over before I even loved them. Their music has a kind of blues-jazz sound to it, but mixed with a voice somewhere between Nick Cave and Lou Reed and different to them both. ‘Low rock’ I think they described themselves as. Saxophone, a two string bass and drums, no guitar. Their best songs have a haunting quality; no-one does sadness and bitter-sweet memories like Morphine.
Dream like, or smoky jazz club at midnight, or a car trip across America, in the middle of nowhere at night.
My favourite album is the posthumous The Night, followed by Cure For Pain. They never released a bad album, to my mind, all of them have some stand out songs I play over and over.