Looking for a list of music albums out on October 6, 2009? Whether you're into…
- Posted on Apr 29th 2011 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Bob Berg, Getty Images
'Cure for Pain' is now the title of a new documentary about the band, which screens Friday, April 29, at Boston's Independent Film Festival. No doubt about it: Sandman's band was made for the movies.
The sparest of power trios -- just drums, sax and Sandman's Frankenstein bass guitars (one-, two- and three-string creations typically played with a slide) -- Morphine may well have been the oddest band to find success in the major-label feeding frenzy of the mid-'90s. The second act signed to the high-powered DreamWorks label, the group showcased its mysterious, pulp-literary story-songs in some very unusual settings -- on 'Beavis and Butt-head,' for instance.
A committed night-prowler who worked in blue-collar jobs -- cab driver, commercial fisherman -- before committing to music, Sandman got his start in the mid-'80s with the bluesy Boston garage band Treat Her Right. (The band, which recently reunited with a revamped lineup, licensed a song, 'Rhythm & Booze,' for 'The Hangover' soundtrack.)
Playing a three-string guitar, the former cabbie soon devised a two-string bass, eventually distilling his sound all the way down to a primitive one-string concoction he called the unitar. The distinctly slinky rumble he created, combined with his weary barroom croon, gave Morphine its signature sound, which Sandman dubbed "low rock."
When Morphine signed to DreamWorks, Sandman felt some validation for his staunchly independent, subterranean style. "We've been holding back a lot of the stranger things," he told us in a 1995 interview. "We're feeling braver now. It's a big cosmos out there."
Four years later, on July 3, 1999, Sandman stood on an outdoor stage near Rome, teasing his overseas audience with his introduction for the song 'Super Sex.' Then he collapsed, doing what he loved most. Within minutes, Sandman was dead of a massive heart attack at age 46.
Sandman's pursuit of dreams in the night was a direct product of a terrible family fact: both of his brothers had predeceased him. After the Morphine singer's death, his mother wrote a book called 'Four Minus Three: A Mother's Story.' "There's no reason in this life," as Sandman once wrote, "someone lives and someone dies." There's no cure for pain, either.