The Grace­less Age

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Stephen Fitz­patrick

John Murry

Evan­ge­line/Spunk THE jour­ney of drug ad­dic­tion — specif­i­cally, of ad­dic­tion to heroin — is one of the foun­da­tion stones of blues, jazz and rock. You could make a list of the songs that have ad­dressed it that would run off the bot­tom of this page. (There’s a fun break­fast ta­ble game for all the fam­ily!) John Murry’s Lit­tle Col­ored Bal­loons, the 10-minute third track on an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­but solo al­bum, takes its place among the best of th­ese. Build­ing from a sim­ple pi­ano and solo voice struc­ture, it tells the story of Murry’s death af­ter in­ject­ing black tar heroin in the house of his San Fran­cisco dealer.

‘‘ Saran wrap, and lit­tle col­ored bal­loons/ a black nickel, a nee­dle and a spoon . . . baby this is what I do to warn your ghost away.’’ By the time the fe­male har­monies and cello ar­rive you are in that dingy hall­way with him, pray­ing that he stays awake — and then, when he doesn’t, for the paramedics to show up. For­tu­nately in real life — as in the song — they did, and restarted Murry’s heart with in­jec­tions of Nar­can and adrenalin. ‘‘ I took an am­bu­lance ride/ they said I should have died/ right there on 16th and Mis­sion . . . I still miss you so god­damn much.’’ Other songs here deal with his habit, one that for a time drove away his wife, some­thing also fea­tured in the record’s sub­ject mat­ter. (He kicked the dope and got her back.) All of the songs are good, but Bal­loons is sub­lime. Murry once said: ‘‘ Show me a happy per­son and I’ll show you an im­be­cile.’’ Ob­vi­ously, he is nei­ther — and that is to our ben­e­fit.

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