12 Hangover Songs to Kick Off 2012
They say that the way you spend your New Year's Eve is a sign of how you'll spend the rest of the year. We can only hope the same doesn't hold true for New Year's Day, when you're forced to face not only the consequences of the previous night's escapades but the yawning expanse of January drudgery. But they also say that misery loves company, so we've rounded up some songs to help you get through the morning after. (Extra perk: All the Sunday-morning-themed songs—and there are four of them—are accurate this year.)
- Johnny Bond, "Sick, Sober, and Sorry": Crooning cowboy Johnny Bond says he's full of regret after a night of drinking too much, but he sure doesn't sound it in this cheery 1951 country tune that pretty much sums up the hangover experience: "Well now, I'm sick, sober and sorry/Broke, disgusted and sad/Sick, sober and sorry/But look at the fun I had."
- Lee Hazlewood, "The Night Before": In this spooky, bleary recollection of a whiskey-fueled evening of dancing, Hazlewood's plaintive psych-country tune tells of waking up Sunday morning to empty bottles, a tearstained pillow, and the sound of a woman's departing footsteps, leading him to wish he could just "turn back the clock" and undo all the deeds of the eponymous night before.
- The Beatles, "The Night Before": Despite sharing a name with Hazlewood's song, this 1965 Beatles track is a different beast. But don't let the uptempo beat, warbling guitars, and catchy harmonies fool you—this tale of the morning after a one-night stand is also one of woe:"Love was in your eyes the night before/Now today I find/You have changed your mind/Treat me like you did the night before." This may not technically be a paean to drinking too much, but as a testament to the aftermath of a big night out, it qualifies. (Plus, I'm guessing many in the crowd who wake up aching Sunday morning will find the story it tells all too familiar.)
- Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, "Sunday Morning Coming Down": This chipper country song's a classic of the hangover genre—perhaps the classic. Written by Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Ray Stevens, this version features Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, each of whom recorded their own solo versions as well. Cash was certainly no stranger to come-downs, Sunday morning or otherwise, so when he sings "I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt/And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad/So I had one more for dessert," you might not want to follow his lead.
- The Weeknd, "Coming Down": The Weeknd's version of coming down sounds a lot more harrowing than Cash's and Kristofferson's. His 2011 album House of Balloons features one song after another about debauched, drugged-out, borderline depraved partying that you just know isn't going to end well—and sure enough, towards the end of the album, Abel Tesfaye's left singing to his girl that "the party's finished and I want you to know/I'm/all alone/I'm feeling everything before I got up" atop an eerie, woozy background. The party may be over, but probably not for long.
- Ma Rainey, "Booze and Blues": As my jazz guitarist-sister put it, in this 1924 song, a blueswoman extraordinaire bemoans an extraordinary hangover. After a night of boozing, blues pioneer Ma Rainey gets woken up by the cops, carted off to the courthouse, separated from her man, and sent to jail for sixty days, presumably only to repeat the whole thing again soon enough. The song ends with Rainey lamenting, "I spend every dime on liquor/Got to have the booze to go with these blues." Bet that puts your hangover in perspective.
- Modest Mouse, "The Good Times Are Killing Me": The music backing this track is buoyant, but beneath the bright, easy guitar and upbeat tempo, the lyrics are as gloomy as you'd expect from the Portland-based indie band, reminding you why this 2005 song belongs on an album called Good News for People Who Love Bad News: "Fed up with all that LSD/Need more sleep than coke or methamphetamines/Late nights with warm, warm whiskey/I guess the good times they were all just killing me."
- The Hold Steady, "Killer Parties": Partying is killing the Hold Steady, too—though honestly, they couldn't tell you for sure. Craig Finn rues a rough night over the crush of sad guitars on this mournful 2004 track: "Killer parties almost killed me/If she says we partied then I'm pretty sure we partied/I really don't remember/I remember we departed from our bodies/We woke up in Ybor City." You may wish you could depart from your body right now, but count your blessings—at least you're not in Ybor City.
- Tom Waits, "Anywhere I Lay My Head": Speaking of waking up in unexpected places: Tom Waits' "Anywhere I Lay My Head" could be a lullabye for the inebriated. Sure, this song isn't explicitly about a hangover, and yeah, Tom Waits always sounds kinda hungover, but still, when you hear Waits growl the opening lines "My head is spinning round/My heart is in my shoes/I went and sent the Thames on fire/Now I must come back down" over elegaic horns, it's hard not to picture him reflecting back on a night of raging as you imagine only Tom Waits can.
- The Chemical Brothers and Beth Orton, "Where Do I Begin": British folkie Beth Orton sounds dazed as she wakes up on—you guessed it—Sunday morning, unable to even "focus on [her] coffee cup" or figure out "whose bed [she's] in." From there, it's just a short leap to the kind of existential questioning surely familiar to anyone who's woken up feeling out of it after staying a little too long at the party. Orton asks, "Where do I start/Where do I begin?" in this soothingly melancholy song—at least until the beats kick in around the 3:18 mark.
(Unfortunately, the hangover-themed music video above cuts out halfway through the song—for the whole thing, play this one:)
- The Smiths, "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now": Only a couple of the lines in this Smiths whiner are about booze per se, but the song is all about regretting decisions that sounded like a good idea at the time—namely, drinking oneself into a haze and landing a job. If you're reading this at work right now, you may be able to empathize.
- Bloc Party, "Sunday": The British band's take on the hangover song starts out like most, with singer Kele Okereke recalling the "heavy night" before and feeling like "we've come back from the dead." But unlike a lot of hangover songs, this one's got a happy ending—he still loves you in the morning, even "when you're still hungover," even "when you're still strung out." Hey, he says, we deserve to party a little! So if your own heavy night left you filled with self-hatred, listen to this tender morning-after tune and remember: you're still worthy of love! Maybe even Kele Okereke's, if you're insanely lucky.
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