Monday, August 20, 2018

Musical Monday - Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless) by the Mash

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: May 31, 1980 through June 14, 1980.

I have no idea why this song became number one in the U.K. in 1980. That is not to say this is a bad song, but by the time it became number one in the U.K., it was a decade old. The song was originally released when the 1970 M*A*S*H movie starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould came out. It was used again for the M*A*S*H television series which ran in the United States from 1972 to 1982.

I thought that the song may have become popular to coincide with the airing of the television show in the U.K., but M*A*S*H wasn't aired in the U.K. until 1984. I thought it might have coincided with a release or rerelease of the movie, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. I checked every plausible reason I could come up with, and there just doesn't seem to be any kind of trigger that would explain why a ten-year old song pulled itself out of mothballs and climbed to the top of the U.K. charts.

On an entirely unrelated note, the song was commissioned by director Robert Altman for the 1970 movie, and the lyrics were written by Michael Altman, Robert's then 14-year old son. Robert turned the job over to his son because he couldn't write lyrics that he thought were dumb enough to be what he wanted out of the song. Ironically, Michael has reportedly earned far more in songwriting royalties for the song than his father did for directing the movie it appeared in.

Previous Musical Monday: Funkytown by Lipps, Inc.
Subsequent Musical Monday: Crying by Don McLean

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Whats Another Year by Johnny Logan
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Crying by Don McLean

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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