Random header image... Refresh for more!

Basket Case

On the day that Josh bought me tickets to an upcoming Green Day show for their current tour, I planned out my outfit in my head.  I would wear my new black pants and a black tank top; the pants because they have deep pockets so I won’t have to bring a purse and the top because I planned to dance the whole time.  It was a small thing to look forward to, and I set up my calendar with all of their promotional appearances for the next few weeks to celebrate their new album.

And then, while we were driving back from the funeral, my mother sent me a link to an article with the subject line: “Isn’t this the band that you just purchased tickets to see?”  The lead singer was stepping back from promotional appearances to seek treatment.  Some places reported it as substance abuse.  Others made it sound as if it had more to do with depression.  Regardless, the promotional appearances were removed from the calendar.  We’re not sure right now if the show will go on.

Alanis Morrissette stepped in for the band for their Jimmy Kimmel appearance and she sang their song, “Basket Case.” (Learning it, impressively, 11 minutes before the performance.)  I had never paid a lot of attention to this particular song, and then I heard her version and it was arresting.  There’s a term in Hebrew — ma pitom — and it translates literally as “what suddenly” but is used to convey surprise, disbelief, the fact that something has changed unexpectedly.  And that is the word that I said to myself as I listened to what was now this incredibly sad, incredibly moving account of mental illness.

I don’t know Billie Joe Armstrong (though I do extend my good thoughts to him — as one human being to another — and wish him a good recovery), but hearing the song this way was this ma pitom-like reminder to listen to people. To listen between the lines. To not write off what they’re saying. To not dismiss things. That often times, though we only hear messages after they’re drilled into our heads, they were there all along.


1 Stephanie { 09.27.12 at 11:00 pm }

Thank you for sharing that video… I’ve heard the song a million times, but never really listened. It’s a beautiful version.

2 Stupid Stork { 09.27.12 at 11:31 pm }

Lovely – heard that song a million times and was never really a fan of it – but that was lovely.

3 Mud Hut Mama { 09.28.12 at 1:29 am }

I love Green Day and thanks for the reminder to remember to listen and to listen “between the lines.”

4 marwil { 09.28.12 at 4:24 am }

Yeah, it got a much deeper meaning all of a sudden when put into perspective. Thanks for sharing.

5 HereWeGoAJen { 09.28.12 at 7:51 am }

I’ve always thought that an analysis of that song (and Lithium by Nirvana) would make an excellent assignment for a Psych 101 class if I ever go and start teaching.

6 KeAnne { 09.28.12 at 9:12 am }

I agree w/ Jen! I thought of you when I heard about Billie Joe. During student teaching, I taught a lesson on how melody can obscure or purposefully redirect what the lyrics are saying as part of a unit on poetry. That song is an excellent example of that.

7 Gail { 09.28.12 at 9:42 am }

Wow, thanks for sharing the performance. I don’t stay up late enough to watch the late night shows, but this was just a haunting performance and it really hit a nerve.

8 SRB { 09.28.12 at 9:50 am }

It’s funny that Nirvana came up upthread… when I was 16 I went to see her when she was touring Jagged Little Pill. She did an acoustic cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit that was (no hyperbole) life-changing for me. Just her voice, repeating “the denial” over and over again… has really stuck to me, lo these million years later.

9 Cristy { 09.28.12 at 9:53 am }

I remember hearing this song as a teenager and thinking “this guy gets it.” Though upbeat and humorously played, it hit an underlying chord of being isolated and misunderstood. What teenager doesn’t feel that way? A good performance by Alanis Morissette bringing out the seriousness of those lyrics.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.28.12 at 10:49 am }

Ma pitom, indeed.

11 a { 09.28.12 at 11:34 am }

I love how other languages have words to convey feelings like that. Hebrew seems to have a lot of those.

Thanks for posting this…

12 A Passage To Baby { 09.28.12 at 12:00 pm }

Some Green Day fans will not be please to hear her redention (they simply won’t like it because it is her and it is not punk), but I think it lends a certain poignancy to a very real topic of mental illness.
I, for 1, love both of them.

13 Kathy { 09.28.12 at 2:56 pm }

I love this post and Alanis’s rendition of Basket Case. I often think of that song when I am feeling unstable.

This part of your post/in your last paragraph really speaks to me:

“Hearing the song this way was this ma pitom-like reminder to listen to people. To listen between the lines. To not write off what they’re saying. To not dismiss things. That often times, though we only hear messages after they’re drilled into our heads, they were there all along.”

Also, I agree with a about how cool it is that other languages have words to convey feelings like that.

14 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 09.28.12 at 10:42 pm }

Definitely changes the whole tone. The original is almost mocking (self-mocking, depending on your interpretation), the cover has a real poignancy. The fact that AM seems to be consulting her lyric sheet during the performance actually adds to that – makes it seem very thrown-together and unsure in a way that really underlines the message of the song. (I guess you have to be pretty good to pull that off without seeming just plain unprepared.)

15 tigger62077 { 09.28.12 at 11:54 pm }

She definitely changes the tone and I like it. But then again, I like her. And Green Day. I reposted this video on my link, and then requested that people go support this girl who is walking for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) tomorrow: http://namiwalks.nami.org/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=1642167

It seems like a good use of time.

16 clare { 10.03.12 at 3:53 am }

wow thanks for the new word… and for sharing the video. wow, the lyrics so click for me now. how many songs and stories are like this. upbeat and or told with a laugh at first, because it somehow feels easier to broach the truth that way.

17 battynurse { 10.03.12 at 6:18 am }

Great post and so very true. Back when I was in nursing school there was a country song by a young guy whose classmate committed suicide. I forget how it went but the idea was how did no one notice what the person was going through. Since I was struggling at the time with very severe depression the song really resonated with me a lot. I hope whatever the cause/reason the person gets the help they need.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author