Friday, 18 November 2016

My Top Ten Mashed Potato Songs

For Mash, get... ten songs that will make you want to do the mashed potato...

Although the Top 3 is inevitable, this may well be the most mashed-up Top Ten I've ever compiled, genre-wise. I'm not too proud to say I Love It.

This week's post is dedicated to jjdaddyo (sorry, jj, I don't have a link anymore since blogger deleted my bloglist a while back: if you still have a blog, let me know where it is) who recommended our opening tune for the second volume of My Top Ten Supermarket Songs a few weeks back. It would have fit in well there... but it fits even better here.

10. Joe Jackson - (Do The) Instant Mash

From Joe's 1979 debut record, Look Sharp, the one where pretty girls are out walking with gorillas down my street...

9. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - T-Bone 

As previously discussed, there are by now very few subjects Neil Young hasn't written a song about, but this is out-there even by his standards. 9 and a quarter minutes of Neil complaining that he's only got mashed potato: no T-bone. From 1981's Re-Ac-Tor album, not one of  his most critically-acclaimed records. I doubt he gives a shit what the critics think. I hope he eventually got his T-bone.  

8. The Ronettes - Mashed Potato Time

There are a number of records on this Top Ten (as well as a bunch more I didn't have room for) which refer to the Mashed Potato dance craze of the early 60s. This is the one that does so most directly, originally recorded by Dee Dee Sharp, it was re-recorded by the Ronettes under Phil Spector, who then credited it to The Crystals once the Ronettes had split up. That Phil Spector, eh? What a genius / maniac / tool.

See also (Do The) Mashed Potato by James Brown, Shake A Tailfeather by Ray Charles and The Blues Brothers, Let's Dance by Chris Montez, Do The Strand by Roxy Music and Little Latin Lupe Lu by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (for Hi-Fidelity fans).

7. Terrorvision - Discotheque Wreck

From the superb 1994 album, How To Make Friends & Influence People, Terrorvision cheekily steal the mashed potato lyrics from this week's Number One and slip them effortlessly into this superfly guitar stomper which confirms them as Bradford's finest rock band.

6. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - A Fine Romance
We should be hot as a couple of hot tomatoes
But you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes...
Written by Jerome Kern and lyricist Dorothy Fields for the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers movie Swing Time, this will be more familiar to anyone of a certain age as the theme tune to an 80s ITV sitcom starring Judi Dench and Michael Williams. That version was sung by Dame Judi herself, but the problem with it was, as the rhyme above shows, this is a song that should only ever be sung by Americans... because no matter what Fred & Ginger sang in Let's Call The Whole Thing Off... nobody, British or American, ever says "po-taa-toes". 

So we'll stick with Ella and Louis, because you can't beat them. Or mash them.

5. Eminem - So Far

One of the best tracks from Eminem's 2013 comeback album, Marshall Mathers 2, this is built around the chorus to Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good and features the usual First World whinging about how hard it is to be a white, rich rap star. Luckily, Eminem understands the irony of this and... damn it, say what you like Eminem, but dude can rhyme...
Can't pump my gas without causin' an accident
Pump my gas, cut my grass, I can't take out the fuckin' trash
Without someone passin' through my sub harassin'
I'd count my blessings but I suck at math
I'd rather wallow than bask, suffering succotash, but the ant-
Acid it gives my stomach gas
When I mix my corn with my fuckin' mashed
Potatoes, so what hoe kiss my country bumpkin ass
Missouri southern roots, what the fuck is upper class?
There are some mashed potatoes in there if you look for them.

4. Nirvana - Sliver

Oh boy, I'd forgotten how much I loved this. It's so easy to remember Kurt Cobain for the tragedy, the reluctant artist stuff, the end... so easy to forget this guy had one hell of a sense of humour too. Occasionally. Here, his mum and dad leave him at grandma's house while they go to a show and he has to eat her mashed potato and can't chew his meat too good.
Grandma, take me home!
3. Wilson Pickett - Land of 1000 Dances
Nana nana
Nana nana
Nanana Nanana
Nana nanaaaaaa!
If your exposure to the above nana chorus is limited to Ini Kamoze's Here Comes The Hotstepper... here's where it came from.

I was amused to discover though that the song's original 1962 recording, by New Orleans r 'n' b man Chris Kenner, didn't feature any nanas at all though. They were added three years later in a version by Cannibal & The Headhunters. But it was Wilson who took all those nas to another level.

That said, it's interesting to hear what Jimi Hendrix and Patti Smith do with this song too.  

2. The M.A.S.H. - Theme From M.A.S.H. / Manic Street Preachers - Theme From M.A.S.H.

Of course, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital had very little to do with mashed spuds... but then, as already discussed, very few songs on this list are actually about potatoes.

Interesting story behind this one. Robert Altman, director of the original M.A.S.H. movie wanted a song called 'Suicide Is Painless' to feature in a key scene of the movie... and specifically wanted its lyrics to be duff: "the stupidest song ever written". He tried to write those lyrics himself but couldn't get them stupid enough... so he gave the task to his 14 year-old son Michael, who wrote them in 5 minutes... and became a millionaire in the process. Not too stupid then, eh, Robert?

The thing is, there's a thin line between stupid and profound, and in the context of the film... and certainly the TV show that followed, using this song as its theme tune... this nonsense suddenly began to feel very profound indeed. I loved M.A.S.H. when I was a teen, not so much the Altman version, but certainly the Alan Alda show. I was one of the hundred million plus viewers who tuned in to the final episode and sobbed when this song played out for its final time. Stupid, yeah.

I found it impossible to choose between the original and the Manics' 1992 cover version, released as a charity single, double A-sided with the Fatima Mansions' cover of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do, I Do It For You. (Punctuation note: it's not often you see a sentence that contains three apostrophes after the s like that. Sorry, English teacher geeking out here.) James Dean Bradfield's guitar and vocal suit this song perfectly. Sadly, it would become a little too prophetic for another member of the band though...

1. The Contours - Do You Love Me?
You broke my heart
'Cos I couldn't dance
You didn't even want me around
But now I'm back
To let you know
I can
Shake 'em down
Another one featuring that ridiculous mashed potato dance step. Originally written for The Temptations, who'd done a runner that day, so Berry Gordy gave it to The Contours instead when he bumped into them in the Motown corridor. It was their only real hit: but what a hit.

Of course, being of a certain age, my first exposure to this song was in Dirty Dancing. I was 16 when that film his video in the UK. It was regular Friday night viewing, at least when Ferris Bueller's Day Off (or Friday the 13th... I was a complex child) was unavailable for rental at the local video shop.

Personally, I prefer roasties, jackets or chips. But if you've got to have your potatoes mashed, I don't think you can deny the tastiness of this Top 10. Any favourites I missed out?


  1. Monster Mash?
    It was a graveyard smash

  2. My thoughts exactly Charity Chic!

  3. EH?! Monster Mash - come on - it's one of my regular usage ring tones, for that reason alone I vote it in.

    I watched MASH weekly for years with my father (I'm thinking Tuesday 9pm BBC2?). I can't listen to the music since he died.

    The fear of Mash potato is Potnonomicaphobia - my daughter developed it when she was about 6. It is actually harder to avoid that you might imagine!!

  4. Guys, I love Monster Mash, but... it just felt one step further removed from mashed potatoes than all the songs here. I always thought it was about mashed monsters!

    Potnonomicaphobia sounds terrifying.

  5. Genius, Rol, genius! When you suggested this one I instantly thought of the B-52s (and I don't mean instant potatoes).

    You're living in your own private Idaho, underground like a wild potato

    No need to make room for it. Your list is perfect.

  6. Besides, not mashed. Never mind.

    1. Other forms of potato may yet get their day...

  7. What a great list - I am constantly amazed at your encyclopaedic knowledge of song lyrics. Great to see that A Fine Romance was in there - My favourite version is by the wonderful Fred Astaire (and Ginger) and incidentally the oldest song in my music library when I sort by year. They of course also did the song Let's Call The Whole Thing Off about Potaytoes/Potahtoes/Tomayatoes/Tomahtoes but those weren't mashed so probably won't count here.

    1. I wish I could claim it was all from memory, but a little bit of research to refresh my ever-dying braincells is sometimes required.

  8. Ah this is brilliant. Who would've though the humble mashed potato could be so inspiring? I had no idea it turned up in so many lyrics, I'm amazed. Mash for tea now, I think.

    1. I hope you danced while you made it.

  9. Ian Dury & The Blockheads - Mash It Up Harry

    Don't call Harry a human potato
    Don't call Harry a spud
    Don't call Harry a walking King Edward
    Harry's made of flesh and blood

    1. Was actually on the longlist, just couldn't find room inside the 10.


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