Suicide Is Painless: Wikis

  
  

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"Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)"
Single by The Mash
from the album M*A*S*H (Original Soundtrack Recording)
B-side "The M*A*S*H March"
Released 1970
Format 7" vinyl
Genre Folk
Length 2:53
Label Columbia/CBS
Writer(s) Johnny Mandel (music)
Mike Altman (lyrics)
Producer Thomas Z. Shepard

"Suicide Is Painless" is a song written by Johnny Mandel (music) and Mike Altman (lyrics), which is best known for being featured as the theme song for both the movie and TV series M*A*S*H. The actual title, as it appears on the sheet music, is "Song from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)."

Mike Altman is the son of the original film's director, Robert Altman, and was 14 years old when he composed the song's lyrics. During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s, Robert Altman said that his son earned more than a million US dollars for co-writing the song while he only made $US70,000 for directing the movie. The song is played during the film's opening credits, sung by uncredited session singers John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Ron Hicklin and Ian Freebairn-Smith (the vocals are sometimes misattributed to Johnny Mandel, due to his being the only name officially credited for the song). Additionally, the movie also features a scene that begins when Walter Koskiusko Waldowski, a dentist nicknamed "Painless Pole", declares his intention to commit suicide, and the song is sung by Ken Prymus (playing Private Seidman) during the suicide scene. Several instrumental versions of the song were used as the theme for the TV series.

First released in 1970 credited to "The Mash" on Columbia/CBS Records,[1] it belatedly became a number one hit in the UK in 1980 after being championed by BBC Radio 1 DJ Noel Edmonds.

The refrain is:

Suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes,
And I can take or leave it if I please

Contents

Track listing

7" vinyl
  • Germany: CBS / 5009
  • UK: CBS / S CBS 8536
  • US: Columbia / JZSS 153321 [Promo only]
Side one
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)"   Johnny Mandel, Mike Altman The Mash 2:53
Side two
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "The M*A*S*H March"   Mandel Johnny Mandel 1:19

Chart performance

Chart (1970) Peak
position
Dutch GfK chart[2] 3
Dutch Top 40[3] 4
Chart (1980) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[4] 1
Preceded by
"What's Another Year" by Johnny Logan
UK number one single
31 May 1980 – 14 June 1980
Succeeded by
"Crying" by Don McLean

Manic Street Preachers version

"Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"
Single by Manic Street Preachers
from the album Ruby Trax
B-side "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" (by The Fatima Mansions)
"Sleeping with the NME"
"Spectators of Suicide"
"Star Lover"
"Never Want Again"
"Dead Yankee Drawl"
"Ain't Goin' Down"
Released 1992
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl, CD
Genre Alternative
Hard rock
Length 3:43
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Johnny Mandel (music)
Mike Altman (lyrics)
Producer Manic Street Preachers
Manic Street Preachers singles chronology
"Little Baby Nothing"
(1992)
"Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"
(1992)
"From Despair to Where"
(1993)

Manic Street Preachers released a cover version of "Suicide Is Painless" in 1992. In the UK it was a double A-side charity single (to help The Spastics Society), with The Fatima Mansions' take on Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" as the other A-side. The 12" and CD versions of the UK single included "Sleeping with the NME" - an excerpt from a radio documentary recorded in the offices of the NME, capturing staff's reaction to photographs of guitarist Richey Edwards's self-mutilation. The single peaked at #7 in the UK Singles Chart.[5] In other countries it was released as a Manic Street Preachers single, with different B-sides.

Track listings

7" vinyl
  • UK: Columbia / 658382 7
Side one
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Johnny Mandel, Mike Altman Manic Street Preachers 3:40
  • Netherlands: Columbia / COL 658385 7
Side one
# Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Mandel, Altman  
Side two
# Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Spectators of Suicide"   James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore, Richey James Edwards  
12" vinyl
  • UK: Columbia / 658382 6
Side one
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Mandel, Altman Manic Street Preachers  
Side two
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You"   Adams, Kamen, Lange The Fatima Mansions  
2. "Sleeping with the N.M.E."     Manic Street Preachers  
CD
  • UK: Columbia / 658382 2
# Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Mandel, Altman Manic Street Preachers  
2. "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You"   Adams, Kamen, Lange The Fatima Mansions  
3. "Sleeping with the N.M.E."     Manic Street Preachers  
  • Europe: Columbia / 658385 2
# Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Mandel, Altman  
2. "Spectators of Suicide"   Bradfield, Wire, Moore, Edwards  
3. "Star Lover"   Bradfield, Wire, Moore, Edwards  
  • Japan: Epic/Sony / ESCA 5668
# Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)"   Mandel, Altman 3:43
2. "Never Want Again"     3:39
3. "Dead Yankee Drawl"     3:46
4. "Ain't Goin' Down"     3:08

Chart performance

Chart (1992) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[5] 7
Irish Singles Chart[6] 12
Swedish Singles Chart[7] 21

Other cover versions

Other appearances

  • The refrain is heard in The Simpsons, when Marge is taken by Ziff's helicopter from her backyard.
  • The refrain also is heard in the Family Guy movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, when a drunken Stewie sings it to Brian at the Drunken Clam.
  • A soundalike of the refrain is heard in the Futurama episode "War is the H-Word".
  • A drunken Toby Ziegler absently mumbles the song to himself in The West Wing episode "The Stormy Present," while flying on Air Force One to the funeral of a former president.
  • In the 2007 independent New Zealand film Manders, the lead character whispers this song constantly while torturing his victims.
  • In the 20th issue of The Sandman comic book series by Neil Gaiman, the character Element Girl sings this song to Death while asking to be released from life.
  • Australian comedy band Tripod, have a song which outlines the (fictional) annoyance that the writer of "Suicide is Painless" has, as a result of everyone knowing the song as "The Theme from M*A*S*H"
  • The phrase was written in dust on the hood of the car abandoned by disgraced hedge fund manager Samuel Israel III just before his faked suicide.

References








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