I have to admit that if my 14-year-old son wrote these lyrics my first reaction might not be, “Hey! That’s my new film theme!”, though I’m sure little bolsters the will to live more than an endless series of royalty checks. Snark aside, this track, and its appearance here and now, are somewhat rum – a theme from an import TV show which had been running for 8 years and which had another three to go. I know transatlantic cultural transmission used to be on the slow side, but really – why?
But here it is: a pop artefact from the end of the hippie era and the very beginning of “the seventies”, washed up at the top of the charts after their close, the last of the death ballads. On one level “Suicide”‘s kitsch factor runs deeper for its being authentically adolescent, but the song’s creepy passivity stops it functioning as any kind of joke. In the war hospital context of M*A*S*H – a show I barely recall – it’s a bleaker, blacker take on “Que Sera Sera”. Taken out of that frame, though, it’s more uncomfortable: in mood a darkly dreamy cross between “Bright Eyes” and another bit of ’68 flotsam, the numbly pretty Beach Boys/Manson collaboration “Cease To Resist”. Half in love with easeful death, half in cahoots with Tin Pan Alley corn, “Theme From M*A*S*H” is as strange a number one as we’ll ever encounter.