This month’s Featured Modern Track is I Wish There Was A Pill.

A lot of time has passed since I wrote it. And, as with The Big Striptease, I occasionally wonder whether I still stand by what it says. With the latter, I feel I’ve changed. With the former, I feel perhaps the world has changed. I get the sense that in this country in the 10 years since the song was written there has been much more recognition of the importance of, and difficulty of, treating mental health issues.

I think I was frustrated with what seemed to me like a society that was only capable of dealing with depression with some form of pill. Dealing with a problem in the hardware rather than the software, so to speak. But over that decade I’ve really come to appreciate that the antidepressants that I name-check at the start of the song can literally mean the difference between life and death for millions of people who take them. For so many people it really is a hardware problem, and the purpose of the drugs is to allow those who take them to live a normal life, or something close to it, rather than some blissed out existence.

I wanted to make that point in its own blog post, because I think that the song could seem just like a glib dismissal of mental health problems far more severe than anything I’ve ever had to deal with.

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Thank you to Dan Allen for this wonderful recommendation. They may have names like characters from an 80s cop show but boy can they make these Child Ballads sound sweet.

This album was recorded a number of years ago, so apologies for being late to the party! I have been listening to it over and over.

(Although tell me it’s not just me that hears the line “Saddle me a milk white steed / Bridle me a pony” and thinks of this, right?)

Current Favourite Track:

Jonathan Gold is the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. He is the polar opposite of the food critic Anton Ego in the film Ratatouille. He’s a lovely guy.

But this documentary about him, City of Gold, is about much more than food. It is in part a love letter to Los Angeles.

If you’re in a hurry, just skip to 1m 31s in, where he says:

People who come in for a couple of weeks, stay at a hotel in Beverley Hills, take in what they can get to within 10 minutes in the rented car, and explain to you what Los Angeles is…

Current Favourite Thing:

The fact that, as well as being a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic, a fan of opera and a talented cellist, Jonathan Gold happened to be hanging out in the studio when Dr Dre recorded his seminal album ‘The Chronic’.

    • Jessica Lucy ‘Decca’ Freeman-Mitford was one of the six legendary Mitford Sisters — caricatured by The Times journalist Ben Macintyre as “Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur”.
    • In this very well-connected aristocratic family, Jessica was known as the “red sheep”.
    • Both Jessica and her sister Nancy wrote about their childhoods, in Hons and Rebels and The Pursuit of Love / Love In A Cold Climate respectively.
    • When Jessica was 12, she opened a ‘Running Away’ bank account. She would add to this fund by, for example, selling her removed appendix to her sister Deborah (the future Duchess of Devonshire).
    • She discovered Communism at a young age, allegedly as a reaction against her sister Diana’s admiration for Fascism. Legend has it they would compete to decorate their childhood bedrooms with Hitler / Stalin.
    • At 19 she eloped to Spain with her second cousin, who had just returned from fighting fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
    • This prompted the foreign secretary (and future prime minister) Anthony Eden to telegraph the British Consul with the words: “Find Jessica Mitford and persuade her to return.”
    • The reply came back: “Have found Jessica Mitford, impossible to persuade her to return.”
    • A naval destroyer was then sent to retrieve her. This also failed.
    • Her sister Diana became the mistress and then husband of the leader of the British Union of Fascists: Oswald Mosley.
    • Her sister Unity became a personal friend of Adolf Hitler.
    • (Technically a Unity Mitford fact, but is it any surprise she was such an admirer of Adolf Hitler when she was given the middle name of Valkyrie?)
    • Jessica’s husband died in the Second World War, and she later married an American civil rights lawyer (Robert Treuhaft).
    • When the Mosleys were released from prison in 1943 she wrote to Winston Churchill: “They should be kept in jail, where they belong.”
    • When living in the United States, she and her husband were invited to join the US Communist Party. She replied “We thought you’d never ask!”
    • She got into trouble with the Party when she promoted a women’s caucus event with a poster promising “Girls! Girls! Girls!”
    • Jessica and Robert eventually left the Communist Party to concentrate on their work for the Civil Rights movement.
    • In addition to writing books such as Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking and Kind and Usual Punishment: The Prison Business, she had a publishing hit with her exposé on dirty tricks in the funeral industry: The American Way of Death.
    • She also had a band — “Decca and the Dectones” (a cowbell and kazoo orchestra) — in which she was the singer.
    • Her band once supported Cyndi Lauper, and there is a recording of her singing Right Said Fred with Maya Angelou.
    • J.K. Rowling considers Jessica Mitford to be “my most influential writer”, and named her daughter after her.
    • Jessica Mitford died of lung cancer aged 78. Her funeral cost $533.31.