REWIND: R.E.M., E-40, and Green Day sing about pain

R.E.M., REM, Michael Stipe, Everybody Hurts

R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe realizing he never wrote a song specifically about rolled ankles. But Julien Baker did!


I am, to say the least, breakable. Occasionally my joints just kinda decide not to be joints anymore. For example last weekend while foolishly attempting some light yard work I rolled my ankle, so now that’s all sprained and sore.

So join me as I whine about my minor to moderate injury in the storied medium of a list of songs.

R.E.M. — “Everybody Hurts”

I guess Michael Stipe is talking about emotions, or whatever, but if you stubbornly choose to ignore the lyrics other than the chorus it becomes somewhat reassuring that you’re not alone in your dull, yard-work-inflicted ankle pain.

As an added bonus, these days Michael Stipe has a downright epic beard. Just a majestic, all-time beard. He looks like a bald Bill Murray with Alan Moore’s facial hair. It’s amazing. Like a hipster Santa. All that has nothing to do with my ankle, but it’s worth pointing out.

Green Day — “Give Me Novacaine”

This one is about having a migraine. I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that physiologically speaking, the head is the opposite of the ankle. So you may argue that means it doesn’t apply to my situation, to which I would retort that I don’t care because my ankle hurts.

I actually don’t have any painkillers for this because it’s not actually that serious, but if anyone has any novocaine I can slather all up on my ankle I’d appreciate it. Because ow.

Dinosaur Jr. — “Feel the Pain”

I’m guessing from the fact it starts with a popping cork this is actually about alcoholism? I don’t know for sure, it certainly isn’t clear from the lyrics.

Songs about pain are never actually about physical pain, it’s always a metaphor for getting dumped or being addicted to something. Why is that? Do musicians never have sprained ankles? Is that not considered a universal theme? Someone should write a song about ankle injuries.

I would but, you know, ow.

E-40 — “Break Ya Ankles”

This is not my first ankle injury. Years ago I rolled my ankle so bad it shattered, and now I’ve got 11 screws and a plate in there holding it together. So I can say with authority that breaking ankles is nothing to make light of!

That said, I can’t stay mad at E-40. Who could? He’s E-40! What kind of Bay Area native would I be? I might as well be mad at Mistah FAB. It’s just not possible.

Julien Baker — “Sprained Ankle”

[Gokhman addition!] Come on Willis. You write an entire column about sprained ankles and don’t include the song literally called “Sprained Ankle.” I know you’re old, but real recognize real, right? Julien Baker is, again, not writing about a physical injury, though she’s had plenty of physical and emotional scars growing up. This is her breakout hit. It put Baker on the map, and this song is more of a gut punch to anyone listening.

If you’re not emotionally affected and have a tear or more rolling down your face by the end, a rolled ankle is the least of your worries. You have no heart.

Black Flag — “Life of Pain”

This is probably about addiction too, but I’ve decided to assume that self-destruct also potentially refers to faulty joints. Because my legs periodically self-destruct and I want to believe Henry Rollins understands.

Henry Rollins seems like he would always understand.

Anyway, it’s time to go back to my recovery plan, which involves sitting with my leg elevated and watching old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. After all, I need to be all healed up for Opening Day next week.

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