Viper Mad

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Label of an album of the song "Viper Mad"

"Viper Mad" is a composition by Sidney Bechet and Rousseau Simmons; it is also known as "Pleasure Mad".

Sheet music for the composition was published in 1924 as "Pleasure Mad", performed by vocalist Blossom Seeley.[1] It was recorded by another vocalist, Ethel Waters, early that year.[2] Another version from 1924 was by Maureen Englin, with Bechet accompanying on soprano saxophone with pianist Art Sorenson, but the track was unreleased.[3] The composition was played very frequently in the 1920s, and was "virtually a jazz standard of the day".[4]

Bechet himself recorded a version as leader in 1938, with Noble Sissle's Orchestra.[5] This track, with O'Neill Spencer on vocals, features a modulating break to A-flat from G, a trumpet solo by Clarence Brereton and another Bechet modulation, to D-flat.[6] The 1938 Bechet version was used in the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown.[7]

As "Viper Mad", the lyrics celebrate marijuana use, so it is listed among jazz songs, mainly of the 1930s, that were on the same topic.[8] A "viper" was a marijuana smoker, because of the hissing sound of inhalation.[9] The lyrics include: "Wrap your chops round this stick of tea / Blow this gage and get high with me / Good tea is my weakness, I know it's bad / It sends me, gate, and I can't wait, I'm viper mad".


  1. ^ "Pleasure Mad". The University of Maine. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  2. ^ "Ethel Waters". Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  3. ^ Collins, Mal (June 2011) "The Recordings of Sidney Bechet". pp. 11–12. The Sidney Bechet Society.
  4. ^ "Sidney Bechet: Volume 4 1937–1938" (liner notes). p. 23. Media 7. MJCD 43.
  5. ^ Hobart, Mike (February 4, 2012) "Complete Historical Masters: Review". Financial Times. p. 10.
  6. ^ "Sidney Bechet: Volume 4 1937–1938" (liner notes). p. 16. Media 7. MJCD 43.
  7. ^ Harvey, Adam (2007) "The Soundtracks of Woody Allen". McFarland. p. 141.
  8. ^ Osbeck, Mark; Bromberg, Howard (2017) "Marijuana Law in a Nutshell". West Academic Publishing.
  9. ^ Jablonski, Edward (1998), Harold Arlen: Rhythm, Rainbows, and Blues, Northeastern, p. 49, OCLC 33405322