If you’re not sure, then you haven’t had one. Waking up feeling unrested with a slight a headache is not hangover. Lying in a fetal position unable to move without having your head feel like it’s about to explode while you stomach does backflips and praying to deities that you never thought previously existed for relief is a hangover.
Leave it to Johnny Cash, country music’s bad boy to record a song about this feeling.
Kris Kristofferson, award winning actor and musician ended up working as a janitor at Columbia Records after earning a Masters degree at Oxford and becoming a captain in the US army because he wanted to be songwriter. After composing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and recording a demo, he got his tape to Cash. Some stories of how this happened involved landing a helicopter on Cash’s lawn, but more likely Kris was simply persistent and eventually Kristofferson came up with a song that Cash fell in love with.
With a classic Johnny Cash rhythm guitar backing, this song begins simply enough describing waking up in the morning with simple but clever lyrics that immediately characterizes the protagonist.
Well, I woke up Sunday morningKristofferson paints a bleak picture of the internal logic of this man who man who drinks to get up in the morning and doesn’t have it together enough to have clean clothes around.
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
While the song continues, strings enter the musical background rising up like the sun filing up with musical landscape with light. At the same time Cash goes on to singing about gigging the night before and while this darkness is in the front of his mind, the world of Sunday morning reminds him of “something” he lost.
In the chorus Cash wants to escape from the realizations of what is missing in his life.
On a Sunday morning sidewalk,Cash wants to escape from this world because it shows him that there is something more meaningful in life than partying during the night. People aren’t out walking around on Sunday mornings, instead they are home with their families or singing in a church choir. Yes, moments of partying are fun, but who you are left with on the Sunday, the people who you share your life with after the partying is over is what brings true fullfillment.
I'm wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday
That makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothing short a' dying
That's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk
And Sunday morning coming down.
There’s something about a hangover that reveals what you really have in your life. In this moment of physical trauma while your mind is swirling around you face your regrets, your hopes and what you have to live for. It’s a stark reminder for some how little they have but for many of us how much we have to look forward to once the hangover has passed.