"Mushroom" is a song by the German krautrock band Can. Can was a pioneering and influential experimental rock band formed in Cologne, Germany, in 1968, and had hits like "Spoon" and "Vitamin C." "Mushroom" is one of Can's well-known and highly regarded tracks, released on their 1971 album Tago Mago. The band's lineup in this song includes Holger Czukay (bass), Michael Karoli (guitar), Jaki
Liebezeit (drums), Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), and Damo Suzuki (vocals).
The Mojo Awards have called the album a “landmark release in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Drowned in Sound went much further, calling it "arguably the most influential rock album ever recorded." Well, it is a good album, and often considered a landmark in the krautrock (or "cosmic
music") genre, characterized by its innovative and experimental sound, blending elements of rock, psychedelia, and electronic music. "Mushroom" showcases Can's unique approach to music, featuring hypnotic rhythms, improvisational (or at least improvisational-sounding) instrumentation, and repetitive, trance-like patterns.
So what is spooky about "Mushroom" by Can?
The song is notable for its driving beat, layered textures, and Suzuki's distinctive vocal style, which often incorporated nonsensical or improvised lyrics. In this case, however, the possible meanings for
the song are less tricky to grasp. Damo Suzuki repeatedly says, "When I saw mushroom head / I was born, I was dead," which suggests possibly that a child was born in the middle of a nuclear explosion; hence, the title of "Mushroom," or mushroom cloud.
To confirm this dark premise as plausible, Damo says, "When I saw skies are red / I was born, I was dead." Then, for the chorus, he yells "I'm gonna give my despair." That's some pretty dark stuff; if you don't find the idea of being born in a nuclear conflagration to be a freaky idea, what will you consider a scary song premise?
The inescapable rhythm
Can's music was often driven by the incredible beats of drummer Jaki Liebezeit, and "Mushroom" may be one of the best examples of how he could simply dominate a song, but while somehow letting all the other instruments shine. Unfortunately, Jaki died in 2017. On the bright side, according to the band’s official Facebook page, “He fell asleep peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones.” (Obviously, that's better than being wiped out by a nuclear fireball.)
Still, his impact can be felt in "Mushroom," which has been influential in various music genres, including post-punk, likely grunge, and experimental rock. Their innovative sound and approach to
music continue to be appreciated and studied by musicians and music enthusiasts around the world, and premise of this song is spook, or at least dark AF.