Prompt Images

The Pandemic. The House Party we all got invited to, without ever having the chance to RSVP “Sorry we can’t make it.” The Fundatory event of our lifetimes. Having a party? Gotta make a playlist, right? In honor of the most popular crisis ever—COVID-19—here is our musical tribute. A playlist inspired by the sounds of COVID.

Kick it, DJ Hydroxychloroquine!

1. Washing hands

In the early days of the pandemic, the Center for Disease Control reminded us that to effectively wash the ‘rona off your hands, twenty seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and warm water was required. That’s two rounds of “Happy Birthday,” or up to the word “see” in the opening of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.”

(Ain’t that the painful truth?)

2. Doorbell

The familiar sound that used to announce your in-law’s arrival, or religious emissaries prepared to share their testimonial. People with good intentions, right? Now, a signal from the front door triggers a Pavlovian response meaning only one thing: food delivery!

Our uninfected survival has sustained itself thanks to food arriving at our door from markets, monthly subscription services, and our favorite restaurants. Help us, Jeff Bezos.You’re our only hope!

If you remain fearful of your fellow man (as rightfully you should be) listen to the paranoid lyrics of Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?”

“Who can it be knocking at my door? Go ‘way, don’t come ’round here no more.”

3. Dr. Fauci

The noble director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases became one of the top, consistent faces we saw, listened to, and revered. We waited for his next fear-inducing but believable nugget of information. No matter who occupied the Oval Office, he was as consistent as could be in delivering the info that he had. Our naysayer public divided themselves on believing what they wanted to believe so you can go one of two ways. You could listen to The Beatles “Doctor Robert.”

“He’s a man you must believe, helping anyone in need, no one can succeed like Doctor Robert.”

Or, you can enjoy “Doctor Rock” by Motörhead, for that old-school “take your goddamn medicine” approach.

“Keep still, take your pill, or I’m gonna make you really ill.”

4. Mask

Now seen as a universal symbol for health, welfare, and peer pressure (the good kind, of course), the mask has become the latest accessory everyone is dying to get their face behind. (Too soon?)

In the earliest days of the pandemic, when masks were a new concept to our way of life, (not counting Japanese culture that began wearing masks in public in the 1950s) there were news stories on how to make a mask at home. We first looked like Harley-Davidson virus warriors, with old t-shirts around our faces. Two years ago, if we walked into a 7-11 with a mask on, they’d think we were going to rob the joint. Now, if you DON’T have a mask on, you’re the odd one out.

For everyone who listened to science (what a concept!) I present the punk grandfather, Iggy Pop, and his song “Mask.”

“You’re wearing a mask, you look better that way”

For you ignorant bastards who refused to wear a mask, or didn’t know that the mask had to go over your nose as well, you can listen to the powerful voice of Nancy Wilson as she bitterly tells us that the “Masquerade is Over.”

“Your words don’t mean what they used to mean. They were once inspired, now they’re just routine.”

Speaking of words…

5. Talking Heads

The news provided us with everything we “needed” about the pandemic: rumors, numbers, theories, information, misinformation, and best of all, quotes. Every talking head from the CDC, the United States government, learned doctors, television journalists, and most importantly Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s testicle. Here are three quotes that seem to bookend the beginning, the weird, and the sane of the pandemic:

“Not liking the look of this.” — Helen Branswell, science journalist for Stat News

“It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”  — President Donald Trump

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down.” ‚— Dr. Anthony Fauci, on President Trump making misleading claims at coronavirus task force briefings

In honor of the talking heads we’ve been listening to for 20 months, I offer two songs from the legendary Talking Heads.

Psycho Killer”

“You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it. You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.”

“Once in a Lifetime”

“And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’”

COVID. Same as it ever was.

6. Zoom

In early 2020, we moved into our houses full-time. Shortly after that, we moved into Zoom, the omnipresent video software and application that became the universal virtual conference room. We cleaned up our rooms behind us, bought ring lights, uploaded the perfect virtual background, and looked all fancy from the waist upwards to virtually meet with bosses, grandparents, and high school friends.

What Zoom didn’t offer us was a jingle, a ringtone, a soundtrack of any kind. Instead, half the time it was silence, blissful, or ghost town-like, trapped within a virtual vacuum, as your father-in-law took a few minutes to remember how to unmute himself. For a virtual playground that offered either windows of talking, or staring at a 4×5 grid of faces waiting for the next person to speak, our playlist comes to a close with the perennial marker of modern music, John Cage’s famed three-movement piece “4’33””. For the uninitiated, the solo performer is instructed to not play their instrument, thus allowing the audience to listen to the relative sounds of their environment… just like we have for 20 months.

Apparently, we’re still muted, and COVID is still talking. Press PLAY!

Jay Heltzer

Jay Heltzer writes attention-challenged fiction, plays bass trombone, digs sloppy fountain pen sketches, and is in pursuit of the perfect cheeseburger.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more