Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind” — Mental Health in Popular Song

Sixteen-year-old Janis Ian, for her third single for Verve Forecast, bravely tackled the subject of suicide — currently the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 as well as 20-34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The DJ/promo version of this November 1967 single includes two versions of “Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind: .the abbreviated radio mix (2:39) backed with the full-length album version (4:25).

Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind

Janis Ian (1967)

[single mix]

Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind

Janis Ian (1967)

[album mix]

Musician & Production Credits
Janis Ian – Vocals, Guitar, Piano & Organ
Bobby Gregg – Drums
George Devens – Percussion
Joe Mack – Bass
Sal De Troia – Guitar
Vinnie Bell – Guitar
Artie Butler – Piano & Organ
Artie Kaplan – Leader
Senior engineer – Val Valentin
Audio engineer – Joe Venneri
Arrangements – Janis Ian
String arrangements – Miko
Producer – Shadow Morton


Record World identified “Insanity Comes To The Structured Mind” (“controversial portrait of a teen suicide”) as one of their ‘Sleeper Picks of the Week‘ in the November 18, 1967 issue, while Cash Box would designate the song as a ‘Pick of the Week‘ in their November 18, 1967 edition:

Singular images describe the account of a suicide through the eyes of the poetic Janis Ian on this stark and striking side. Exotic orchestral touches add an eerie beauty to the offering, which should set the side in motion along the sales pattern established by her “Society’s Child” hit.


… For All The Seasons Of Your Mind

released October 1967


A few weeks later in their December 16, 1967 issue, Cash Cox would report optimistic sales projections for “Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structure Mind” (‘already climbing‘), partly as a result of the momentum from “Society’s Child,” which had sold “upwards” of 700,000 records up to that point. Verve had initially met considerable resistance in their two attempts to promote the “controversial” hit about interracial romance when none other than Leonard Bernstein championed the song on his CBS television special, Inside Pop – The Rock Revolution, broadcast nationally earlier in April.


Fun Facts From Janis Ian’s Autobiography

  • Rev. Gary Davis used to give guitar lessons to a fourteen-year-old Ian, with the student sometimes serving as the “lead boy” for the blind blues musician, guiding him through the labyrinth of Manhattan’s streetscape “while other students trailed behind.”
  • Before signing with MGM/Verve, Jac Holzman contracted Janis Ian to record four sides for Elektra.
  • When producer Shadow Morton could not be bothered to look up from his newspaper during Janis Ian’s audition, Ian quietly lit Morton’s newspaper on fire just before departing the room.
  • “Society’s Child” was initially financed by Atlantic Records, who ended up, nevertheless, passing on the single. Jerry Wexler, who initially handed over the tapes to Shadow Morton saying, “Good luck finding a home,” surprised Ian later at the 1968 Grammy Awards by apologizing in front of everyone present, saying that if any company should have released it, Atlantic should have.
  • Pre-fame Jimi Hendrix was a regular jamming partner at the Cafe Au Go Go with Janis Ian (on Hammond B-3 organ, usually), who was always “that girl who wrote that song, man, you know” (i.e., “Society’s Child”).
  • Salvador Dalí once agreed to consult with Janis Ian about doing the artwork for Ian’s second album. However, Dali’s asking price of ten thousand dollars – plus the stipulation that he get to keep the picture – proved to be a deal breaker.


Cash Box

April 22, 1967

“the ban has been lifted”


“Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind” also serves as the concluding statement of Ian’s debut album, For All The Seasons Of Your Mind. The song, whose elaborate production and intricate arrangement undoubtedly required hours of studio time to assemble and mix for stereo, mirrors the intense desire among leading popular artists of this period to push the bounds of innovation, as noted in Claude Hall‘s cover story for Billboard‘s September 2, 1967 issue, “Long Sessions Required for ‘Serious’ Pop:


“Striving for records that mean something and say something musically, rock ‘n’ roll artists are working harder on each individual cut. The days when albums featured one or two hit tunes and a bunch of hastily recorded tunes are fading.”


Soon after the single’s release, Ian would perform the song at New York City’s Philharmonic Hall backed by the New York Rock ‘n’ Roll Ensemble — originally formed by three Julliard students, including Michael Kamen (who would later provide orchestral arrangement work on Pink Floyd’s The Wall), and described in Cash Box‘s December 23, 1967 review as “a well-turned out organization equally at home with baroque music or hard rock.”

45 picture sleeve



“Insanity Comes Quietly To The Structured Mind” — which ‘bubbled underBillboard‘s Hot 100 chart at #109 for the week ending December 16, 1967 — would perform better on other charts:

  • #92 on Record World‘s 100 Top Pops chart for the week of Dec. 23, 1967
  • #76 on the RPM 100 chart (Canada) for the week of Dec. 30, 1967

Locally, in the New York City area, “Insanity” appears to have peaked at the #36 position on WMCA‘s Fabulous 57 Survey for the week of November 22, 1967.


In a 1970 interview with Studs Terkel, Janis Ian breaks down the song with the venerable radio host while also giving credit to producer Shadow Morton for incorporating the plaintive plea from side one’s closing track (“please help me”) into the final climactic moments of the album:

Studs Terkel — Which comes to a song which says, it’s funny how everything is related – “There Are Times.”

Janis Ian –“There Are Times” is like that. “There Are Times” is a hopeless song. It’s just you know, I’m tired. I can’t do it anymore and I’d like to, but I can’t. And you can have it, ’cause, ’cause I don’t want it. I never really wanted it in the beginning, you know. But you still get up to try again.

Studs — You’re knocked out, you’re walloped, you’re kicked around, you’re through. I’m talking now of a man, whoever it is. But he still gets up, eh?

Janis – Right. He’s still, you know, he might complain about it, and go home and have a good cry. But he still gets up.

Studs – He still gets up. In a way, Janis, again labels are no good, labels don’t mean, ’cause you took care of liberals pretty well with that song. “Hey, Honey, D’ya Think?” So, labels: What you’re saying again this, you’re kind of positive deep down in you, or am I reading too much here?

Janis – No, you’re not. No, I am positive, you know. It’s going to happen sooner or later.

Studs – “There Are Times”. And so we come to that, what might be called the “O. Henry” punchline at the very end there. “Please, please help me” after all– She’s

Janis – She’s falling, but you know, but is saying “Please help me, just give me another hand.”

Studs – Who’s she asking?

Janis – Anybody. Anybody

Studs – Anybody. Yeah. You say she, could be he of course.

Janis – Right. She could be anybody. She could be he, could

Studs – Yeah, but that “please help me” because the reason I ask is because there’s a remarkable something happened to me at least listening to this album last night. And by the way, Friday, tonight, at Orchestra Hall Janis Ian our guest performs, but in listening to this and another song, the last one of the album, “Insanity Comes to the Structured Mind”.

Janis – “Insanity Comes Quietly to the

Studs – “Comes Quietly to the Structured Mind” about this girl who feels she’s just about come to the end of her string. She too, that ends, too, with the same line.

Janis – Yeah, that was Shadow, my producer.

Studs – Who’s what?

Janis – Shadow my producer, who took the end of “There Are Times” and inserted it.

Studs – Why did he do that?

Janis – Well, it’s the same thing in the song. You know, the girl is falling but suicide is like a last escape. But most people who commit suicide, they make a phone call before or something, you know they don’t really want to commit suicide and, this, the same thing, you know she’s falling and she straightens out her room. She takes her time, you know, hoping that somebody will come. She straightens out her room. She changes her clothes, combs her hair, washes her face and if she’s fine, all of a sudden she wants one last chance.

Studs – It’s as though she’s hoping somebody is going to stop her.

Janis – Right. But, like, the narrator of the song, he hears it, but you get the line “Nobody hears it at all.” And nobody really does because nobody’s willing to reach out and give her a hand.

Studs – In a way, you know I’m thinking of the [Ode To] Billie Joe, you know.

Janis – Yeah.

Studs – In a way that fact that no attention was paid to the kid who did jump off the–

Janis – Right.

Studs – Tallahatchee Bridge.

Janis – “Pass the [biscuits], please.”

Studs – Yeah, “Pass the [biscuits], please,” and yet the narrator is saying, what, nobody heard her.

Janis – Right. Not even the narrator.

Studs – Not even the narrator himself. He’s a bystander.

Janis – Right. He’s standing there and he says, “I went ahead and made my bed.”

Studs – So here we have the girl on the ledge. There have been a number of great pieces of reportage written about this, the boy on the ledge, the girl on the ledge, you know. In San Antonio a couple of years ago, you know several years ago, there was a kid about to jump, you know? And it was on television. And the audience is watching. And the priest or the

Janis – And everybody’s standing there saying, “Jump! Jump!”

Studs – Yeah. And at home the guy was on TV. That is, the father of the house. The TV viewer. He’s got his TV chicken dinner. He’s got the beer can, and he’s watching, and the kid didn’t jump, he was saved, and I think the guy at home was disappointed.

Janis – Yeah. It’s like that, you know, like the crowd says “Jump! Jump!” and you can’t jump anymore.

Studs – But this girl doesn’t want to, really, that’s the point. As you point out, she was hoping somebody would say “Live.”

Janis – Right. But nobody does, because everybody is much more interested in something out of the norm happening.


Verve’s ‘underground‘ ad

Record WorldSep. 14, 1968

Bragging =

When is it ok and when is it not ok?

Before Verve/Forecast pointed the way, the Underground was just another resistance movement. We were the first to listen below the surface. The first to turn subterranean sounds into best-selling albums. With artists like Tim Hardin, Richie Havens, The Blues Project, Jim & Jean, Friend & Lover, Dave Van Ronk, The James Cotton Blues Band, The Paupers, The Appletree Theatre. And the girl who first broke Underground on the charts [i.e., Janis Ian].



The CDC stresses that suicide is a serious public health problem, and that some groups have higher suicide rates than others

  • Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other factors, such as where someone lives.
  • By race/ethnicity, the groups with the highest rates are non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native people followed by non-Hispanic White people.
  • Other Americans with higher-than-average rates of suicide are veterans, people who live in rural areas, and workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction.
  • Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behavior compared to their peers who identify as heterosexual.


Mental Health –

Musical Resources

A Zero to 180 Public Service


Billboard Staffers’ Mental Health Picks

Eight Billboard staff members “talk about one song that each of us has felt that bond with: .songs that helped us through tough personal moments, that have changed our way of thinking for the better, or have shaped and reflected our own views of what mental health really means.”


Best Songs For Your Mental Health, According to Science – Esquire Phillipines

A team of researchers at Sussex University, UK, headed by Dr. David Lewis of the Mindlab conducted a study that involved 16 relaxing songs to find which one had the most massage-like effect. .The team measured the listeners’ heart rate, breathing, and overall stress levels and found that these songs worked best at destressing and relaxing the listeners. .[LINK = related playlistMaximum Chill]


101 Songs About Depression To Help You Feel Less Alone – Parade

Parade collected this list of 101 songs “that delve into every aspect of living with depression — from feeling isolated to coping with addiction to asking for help and fighting one’s way out — based on explanations by the artists themselves, critics’ interpretations and, perhaps most importantly, discussions among those who live with depression and find solace in the lyrics.”


50 Songs About Depression – NME (New Musical Express)

We asked the whole NME team for their top picks of what to listen to when the going gets tough, and this is what we came up with.


15 Songs That Directly Address Mental Health – Recording Academy Grammy Awards

Fifteen songs from across the decades that grapple with depression and anxiety’s challenges and how to help subdue them.


50 Best Sad Songs That Make You Cry – Time Out

“Because what’s the only thing better than a good cry? That’s right, it’s crying with a soundtrack.” .[LINK = related playlistTime Out‘s 50 Best Sad Songs]


Transformative Power of Music in Mental Well-Being – American Psychiatric Association

Recent research suggests that music engagement not only shapes our personal and cultural identities but also plays a role in mood regulation.” Additionally, “music therapy has shown promise in providing a safe and supportive environment for healing trauma and building resilience while decreasing anxiety levels and improving the functioning of depressed individuals.” Furthermore, “music can also serve as a catalyst for social connection and support, breaking down barriers and bridging divides — emerging evidence indicates that music has the potential to enhance prosocial behavior, promote social connectedness, and develop emotional competence..”


Also noteworthy

After The Fact Podcast = Mental Health in America – Pew Charitable Trusts

The percentage of Americans experiencing symptoms of depression has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-term effects on the nation’s mental health are still unclear. In a new season of Pew’s After the Fact podcast, we explore the state of mental health in America, how the national conversation on this important subject is changing, and approaches by communities to address this burgeoning crisis. Through interviews with experts, health practitioners, local leaders, and individuals, we highlight the impact of the pandemic and how we can move forward together.”

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this article about Janis Ian! It’s great to read about anything, “Janis!” I hope you have more of these inciteful interviews, reviews, or articles from Janis’ past!

  2. I am a baby boomer, long time folk music geek, and a long time fan of Janis Ian.

    Topical music, like so much of Janis’s work, and many others, has once again become more important than ever. The anti-war, anti-racism, anti-misogyny and many other protest themes have never lost their relevance, unfortunately. Hopefully, the advent of technology and its influence in distribution will get those messages out and impact an even greaterthey will have an even greater impact!

    We can only hope!

  3. Absolutely fabulous! I always loved that the “There are Times” lyrics were added to the end of this song. Both tracks are brilliant. A chilling and important topic! I’ve always thought that this second album of Janis’ was wonderful! So glad to be seeing Janis’ work showcased with the interview and the great adds. Janis deserved much more recognition and airplay than she received.

  4. Nice to read all this about Janis Ian in her salad days! Interesting to hear her discussed as a groundbreaker in setting the “Underground” music more in view of the public. Also how she wasn’t banned anymore after April, 1967: “The ban has been lifted”.

    Re: underground, as a teen in S. Jersey back then, I used to listen to underground music on my shortwave radio all the way from England. Only song I remember was “Wade In the Water” by the Chambers Brothers. Far out, man!

  5. Thank you so much for highlighting Janis and her use of her musical talents to bring to attention so many issues that others have chosen not to see. She was quite a young person when she penned and cut “Insanity Comes Quietly to the Unstructured Mind,” “Society’s Child,” and “At 17.” She has continued to grow into a self that has forged connections with so many who have felt unseen. Her writings, her performances, her strength (often in the face of fear – legitimate fear) all serve to remind the listener that there is still hope. Even in today’s world, there is hope. I certainly hope that you will share other bits and pieces about Janis’ ongoing contributions to a world that sometimes forgets that there IS hope.

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