Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the Thirteenth

On Friday, November 13, 1953, the great jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk recorded three new tunes at a recording session for Prestige records. The tunes were given off-the-cuff titles: "Think Of One," "Let's Call This," and "Friday the Thirteenth."

Between 1985 and 1987 I wrote lyrics for about twenty of Monk's compositions and performed them at several venues with some of the top musicians from New York's then-flourishing downtown jazz scene: Phillip Johnston, Wayne Horvitz, Bobby Previte, Dave Hofstra, Joel Forrester and Doug Wieselman. "Friday the Thirteenth" is one of my personal favorites. The melody is a short, asymmetrical, two-part phrase, repeated multiple times. It inspired a quirky little two-line poetic form, a kind of Monkish nonsense pseudo-haiku, if you will.


When I was just seventeen
It was a very terrible year and so I joined the Marines.

I opened up my valise
And was surprised to find a bowl of macaroni and cheese.

I have a social disease
That I contracted from the woman on the flying trapeze.

I fell in love with a girl;
Her name was Ruby Sapphire Diamond and her mother was Pearl.

The mailman paid me a call;
He caught me off guard and sold me two tickets to the fireman's ball.

I got a job with the feds
And was instructed to make politics of strange fellows' beds.

I bought a bottle of beer,
A quart of Schaefer 1986--a very good year.

I placed a bet on a horse;
The horse's name was Viking Warrior--I guess he was Norse.

I sang in front of the Queen,
But when I used a few obscenities she made quite a scene.

I took a trip on a boat;
But they overbooked so I shared a cabin with a pig and a goat.

I went to Harvard for law;
I failed the bar and so I opened up a lingerie store.

I gave a dime to a bum
Who told me that he needed change to buy some sugarless gum.

I saw a man on the train;
He had a very tiny head--it was too small for his brain.

I lived on Mockingbird Lane,
But all the mockingbirds kept mocking me till I went insane.

I had the craziest dream;
I dreamed that I was making love inside a washing machine.

I took a swim in a pool
And almost drowned because the pool was filled with pasta fazool.

I was a ward of the state,
But I was pardoned by the governor to go on a date.

I have a Japanese car,
But since I don't know how to drive I never get very far.

I went to visit my aunt,
The one who claims to be descended from Immanuel Kant.

I had the shock of my life
When I woke up to find myself inside my bed with my wife.

I thought that life was a bore
Until I died and went to heaven and was bored even more.


A recording of my version of "Friday the Thirteenth" can be downloaded for a limited time by right-clicking THIS LINK. It was recorded in 1987 and features Phillip Johnston on alto sax, Wayne Horvitz on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass, and Bob DeMeo on drums.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Janice said...

I want a reunion tour!! Loved that!

9:54 AM  

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