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.


Anonymous Janice said...

I want a reunion tour!! Loved that!

9:54 AM  

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