Piccolo flute: ears’ toothpick.
Piccolo’s passages: scraping of the nervous system.
Flute: skeleton of an exotic bird.
Flute in the low register: unheard of.
Alto flute: melted flute.
Bass flute: imaginary friend that makes an occasional imaginary appearance.
Block flute: a child’s toy, requiring a highly specialized professional to perform.
Oboe: permanently out-of-tune instrument, so much so that the rest of the orchestra has to tune to it.
Oboe: harmonics’ condenser.
Oboist: a man who always tastes his instrument before playing it and smacks his lips in satisfaction.
English horn: is neither English nor a horn.
First clarinet: exhibitionist of circular breathing technique.
Clarinet (instrumentation advice): don't write p (piano, i.e., quietly) for clarinet or he will melt into his musicianship and vanish without a trace.
Bass clarinet: unfunny bassoon.
Bassoon: royal jester.
Contrabassoon: grandfather of the royal jester.
Contrabassoon’s staccato: old king's farts.
French horns: cellos of the brass section with violinists' ambitions. Please note: 1. Horns do not have horns, but curves. 2. French-horn players are, supposedly, good kissers, but not everything that has French in its name is either French or sexy (French fries, for example).
Piccolo trumpet: spilled silver.
Trombones: howling bones.
Trombones: throw a glissando at them and see what happens.
Bass trombone: Mr. Macho-Machissimo, married to Tuba.
Tuba: the golden halo of the orchestra.
Mute for the tuba: Wouldn't you wish to have one for your spouse?
Celesta: music box, always sounding ahead of the orchestra.
Orchestral pianist: percussionist who cannot count.
Percussion section: the brains of the orchestra.
Symbols crash: time to wake up!
Timpanist: arrogant percussionist.
Harp: amplifier of silence.
Harpist: a harpy in disguise.
Harp: skeleton of the piano.
Piano: a coffin for a harp.
Piano: 88 keys for the unlocked door.
Violin: prima donna of the orchestra.
Viola: Prince in exile.
Cello: soul of the orchestra.
Contrabass section: a mythological tortoise on which this world (i.e., orchestra) is built. Slow and clumsy, but it is the foundation and all depends on its solid dependability.
Contrabassist: a man who carries his coffin.
Wondering wanderer in search of wonder, always lost, never found, profane and profound; round and round circling sounds in the maze of the page, musical sage, child of the times, enchanted by rhymes, seeking connection in all forms of art, forgetting her part in everyday matters (invoices, letters), not knowing left from right, hiding alone in a secluded hut, dying from a papercut.
. . . . . . . .
If there is consensual love, there must be consensual art, but great art is never consensual – it rips you apart, uses you for its creation, and then leaves you like an empty useless shell. You may resent it, but you can't help loving it all the same. You may deny your lover, but you can't deny your calling.
. . . . . . . .
I never know what to say when asked about my occupation. It's such a strange word! How can one occupy a profession? And does it imply that you are taking forcefully someone else's space to which you have no right? Suddenly, your job takes the form of a war zone and you stand alone and lost, staring at a hostile blank page.
. . . . . . . .
Young people are unashamed of big words or concepts. Avoiding them is a sign of maturity; scorning them is a sign of an old age. You are as old as the skeptic within you.
. . . . . . . .
My grandfather always requested that I wash my hands before touching a book. He worshiped his library. To bend a page was a sacrilege worthy of spanking. “It’s only a book. It’s not going to break,” I would object. “Write your own books. Then see if they are breakable,” he would answer.
. . . . . . . .
There is no progress in art. Art denies Darwinism. Stravinsky is not better than Mozart and Mozart is not better than Bach. Picasso is not better than Rembrandt. There is no progress – only linguistic or stylistic changes reflecting the times.
If Venice is married to Death - the small island of San Michele is the offspring of this union. It takes an entire day to visit San Michele, the legendary Isle of the Dead. The entire island is a cemetery, which resembles a labyrinth consisting of many contrasting sections, almost like miniature islands within one larger island. One of the most striking and memorable "rooms" of this labyrinth is the children’s section: children’s graves, most of them recent, with photographs, toys, flowers… On marble stones kids’ faces are so painfully alive, smiling, laughing, celebrating the joy of their too fleeting lives. The contrast of their youth and their surrounding is heart-wrenching. We do not associate death with youth, yet children are much closer to that vast non-existence from which we all come from and where we all end up, and the thread which binds them to that "forever beyond" is much shorter than with most adults.
A turn in the labyrinth of San Michele – and a 19th century cemetery comes into view, with forgotten graves, some half-decayed, names no longer decipherable… Another turn – and an island of gravestones for nuns appears all neatly organized in rows like brave little soldiers conquering the heavens.
A narrow path leads to an open sea of flowers of the most recent graves – after 12 years of temporary residence in San Michele, they will be transported elsewhere. At San Michele, the post-mortem real estate seems to be just as coveted and unattainable as guaranteed indulgences. One more twist of the road - and the foreigners' section is found. The Isle of the Dead is home to many famous artists.
Visiting Isola di San Michele in Venice was a sort of pilgrimage for me. The impact of Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky in music and theater, specifically their collaborations in Le Noce, Le Sacre du Primtemps, Pulcinella and Petruchka, was the most influential in the 20th century. Their legacy is felt by every living composer, choreographer and producer today.
In death, they stand as they stood in life: Diaghilev’s overpowering large gravestone and Stravinsky’s modest plate without any overstatement, but at the center of attention by visitors.
I am always interested in the offerings the living bring to the dead. Diaghilev's grave is covered with… ballet slippers. Real, worn ballet shoes which dancers bring as offerings of their gratitude to him. On Stravinsky's grave there are also several glued pieces of paper with handwritten music, offerings from composers, perhaps.
Next to Stravinsky is the gravestone of his wife, Vera. Her grave is the mirror image of his, yet her stone-plate is covered with leaves, and there are no "gifts" of burning candles, slippers or music pages. Even in afterlife, she is in his shadow.
Joseph Brodsky's work was introduced to me in Russia when I was thirteen. His name did not mean anything to me then. Simply someone once gave me a few typed pages with his poems. My teenage reaction was one of shock. His work was unlike anything I had read. His poetry was real, it spoke to me in a powerful way, it was a calling, a recognizable, irresistible voice addressing me directly. It was impossible to ignore. When I arrived to the United States in 1991, one of my wishes was to meet Brodsky. This meeting happened, and his support of my work meant the world to me during that crucial time of my life when everything I knew was left behind.
Brodsky's wish was to be buried at San Michele. He visited Venice often, always in the winter. This was the city of his love if one can be in love with a city. Yes, Venice, more than his native St. Petersburg, was the city of his dreams; Venice, with its glorious decay, its endless reflections, its past so vast that it already contains its future.
Brodsky's grave is simple yet beautiful, with overgrown flowers and many special offerings from visitors. There was a cigarette on his grave-stone (he was a heavy smoker), a Watermen fountain pen (his favorite brand); someone left a few old Soviet coins, which I personally thought would not be the most welcomed gift by this deceased. And, of course, candles and flowers.
In a somewhat ironic twist of fate - not too far from Brodsky lies another famous poet, in many ways Brodsky's opposite – Ezra Pound. Pound's grave is large yet unkempt.
I spent long hours wandering this cemetery, listening to the seagulls, deciphering the writings on the graves, and thinking of Time. Time is always abundant in Venice. Venice is cradled in Time just as it is draped in death. This cradle song of death is comforting, quiet and peaceful. In a world where everything multiplies and doubles with reflections, San Michele provides perspective which widens the horizon and unearths the essence.
Sometimes, before falling asleep, I imagine what it would be like to spend a night at San Michele, listening to the moon-beams splashing the water and the occasional cries of birds. I imagine the ghostly concerts and poetry readings featuring that never finished symphony or a poem and wonder if the dead are just as curious about the living as we are about them.
In the age of sabermetrics, they ("they, they who are known as they," as Kenward Elmslie has it), have tallied up the songs (and versions of same) most popular to play in funerals. Click here for a full run-down or take away these teasers.
-- Sinatra leads the pack with "My Way."
-- Both Richard Rodgers and Harold Arlem are represented in the top ten, though the most popular version of "Over the Rainbow" is said to be by Eve Cassidy rather than the star of "The Wizard of Oz" -- and people would apparently rather hear Gerry and the Pacemakers sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" than, say, John Raitt.
-- Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" comes in at number ten.
-- -- Vera Lynn's "We'll Say Gooodbye" makes the list, which reminds me that the song puts in an appearance at the end of "The Singing Detective" -- which makes exceedingly smart use of songs popular in the year of the action, 1945: "Peg o My Heart," "Accentuate the Positive," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall" . . .but I see I'm digressing into a different list. --
Meanwhile, I think of the wit of Larry Rivers, at whose funeral they played a recording of the painter singing "Everything Happens to Me." For Sinatra's funeral the choice was inevitable: his signature song onn radio and TV, "Put Your Dreams Away." -- DL
Richard Hell wrote one of the best songs built around one of the least useful, or at least most misunderstood, phrases of 1970s punk rock in “Blank Generation,” for his band the Voidoids. To his great credit, as his new memoir I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography (Ecco Books) proves, he and a few of his cohorts were among the least blank, most thoughtful and informed young musician-writers working during that period, not nihilists but poets with the romanticism wrung out of them by some combination of natural asperity, experience with music-biz venality, and a genuine passion to make some kind of art.
And so while I Dreamed is indeed the memoir of a man who spiked his hair, consumed a lot of different chemicals, and lived in the shadow of Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, and Johnny Rotten, Richard Hell stakes out his status as an always-intelligent man whose musical value has been underrated and whose excellent taste extends to a casual yet more than knowledgeable reference to “my main man New York poet Ted Berrigan.”
Indeed, the most interesting aspect of this swiftly paced tale of a Kentucky-born first-gen punk-rocker is that he was a poetry fan and a poet before he was a bass player, a lyricist of concise note, a by-his-account profligate yet caring ladies-man. Hell – born Richard Meyers in 1949 – writes with some of his greatest passion about the second generation of New York School poets including Berrigan, Ron Padgett, and Tom Veitch, as well as ornery outliers like Bill Knott, the latter for writing “fully thought-through funny word-packs of imagery and ideas of loneliness, desperate love, shock and fury.” He lavishes as much praise upon publications such as “C” magazine and “Ashbery’s and Koch’s and Schuyler’s and Mathews’ swoon of witty word-chess” Locus Solus as he does influential recordings by the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. If Patti Smith’s award-winning memoir Just Kids took a more literary shape than the straightforward prose and chronology Hell offers here, his is the book to read to get a less self-mythologizing view of what it was like to live in the blended musical-literary circles that overlapped and bedded down with each other in the late-70s/early-80s.
It may be that, as someone who wedged into the vibrating narrow corridor of CBGB’s and sat at the same Gem Spa counter stools as Hell during this period, I am more susceptible than an average reader to his amiable rambles not just through CBGB lore but also his jobs at the Gotham Book Mart and the Strand Bookstore. But that also means I know his details are pretty much spot-on. Plus, I like the way Hell is not so highfalutin’ that he doesn’t enjoy sharing gossip about and quarrels with characters including his Television band-mate Tom Verlaine (boyhood buddies who became thoroughly sick of each other over the course of launching a career – that’ll happen when you’re a part-time drug-head and he’s a full-time control-freak); record-biz hustler-talents like Richard Gottehrer and Terry Ork; or Hell’s quick, vivid portrait of a pre-publishing-agent shark Andrew Wylie when he was still a punk-loving poetaster (a would-be Aram Saroyan, no less!); and the way Hell disliked Patti Smith’s guitarist Lenny Kaye because Kaye disliked Hell’s guitarist Robert Quine (I know Lenny; I like Lenny; but the late Quine was undeniably great).
Even better, Hell writes vividly about “what it felt like to be creating electrically amplified songs,” the way “it was like making emotion and thought physical, to be undergone apart from oneself.” Hell halts his story at 1984, when he “stopped making music and stopped using drugs.” Yet I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp is not that dreadful thing – the “survivor’s memoir”; it’s a chronicle of an assiduously adventurous life lived with an acute awareness that the adventure is not something to be exaggerated or obliterated, but rather a blessing to be well-remembered.
Happy birthday, Jerry Lewis (born on this day in 1926). The same song occurs in the 1999 French movie "Girl on the Bridge."
I never felt lonelier
than when the shinkansen would pull in
and I heard that electronic chime—
the one to tell us passengers
here comes the next stop announcement
in Japanese. It almost sounded like
someone’s phone, because no one’s phone
sounds like a phone anymore,
or a ringtone version of a Milt Jackson line,
a vibraphone riff from somewhere
in the middle of one of Milt’s ten thousand runs
through “Django” or “Bags’ Groove”
or “Two Bass Hit.” I missed hearing him
twice back in Michigan, years ago
at the Serengeti Ballroom and the Bird
of Paradise, and now missed him all over again—
missed my CDs and headphones, the live
and studio versions, the alternate
takes and outtakes, but especially his solos
that strayed beyond what I’d given up
precious brain cells to store away
so I could replay at will. My dream job,
back when Milt was still alive, would have been
to be John Lewis in his tuxedo at the piano.
To play like that, of course. To play at all.
But also to be so close I could listen
to Milt every night, every night—
those ten thousand sweet transactions
between the mallets and the vibes.
This string of four or five notes, not quite
a melody, not close to a song, might’ve been
a little something Milt threw in for flavor
or to egg John on, something to go back to
throughout his solo, like an inside joke
or an old lover’s name you can never
really let go of, just the way I keep hearing it
now, lonelier each time, as we slide
into Shinjuku, Shiojiri, Nara, Shin-Osaka.
-- Matthew Thorburn
from This Time Tomorrow by Matthew Thorburn (Waywiser Press, 2013)
I have a feeling
It's a feeling
I don't know why
It's just a mental,
But I adore you,
So strong for you,
Why go on stalling,
I am falling,
Love is calling,
Why be shy ?
Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love
Our hearts are made of it,
Let's take a chance, why be afraid of it
Let's close our eyes
And make our own paradise
Little we know of it,
Still we can try to make a go of it
We might have been meant for each other
To be or not to be, let our hearts discover
Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love
Now is the time for it, while we are young
Let's fall in love!
-- music Harold Arlen, words Ted Koehler
Max Steiner composed some exciting suspense music for The Big Sleep, Howard Hawks’s 1946 movie of Raymond Chandler’s novel. It is very effective, and so, in its way, is the swinging number Lauren Bacall and band perform at the casino run by racketeer Eddie Mars: And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine (music Stan Kenton and Charles Lawrence, lyrics Joe Greene). The lyric locates us in noir central: “She’s a real sad tomato, she’s a busted valentine.” But my favorite musical moment in The Big Sleep is subtle enough that you might not notice it the first time around. Bacall (as one of the notorious Sternwood sisters) and co-star Humphrey Bogart (as detective Philip Marlowe) are bantering in a restaurant. In the background, a piano player is playing two great jazz standards: I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan (music Arthur Schwartz, lyrics Howard Dietz) and Blue Room (music Richard Rodgers, lyrics Lorenz Hart). At first you might think that what you’re hearing is just tremendously appealing café music. Only later do you realize that the two songs themselves have captured, in a whimsical fashion, the structural meaning of the scene.
The Big Sleep will culminate in the image of two lighted cigarettes in an ashtray as the words THE END appear on the screen. It’s a fitting image for the romance of Bogart and Bacall, who like to smoke and drink and make witty repartee in a roadhouse café. The by-play between the two romantic leads is utterly charming, but it is also, for much of the picture, utterly incongruous because incompatible with the story-line. The movie needs them to be lovers, the audience expects them to flirt, to link, and to clinch, and this duly happens, but at considerable violence to the logic of the plot, which puts their characters on the opposite sides of a quarrel.
Though this duality may threaten the coherence of the picture, it makes the scenes between Bogart and Bacall doubly entertaining. The dialogue is full of double meanings and playful digressions. In the restaurant scene with the piano soundtrack, the two are nursing their drinks. They employ an extended racetrack metaphor to communicate their sexual interest. She: “Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first, see if they're front-runners or come from behind, find out what their hole-card is. What makes them run.” He invites her to take a stab at summing him up. “I’d say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.” He: “You don't like to be rated yourself.” She: “I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?” He: “Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how far you can go.” She: “A lot depends on who's in the saddle.”
The ostensible purpose of the encounter is for Bacall to pay Bogart off – to pay him for the work he has done and get him to drop the case. Thus: I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan. Once this plot requirement is out of the way, Bacall and Bogart get down to the real cinematic purpose of their being there: to tease and flirt and advance their budding romance. And now the piano player plays Blue Room, which idealizes the successful outcome of such a romance. Lorenz Hart’s lyric stars you and me and the prospect of our betrothal and a subsequent time ever after when “every day’s a holiday, because you’re married to me.” It’s a song second perhaps only to Tea for Two (music Vincent Youmans, words Irving Caesar) as an idealized fantasy of marriage so beautifully innocent it almost brings tears to your eyes.
The Big Sleep needs the two songs in the background, and not simply because they are in exact counterpoint to the course of the conversation between Bogart and Bacall. A soundtrack of popular songs by Rodgers and Hart, Schwartz and Dietz, Irving Berlin, and the other great masters of the thirty-two bar song is as necessary in noir movies of the 1940s as the city streets, the silhouette in the window, the Mickey disguised as a highball, and the night spots the characters frequent, from Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca (1942) to Eddie Mars’s casino in The Big Sleep, where beautiful costumed girls check Bogart’s coat, offer to sell him cigarettes, and vie for the privilege of delivering him a message.
Nor do the songs suffer from being relegated to background music, shorn of lyrics. The solo piano renditions of I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan and Blue Room insinuate themselves in your consciousness. If you don’t recognize them, fine; if you know them, so much the better. When you listen to an instrumental version of a song whose lyrics you know and like, what you’re hearing is a metonymy of the song: a part standing for the whole. The text is not altogether absent if you the listener can supply it. (When the septuagenarian Frank Sinatra went up on the lines of The Second Time Around the audience helpfully sang them). But to make my point about the interdependence of Hollywood films and popular songs, let me offer this montage:
-- -- What better way to convey the faithful consistency of “iron man” Lou Gehrig, the Yankee first baseman who long held the record for most consecutive games played, than with Irving Berlin’s song Always? In Pride of the Yankees (1942), the song does double duty as the musical affirmation of Gehrig’s loving fidelity to his wife, Eleanor, played by Teresa Wright.
-- Johnny Mercer’s lyric for Tangerine (music Victor Schertzinger) extols the charms of a vain and fickle Latin beauty. To the strains of this song, Barbara Stanwyck plays the ultimate femme fatale in Double Indemnity (1944), who conspires with insurance man Fred McMurray to eliminate her husband. In a flashback in Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), the same song plays on the car radio when Stanwyck, playing a neurotic heiress this time, flaunts her father’s wealth to betray a friend and seduce Burt Lancaster. The great Jimmy Dorsey big band version of this song features Bob Eberle’s romantic solo followed by Helen O’Connell’s brassy satirical retort.
-- As David Raksin’s theme for Laura (1944) plays in the background, the homicide detective played by Dana Andrews becomes obsessed with the murder victim, a beautiful dame (Gene Tierney), whose picture hangs on the wall. Laura obligingly returns to life -- the corpse in the kitchen belonged to somebody else – and whenever in future we need to summon her up, we need only hum Raksin’s theme. Johnny Mercer added his lyric to the music months after the movie was released.-- To Have and Have Not (1944) is notable for being the first movie pairing Bogart and Bacall. It’s the one in which the foxy young actress seduces the hardened skeptic by teaching him how to whistle: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” The song she “sings” in the movie’s nightclub scene is How Little We Know (music Hoagy Carmichael, lyrics Johnny Mercer). There are three things to keep in mind about the scene. 1) It is the composer who is playing the piano. 2) The song is an under-appreciated gem in the Carmichael – Mercer canon; I like it almost as much as Skylark. 3) It is said that the young Andy Williams enhanced the voice coming out of the throat of Lauren Bacall. (4) Jacqueline Bouvier loved the song, and during her junior year in Paris, she wrote out the bridge in English and in her own French translation for the benefit of one of her French hosts.
-- In The Clock (1945) office worker Judy Garland meets soldier Robert Walker on a two-day leave in New York City. At the moment they realize they are falling in love, the piano player in the restaurant is playing If I Had You (music Ted Shapiro, lyrics James Campbell and Reginald Connolly).
-- Somebody puts a coin in the jukebox in the diner and out comes I Can’t Believe that You’re in Love with Me (music Jimmy McHugh, words Clarence Gaskill), triggering the recollected psychodrama in Edgar Ullmer’s strange reverie of an unreliable (unbelievable) narrator in Detour (1945). The movie is a paranoid masterpiece, and the very title of the song goes to the heart of its mystery. The viewer “can’t believe” the events he or she is witnessing, because the narrator is either delusional or a liar or both in some blend. The same song punctuates The Caine Mutiny, where it has a more conventional signification.
-- A drunken Fredric March still in uniform and his game wife Myrna Loy dance to Among My Souvenirs (music Horatio Nicholls, lyrics Edgar Leslie) on his first night back from the war in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Hoagy Carmichael tickles the ivories at the gin joint where the reunited couple have gone with their daughter (Teresa Wright) and returning airman Dana Andrews.
-- Rita Hayworth invites the American male in the form of tightlipped Glenn Ford to Put the Blame on Mame (music Doris Fisher, lyrics Alan Roberts) in Gilda (1946). In The Lady from Shanghai (1947), the same red-haired enchantress seduces Orson Welles and coyly sings Please Don’t Kiss Me (same songwriters), a phrase that says one thing and means its opposite. Given the way Hollywood films wink at one another, it’s no surprise that we hear an instrumental version of Put the Blame on Mame in the background when tough-guy Glenn Ford sets out to foil the killers in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953).
-- The radio reliably pours out love songs in keeping with the plot twists in Delmer Daves’s Dark Passage (1947). Humphrey Bogart plays an escaped convict with a new face who will escape to South America with Lauren Bacall if he can figure out who killed his pal and framed him for the murder. During the course of the movie we hear instrumentals of I Gotta a Right to Sing the Blues (music Harold Arlen, lyrics Ted Koehler), I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan (music Arthur Schwartz, lyrics Howard Dietz)\, and Someone to Watch Over Me (music George Gershwin, lyrics Ira Gershwin). “You like swing, I see,” says Bogart. “Yes, legitimate swing,” Bacall counters. When Dark Passage gets serious about the love story, we see a record spinning on Bacall’s record player and the golden voice of Jo Stafford sings Too Marvelous for Words (music Richard Whiting, lyrics Johnny Mercer) and legitimates the romance.
-- In Key Largo (1948), the fourth Bogart-Bacall movie on this list, Claire Trevor plays a washed-up night-club singer and full-time lush in the entourage of gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson). Trevor sings Moanin’ Low (music Ralph Rainger, lyrics Howard Dietz) a capella, her voice faltering, and when she finishes the torch song, says, “Can I have that drink now, Johnny?”
-- Manipulative Anne Baxter supplants Bette Davis as queen of the stage in All About Eve (1951), and the romantic Broadway ambiance of New York City is communicated in background instrumentals of all-star songs by Rodgers and Hart (Thou Swell, My Heart Stood Still), Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler (Stormy Weather), Arlen and Johnny Mercer (That Old Black Magic), and Ralph Freed and Burton Lane (How About You?).The last named begins, “I like New York in June.”
The use of Among My Souvenirs in The Best Years of Our Lives is exemplary. Edgar Leslie’s 1927 lyric communicates regret at the passing of time. Trinkets and tokens diligently collected and treasured offer some consolation but do nothing to stop the flow of tears. In the movie, when the U. S. army sergeant played by March comes home he brings souvenirs of the Pacific war as gifts for his teenage son. But like the knife in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Crusoe in England,” when it has become a souvenir on the shelf after Crusoe returns home from his island, the mementos of the global conflict have lost their meaning. They seem vaguely unreal, lifeless. In contrast, the photograph of his wife that a hung-over March looks at the next morning – another sort of souvenir – has all the meaning in the world for him. And Among My Souvenirs – played on the piano by Hoagy Carmichael, hummed in the shower by a drunken March, and heard as background music -- unifies the whole sequence and endows it with the rich pathos that make the song so durable a jazz standard. I recommend that you listen to Art Tatum play it on the piano or, if you can get your mitts on it, a recording of Sinatra and Crosby doing it as a duet on television in the 1950s.
-- A version of this essay appears in Boulevard, ed. Richard Burgin.
“In any great adventure, if you don’t want to lose…you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews.” Eric Idle
This video clip is even better than the one I posted on Dean Martin 's birthday (June 7) of the famous reconciliation scene during the Jerry Lewis Telethon of 1976 twenty years after he and Dean Martin broke up their world-famous comedy act, with "Jer" playing the out of control overgrown teenager. and "Dino," nine years older, the straight man and Lothario. They had enjoyed a ten-year-run of movies and sold out appearances at the Copa and other such hot spots when they decided, like many a couple, that they had irreconcilable differences and couldn't endure another day in each other's company. The Telethon enounter, arranged by the Godfather, was the first time they saw or spoke to each other after twenty years of stony silence. Sinatra: "I think it's time, don't you?" [Imagine if you could reconcile two warring nations this way.]. Notice the cigarettes -- not as props but as part of the routine in several senses. The Dean-Jerry exchange is sweet: "So. . . how ya been? . . . There were all these rumors about our break-up and when I came out to do the show and you weren't here I knew they were true. . .So. . .ya workin'?" Dean, on why they broke up: "Because I was a Jew and you were a Dago." The phone number line is good, the duet with Dean and Sinatra is funny ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Too Marvelous for Words"), and though Dean is not in the best voice, the sequence helps substantiate Jerry's assertion that he was the greatest straight man of all time. -- DL
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.