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  • blechtram 12:51 pm am December 4, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Bob Ledbetter, , , , Goodnight, Irene, Lead Belly, , , , , , Ry Cooder, The Weavers, Tom Waits   

    Lead Belly’s "Irene" and its lyrical variants of the chorus: Kissing, getting, guessing and seeing. 

    Ramsey, Frederic Jr.: Liner notes for Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951).

    Let’s talk about Lead Belly and his song «Irene, Goodnight», alternatively called «Goodnight, Irene». I’ll just refer to it as «Irene» here.

    The question that interests us here is simple: What exactly does Lead Belly sing in the chorus’s last line? Is it: «I get you in my dreams»? «I guess you’re in my dreams»? «I kiss you in my dreams»?

    It is really hard to make out in some takes and online ressources don’t seem to have a great consensus. There are different recordings with different plausible outcomes, we’ll take a look at that and some prominent cover versions below.

    For those with little time, the «too long, didn’t read»-summary is this: Lead Belly mostly used «I get you in my dreams» for the early recordings (up until 1943), other times most likely an «I kiss(ed) you in my dreams». For later records (from 1944), he opted for something like «I guessed you in my dreams», which can be seen as a cleaned-up version of «I get» or «I kissed». Cover versions mostly use «I’ll see you in my dreams» (from the Weavers’s hit version) or, more in line with Lead Belly, «I get you in my dreams». For the fun details, read below.

    As for the song: This is nowadays a classic of folk americana, a weird waltz that doesn’t quite fit into Lead Belly’s repertoire of blues, field hollers or folk songs, but does fit very well into his habit of soaking up whatever good song he could find and modify to make it his own. There is a cute family story about its origins – he supposedly made it up on the spot as a lullaby for his little baby niece. But this story is debunked – first, by his own uncle, Bob Ledbetter, who is known to have it sung before Lead Belly (and who says he learned it from his brother Terrell – you can hear this statement and Bob’s 1940 version on Document Records DOCD-5579), and secondly by Wolfe/Lornell who trace the song back even further to a 19th century popular song – but there is no written record. Wolfe/Lornell note:

    There is evidence, nonetheless, that the chorus, at least, was circulating among other folksingers besides the Ledbetters. In November 1936 […], a Library of Congress field recording unit came upon Gilbert Fike in Little Rock, Arkansas. Fike was originally from Louisiana and sang a song called «The Girls Won’t Do to Trust,» [sic] which used a set of unusual misogynistic verses to set up a familiar chorus:

    The girls will chew tobacco, but she will raise a fuss
    The girls will dring good whiskey, boys, but they
    Won’t do to trust

    Irene, goodnight, Irene,
    Irene, goodnight, my life,
    I’ll kiss you in my dreams.

    While it is possible that Fike had heard Huddie sing a version of the song […], it is probable that both Fike and Leadbelly heard the song as it circualted among rural singers in Texas and Louisiana.

    (Wolfe/Lornell 1992, 53)

    Well, the story goes on (there’s even earlier textual evidence), but so far this is pretty standard fair as far as the creation and development of folk songs go (for this, see also Ek 2014, and for a short summary online, see Lornell 2003). Let’s turn to the lyrics. What does Lead Belly do in his dream? «Get» Irene? «Kiss» Irene? «Guess»? The problem is that – especially on the early field recordings – it is really hard to make out what Lead Belly sings – and even in later versions, he uses a dialectal phrasing that sounds a lot like «giss» (hard g), like a mixture of «get» and «kiss». I think this is where the «guess» version comes from, which, spoiler, will turn out to be the least plausible one in my view.

    Before we turn to the audio analysis, let’s get some clear textual evidence. As noted above, Wolfe/Lornell transcribe the songs origins as using the line «I kiss you in my dreams», and if you listen to Bob Ledbetter’s 1940-version, there is no doubt about it. This in itself stakes a strong claim for «kiss» instead of «get» or «guess» as an initial variant. Also, in the liner notes of the Folkways-LP Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951), Frederic Ramsey makes quite astute poetic observations about Lead Belly’s lyrical craft:

    There is one quality of Leadbelly’s song that is only partially touched on in the Lomax book, how ever, but if we piece together bits of the Lomax story and combine them with the text and mood of Leadbelly’s songs, it can be sensed. There is in certain of the songs a mood of sleeplessness; in others, of dream, and trance. […] Where no escape is provided through sleep or dream, it is through alcolhol as in Roberta. The sleeplessness complements the dream, for it is a waking dream. It is a state where real and unreal are mixed, seen and unseen come together.

    Ramsey 1951.

    Ramsey then goes on to quote several other songs that reference this escape or wish fulfillment through (day dreams) and, on the occasion, transcribes the bit from «Irene» as:

    «Irene, good night, Irene good night,
    Good night Irene, good night Irene,
    I kiss you in my dreams …» (Irene, FP 4)

    Ramsey 1951.

    Since Ramsey mentions Folkways FP 4 as the source, it is clear that he refers to the versions «SC-261» or «SC-261-1» from 1943, both on FP 4 (cf. my bio-discography of Lead Belly for such session-details). Now, Ramsey isn’t just anybody – he met and recorded Lead Belly in his late sessions. But apart from this supposed authority on the subject matter, I find his lyrical assembly of quotes about dreamy wish fulfillment persuasive: This again makes a stronger claim that Lead Belly dream-wishes that he «gets» or «kisses» Irene, rather than the line not fitting in this logic: «I guess you’re in my dreams».

    But Wolfe/Lornell go on to say this:

    The first time he recorded the song on disc, in 1933, he sang only two verses and two choruses, including the slightly ominous refrain «I’ll get you in my dreams». A year later he recorded it with four verses and four refrains.

    Wolfe/Lornell 1992, 56.

    I agree with their assessment that it sounds most like «get» in the 1933-chorus (version 120-A-1) which is the only complete chorus from that year that includes the line. Very generally, it coud be heard as «kiss» with a mumbled «s» in the end. But «get» is what they decide on, so let’s take that as corroborating evidence.

    Now, if we turn to what is audible on Lead Belly’s own recordings, there is little doubt about one thing: On several occasions, he clearly sings «I get you in my dreams». If you compare my harmonisation below, you see that I think there is no doubt about him singing this line on the versions 124-A-2 (1934) – starting with the second chorus, as the first is unclear to me –, 124-B-1 (1934) and SC-261-1 (1943). As opposed to SC-261-1, version SC-261 (1943) gives you this weird «get/kiss»-mixture, so that must have been the one Ramsey refers to in his transcription above.

    If we now take a close listen to his other versions, we most of the time end up with a word that sound like «giss» or even «gass». At one point I though this might be a dialectal version of «catch» (as in «I catss you in my dreams»), and it also occured to me that it could simply be a dialectal «I gets you» – because Lead Belly pretty systematically uses this conjugation on all other verbs in the song, «I lives», «I loves», «I haves», but I don’t know enough about the nature of Lead Belly’s idiom to know if this is even remotely plausible from a linguistic perspective. American dialectologists, please let me know if «I gets» was a plausible form.

    Anyway, if you are primed by textual knowledge about the «kiss»-version, most of these can pretty reliably sound like «kiss». The version where I’m really struggling to hear a difference between «kiss you» and «guess you’re» is version 44-A (1935).

    Two last points on the «I guess you’re in my dreams»-variant: First, I must say I can hear «guess(ed)» on some occasions, but I have to force myself to hear «you’re in my dreams», it is usually a clear «you in my dreams» to me. Also, in later versions (from 1944 onwards), it becomes a more clearly pronounced «I guessed you’re in my dreams». The past tense makes even less poetic sense to me – it seems like a bowlderized versions of «kissed» to me.

    This is also why I don’t quote more of Lead Belly’s numerous later Irene-versions because even though he clearly gravitated to what sounds like «I guess you in my dreams», the problems fundamentally remain the same: Even with better and clearer recording (and Lead Belly having adapted his singing for white audiences), it is hard to know whether we’re dealing with a dialectal «kiss», «gets» or «guess» (compare especially version 413-3A, 1944). But more importantly: Folk lyrics change. At this point of Lead Belly’s career, we’re dealing with lyrical adaptation by Lead Belly for the audiences he played for. In the version FC 7533 (1945), I hear a clear «I guessed you in my dreams», but at that point he had also changed the lyrics of «take morphine and die» to «run away and fly». As in the Weavers’ version (see below), «getting» and «kissing» maybe wasn’t deemed suitable for mainstream (and children) audiences, so «guessing» might have become a valid option from 1944 onwards.

    Taken all of this together, I’d say we end up with the following for the versions up until 1943:

    1. There is clear textual evidence for «I kiss you in my dreams», clear auditive evidence for it in Bob Ledbetter’s version and plausible auditive evidence in Lead Belly’s versions
    2. There is clear auditive evidence for the variant «I get you in my dreams». Some of Lead Belly’s versions leave no doubt.
    3. There is clear «poetic» evidence for both these variants, that is to say: they simply make sense, even in a larger thematic context of Lead Belly’s lyrical motifs
    4. There is some auditive, little poetic and no textual evidence for «I guess(ed) you(’re) in my dreams»

    As corroborated evidence goes, I’d say Lead Belly sings a dialectal «I kiss» on some, and «I get» on other versions. Having said that, none of this disproves the «I guess you’re in my dreams»-version which remains plausible, why not? But it remains the least supported version by corroboration. As a last resort, I’d propose a dialectal «I gets», until an expert tells me that this form didn’t exist in the idioms spoken then.

    Cover versions

    The story could but doesn’t have to end here. How did prominent cover versions handle this textual unclarity? To spoil the harmonisation of lyrics I made below: There is a strong preference to use the completely different line «I’ll see you in my dreams» – this is easily explained as this stems from the cleaned-up version by the Weavers which was a 1950-hit that made the song as famous as it is nowadays in the first place. No kissing or «getting» in this mainstream folk context (cf. Ek 2014)! Even Mississippi John Hurt uses this line in his 1966-version – he announces it as «Lead Belly’s song» in the spoken intro, says that he «learned it off the record» and then continues to sing a song that structurally uses the lyrics from the Weavers’, not Lead Belly’s, version. So hilariously and wonderfully for folk authenticity and pop history, Mississippi John Hurt most likely learned this song from the Weavers’ hit record. Eric Clapton’s 2013 also shares this approach of using the song in the form it first entered the mass audience’s mind: as the Weavers-version.

    Then, more reconstructionist artists like Ry Cooder (1976) and Tom Waits (2006) both opt for lyrical structures the pretty much exactly resemble one of Lead Belly’s version. Ry Cooder clearly goes with «I’ll get you in my dreams» in the chorus, while Tom Waits, in typical fashion, sort of recreates Lead Belly’s «kiss/get» mixture as «giss». Waits gives no lyrics in the liner notes for this song.

    As an example of continued oral folk permutation, Dr. John’s version from 1992 just uses general musical and lyrical elements of the earlier version to come up with something very different. He turns the music into a big-bandish boogie and the song is not about yearning, scrounging, suicide and loss (with a dream as escape), but about desire, sex and partying, balling down the river while screaming «I wanna get you into my dream!» Of course, Dr. John pays his dues as a reconstructionist as well, at one point introducing a female choir which sings the exact lyrics of the Weavers’ chorus.

    Well, that was fun, wasn’t it. For what I’ve exactly heard, uncertainties included, compare below harmonisation of the different versions I mentioned. Sources are below.

     Lead Belly 120-A-1Lead Belly 120-A-6Lead Belly 120-A-7Lead Belly 124-A-2 (1934)Lead Belly 124-B-1 (1934)Lead Belly 44-A (1935)Lead Belly 44-B-1 (1935)Irene SC-261-1 (1943)Irene (SC-261) (1943)Bob Ledbetter (1940)Weavers (1950)Mississippi John Hurt (1966)Ry Cooder (1976)Dr. John (1992)Tom Waits (2006)Eric Clapton (2013)
    INTRO / CHORUSIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get/kiss (?) you in my dreams
    ø Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get/kiss (?) you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams + Spoken Intro
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams
    øIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Spoken Intro + Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    øøIrene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    ø
    VERSE 1One day, one day, one day
    Irene was a-walkin’ along
    Last word that I heard her say
    «I want you to sing one song»
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry  you ever was born
     Quit ramblin‘ and quit gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
     I asked your mother for you
    She told me you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry you ever was born
     Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I have the great notion
    Jumpin‘ in, into the river and drown
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord,that  I’d never seen your face
    I’m sorry you ever was born
    Last Saturday night I’ve got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Me and my wife is parted now
    I’m goin‘ take a stroll uptown
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    I’m gonna take another stroll down town
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometime I take great notion
    Jump in the river and drown
    I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord never have seen your face
    And I’m sorry that you ever been born
    Last night as I laid in my bed a-sleepin’
    Last night as I laid down across my bed
    Last night I had myself a nightmare
    I had a dream, I had a dream
    My little Irene was dead
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    I’m gonna take me a little stroll uptown
    Last Saturday night I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife are parted
    Gonna take another stroll down town
    CHORUS Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    (scrambled)
    (possible continuation of 120-A-6, scrambled)… in my dreamsIrene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
    I had to say now:
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Wanna get you into my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 2  Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Last Friday night, I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife have parted
    Gonna take me a stroll uptown
     Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I have the great notion
    Jumpin‘ into the river and drown
     Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Sometimes I lives in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I haves the great notion
    Jumpin‘ in, into the river and drown
    Quit ramblin‘, quit gamblin‘
    Quit staying out late at home(– at night!)
    Come home to your wife and  family
    Sit down by the fire[?]side bright
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I take a great notion
    To jump into the river and drown
    Stop ramblin‘, stop gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and family
    And stay by the fireside bright
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I lives in town
    Sometimes I have a great notion
    To jump into the river and drown
    Last Saturday night we got married
    Last Saturday night we sho’ got down
    Last Saturday night we went sailin’ down the river
    We swung that little boat
    And we almost drowned
    Sometimes I live in the country
    Sometimes I live in town
    Sometimes I take a great notion
    To jump in the river and drown
    Stop ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Come home to your wife and your family
    And sit by the fire so bright
    CHORUS  Irene goodnight, Irene (scrambled fade-out)Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams (Fade out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Irene goodnight, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams (+ instrumental chorus)
    I had to say now:
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Get you into my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 3   I asked your mother for you
    She told me that you was too young
    I wish dear Lord that I’d never seen your face
     I’m sorry you ever was born
     You cause me to weep and you cause me to moan
    You cause me to leave my home
    The last words I heard her said
    „I want you to sing this song“
      Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
     Stop ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Stay there by your fireside bright
    øI loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the sea runs dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
    øI loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the sea runs dry
    If she ever loves another
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
    I loves Irene, God knows I do
    Loves her till the rivers run dry
    If Irene should ever turn her back on me
    Gonna take morphine and die
    CHORUS   Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
      Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss (?) you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams (Repeat + Fade-Out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    ø(Female choir:) Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnigt Irene, goodnight Irene
    I will see you in my dream
    Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 4   One day, one day, one day
    Irene was a-walkin‘ along
    Last words that I heard her say
    „I want you to sing this song“
     Last Friday night, I got married
    Me and my wife settled down
    Now me and my wife have parted
    Gonna take me a stroll uptown
      I loves Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea run dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
       Stop ramblin‘ and stop gamblin‘
    Quit stayin‘ out late at night
    Come home into your wife and your family
    Sit down by the fireside bright
    Sometime I wanna drink
    Sometime I wanna gamble
    Sometime I wanna stay out all night long
    Lord, but when I’m lovin’ my little Irene
    I wanna love the girl
    Love her on and on and on and on…
    Stop your ramblin‘, stop your gamblin‘
    Stop stayin‘ out late at night
    Go home to your wife and your family
    Sit down by the firelight
    ø
    CHORUS    ø (possible continuation of 124-A-2)Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you / guess you’re (?) in my dreams
          Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
    Yeah yeah
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I wanna get you, I wanna get you
    Get you into my dream
    (Everybody!) Irene goodnight, Irene, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I kiss you in my dreams (Repetition + Fade-Out)
    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll see you in my dreams
    VERSE 5    …And she caused me to moan
    She caused me to leave my home
    Last words that I heared her say
    „I’m sorry you ever was known“
     ø         
    CHORUS    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     (possible continuation / re-start of 44-A) Spoken Intro         
    VERSE 7    I love Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea runs dry
    If Irene turns her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
     I love Irene, God knows I do
    Love her ‚til the sea run dry
    If Irene turn her back on me
    I’m gonna take morphine and die
             
    CHORUS    Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I’ll get you in my dreams
     Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
    Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
    I get you in my dreams + Spoken Interlude
             
           ø         
           Spoken Interlude + Hummed Chorus Ending         

    Sources:

    • Ek, Kirstin: «A Precipice Between Deadly Perils»: American Folk Music and the Mass Media, 1933–1959. Dissertation University of Virginia 2014.
    • Lornell, Christopher «Kip»: «Goodnight, Irene»–Leadbelly (1933). Added to the National Registry: 2003. Essay by Christopher Lornell (guest post). Library of Congress. URL: http://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/GoodnightIrene.pdf
    • Wolfe, Charles and Kip Lornell: The Life & Legend of Leadbelly. New York: Harper Collins 1992.
    • Ramsey, Frederic Jr.: Liner notes for Leadbelly’s Early Recordings, Legacy Volume 3 (Folkways FA 2024, 1951).
     
  • blechtram 9:57 am am October 7, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Alkestis, Euripides, ,   

    Momente voller Plunder: Tinder vs. Kinder 

    Euripides: Alkestis. Leipzig: Reclam 1926. S. 44.

    Nichts gegen Frakturschrift, aber Euripides‘ Tragödie Alkestis wird besser, wenn man hier „tinderlos“ statt „kinderlos“ liest.

     
  • blechtram 2:17 pm am September 30, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: American Federation of Musicians, , , Musicians Union   

    Moments of Plunder: American Federation of Musicians vs. Musicians‘ Union 

    Hennessey, Mike: Klook. The Story of Kenny Clarke. London: Quartet Books Limited 1990, 121.

    In the late 1940s and 1950s, Paris was the European hotspot for American jazz musicians, the place to go if you were looking for jobs and admiration by European jazz lovers. As Paris had been associated with jazz eversince the 1930s through Django Reinhardt and the likes, this seems somewhat commonplace today, but it does beg some questions: What about London? Why did American jazz greats like Sidney Bechet or Kenny „Klook“ Clarke (among many, many others) opt to regularly perform and settle down in the French-speaking world after World War II as opposed to an English metropolis?

    There are a few more factors, but the main answer, it turns out, lies in one of the oddest factoids of musical history I encountered for the 20th century: American musicians were, with few exceptions, banned from performing in the UK for almost thirty years,from 1933 until the late 1950s.

    It comes down to what is at its core a protectionist conflict of unions. Turns out, the American Federation of Musicians (AMF) and the British Musicians‘ Union (MU) were at each others throats eversince the beginning of the century or even before that. Without going into details, the quibbling was mostly about expectable things: copyrights, anxiety that foreign musicians flood the market and put local musicians out of jobs (this was especially a growing concern in the 1930s considering jobs for the „Talkies“, as jobs for muscially accompanying silent movies became superfluous). So for instance, the Musicians‘ Union had tried to establish quite early that for each American playing in the UK, there had to be a British musician playing in the US:

    The law which underpinned the restrictions was the Aliens Restriction Act, originally a wartime measure introduced in 1914 and revised in 1919. In 1920, the Aliens Order was introduced, an amendment to the Aliens Restriction Act of the previous year. Specifically, the part concerning foreign musicians was the Aliens Order, 1920, Part 1 (3) (b), which stated that any foreign musician must „if desirous of entering the services of an employer in this country, produce a permit in writing for this employment issued to the employer by the Ministry of Labour“. In 1923, the Prince of Wales helped to ensure that Paul Whiteman was able to tour Britain. Whiteman was allowed to perform provided that for every American musician employed, a British musician was employed. This became know as ‚the Whiteman clause‘, designed to protect the work of the British musician from the importation of the American musicians.

    The application of the Aliens Order was the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour, not the MU. The supposed ban is often referred to as an MU ban, but this is slightly misleading.

    (Hodgetts 2017, 65)

    Anyhow, the American Federation of Musicians seemed quite comfortable to simply ignore these kinds of quid-pro-quo-requests and seemed to be quite a bit more protectionist than its British counterpart (or at least that is how the Musicians‘ Union perceived it), and with jazz emerging the American art form per se, they probably felt they had some leverage considering demand/supply over the Europeans.

    In 1935, as the popularity of touring US jazz bands grew, the MU managed to get the Ministry of Labour to agree that it would not issue work permits for foreign musicians without Union approval—which was routinely refused. This situation lasted until 1955 and is often referred to as a “ban” on US jazz musicians entering the UK.

    (Cloonan 2014, 35)

    This led to some straight-up absurd situations, like the AMF pushing through deals that the Britons had to financially compensate American musicians that didn’t even perform, just so English orchestras were even allowed to play on American ground, as in 1932:

     Louis Armstrong visits the UK and plays shows in London, while [English musician] Jack Hylton broadcast to the USA, via. arrangement with NBC. However, while this broadcast was taking place the AFM had struck a deal that the same number of American musicians would sit in a New York studio and receive the same fee as Hylton’s band without playing a note. This typified the bizarre nature of reciprocal deals between the UK and US unions, which returned in the 1950s and 1960s.

    (University of Glasgow, URL: https://www.muhistory.com/contact-us/1931-1940/ )

    The climax of these petty fights came in 1934, and of course we need another historical name for this event: Duke Ellington.

    [In 1933], Duke Ellington plays a series of shows in London and is quoted as saying “if it doesn’t become an annual trip, I’ll be most disappointed.” However, the protectionist policies of both the MU and the AFM, meant that he would be unable to return until 1958. This was the last major performance by a US dance band in the UK until the 1950s.

    (University of Glasgow, URL: https://www.muhistory.com/contact-us/1931-1940/ )

    The Ministry of Labour (technically not the MU, but they pushed for it) refused Ellington re-entry in 1934, when the orchestra was scheduled to play. The Ministry is quoted in Hodgetts (2017, 67) as stating that they were „becoming more and more alive to [the] entire absence of reciprocity“ from the AMF. This procedure was repeated in 1935 for Duke Ellington and became the standard attitude towards American performers for the coming twenty years.

    What can I say? All this kerfuffle didn’t really start to change again until 1955/56, with some penny-pinching, intercontinental swapping of British and American acts, but the weirdness didn’t stop immediately. My favourite anecdote about the ongoing quarrelling is that British skiffle-star Lonnie Donegan was indeed allowed to tour the US in 1956 – but he was refused to play his guitar (in order to ensure the hiring of an American backing band). By the way, according to Billy Bragg’s book Roots, Radicals and Rockers (2017), Donegan was ‚exchanged‘ for what the English newspapers announced as a certain „Elvin“ Presley.

    Anyway, back on topic: American jazz and its new developments from 1930 to 1960 were basically banned from being performed in the UK for the probably most seminal three decades of its development (in stylistic and commercial respect). This not only made Paris the jazz-capital of Europe, with no truly relevant jazz scene in London (sorry). It also made sure that young people in the UK couldn’t witness any of the transformations of jazz from swing to bop to cool jazz to hard bop first-hand. Let’s think about this in terms of what happened: For instance, Bragg puts forward the thesis that this ‚ban‘ basically created the British Invasion in the long run, as rock&roller Bill Haley’s UK tour of 1957 was greeted by young UK-audiences as a sort of big bang or messianic event, and, since there had been no fancy jazz going on, young folks flocked to the simple guitar- or banjo-based skiffle style à la Lonnie Donegan – there simply wasn’t anything else nearly as cool and American. Skiffle bands (instead of, I don’t know, a Liverpool-bebop scene – dibs on the genre name „liverbop“ for my alternate history novel about this. I know „merseybop“ is more obvious, but liverbop sounds cooler) led to Beat music, voilà: British Invasion of the US as soon as the ban was loosened in the early 1960s. By the way: The quid-pro-quo-approach for performing musicians was technically in place until the 1980s.

    There’s another scenario in which the ban never happened. Imagine a young Paul McCartney growing up in a world surrounded by jazz giants having relocated to England instead of France. «Yesterday» becomes his «Body and Soul» on the saxophone. Or let’s say the ban had stuck around in its severe form until much later. No British Invasion at all, the Beatles being refused to perform in the US for the entire decade, just like Duke Ellington during the 1930s in the UK. And so on. There’s a number of alternate history-novels here.

    Sources:                                                    

    Bragg, Billy: Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World. London: Faber & Faber 2017.

    Cloonan, Martin: Musicians as Workers: Putting the Uk Musicians‘ Union into Context. In: MUSICultures 41:1 (2014), 10–29.

    Hennessey, Mike: Klook. The Story of Kenny Clarke. London: Quartet Books Limited 1990.

    Hodgets, Andrew: Protection and internationalism: The British Musicians‘ Union and restrictions on foreign musicians. In: Fagge, Roger and Nicolas Pillai (eds.): New Jazz Conceptions: History, Theory, Practice. London/New York: Routledge 2017, 63–89.

    University of Glasgow: The Musicians‘ Union: A History (1893–2013). Timeline 1931–1940. URL: https://www.muhistory.com/contact-us/1931-1940/

     
  • blechtram 4:02 pm am August 28, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Abitur, , , Niklaus Meienberg   

    Momente voller Plunder: Meienberg vs. Abitur 

    Meienberg, Niklaus: Stille Tage in Chur [1974]. In: Meienberg, Niklaus: Reportagen aus der Schweiz. Zürich: Ex Libris 1979, 61.

    Ist mir nie aufgefallen, und ich finde es auch kulturanalytisch nicht ganz so schlimm wie Niklaus Meienberg, aber verblüffend ist es allemal, dass dort, wo in Österreich und der Schweiz ‚gereift‘, in Deutschland ‚weggegangen‘ wird.

     
  • blechtram 4:35 pm am August 19, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Authenticity, , , , Musik   

    Moments of Plunder: Recording equipment vs. playback equipment 

    Epperson, Bruce D.: More Important Than the Music. A History of Jazz Discography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2013. P. 207.

    In his book More Important than the Music, Bruce Epperson points out that, interestingly, for decades the technology of recording music – what you could put on a record – was much more developed than the technology to play this music back to the listener. Put technically: The machines couldn’t extract all the sonic data on a record. Put simply: The listener couldn’t hear everything that was on the record, no matter how hard he tried.

    This raises a few interesting points. On is mentioned in snippet above: What about the authenticity effect? Should we get worse record players to be able to listen what the early jazz fans fell in love with? Additionally, with newer equipment playing old records, one could hear many „new“ instruments and sound that witnesses and lovers of the old records thought they had been overdubbed. This is a point Epperson raises earlier in the book:

    Epperson, Bruce D.: More Important Than the Music. A History of Jazz Discography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2013. P. 82.

    Another point raised in the paragraph concers the reliability of „by-ear“-discographies – that is, discographies with information about instruments and musicians that were made accordig to a judgement made by an expert listening. The newer and better playback technology largely renders „close-listening“-calls before the late 1940s fun guesswork for historians at best. It’s a moment of true wonder:

    The state of the art in consumer playback equipment took thirty years to catch up with recording technology.

    Epperson 2013, 82.
     
  • blechtram 3:34 pm am July 12, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , Hugues Panassié, , ,   

    Moments of Plunder: Panassié vs. Bebop 

    Epperson, Bruce D.: More Important Than the Music. A History of Jazz Discography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2013. P. 136.

    Another interesting factoid about the development of jazz discographies and the historicity of music categories: Up until the 1950s, there was very serious opposition to include anything into the category of jazz that was, lo and behold, ‚bebop‘ or ‚cool music‘ – in other words, too ‚refined‘ and not „hot“ (by the way, what happened to that ‚hot‘ jazz category? Note to myself for a chapter on this). This opposition was, according to Epperson’sexcellent book More Important than the Music, most prominently held by French discographer and dixieland-enthusiast Hugues Panassié. To say the least, Panassié was a controversial figure. I mean, you wouldn’t expect someone who is most known for, and owes his Wikipedia-article mostly to, the fact that he did jazz discographies to have an entire chapter on that very article called Selected controversies (as of July 2019). Besides being that obnoxiously belligerent kind of journalist, Panassié was politically right-wing, far, far right. But he loved early jazz, which of course matches up to this weird kind of ‚positive racism‘, holding that ‚only blacks‘ can really create hot, swinging jazz – ‚real jazz‘, as Panassié puts it. It’s a kind of deranged and distorted concept of both love and, uhm, ‚primitiveness‘, something that Rousseau and his ‚natural state‘ might have subscribed to:

    „Ironically, Panassié was a Bourbonist and an unabashed social elitist who was attracted to jazz primarily because he believed it represented a sharp break with the increasingly homologized, commercialized culture he thought Anglo-American democratic liberalism was imposing on French society.“

    (Epperson 2013, 32f.)

    The obnoxious line of argument is that only black musicians were really ‚primitive enough‘ to create that kind of ‚rhythmic hot jazz‘ Panassié happened to like. This went both ways: Panassié didn’t like to include white musicians in his ‚hot discographies‘, because white boys can’t jump – except for Milton „Mezz“ Mezzrow, that is, who happened to be an old personal friend of Panassié and about whom Epperson writes:

    „The eccentric Mezzrow was Jewish, but he so deeply believed he shared the essence of the American black psyche that he considered himself black, identifying himself as „Negro“ on his passport and other documents.“

    (Epperson 2013, 32)

    And Panassié excluded any black musician from his discographies that dared to go beyond what Panassié deemed too schooled to fit his liking of ‚primitively‘ swinging dixieland. So some of the work by the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk didn’t make the cut of his 1950s „jazz“ discographies, because their music was either too ‚refined‘ (bop) and/or, god forbid, ‚cool‘ instead of hot. Panassié’s opinion was that these guys basically waste their (acknowledged) musical talent. Panassié’s idea that only black musicians really can play ‚jazz‘ is, if you look at the history, not exclusive to white right-wing fanatics, to put it diplomatically. Of course, nowadays the idea that bebop isn’t jazz seems absurd, but it’s sometimes informative to take a look at how and why some people try to establish categories and boundaries. Unsurprisingly, this ends up being about identity politics, but the identity Panassié had reserved for the producers of his beloved hot jazz was a pretty vile construct.

     
  • blechtram 1:23 pm am July 8, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Julio Cortázar, , Marshall McLuhan, , Rayuela   

    Momente voller Plunder: Cortázar vs. McLuhan 

    Kapitel 79

    In Julio Cortázars Roman Rayuela (1963) macht sich der fiktive Autor Morelli in einer der im Text verstreuten poetologischen Reflexionen über ‚den Roman‘ so seine Gedanken (Kapitel 79) und veröffentlicht dabei ein Jahr vor Marshall McLuhan eine Variante der inzwischen bekannten Maxime „The medium is the message“. Die Schrift von McLuhan, der üblicherweise die Erstnennung des Dictums zugeschrieben wird, nämlich Understanding Media, erschien erst 1964. Allerhand! Morelli, bzw. Cortázar, knapp vor McLuhan! Gut, Morelli sagt eher so etwas wie „The messenger is the message“. Ich habe dann noch nachgeschaut, ob die deutsche Übersetzung von Fritz Rudolf Fries, die erst 1981 erschien, sich in irgendeiner vom spanischen Text abweichenden Form an McLuhan orientiert, das scheint aber nicht der Fall zu sein. Spanisch heisst die Stelle durchaus wörtlich: „Una narrativa que no sea pretexto para la transmisión de un ‚mensaje‘ (no hay mensaje, hay mensajeros y eso es el mensaje, así como el amor es el que ama) […]“. Natürlich, jetzt müsste man noch nachschauen, ob und inwiefern Varianten des Ausspruchs schon vorher in der Kulturgeschichte vorkamen, und ich bin mir sicher, dass man da bei so einer üblichen Kette von Joyce, Nietzsche, Fr. Schlegel, Cervantes bis zum guten Homer landen würde. Das kann gern jemand unternehmen. Aber die diesbezügliche Drängung Anfang der 1960er scheint mir hübsch, und dass McLuhan den Spruch dermassen für sich pachten konnte, scheint mir überdenkenswert, ohne dass ich damit unlautere Absichten verfolge.

     
  • blechtram 5:53 pm am May 29, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: Beat-Generation, , James Dean, , Live Fast Die Young,   

    Momente voller Plunder: Arnim & die Beat-Generation 

    Quelle: Die immer grossartige Zvab.com-Photographie

    Ein weiterer Moment voller Plunder aus der Kulturgeschichte. Heutiges Fundstück: Bettine von Arnim denkt an einem Brief an Karoline von Günderrode [sic] über die Beat-Generation und James Dean nach:

    Da ist’s deutlich, daß der Geist auch nur Frühlingsatem schöpft und daß Jugend nicht in Zeit sich einschränkt, die vergeht, da Lebenslust nicht vergehn kann, weil, wie Natur Frühling aufatmet, wir Lebensbegeisterung aufatmen.– Es ist dumm, was ich hier sag, ist nicht uneingehüllter Geist, der den Wahn vernichtet, aber unter der armseligen Hülle des zwanzigmal wiederholten Vergleichs liegt einer zerschmetternden Antwort Keim auf das, was Du mir schon mehr als einmal gesagt hast: „Recht viel wissen, recht viel lernen, und nur die Jugend nicht überleben. – Recht früh sterben!“

    (Bettine v. Arnim: Die Günderode. Leipzig: Insel 1983 [1840]. S. 413.

    Abb. Deutsches Textarchiv

     
  • blechtram 3:09 pm am May 27, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , Zukunft   

    Billet trouvé: Gestalter der Zukunft 

    Bliven, Bruce: Gestalter der Zukunft. Die fesselndsten Laboratoriumserrungenschaften von heute. Zürich: Steinberg 1943. 303 S., 8°, Ln.
    27.2.1985 bh
     
  • blechtram 9:48 am am February 16, 2019 Permalink | Antworten
    Tags: , Emojis, Kulturgeschichte, ,   

    Momente voller Plunder: Arnim & Emojis 

    Quelle: Die immer großartige zvab.com-Photographie

    Volume 1 der Momente voller Plunder aus der Kulturgeschichte. Heutiges Fundstück: Bettine von Arnim denkt an einem Brief an Karoline von Günderrode [sic] über die Erfindung der Emojis nach:

    „Im Gartenhäuschen, wo wir vorm Jahr um die Zeit uns zum erstenmal gesehen haben – also ein ganz Jahr sind wir schon gut Freund miteinander???!!! – – – und so könnt ich fortfahren, Zeichen zu machen der Verwunderung, des Stummseins, des Denkens – Seufzens; ja, wenn ich ein Zeichen des Schauderns, der Tränen zu machen wüßte, so könnte ich die Blätter voll der merkwürdigsten Gefühle bezeichnen, denen ich kein Namen zu geben weiß.“

    Bettine v. Arnim: Die Günderode. Leipzig: Insel 1983 [1840]. S. 174.

    Abb: http://www.deutschestextarchiv.de/book/view/arnimb_guenderode01_1840/?hl=Schauderns&p=259

     
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