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Category Archives: Adultery

Recently I finished reading a very interesting history of American popular music, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music by Elijah Wald. Both the title and the subtitle are sort of misleading, though in ways that are more amusing than off-putting once you’ve read the book. The Beatles don’t even show up until the last 20 pages, and what comes before that is actually a rigorously non-alternative history of popular music. By that I mean that the guy is interested in the dialectics of the stuff that was actually popular in its time as a opposed to what we venerate as cool now. 90% of such music has been dismissed as beneath notice if not contempt by the sort of people who write histories of popular music. Wald isn’t championing this stuff aesthetically, just proving its cultural significance while demonstrating the total bankruptcy of writing music history as a genealogy of one’s own superior taste.

It’s just a really smart book: The macro-arguments are persuasive, and the micro-details are fascinating. Among the many things I’ve learned as a consequence of reading it is that old Trinidadian calypso music is really fucking weird and bears virtually no resemblance to the pop music marketed under that name in the U.S. in the 1950s. (Notice how I didn’t say “real calypso music”?)

Take this awesome track by early calypso star Lord Executioner: It’s like the Hope Chest set to a Betty Boop cartoon score as interpreted by moonlighting brass players from the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Lately if I’m not singing this, it’s because I’m listening to it.

Haven’t been able to find out a damned thing about Lord Executioner except that the young Louis Farrakhan was apparently a big fan. (Did y’all know that Farrakhan started out as an entertainer, name of Calypso Gene, aka “The Charmer”? I did not, although I did know about the calypso backgrounds of such luminaries as Robert Mitchum and Maya Angelou. I wonder if the three of them ever jammed together?)

Anyway: here’s the song, plus the lyrics as best as I could make them out. If anyone can help with those blank spots in the last verse, I’d be grateful. Take it away, your Lordship!


Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime
Always happen at the Christmas time
Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime
Always happen at the Christmas time
For the old year murders and the tragedy
For the New Year serious calamity
What shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

What marred the Christmas festivity
Was a New Year double catastrophe
When a man and a woman on the ground was found
With bloodstains upon the ground
The husband was arrested but they were too late
For the poison he drunk sent him to the gate
That shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

In Saint James the population went wild
When in the savannah they found a child
The hair was auburn and complexion pink
Which placed the watchman in a mood to think
“How can a mother despise and scorn
A little angel that she has born?”
That was more sad
Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

A lorry was speeding to Port of Spain
When it knocked down the cyclist into the drain
It was going as fast as the lightning flash
When the cyclist received the lash
The mother cried out in sorrows and pain
I am not going to see my boy-child again
That is more sad
Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

While the workmen they were digging the ground
They [ ? ] all human beings they found
Feet together and head east and west
Number five was a watchman among the rest
Number six had the hands and the feet on the chest
And number seven [something "serious guest"?]
That shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

Oh, and I really, really love that this is a Christmas song. I’ve long favored a comprehensive turnover of the Christmas musical canon (backed by force of law), and this gets my vote as the replacement for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Okay, so I’ve roughed out a provisional draft of alternate lyrics to “My Favorite Things” for our own Jackie of Finland to record, per our contractually-binding exchange in this comment thread. I’m also in negotiations to get the two surviving Seidlitz Brothers to dub some backing vocals, though according to their agent, Shlomo’s voice box is pretty much shot from three packs of Chesterfields a day since the McKinley administration. No matter: that’s why God made Pro Tools and the electrolarynx.

I’m kind of going back and forth on the first verse here, as it lacks the 100% concrete historicity that the other verses have. Though maybe I could fix that by nailing down concrete references to back it all up.

Barrel-clad hobos and window-ledge pastries
Irish patrolman and drunks with the DTs
Blackguards and maidens and oncoming trains
These are a few of my favorite thangs

Phials of acid in ex-lovers’ faces
Naked wild women in desolate places
Negroes with blue gums who kill when they bite
This is a load of my favorite shite

Mince pies for breakfast, and luncheon, and dinner
Corpses injected to make their eyes glimmer
Med school students defiling the dead
This sort of thing tends to fuck with my head

Cuckqueaned wives killing spinster cult leaders
Cats sold as rabbits to unwitting eaters
Show-offs igniting their cee-gars with bills
These are symptoms of society’s ills

When the dog brings
Dynamite back

When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I feel truly bad

Jackie: Far be it from me to impinge on your creative process, but I was thinking this would work best Lento assai and in a minor key.

Omaha Morning World-Herald, May 13, 1895. Even as tied-to-the-tracks dramas go, this story’s a weird one. Or even as real-life precursors to Park Chan-wook films go, for that matter. Read more.

flogsflog2Chicago Defender, September 15, 1928. Even more than most dudes, Dr. Martin here should not have been stepping out on his wife. flog3He’s the last word in gallant cavaliers, our Dr. Martin. flog4My theory is that Dr. and Mrs. Martin were actually S&M buffs acting out some creepy, well-rehearsed power-exchange ritual. They probably went through a couple of school marms every year.

Canadian vampiresAChicago Tribune, August 20, 1921. Technically the Trib was a broadsheet paper, as opposed to a tabloid, but content-wise it tended to blur the barrier between the two schools of journalism. A dude stepping out on his wife scarcely fit the New York Times‘s definition of “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But how about that Miss Gertrude Ingleby, putting out all over Chinatown?! Scandalous!

green-eyedA 473 West Madison is a stone’s throw from Union Station. Imagine that having been residential back in the day. And not just residential but low-rent. Newspaper carriers don’t live in palaces.

husband and seducer jan 4 1851AAhusband and seducer2AAChicago Tribune, January 4, 1851. It’s been a while since we’ve run an Unwritten Law drama. This one’s pretty intense, starting with that quality bad-guy dialog from murdered libertine Abraham Redden. Read More »

balt-elopea
The Baltimore African-American, June 1, 1929. No Driving Miss Daisy headlines here at The Hope Chest, as befits a class joint what I are tryin’ to run here. Scandal continues over the jump, plus there’s a novel mutation to our fungible friend, the Unwritten Law. Read More »

midgeta2
Detroit News, April 29, 1931. It used to be standard practice in adultery-related divorce suits for the cheated-upon parties to sue the third party for “alienation of affections.” Essentially the seducer or seductress had robbed of them of a lifetime of lovin’, and they were entitled to cash compensation for that loss. But then it was ultimately up to a judge or jury to determine how much all that lovin’ was worth. What were the criteria? In the above case, the jury is implicitly measuring love by the pound. But there had to be hurt feelings to go around when an award came back $30K light. Even the new possessor of the runaway spouse has to feel insulted on some level, even if he or she is catching a huge financial break

But then there’s this other case to consider, from Detroit News, March 19, 1931: Read More »

slays-wife-selfa Detroit News, April 27, 1931. Somehow I would expect pheasant breeders to be a highly-strung bunch, but still . . .
Not sure whether we are meant to pick up on some coded implication of hanky-panky involving the slain wife and her bedroom guest. Calling the latter “hysterical” is a tad unfeeling, though, whatever the facts of the matter.

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