Listing

Context

Malcolm has a new Mac set-up. Complete with 24-inch monitor. Nice.

Doing the business, though, he managed to trash his external drive with the accumulated iTunes tracks. Over half-a-gigabyte’s worth. Not so nice.

So there is a whole stack (geddit?) of reloading to be done.

Tracks

First off the pile was a mess of Julie London (the erstwhile Miss Gayle Peck, Mrs Jack Webb and Mrs Bobby Troup).  No obvious reason: can’t think why (but those 33 rpm covers, as right, might be a clue).

And so, playing in the background, Malcolm had the Calendar Girl album smokily crooning.

This is from 1956, and comes from a time when some degree of planning, of “concept”,  went into the construction of an LP. And the cover has those sub-Vargas images, which were ironic and cheesy even back in 1956.

Next, the tracks have an obvious sequence:

  1. June in January;
  2. February Brings the Rain, a Bobby Troup number, just to prove he did more than Route 66;
  3. Melancholy March;
  4. I’ll Remember April;
  5. People Who Are Born in May;
  6. Memphis in June, which has a Hoagy Carmichael provenance, but not one of the all-timers;
  7. Sleigh Ride in July;
  8. Time for August;
  9. September in the Rain;
  10. This October, another Troup piece — but then he was producing;
  11. November Twilight;
  12. Warm in December; and
  13. Thirteenth Month.

Being honest, there’s only a couple there (those hot-linked above to YouTube) worth the keeping.

States of mind

What put this all in Malcolm’s mind was a bit of iPoddery that had kept him going on the JFK-LHR red-eye. It is embedded in the collected works of Blossom Dearie, and in particular her version of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz listing of a score and one States:

Copper comes from Arizona,
Peaches come from Georgia,
Lobsters come from Maine,
The wheat fields are the sweet fields of Nebraska,
And Kansas gets bonanzas from the grain.
Ol’ whiskey comes from ol’ Kentucky —
Ain’t the country lucky?
New Jersey gives us glue (which Malcolm always miscues as “gives us ‘flu”),
And you, you come from Rhode Island —
And little Rhode Island is famous for you.

Cotton comes from Louisiana,
Gophers from Montana,
And spuds from Idaho.
They plough land in the cow-land of Missouri,
Where most beef for roast beef seems to grow.
Grand Canyons come from Colorado,
Gold comes from Nevada —
Divorces also do —
And you, you come from Rhode Island,
Little ol’ Rhode Island is famous for you.

Pencils come from Pennsylvania,
Vests from West Virginia,
Tents from Tentassee.
They know mink where they grow mink in Wyomink;
A camp chair in New Hampchair, that’s for me.
Minnows come from Minnowsota,
Coats come from Dakota, but why should you be blue?
For you, you come from Rhode Island —
Don’t let them ride Rhode Island, it’s famous for you.

Words

OK: Malcolm is a sucker for those witty, and usually arch, lyrics as patented by Cole Porter, which so regularly involve a list-poem. Before Porter here was William Schwenck Gilbert, who was pushing the limits in his own Victorian way.

And list-poems, which involve as simple a device as can be imagined, should not be scorned.

If the simple term is an embarrassment, there’s the fancier “catalogue poems”. Every teacher of English will have used them as a stimulus (see, for a US source, Betsy Franco’s Conversations with a Poet: Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms). The Library of Congress web-site has a list of 180 modern list-poems, a few of which are none-too-bad — Malcolm likes in particular #122, Paul Muldoon’s two Soccer Moms, Mavis and Merle, who harken back to 1962, and:

remember Gene Chandler topping the charts with Duke of Earl
when the boys were set on taking the milk bar’s one banquette
and winning their hearts.

Class

When Malcolm was still at the chalk-face, one starter was Christopher Smart’s For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry. In more ways than one, that has to be the ultimate “cat-alogue poem.” Malcolm suggests it’s the only bit of Jubilate Agno — written, in a lunatic asylum between 1758 and 1763, but only published in 1939— which is still in circulation. But then, what we now term “free” verse took a while to catch on.

Up-market

At the sophisticated end of the market, what is Chaucer’s General Prologue if not a list-poem? —

But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

Or chunks of Shakespeare:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,—
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Or , much earlier still, all those thundering begat-ings of the Book of Genesis?

Or the 250-or so lines of Book II of the Iliad with the list of the Achaean army? Which, therefore, had to be imitated in every subsequent epic, and hence Milton’s parade of the demons in Pandaemonium.

Lighter

Rupert Brooke gets into the flavour of the thing dismissing the towns that aren’t Grantchester:

Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The shire for Men who Understand;
And of that district I prefer
The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington …

Which seems remarkably akin to the trillings of Ms Dearie.

The great Porter

But there’s always the magnificent Cole himself: You’re the Top; Anything Goes; Always True to You in My Fashion, and many more. Among which, notably, to be cherished for its high camp, low humour and presumptuous culture:

The girls today in society go for classical poetry,
So to win their hearts one must quote with ease
Aeschylus and Euripides.
One must know Homer, and believe me, Bo,
Sophocles, also Sappho-ho.
Unless you know Shelley and Keats and Pope
Dainty Debbies will call you a dope

Note that knowing ho-ho — Gaydar on the twitch. After which count the titles and  into Brush Up Your Shakespeare:

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1 Comment

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One response to “Listing

  1. Henry Bowman

    The Rhode Island song is the title track for the documentary “Taking on the Kennedys.” If you listen to it there, it’s pretty clear that New Jersey gives us “flu.”

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