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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Annotated “Days of the Week” Theme Time Radio Hour - Episode 53 (Part 1)

Being the 1st Part of a Compleat Transcript with Commentary on Episode #53 of Theme Time Radio Hour, "Days of the Week"  Part 2 is here.

Original air date: October 3, 2007


In Episode 53 -- "Days of the Week" -- of  Theme Time Radio Hour, we'll meet Monday's and Saturday's children, learn that Jack White knows his Sundays,  look at the leaders in the TTRH playlist race, hear  amazing predictions from the even more Amazing Criswell, listen to a surprise recorder rendition, and receive Our Host's final word on commercial affiliation.  I've split the "Days of the Week" transcript into two parts with Part 2 here.

If you like what you read, you can help fund the "Night Time in the Big City" book, chockful of that Dreamtime commentary you've come to know and love.

[Background – “What a Difference a Day Makes”]

The Woman in Red: It’s nighttime in the Big City. A storm is coming. A woman wonders. It’s Theme Time Radio Hour with your host, Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan:
Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe.
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving.
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
And the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Bob Dylan: That’s “Monday’s Child,” a nursery rhyme from “Mother Goose.” It’s also considered a fortune-telling song. You’re supposed to be able to tell a child’s character or what would happen to them in the future based on the day they were born. We’re going to be learning about every day of the week and hearing songs about Monday through Sunday. We’ll hear about “Blue Mondays,” “Ruby Tuesdays,” all the way through Saturday and Sunday. The first page of the Bible explains how God created the world and rested on the seventh. But even people who don’t follow the Judeo-Christian Bible have a seven-day week, so this week’s show will certainly have a world-wide appeal.


According to The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, “Monday’s Child” was first recorded in A. E. Bray's “Traditions of Devonshire” in 1838 and was collected by James Orchard Halliwell in the mid-nineteenth century.

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on a Saturday, prophetically making him a child who would “work hard for a living.” Perhaps there’s something to the old rhyme after all.

Bob Dylan: Let’s start out with an old tune linking in all seven days. A song by a man named Sterling Harrison, who never got his due. He used to sing demos for Holland, Dozier and Holland, but never had a hit of his own. Before he died he was singing for dollar tips at a barbecue joint at 82nd and Western. There is great music happening all over the country. Sometimes you gotta seek it out, and if you don’t seek it out, it’s just gonna disappear. Here’s a great guy you never heard of, Sterling Harrison and “Seven Days.”

[“Seven Days” — Sterling Harrison]

Bob Dylan: That was Sterling Harrison and “Seven Days,” a song originally recorded by Little Junior Parker.


One of the few instances during TTRH’s run where you can see writer/producer Eddie Gorodetsky working behind the curtain. Sterling Harrison’s last album was South of the Snooty Fox, which includes “Seven Days,” and was co-produced by Gorodetsky and Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. South of the Snooty Fox was recorded in 2001, but attracted no label interest until finally picked up by HackTone Records, a boutique imprint based in Culver City, Calif. The CD was released on the second-year anniversary of Harrison’s death, August 21, 2007, about two months before the “Days of the Week” episode aired.

Although not intended as an insult, Gorodetsky/Dylan’s implication that Sterling Harrison had been reduced to “…singing for dollar tips at a barbecue joint…” before his death is neither accurate nor fair to Harrison’s memory. Sterling Harrison’s sister contacted me shortly after I did a Dreamtime podcast quoting that line. She angrily pointed out – quite rightly – that while Harrison had been happy to pocket dollar tips during his gigs at M&M Soul Food in L.A. he had also regularly performed to sold-out houses in his home town of Richmond, VA until the end of his life. While Sterling Harrison never got his due from a popular standpoint, in his own circle he was successful, well-respected and loved.

Bob Dylan: Some people start the day of the week off with Monday, but I start it off with Sunday, myself. There’s a lot of songs written about Sunday, and some of them are pretty heavy. For example, this one, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,”from 1983 by U2. It’s a song about the slaughter of innocent civilians in Ireland. It attempts to compare and contrast the troubles in Northern Ireland with the significance of Easter Sunday. On January 30th 1972, thirty thousand people marched into Derry, in a march organized by the civil rights association. Armored cars appeared from behind barriers. British troops boxed in hundreds of people. All of the soldiers were fully armed with combat rifles. Suddenly, shots rang out. At the end of the day, thirteen people lay dead and seventeen wounded. U2 wrote the following song so those people would never be forgotten. Here’s U2, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.”

[“Sunday Bloody Sunday” — U2]

Bob Dylan: That was U2, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday.” Let’s take a moment and remember the names of the people who died that day: John Duddy, Paddy Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, “Pi” Gilmour, Kevin McElhinney, Michael McDaid, William Nash, John Young, Michael Kelly, Jim Wray, Gerald Donaghy, Gerald McKinney, William McKinney and John Johnston.

Bob Dylan: Jack White doesn’t find Sunday particularly sad. But he knows when it is a Sunday. I’ll let him explain.

Jack White: Y’know, funny you should ask, Bob, about the days of the week because going out on tour it seems like no matter where I am in the world I always know when it’s Sunday. Y’know, I don’t know what the date is, maybe I don’t even know what month or year it is or what country we’re in, but I know it’s Sunday for some reason. And, uh, I’ve always wondered why that is.


The barely articulate Mr. White was on the list of “special guests” noted in the XM Radio press release announcing Season 2 and by early 2008 would air two more commentaries on Theme Time.

There was a period during 2007 when Bob Dylan and Jack White appeared to have pledged to be BFFs, with White participating in Dylan’s still-unreleased Hank Williams Project and joining Dylan at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for the first ever live performance of “Meet Me in the Morning.” The relationship may have cooled somewhat by 2009, with White pointing out during a lecture at Trinity College that in her own way Britney Spears was more “authentic” than either Tom Waits or Bob Dylan. On the other hand, that’s the sort of off-the-wall opinion that one wouldn’t be surprised to hear expressed by Bob Dylan himself.

Bob Dylan: Let’s cheer things up a little bit. I don’t want the whole show to be tear-stained. Here’s Frankie Lee Sims. You might be wondering why a song called, “Lucy Mae Blues” is being played on our “Days of the Week” show. Well, give a listen.

[“Lucy Mae Blues” — Frankie Lee Sims]

Bob Dylan: That was Frankie Lee Sims, He’s Lightnin’ Hopkins cousin. Born in New Orleans, died in Dallas. And recorded that song, which is kind of a mash-up, between a couple of blues standards. You hear a little bit of “Ain’t No Tellin’” which Mississippi John Hurt made famous and a little taste of, “My Sunday Woman,” or as some people call it, “Every Day in the Week.” I like the version by Sleepy John Estes.


Dylan is a longtime fan of Sleepy John Estes, name-checking him in the first stanza of his free-form poem used for the liner notes of 19 and 65’s “Bringing it all Back Home.”
I'm standing there watching the parade/
feeling combination of sleepy john estes.
jayne mansfield. humphry bogart/morti-
mer snerd. murph the surf and so forth/
Bob Dylan: Let’s move on through the week now. We’ve gotten through Sunday. You know what that means.

[Robotic jingle – “Monday”]

Bob Dylan: It’s time for Monday, and if I know my radio show, that sounds like a song cue. Here’s Smiley Lewis and his song, “Blue Monday.” You probably know it better by Fats Domino. But whenever we have the chance to play Smiley, we like to do it.

[Blue Monday – Smiley Lewis]

Bob Dylan: That was Smiley Lewis, who is edging out George Jones as the most-played artist on Theme Time Radio Hour. “Blue Monday.”


By the close of Season 3, George Jones had been supplanted as “most-played artist” on TTRH by Tom Waits and Dinah Washington. Both would have a total 10 spins on the turntable by the end of the series. For the completist, Tom Waits is unquestionably the “most-mentioned” TTRH artiste, thanks to his many taped commentaries during Seasons 2 and 3 as well as the airplay he was given by Dylan.

George Jones, who had led the “most-played pack” in both Seasons 1 and 2, would make no appearances at all during Season 3. He still had accumulated enough airplay in the previous two seasons to tie with Elvis Costello for second place, having a total nine songs played on Theme Time.

Smiley Lewis ended up placing in the Top 5, sharing fifth-place honors with June Christy, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Doug Sahm & the Sir Douglas Quintet, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, JB Lenoir, Little Walter, Los Lobos, Loretta Lynn, Randy Newman, Elvis Presley, and The Stanley Brothers. That list is a pretty accurate representation of the catholic tastes of the three major influences on the TTRH musical playlist: Bob Dylan, Eddie Gorodetsky, and the pseudonymous jazz-loving associate producer who during Season 2 was referring to him/herself as “Ben Rollins.”

Bob Dylan: In the beginning, the days of the week were named after deities who had dominion over that particular day. Some of these are pretty obvious. You know Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Nowadays, English has retained the original planet names for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Saturn, Sun, and Moon. The other four days are the names of Anglo-Saxon or Nordic gods, replacing the Roman gods who gave names to the planets. For example, Wednesday is named after Woden or Odin. Thursday’s named after Thor. And Friday is named after Freya.

Bob Dylan: Personally, I would have named Tuesday after “Ruby.” But The Rolling Stones beat me to it.

[“Ruby Tuesday” – The Rolling Stones]

Bob Dylan: That was “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones. One of the prettiest songs they ever recorded and it’s from “Between the Buttons.” You might be interested to know that “Ruby Tuesday” was supposed to only be a B-side. For those of you who don’t know what a B-side is, that was the other side of a 45, that wasn’t a hit. The A-side in this case was supposed to be “Let’s Spend the Night Together.’ But a lot of disc jockeys thought it was too sexual, and so they wouldn’t play it. But they played the flip side, and that’s how “Ruby Tuesday” became such a hit.

Bob Dylan: What I like about that record is Brian Jones playing the recorder. The recorder is a woodwind of the family known as “fipple flutes.” A “fipple” is a wooden plug at the end of a flute. The flute, in its heyday, was associated with birds, shepherds, miraculous events, funerals, marriages, and amorous scenes. I think it’s one of the most beautiful sounds known to man. I brought mine with me today, and if you don’t mind, I’m gonna play a little somethin’ for ya.

[clears throat]

[“Blowin’ in the Wind”(excerpt) – Bob Dylan]

Bob Dylan: How ‘bout that? Anton Chekhov once said, “There isn’t a Monday that would not cede its place to Tuesday.”


“How ‘bout that?”

One of those unanticipated, delightful moments on TTRH, equal to his a capella rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” is Bob Dylan playing an excerpt of “Blowin’ in the Wind” on a recorder during the “Days of the Week” show. While there were many instances when he would allude to his “other job” during Theme Time’s run, this would be the only time Dylan would play one of his own songs on the show, and play it live to boot.

There are at least two documented instances of Dylan publicly playing the recorder, both during appearances for the West Coast Chabad Lubavitch Telethon in 1989 and 1991.

“There isn’t a Monday…”

A paraphrase of a quote from “Note-Book of Anton Chekhov,” a volume of notes and quotations which Chekhov liked, as well as themes and sketches for works which he intended to write. The editors of the book noted that it was “characteristic of the methods of [Chekhov’s] artistic production.”
“There is no Monday which will not give its place to Tuesday.”
As with many writers Dylan uses a similar mechanism, sometimes referred to as his “box of notes” according to the few first-hand accounts of his writing methods.

Dylan stated in a PLAYBOY interview that Chekhov was his favorite writer and later claimed in Chronicles that he wrote an entire album based on Chekhov short stories, wryly remarking that the critics had called it, “autobiographical.” Dylan is probably stretching the truth when he uses the term, “based.” Given that the line wasn’t deliberately designed to madden obsessive fans, it’s likely that, as is Dylan’s habit, he took several lines and phrases from Chekhov for use in his songs. There’s evidence that the unnamed album he refers to was “Blood on the Tracks,” which contains several phrases and descriptive passages which seem to have originated with Chekhov.  (cont. in Part 2.)

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