Thursday, February 14, 2008


Muddy Waters, I Feel So Good (live).
Howlin' Wolf, Spoonful.
Elmore James, Rollin' and Tumblin'.
Lightnin' Hopkins, Glory Be.

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window
to be your Valentine.

Ophelia, Hamlet, iv:v.

Men lies about a little
Some of 'em cries about a little
Some of 'em dies about a little
Everything fight about a spoonful.

Howlin' Wolf.

Happy Valentine's Day! Valentine's Day is a strange inheritance from medieval Europe; it was possibly invented by Chaucer in his Parliament of Foules, from 1382.

As this year Valentine's Day gives me the blues, and since there is something of the blues in medieval astrology, a field dominated by melancholics, here are four blues, one for each of the four quaternaries.

The first quaternary, call it the "spring quaternary," consists of vita, lucrum and fratres--the houses of, respectively, life (the self), wealth (or property), and friendship/fraternity. (These have devolved, in recent centuries, into Aries, Taurus and Gemini.)

Muddy Waters' version of Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel So Good" was recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival on 3 July 1960, and released on the Chess LP Muddy Waters at Newport; on Anthology.

The second, the summer quaternary, is made up of genitor, nati and valetudo--the houses of parentage, children and the jack-of-all-trades valetudo, which encompasses health, servants, and small animals. (Again, now known as Cancer, Leo and Virgo.)

Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful" was recorded in Chicago in June 1960 with Otis Spann (p), Willie Dixon (who wrote the song, as he did so many others) on bass and Fred Below (d). Other guitarists included Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. Released as Chess 1762 c/w "Howlin' For My Baby"; on Definitive Collection.

On to the third, the autumn quaternary--uxor, mors and pietas--the houses of marriage (and divorce), death, and pietas, (sometimes known as iter), which is the house of religious faith and journeys. (Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius.)

Elmore James' "Rollin' and Tumblin'" was recorded in New York in early 1960, with Jimmy Spruill (g), Homesick James (b) and Belton Evans (d). Released in July as Fire 1024 c/w "I'm Worried"; on The Sky Is Crying.

Fourth and last, winter and celestial year's end, is regnum, benefacta and carcer--the houses of rank and honor, of good fortune and, lastly, of sorrows, fear, enmity and prisons. (Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.)

Lightnin' Hopkins' "Glory Be," was recorded in New York in November 1960 and released as the b-side of "Mojo Hand," Fire 1034; on Mojo Hand.

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