GOING DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF TOWN.

This may be the perfect rock-and-roll song:

1 2 3 4 go!
I’m going down in the middle of town
you’re going up in the middle of town
It’s all so sad ’cause we’re all going to Hell.
Oh oh oh uh uh uh
I am talking
you are yelling
he is fighting
no one’s listening.
Oh oh oh uh uh uh.
My song is dying
No one’s coming
But now everyone is coming
it’s louder it’s noisier
now the song is over so bye and thanks for coming.

I’d love to have heard the New York Dolls or the Minutemen perform that in their heyday; I can imagine it done in either of their very different styles.
I should add that I’ve normalized the spelling; you can see the original at Derryl Murphy’s Cold Ground entry—it was written by his 8-year-old son Aidan.

Comments

  1. James James Morrison Morrison, on the other hand, tried to go down to the end of the town.

  2. D’oh! Sorry — it was of course his mother who did.

  3. Furthermore, it was James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree. Don’t call him out of his name.

  4. Hey! That’s my name too!

  5. “Don’t call him out of his name.”
    I’ve never heard that phrasing before. Where does that come from? How is it usually used? I find it fascinating.

  6. That’s the thing I was trying to quote for you a while ago – in Marshak’s translation – as an illustration of Yashka’s determined character and his ‘leadership qualities’, if you permit me little corp talk. Pity you couldn’t read my fonts.
    How’s he, btw?

  7. It’s originally a black phrase, implying insulting someone — it was very common in pre-Civil Rights Movement America for blacks to be called “boy” or worse, so being called by one’s proper name was extremely important. You can see a quote defining it in one of the comments here.

  8. Tatyana: Aha! I’m glad the subject came up. As for James, he’s fine, bigger and better than ever; when he came up last weekend we took him to the pool and dabbled his feet in the water, which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. And so far he’s very good-tempered and hardly ever cries; let’s hope he continues that way!

  9. Aidan’s eyes got wider and wider as he read your post; thanks for that. And now a friend wants to put it all to music. Which he’ll hopefully do before he reads the comments here, as I for one can’t get John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt out of my friggin’ skull.
    D

  10. Hee!

  11. PS: Did you all know the bassist for the New York Dolls died of lukemia just recently? Morrissey had got them back together for a couple nights, and it had gone so well that they were planning a big ole reunion tour, and then whoops, one out of three is no more. Didn’t tell anyone else he had lukemia, and maybe he didn’t even know. Sad.

  12. One out of three of the ersatz revival trio, you mean. The Dolls were the greatest quintet after the Stones: David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, “Killer” Kane, Syl Sylvain, and Billy Murcia (who died before their first LP and was replaced by Jerry Nolan). Only Syl and David “Buster ‘I Haven’t Given a Shit For Years’ Poindexter” Johansen are still with us.

  13. In order to set the record straight, we need to examine the evidence:
    King John
    Put up a notice,
    “LOST OR STOLEN OR STRAYED!
    JAMES JAMES
    MORRISON’S MOTHER
    SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN MISLAID.
    LAST SEEN WANDERING VAGUELY:
    QUITE OF HER OWN ACCORD.
    SHE TRIED TO GET DOWN TO THE END OF THE DOWN – FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD!

    (My emboldening).
    There is no evidence to suggest that she ever DID get down to the end of the town. Another reference: If people go down to the end of the town, well, what can anyone do? is inconclusive evidence that she ever actually reached the end of the town.
    Neither is there any evidence that James James got down to the end of the town. The fact that he was concerned about his Mother’s ability to navigate her way to the end of the town suggests that he may have been privy to knowledge about the area, but this is not conclusive evidence.
    Facts. Stick to the facts.

  14. Not only that, but your citation clearly reveals that the phrase “James James Morrison’s mother” is canonical and my name-related reproach was entirely misplaced. I stand abashed.

  15. LH — there is also, in another verse,

    James James Morrison Morrison
    (commonly known as Jim)
    Said to his other relations
    Not to go blaming him.

  16. And that was translated by Boris Zakhoder, not Marshak…

  17. Just curious — how many people here know James James Morrison Morrison primarily via reading Milne’s poem, vs. via hearing it sung? I seem to remember hearing it sung before I was reading, and before anyone read it to me. The performance I would have heard was the Chad Mitchell Trio, from either “Reflections” or one of their “Best of” albums, not sure which. Did they set it to music, or were they performing somebody else’s composition? It’s a lovely song.

  18. though a Pooh fan as a child, I was unfamiliar with Milne’s other writing until a friend set three poems(including James) for a music camp I was leading a few years ago. delightful.

  19. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it sung. I know it exclusively from Milne.

  20. Well if you have access to some Chad Mitchell recordings (I am going to assume for now that it is just their song), do go check it out — it’s lovely — I realized as I was reading along through the thread, hey, I’m thinking about a song now but my interscriptors [?] may just have in mind a non-musical poem. One fine bit is, at the end (next to last verse), they sing only initials:

    Well J J, M M,
    Double-U G D-P,
    Took great care of his M,
    Though he was only 3;
    J J, said to his M,
    M he said said he,
    Don’t ever go down to the end of the town
    If you don’t go down with me.

  21. I just happened across this on a search. The Chad Mitchell Trio’s version of this A.A. Milne poem was from the Live–At the Bitter End recording, now available on CD. The music was actually written by Chad Mitchell. Good stuff!

  22. they sing only initials

    Actually, Milne’s original of this verse also contains only initials, and goes even further: “care of” is represented by c/o (which of course actually means ‘in care of’).

  23. January First-of-May says:

    And that was translated by Boris Zakhoder, not Marshak…

    And was a relatively vague translation – in particular, the “translation” moved the setting to the 19th or 20th century, and got a good ending out of it (the mislaid mother sends her son a telegram that she’s fine).

    There is, incidentally, no trace of “Weatherby George Dupree” in the Russian version either.

  24. Aidan has presumably graduated from college by now. I wonder if he still remembers his grand creation, and if it was ever set to music…

  25. Eh? The poem seems timeless, but it was published in 1924, so the setting is the 20th century or (if it reflects Milne himself as a child) the 19th at most. This makes it quite unlike the poem below, for instance. The 40 shillings reward mentioned would be £650 today based on GDP per capita.

    Bad Sir Brian Botany, by A. A. Milne

    Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on.
    He went among the villagers and blipped them on the head.
    On Wednesday and on Saturday,
    Especially on the latter day,
    He called on all the cottages and this is what he said:

    “I am Sir Brian!” (Ting-ling!)
    “I am Sir Brian!” (Rat-tat!)
    “I am Sir Brian,
    “As bold as a lion!
    “Take that, and that, and that!”

    Sir Brian had a pair of boots with great big spurs on;.
    A fighting pair of which he was particularly fond.
    On Tuesday and on Friday,
    Just to make the street look tidy,
    He’d collect the passing villagers and kick them in the pond.

    “I am Sir Brian!” (Sper-lash!)
    “I am Sir Brian!” (Sper-losh!)
    “I am Sir Brian,
    “As bold as a lion!
    “Is anyone else for a wash?”

    Sir Brian woke one morning and he couldn’t find his battleaxe.
    He walked into the village in his second pair of boots.
    He had gone a hundred paces
    When the street was full of faces
    And the villagers were round him with ironical salutes.

    “You are Sir Brian? My, my.
    “You are Sir Brian? Dear, dear.
    “You are Sir Brian
    “As bold as a lion?
    “Delighted to meet you here!”

    Sir Brian went a journey and he found a lot of duckweed.
    They pulled him out and dried him and they blipped him on the head.
    They took him by the breeches
    And they hurled him into ditches
    And they pushed him under waterfalls and this is what they said:

    “You are Sir Brian — don’t laugh!
    “You are Sir Brian — don’t cry!
    “You are Sir Brian
    “As bold as a lion —
    “Sir Brian the Lion, goodbye!”

    Sir Brian struggled home again and chopped up his battleaxe.
    Sir Brian took his fighting boots and threw them in the fire.
    He is quite a different person
    Now he hasn’t got his spurs on,
    And he goes about the village as B. Botany, Esquire.

    “I am Sir Brian? Oh, no!
    “I am Sir Brian? Who’s he?
    “I haven’t any title, I’m Botany;
    “Plain Mr. Botany (B.)”

  26. January First-of-May says:

    Eh? The poem seems timeless, but it was published in 1924, so the setting is the 20th century or (if it reflects Milne himself as a child) the 19th at most.

    There was, however, only one King John in British history, and he reigned a good deal earlier than the 19th century – and that particular poem is timeless enough to get pushed into the past just by this.

    (Then again, the above is very much not the case for King John’s Christmas, which has a clearly 19th or early 20th century setting despite name-dropping King John a lot more prominently. So I guess we could just assume that James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree was supposed to have lived a few more years after that.)

  27. John Cowan says:

    There was, however, only one King John in British history, and he reigned a good deal earlier than the 19th century – and that particular poem is timeless enough to get pushed into the past just by this.

    I think it’s a matter of versification. The only monosyllabic monarchs are James (two of them), Charles (two of them), George (five of them at the time), John, and Anne, and the first two are “long monosyllables” because of their complex codas, especially Charles. James and George are among the names of our hero, and John is a far more common and colorless name than Anne. John was in popular estimation the worst of all English/British monarchs, so he surely could not have been the King John of this tale, who must then be entirely fictitious (unlike, as you say, Milne’s other King John, who is anachronistic but legendary).

    Furthermore, in John’s time (or shortly thereafter, we only have GDP data back to 1270) the 40s. would have been worth not a royal £650 but a massively over the top £65,000.

  28. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t recall this thread from its long-ago initial run, and while it hasn’t taught me anything about Milne I didn’t already know I am intrigued to learn of hat’s apparent strong preference for Billy Murcia over Jerry Nolan. (I finally recently got around to watching Greg Whiteley’s 2005 documentary about the last days of Arthur Kane, by the way, and found it worthwhile.)

  29. I didn’t say I preferred Murcia, I just mentioned that he was replaced by Nolan. I have no strong feelings either way.

  30. We have a (very nice) cousin called Brian. He got a knighthood and is now admonished when it’s necessary as Bad Sir Brian.

  31. Kings and queens of England rhyme:

    Willie, Willie, Harry, Steve,
    Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three,
    Edward One, Two, Three, Dick Two,
    Henry Four, Five, Six, then who?
    Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad,
    Harrys twain and Ned, the lad.
    Mary, Lizzie, James the Vain,
    Charlie, Charlie, James again.
    William and Mary, Anne o’Gloria,
    Four Georges, William and Victoria.
    Edward Seven, Georgie Five,
    Edward, George and Liz (alive)

  32. @SFReader: What, history began in 1066?

    Of course, it is tricky to decide where to begin among the Saxon monarchs. The Wessexian kings came to preeminence in large part because the royal lines in the more powerful kingdoms of Mercia and Kent went extinct. (In pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon culture, the kingly lines were all supposed to be descended from Woden, making them a closed class. This rule continued after conversion, although it is less clear why.) The Wessexian hegemony was not really firmly established until the military successes of Alfred the Great, although the late Saxon rulers claimed their legitimate overlordship extended as far back as the successful reign Egbert in the early ninth century.

    The issue is further complicated by the fact that the Norman-Angevin kings basically repudiated their Wessexian heritage. William the Conqueror had a reasonable argument that he was Edward the Confessor’s rightful heir. Without Edward’s having named William as his successor (albeit under some duress), the Normans probably would not have invaded. However, the kings after William chose instead to emphasize the discontinuity of the conquest. (The romantization of King Arthur as the supposedly legitimate pre-Saxon king was part of this approach.)

  33. It was mere luck for William the bastard that he beat the king, Harold II at the battle of Hastings. Poor Harold Godwinson should have won, anyone could get an arrow in the eye. It’s as likely as being hit by an enormous icicle falling off a building. That’s what we learnt at primary school and I’ve never had any reason to doubt it.

  34. Which recalls this most famous epitaph.

  35. January First-of-May says:

    Which recalls this most famous epitaph.

    Any idea what’s up with the first line of that poem? It must be a reference to something, but I can’t make any sense of it.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    In pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon culture, the kingly lines were all supposed to be descended from Woden, making them a closed class. This rule continued after conversion, although it is less clear why.

    I guess they didn’t have the honesty of a Lord of the Isles to boast that they ruled “by the sword” rather than by the Grace of God…

  37. John Cowan says:

    It’s a pun: “Bless my i.i.i.i.i.” is to be read as “Bless my eyes”, as the rhyme with “lies” shows. Apparently icicle had penultimate stress back in 1776.

  38. It is “Bless my Eyes”. The unfortunate lad was killed when an icicle hit him in the eye. I don’t have any idea either why it’s written like that.
    I don’t know if icicle really had penultimate stress. Maybe it was just a forced rhyme, like Arlo Guthrie’s motorcycle.

  39. Reminds me of the racehorse Potoooooooo, who started racing the same year.

  40. That’s hilarious!

  41. @David Marjanović: It was a Germanic thing more generally, that only the descendants of Woden could be kings. Some of the Norse sagas include lists of the grandsons of Odin. Most are recognizable as epic heroes and/or the legendary founders of Germanic dynasties. However, there are some names that have no known significance, probably belonging to dynasty from Royal lines that went extinct in the Dark Ages.

  42. Trond Engen says:

    The Norwegian kings claimed descendance from Yngve-Frey (or at least Snorri and his historical source, the skald Thjodolf, did on their behalf). That claim was parasitic on the mythical pedigree of the Uppsala kings.

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