Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fred Friction's blue bead, against the evil eye

I hope I don't sound self-righteous when I say I tend to live with intent and enjoy the life I am leading. So it's natural for me on New Year's Day, not to turn over a new leaf, but to go right back to what I was doing. What I was doing was writing a series of posts about Fred Friction's contributions to Poetry Scores in commemoration of his brilliant new debut solo record, Jesus Drank Wine.

When we were scoring the surrealist Turkish poem Blind Cat Black, I thought often of Fred as a solution to our compositional needs.

It's a difficult poem, and could be about many different things, but the translator Murat Nemet-Nejat suggests that it's the coming-of-age story of an Istanbul boy streetwalker who comes across as transgendered in several passages, and Fred is the man who brought us that timeless classic, "I Bet the Rent on Transvestites and Wine".

The poem also breathes with the dangerous, ragged life of the city streets, something I have always heard in the scratchy grain of Fred's voice and in his gimlet-eyed delivery. Fred is as street as anybody would ever need to be.

It's also a seaside poem, set in one of the world's great port cities that is literally surrounded by water. The great Merchant Marine songster Pops Farrar was still with us in those days, so of course I heard the wheeze of his concertina and harmonica breathing in and out of this score, like the sea encroaching on the shore of a port and then creeping away again into its own mysterious depths.

Pops was an old man at the time, a divorcee enjoying an unforeseen additional breath of life after raising four sons (one of them, the indie rocker Jay Farrar, my contemporary in the St. Louis music scene). -- When I first wrote that sentence, I wrote that Pop raised "four songs," rather than "sons"; true, too. --

I took Pops around with me everywhere I went, or rather I told him where I was going and he would drive us there. Of the many intense friendships he formed among my coterie was a deep bond with Fred Friction. If you knew these two widely traveled, deeply wise, rough and tumble, slightly guarded open souls, it would seem inevitable that they would either become the fastest of friends or be forced to avoid each other completely, irritated beyond patience with what Freud called "the narcissism of small differences".

They became the fastest of friends.

They looked perfect together, and they sounded amazing when they made music at the same time, which I had the good sense to help make happen at a number of guitar circles and on the Blind Cat Black score, which features two Pops and Fred duets. Here is one: the poem followed by their performance.


The Blue Bead, Against the Evil Eye

Madness put on a porkpie hat. He ran to the regions where sellers of guns go bankrupt. Founded the empire of truants. And, then, found a golden cannonball in the town of Monastery.

Pinned on his coat collar a forest in September. No one should know of the secret treasure full of trinkets. The hyena was there, too, with the face of a rotten apple. He fought madly to grab the dagger.

There was talk one Saturday of the Crimea. Wars. The sorcery stores were closed. They hanged him inside a liquor bottle, heavy silver boots on his feet, smiling. Against all sorts of jinx. This little, vagabond imp.

(Poetry by Ece Ayhan * Translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat)


Free mp3

"The blue bead, against the evil eye"
By Fred Friction and Pops Farrar
From Blind Cat Black

Poetry by Ece Ayhan
Translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat

Recorded by Meghan Gohil
Produced by Chris King


Photo of the blue bead against the evil eye by Mehmet Masum Süer.

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