Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Christmas Day, 1972" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Three Fried Men)

The "Catholic church" in Waikiki referenced
in Wayne Kaumualii's poem "Christmas Day, 1972"

Christmas season 2013 is underway, which seems an opportune time to call attention to "Christmas Day, 1972," one of mainland Poetry Scores' contributions to the first Poetry Scores Hawai'i musical project, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki, settings of a poetic sequence by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake produced by Richard Hamasaki.

This record became very much Richard's project, which made sense when we first developed the collaboration with him and Michael Marshall, director of the Art Department at the University of Hawaii - Hilo. Richard was Westlake's friend and editor; without his efforts, Westlake's sole book of poetry in print -- Westlake (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) -- would not exist. Richard also is a seasoned, talented producer and performer of what he calls Amplified Poetry.

Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki is a marvelous record that mixes Amplified Poetry (spoken word amplified by music) with song settings of poems, Westlake's poetry treated as lyrics. Three of the songsters Richard selected for the project, after looking over Poetry Scores' previous records and suggestions, were Judge Nothing, Robert C. Goetz and Three Fried Men. We'll be blogging those bands' poetry scores of Westlake.

Three Fried Men, the Poetry Scores house band, was commissioned to score "Christmas Day, 1972." Richard said he thought many Hawai'i-based artists would shy away from the blatant sacrilege in this Westlake poem. Perhaps Richard really did his homework and learned that Three Fried Men and Poetry Scores have their roots in the goofy St. Louis band Enormous Richard, shameless purveyors of sacrilege ca. 1990.

Three Fried Men's score of this sacrilegious Westlake poem started with a home demo by David Melson, who wrote and orchestrated all of the music himself. Your humble blogger, Poetry Scores creative director Chris King, attached Dave's song to Westlake's poem and came up with the vocal melody. The recording was enabled by Nick Barbieri and his generosity with his portable recording equipment. Mark Buckheit delivered the smoldering electric guitar.

The band prefers a version with more of Mark's guitar, and less vocal, but this mix was Richard's call. Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio did the mix (and remixes).


"Christmas Day, 1972"
(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Chris King, David Melson)
Three Fried Men

Nick Barbieri - drums, ukulele
Mark Buckheit - electric guitar
Chris King - vocals
David Melson - acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards

Recorded by David Melson, Nick Barbieri and Meghan Gohil
Mixed by Meghan Gohil at Hollywood Recording Studio


For more information on Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki and for CD ordering information, contact producer Richard Hamasaki at

Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-1984) is in print with the University of Hawaii Press.


Image of the Catholic church in Waikiki borrowed from Rachelle Bowden's blog

Wayne Kaumualii Westlake
Photo by Mark Hamasaki

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