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Fiddlin Around Fools headerApril Fool’s Day was just a month or so ago and for once no one master-minded any mean or rotten tricks to play on me. Not even any little playful pranks. My friend Danielle and I have been pulling stuff on each other for decades, and we are both wary of even answering the phone if we see our caller IDs. So I guess I was actually the fool again, ‘cause I had an uneasy day just waiting for her to do something to me. Folks all over Europe, some parts of India and even China have hosted April 1st as a day of silliness and tricks and frivolity for centuries. Its exact origin is lost to the mists of time, though Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”, written in 1392, is the first recorded mention of April 1st and foolishness. Many other chroniclers of ancient folklore have sited the unofficial holiday as a way for the lower classes to blow off some playful steam. Shakespeare even wrote a part for a fool in his play King Lear. He was the king’s confidante and counselor—and was actually a wiser man than any of the king’s other advisers or minions.

Fools are often the subject matter in songs, going back to the times of dusty wandering minstrels roaming the country-side with their eating utensils in a leather pouch and their drums and flutes hanging around their tattooed shoulders. They would be dancing around bonfires honoring some moon goddess or wearing funny hats or speaking in rhyme……oh oops, that was the Envision Fest people… sorry. But back in the Renaissance and Medieval times there was a well-defined hierarchy of the fools who had the king’s favor at court, or who performed acrobatics or magic tricks or played music for the powerful clergy or other rich guys. Any king or queen who wanted the respect of the un-washed and illiterate rabble he or she reigned over would hire jongleurs (a step up from the fool category) to recite long poems or stories about the daring and bravery of the king and his knights—basic propaganda. It didn’t really matter if the tales were true or not—they were entertaining and had the royal endorsement. And the knights were big ole’ paid bullies anyway and everyone knew it. Kinda like our current political crap…

Chain of FoolsMost songs that have lyrics about fools, or getting fooled, or looking foolish or playing the fool are talking about love gone bad. Like Diana Ross singing “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, or Michael McDonald, that super fine singer from The Doobie Brothers who had a great hit with “What a Fool Believes”. Robert Plant and the Grateful Dead both sang about a “Ship of Fools”. Etta James did a song called “Seven Day Fool”, where she unabashedly describes all she’s gonna’ do for her man each day of the week, ‘cause she’s a fool for his love! On Monday she’ll scrub his dirty floor, Wednesday she’ll wash his clothes and on Fridays she’ll be taking him out to dinner. The rest of the time she’ll be doing somethin’ for him, ‘cause she’s an idiot fool in love. Hmmm. Sammy Davis Jr. sang about being a fool because he had never fallen in love —never gave it up emotionally to someone—and now he’s got regrets and wonders if he’ll ever have another chance. “What Kind of Fool Am I….who never fell in love…” Aretha Franklin sang about a “Chain of Fools”, and Rick Nelson said “Fools Rush In…where wise men fear to tread….”

Mickey Thomas, of Jefferson Starship fame, was singing with Elvin Bishop when they recorded that timeless rocker “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”. He flat out owns up to his foolish ways—“I must have been through about a million girls —I’d love ‘em and I’d leave ‘em alone. I didn’t care how much they cried, no sir. Their tears left me cold as stone. But then I fooled around and fell in love….” There’s plenty of country music heroes who are foolish in love, life, and damn near everything else. Buck Owens had a great song with his “Foolin’ Around”, which brings up a whole new category of songs about deceit and cheating and foolish betrayal. I think I covered that topic in the February Valentine issue, jaded and sarcastic romantic that I am.

My favorite stupid fool is the guy in Led Zeppelin’s 1979 song “Fool in the Rain”. He’s supposed to meet this woman on a street corner and is freaking out and nearly has a crying jag when after a couple of hours she doesn’t show up. Angst and drama! Then he realizes he’s spent the whole time on the wrong corner. Fool.

There’s a few notable songs about fools other than ones in love. The Who put out a song based on George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, where the animals battle it out for control of the barnyard. Called “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, Pete Townsend (who has never really been the sentimental type), is singing about the lying leaders who promise change and never deliver on that promise. More similarities to current politics… In 1982 John Couger Mellencamp put out his album American Fool, which included his classic and brilliant songs “Jack and Diane” and “Hurts So Good”. The title song seems to be talking about our American home-bred foolish behavior—“Some people say I’m obnoxious and I’m lazy  Some people say I take advantage of the younger girls and they’re right. Some people say I should have been taught a few more manners at home. Some say I’m chauvinistic better off just to leave me alone. Being brought up the American fool…I don’t know what I’m supposed to do—if I can’t please myself could I really please you?”

Zappa, Dancin FoolMy hero Frank Zappa wrote a hilarious song called “Dancing Fool”, which spoofed the trendy dance halls and the nightlife scene of the 80s. Guys decked out in white suits and gold chains making idiots of themselves and using their ‘best’ lines on the women—“Hey darling, can I buy you a drink? Looking for Mr. Goodbar? Here he is! Wait a minute, I’ve got it—you’re an Italian! Huh? Yer jewish? Love your nails, you must be a Libra—your place or mine?” Kind of sums up the era’s coked-up cluelessness.

In 1967 when the Beatles were experimenting with everything, and hanging out with the Marharishi Mahesh Yogi, McCartney wrote a beautiful and haunting song called “Fool on the Hill”. It is so well crafted—here’s most of the lyrics, but go back and listen to either the Beatles cut on the album Magical Mystery Tour or one of Sir Paul’s versions he performed on his 1989-90 world tour.

Fool on the HillIt was never played live by the Beatles, but Paul put together a strange black and white animated film to go along with his touring band’s version of the song, and during live performances he would sometimes add quotes from Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have A Dream speech. It describes a solitary, misunderstood but actually wise and insightful fool, and one or two idiot critics thought Paul had stolen the idea from Shakespeare. Well, so freaking what if he did! It is dramatic and a little dark and is an example of elegant and interesting instrumentation. A couple of the guys from the Moody Blues contributed harmonica parts, there is a kazoo in there, and flutes—it is a weird combination of sad and spooky and sweet melodic interludes. Re-reading it just made me realize all over again how flipping great McCartney truly is.

“Day after day, alone on a hill. The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still. But nobody wants to know him—they can see that he’s just a fool. And he never gives an answer, but the fool on the hill sees the sun going down and the eyes in his head see the world spinning round. Well on the way, head in a cloud, the man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud. But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make. And he never seems to notice. And nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do. And he never shows his feelings. He never listens to them— he knows that they’re the fools. They don’t like him…….round round round round….” Masterful songwriting.

Enough of this foolishness—come on out to the beautiful Roca Verde, just south of Dominical, ‘cause those foolish monkeys, Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers play there most every Friday night. There are several music venues that have cropped up in Ojochal and Uvita, as well as in Dominical, (check out the cool new beach bar La Palma) so there’s more options of where to hear live music. Don’t be a fool and miss out on the fun! Thinking of you and missing you, Letty!

I got no natural rhythm, but I go dancing every night. Hoping one day I might get it right—I’m a dancing fool. Frank Zappa from his song Dancing Fool

Looks like I’m the fool again and I don’t like it. Look out!  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from their song Fooled Again

You say you had enough, now you’re coming back for more, but that’s alright. I may not want to admit it, I’m just a fool for your stockings I believe. ZZ Top

One Response to “Fools!”

  1. toni blackburn said:

    Really enjoyed reading this article!!! NO FOOLING !!!! I really did.