David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 8 Sep 03 08:47
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo w: Hunter m: Garcia AGDL: http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/halfstep.html LASF: http://www.whitegum.com/songfile/MISSISSI.HTM
Alex Allan (alexallan) Mon 8 Sep 03 21:17
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo Lyrics: Robert Hunter Music: Jerry Garcia Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission. On the day that I was born Daddy sat down and cried I had the mark just as plain as day, I could not be denied They say that Cain caught Abel rolling loaded dice Ace of spades behind his ear and him not thinking twice Chorus: Half step, Mississippi uptown toodleloo Hello baby I'm gone goodbye Half a cup of rock and rye Farewell to you old southern skies I'm on my way, on my way If all you got to live for is what you left behind Get yourself a powder charge and seal that silver mine Lost my boots in transit babe, pile of smoking leather Nailed a retread to my feet and prayed for better weather [chorus] They say that when your ship comes in, first man takes the sails Second takes the after deck, third the planks and rails What's the point of calling shots, this cue ain't straight in line Cue balls made of styrofoam and no-one's got the time [chorus] Across the Rio Grand-eo Across the lazy river [etc]
from BILL M. (tnf) Wed 17 Dec 03 16:24
Bill M writes: One wonders if Hunter really meant to say "Toogaloo", which if you go to their web page.... Tougaloo College is a private, coeducational, historically black, church- related, but not church controlled, four-year liberal arts institution located on West County Line Road on the northern edge of the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association, Tougaloo College was chartered on the principle that it "be accessible to all irrespective of their religious tenets, and conducted on the most liberal principles for the benefit of our citizens in general." Tougaloo acknowledges and respects its traditions, remains dedicated to the equality of all people, and continues to be a value-oriented community where students are guided by a concerned faculty and staff. The members of this community apply current knowledge to prepare students for lifelong learning related to new information and emerging technologies, as well as humane standards in a global society. Nice folks there and they believe the song is about their college..... Not quite as poetic maybe, but one of the closet colleges to the Mississippi River and certainly one that would have been attended by someone with the "Mark" in the South -being black.
Melinda Belleville (mellobelle) Thu 18 Dec 03 07:54
Hmmm! Interesting note! I guess I always thought of the 'mark' as just being some sort of portent. Like being born veiled or something.
grate notion (xian) Thu 18 Dec 03 12:51
I suspect East St. Louis Toodle-oo is the real antecedent (a tune once covered by Steely Dan, fwiw).
David Gans (tnf) Thu 18 Dec 03 12:53
That's my thinkin' on it, too.
how why is the title reversed from the lyric? (xian) Thu 18 Dec 03 13:34
and unless a toodle-oo is a specific rhythm pattern or type of jig or something, i'd guess it was just meant literally as "goodbye" or "farewell" in the original song's name, that is unless there's a deeper tradition of "name of place toodeloo" songs.
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 19 Dec 03 11:00
From the Annoated Lyrics: From the Oxford English Dictionary: "toodle-oo int. colloq. [Origin unknown; perh. f. TOOT (An act of tooting...)] Goodbye. Cf. PIP-PIP. 1907 Punch 26 June 465 'Toodle-oo, old sport.' Mr. Punch turned round at the amazing words and gazed at his companion. ... Also toodle-, tootle-pip. Partridge speculates: "...or maybe, as Mr F.W. Thomas has most ingeniously suggested, a Cockney corruption of the French equivalent of '(I'll) see you soon': a tout a l'heure."
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 24 Feb 04 07:20
The thing that interests me about this one is the first couplet of the last verse: "They say that when your ship comes in, first man takes the sails Second takes the after deck, third the planks and rails" One view of this might be that, when great good fortune arrives ("your ship comes in"), the bounty is stipped by false friends. Alternatively, it could just be a naval protocol thing (at one point I heard it as "first mate" rather than "first man"), where the meaning of "takes" is "takes care of" rather than "takes away" as in the first interpretation. Happy Trails
David Gans (tnf) Tue 24 Feb 04 09:45
I think your first view is the one. Certainly matches my experience in the GD culture and elsewhere.
David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 24 Feb 04 11:14
Funny--I had always thought it was some Navy protocol thing, too! Always meant to research it and annotate it. Any seafaring folks out there want to weigh in (as it were)?
Julie Ellen Anzaldo (jewel) Wed 25 Feb 04 09:49
I took the word "take" not to mean "steal" but to mean to take care of. The first man takes down the sails, the second secures the after deck, and the third secures the planks and rails. Teamwork always came to mind. This seemed to be reinforced by the next line, which references "calling shots." I then looked at the whole verse as something like don't make plans to acheive something unless you have your foundation intact. I would usually then think of some way in which my cue is not in line in life or where my cueball is made of styrofoam - places inside me that I needed to work on to have a more intact foundation... The second part of the verse seems to comport better with the second interpretation in #8 to me.
Tim Lynch (masonskids) Wed 25 Feb 04 10:31
I agree with <jewel>
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 25 Feb 04 10:57
So, in the first couplet, we have success (the ship coming in) dependent on other people beyond just the individual (at least two of the crew taking care of the ship), and then, further more, given the uncertainties and random elements afoot (crooked cue, styrofoam cue ball) and the speed at which events can unfold (no one's got the time), there is no point in devoting too much effort to planning (calling shots). Moral: build relationships and live in the moment. Happy Trails
David Gans (tnf) Wed 25 Feb 04 10:58
I am quite surprised by these interpretations, I must say! I hear the whole song as the lamentations of a congenital hard-luck story.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 26 Feb 04 07:19
Well, I'm not sure it is all lamentations about hard luck, and I also see environmental as well as genetic factors at work. The first verse tells of a life marked for evil by Fate. It's not just going to be a tough life - Cain murdered his brother, Abel (an unfortunate mother got it wrong and named her child Cain Ball in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd). Who is it who doesn't think twice? I suggest it is Cain, cutting down his brother in a rage at finding him cheating. In the second verse, first couplet, we have some advice on what to do about cutting ties that hold back progress: "If all you got to live for is what you left behind Get yourself a powder charge and seal that silver mine" This is a complementary sentiment to the moral posited for verse three in Post #136. The second couplet is about tenacity and the imperative to move forward in life. Obstacles will be faced in the course of the journey - "Lost my boots in transit babe, pile of smoking leather" - but the traveller must keep going, improvising if necessary - "Nailed a retread to my feet and prayed for better weather" (remember those sandals with soles made from car tyres?). So, in this interpretation, more about overcoming fate and adversity to keep progressing. Happy Trails
from TIM WHITE (tnf) Thu 26 Feb 04 13:04
Tim White writes: Hi Good to read all the recent contributions. I've got a couple more comments about Half-Step: 1. "If all you got to live for is what you left behind Get yourself a powder charge and seal that silver mine" I think it's significant that that the past is a silver mine - it had, and perhaps still has, special value. It's not a tin mine, or a lead mine. 2. "Half step, Mississippi uptown toodleloo" I'm not sure that "toodleloo" has much meaning, perhaps it's there as a generally evocative word that has the right rhythm? That line seems to stand out because of its rapid rhythm, the lines that come before and after it are more drawn out. So it says Look out! here's the chorus! It's an illustration of how good Hunter and Garcia got at the craft of writing a song, and of course how good they and the rest of the band were at arranging and interpreting them. Cheers Tim
David Gans (tnf) Thu 26 Feb 04 13:06
> I think it's significant that that the past is a silver mine - it had, and > perhaps still has, special value. It's not a tin mine, or a lead mine. I think this is areference to the "silver mine" in "Uncle John's Band."
Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Thu 26 Feb 04 15:50
>>I think this is areference to the "silver mine" in "Uncle John's Band." good call. I always took it as a double entendre. When your ship comes in, literally, you pack it up (take the sails), and swab the decks (the planks and rails). When your ship comes in, like, "Oh, baby, I can't wait til my ship comes in" ie, the big hoped for windfall taking you to riches, that will be your big dream come true. But that ain't happening because you are back out doing that Uptown Toodleoo.......hello baby, I'm gone, goodbye.
Herman Eutix (xian) Mon 3 May 04 09:53
definitely I always thought that it was a ref to the silver mine, the one the narrator calls "beggar's tomb." Like you live in a silver mine but you are entombed there, unable to actual spend any of your (biblical allusion switcheroo) talents. (I also equate the raven or crow on the back of Wake as being the crow who "told me" the "same story" in Uncle John's
from RICK LIEBERMAN (tnf) Fri 11 Jun 04 12:59
Rick Lieberman writes: Very interesting discussion on the third verse. "They say that when your ship comes in, first man takes the sails Second takes the after deck, third the planks and rails" Every single time I've ever heard the song, I've thought it was a brilliant multi-level joke that changes its meaning & focus as you hear each line; it devolves from success & taking care of business (nautical procedure) to chaos & thievery without ever really changing syntax. This makes the "third" line a punch line that puts the others in a different light. Maybe I've always heard it "wrong", but those have always been my favorite lines in the song nevertheless.
from JAMES REIS (tnf) Mon 19 Sep 05 19:59
James Reis writes: With the lines "I had the mark just as plain as day" and "They say that Cain caught Abel rolling loaded dice", Hunter is undoubtedly referring to the 'Mark of Cain' described in Herman Hesse's 1917 novel Demian. In the story, the protagonist is aided by a friend who gives him a unique perspective on the story of Cain and Abel; suggesting that Cain was not marked for killing Abel, but rather that Cain already had the mark, which led to the dispute between them. In the book, Hesse suggests that understanding God is an inner, questioning, transformative journey rather than about obeying the rules. One good review of the book is found at: http://departments.cvuhs.org/joe/NovelReview02/DemianMills.htm Thank you for your efforts James Reis
Michael Wanger (vidkid) Fri 2 Dec 05 12:47
What's the point of calling shots...? This always struck me as meaning "What's the point of doing stuff when it's all an illusion?" Physisist's tell us the universe is curved - this cue ain't straight in line -, and that we're mostly made of space rather than matter - styrofoam - and the Bhagavad Gita tells us time doesn't exist: "Ends and beginnings are dreams! Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the Spirit forever..." - no one's got the time.
neil (nlg) Fri 2 Dec 05 13:01
Interesting, though I don't think it is really a question of what is the point of doing stuff so much as what's the point of trying to control everything.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 2 Dec 05 13:19
Michael! So nice to see from you here!!
David Dodd (ddodd) Fri 2 Dec 05 16:09
Nice deconstruction, Michael. I love it! And one can substitute in Neil's phrase quite easily into Michael's statement, right?
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