By The Landlord
“I don't care if Monday's blue,
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too,
Thursday I don't care about you,
It's Friday I'm in love.” – Robert Smith
What are these strange units of time called days, batched into sevens to make a week? Why seven? Seven planets? So do they really represent a natural human cycle of effort and rest, or are they an entirely artificial construct designed to frame and control the economically driven routines of work, school and religion? Obviously it’s the latter, but that pattern has been with us for so long, definitions of and associations with particular days feel imprinted on our psyche, and on cultures around the world. This week, it's time to look at those associations in song.
But what are those associations? Are Mondays always a bit of a back-to-work headache, and something of a downer? Are Fridays always what we look forward to? Are Sundays always lazy and leisurely, or silent and grey? And for some songwriters, once they get out of the more conventional routines shaped by ways to make a living, what happens to their perception of days? For a band on tour, or a musician spending days and nights holed up in a studio, what does it all mean? Do they roll into one amorphous mass of time? And how does, for example, an Ozzy Osbourne or a Sid Vicious perceive days of the week after being lost in a haze of drink and drugs in hotel rooms for weeks on end before eventually emerging, blinking in the sunlight, like some sort of stoned naked mole-rat with no concept of day or night?
But we haven’t always had the seven-day week, their names derived from Greek, Latin, and morphing into Old English, with Germany and other foreign language equivalents. Historians generally regard the seven-day week as being derived from Gudea, priest-king of Lagash in Sumer (Mesopotamia) during the Gutian dynasty around 2000BC, who built a seven-room temple, which he dedicated with a seven-day festival. And from that sprung similar patterns in the Chinese, Hellenistic, Gregorian and other systems. Sometimes it’s just that random and it catches on.
But history has seen many variables and experiments on the week. Some traditional schools use a six-day timetable of lessons over Monday to Friday, so that in the second week, Monday is Day 6, but then the following Monday it is Day 5, etc all in a changing cycle to vary the routine and fit it all in. But on a bigger cycle, an eight-day week was used in Ancient Rome and possibly in the pre-Christian Celtic calendar. Traces of a nine-day week are found in Baltic languages and in Welsh.
The ancient Chinese calendar had a 10-day week, as did the ancient Egyptian calendar. A 10-day week, called décade, was used in France for nine and a half years from October 1793 to April 1802. Between 1929 and 1931, the USSR changed from the seven-day week to a five-day. So there were 72 weeks and an additional five national holidays inserted within three of them to make up 365 days. That’s all pretty bewildering for the average peasant, and you can bet your bottom rouble that the whole thing was done, one way or another, to rip you off or make you work twice as long. People really knew how to be tyrants in back then – they even changed time. Oh my days!
So let’s now get stuck into the musical week’s calendar. There are many songs that include one or more days in the title, and even more that include them in lyrics. Sunday is perhaps the most popular, alongside Saturday, then Friday and Monday, but the others will also offer rich pickings. So as today is Thursday, let’s start here:
“Thursday’s child has far to go,” goes the rhyme. What kind of paranoia must induce that in a young person? I personally like Thursdays, this day of Jupiter, this day of Thor. What happens? After the weekly Song Blog is launched, I can rest for a short time, as hopefully a wealth of nominations flood in. Thursday night was always my favourite. It was always the night for Top of the Pops in my youth, a cornerstone of the week, and sometimes, more recently, band practice. But it’s also the traditional day for general elections, and not unconnected, it’s the day the Earth is destroyed by aliens making way for a hyperspace bypass in Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As hapless hero Arthur Dent says: "This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
For Nilsson, though it’s a weird day, but a good one to bunk off work:
And now comes the "day of Frige", a result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frigg with the Roman goddess Venus. In Judaism the Sabbath starts with sundown on Friday nights, but in Islam the equivalent 24-hour cycle that started on Thursday night, ends. Friday is holy for many religions, of course because of the Christian Good Friday, but for similar reasons is deemed unlucky, due to countless disasters throughout history on this day, from 1688’s religious arrests to floods, shipwrecks, strikes, financial crashes, and 1963’s assassination of John F Kennedy. But weirdly, it’s also a retail term for big sales. A bit tasteless, no? Yet Friday nights are looked forward to all week, perhaps with a hope of letting your hair down, or even getting lucky in other ways. Here’s The Easybeats famous song, previously chosen for another topic, but it says it all:
Now bringing us into the weekend, let us join the great Albert Finney in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, about a working-class lad who aspires to escape his banal factory existence, and build up to the pub. It might look from another era, but this lifestyle is still firmly embedded in British life, and while many may no longer labour at the lathe, mind-numbing work still continues at the keyboard.
Music is rich with Saturday songs, surrounded by Saturnalian activities perhaps, and a day to recover from Friday, rest, catch up, but then also go for it again. There are so many to choose from, but above all Saturday songs tend to stir up highs and lows in a fever, of pleasure and pain, where the frustrations of the week all pour out. So, for example, let’s enjoy an upbeat yet sad song fro Sam Cooke, where hope and disappointment go hand in hand:
“Sunday’s child is full of grace.” And “The child that's born on the Sabbath Day is loving and giving, good and gay!” Such are two of the variations on traditional rhymes, though gay in this context is supposed to mean happy. I’m a Sunday child, but don’t always live up to these lofty descriptions. Perhaps we should pull in John McNaughton’s poem, which doesn’t pull any punches on the other days either, because: “The child that was born on the seventh day, Is a pain in the neck like all the rest, OK.” Sometimes, yes. Except that traditionally Sunday is the first day of the week, but who cares about that. Anyway, how is your Sunday. Leisurely, boring, or just another work day? Let’s see what Margo Guryan thinks as she gets up on a Sunday morning:
We all know what that means. Don’t we? Plough Monday was traditionally the English agricultural return to work after Christmas. Black Monday has been applied to numerous financial crashes, strikes and violent events. Or is it all so bad, this day of the moon? Some people feel relieved that Monday has arrived. Then again Blue Monday means many things to many people, more recently coined by a travel company to refer to the third Monday in January as the most depressing day of the year, to induce people to book holidays. But how does it feel? Well, here’s another classic chosen for another topic for it’s 12inch value, and with an extraordinarily chaotic sales story (nobody knows how many it has sold). The rest is history:
Some may struggle to find songs with this in the title, but there are in fact dozens, and even more where it is mentioned in lyrics, so there should be no problems in making a full set. Tiw's Day is the Old English form of the Proto-Germanic god Tîwaz, or Týr in Norse, a god of war and law, and Tuesday is also the day of Mars, also the god of war. So it’s not a day to rest on your laurels, but get battling. But there are many other takes on it, including some relics from the weekend. Here’s a silly number from the early days of David Bowie, when he had hopes, but failed, in his early career attempt to be an Anthony Newley-type light entertainment performer:
And finally, to the German Mittwoch, the middle of the week in conventional terms, the day of Mercury and Woden. Again, while it’s not the most popular in terms of song days, there are still plenty in lyrics and titles. But as it's last day of the Song Bar seven-day cycle, when playlists are published, let’s end on a different style, in hope that these will come up, with a little help from the great Charles Mingus:
A note: once we’ve exhausted all the particular day references in titles and lyrics, it may be reasonable to suggest songs that refer to days and weeks in more general terms to broaden the topic. After all, we're looking for at least 12 songs for each playlist and there are only seven days in a week. Please note that in a galaxy far, far away the topics of weekends and Fridays and Saturdays have been explored, but leave so many other possibilities, not merely on those popular days, but on all the others too.
And so then, I’m delighted to say that this week’s king of the calendar, and wizard of the week, tending to day duties and picking out playlists, is the erudite EnglishOutlaw. Put forward your day-related songs in comments below for last orders called on Monday evening 11pm UK time, for results published next Wednesday. And finally, I’d just like I say in advance and gratitude to you all, thank you for the days …
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