The Book of Jobbing
Translated from the ancient Sumerian
by Steve Hashimoto
The translator is a Chicago bass player.
I. THE WEDDING
And so it came to pass, during one date, that the Sidemen were assailed by Doubts, and Darkness descended upon the Bandstand.
And the Leader turned to his quaking flock, and saith
My children, why do you doubt me? Have I not led you through the Valley of the Loading Dock to the Great Land of Long Breaks, Hot Meals, and Undertime?
Have I not banished the dreaded Macarena from the Set List, and allowed thee to Blow on selected numbers? Do we not play the Correct Changes for the Bridge of Girl From Ipanema, and do we not play Motown selections at the Proper Tempi?
And do I not pay you all equitably, neither overpaying the Chick Singers nor underpaying the Horn Players? And are there not Charts for the Horns, so that thou need not Fake Parts?
So why doth thou protest when I call The Willie Nelson Song, or The Jackson 5 Ballad? Are they not preferable to Achy Breaky Heart or anything by Celine Dion? Wouldst thou rather suffer Flung Beverage Containers or Scowls and Hectoring by the Aunts and Uncles?
And the Sidemen answered him
But Father, we look out into the Dance Floor, and we see The Maelstrom; We fear the Youngsters with Pierced Body Parts, as well as the Ancient Ones with Canes and Walkers.
Also do we fear the Bridesmaids with the Large Hair, and the Groomsmen with Cigars and Dishevelled Tuxedos; Also do we fear the Relatives from the Great Southwest, as well as those from California, and from New York; Also do we regard with Fear and Loathing the Party Planner, and the Room Captain.
But mostly do we fear the Bride, and Her Mother, who ruleth the Earth, yea, even above you, our Leader.
And the Leader looked and saw that this was true.
And he took his Book, and he flung it into the Buffet Heaters; And he took his Bandstand, and he broke it over his knee; And he took his Red Bow Tie, and he rent it asunder; And he turned to the Party Planner, and he said
Now you have no power over me, Minion of Evil.
And he turned to the Room Captain, and he said
I will leave by the Lobby Entrance
And he turned to the Bride, and said
Take thy Whitney Houston CD and place it where thy Groom may find it during your Honeymoon
And he turned to the Bride's Mother and said
Thy Daughter is a Spoiled Brat, and I hope that she soon Divorces her Callow Husband and returneth to live with thee with her three children for the rest of thy Natural Life
And he turned to the drummer and said
The band is yours.
And he went home and slept deeply and soundly, and arose the next day smiling, and began Making Calls to find work as a Sideman.
II. THE BAR MITZVAH
And so it came to pass that as the 10th hour of the Day after Sabbath approached, the Leader did look upon his Children and say
It is time to rest.
And the Sidemen did rejoice, and repaired to the Room of Hiding.
Then did appear the Party Planner, saying unto them
I have news both good and bad.
And the Sidemen did reply,
Tell us first of the Good News.
And she replied
There are dinners, and they are Chicken.
And the Sidemen did rejoice, and smacked their lips.
But the Bass Player, being of a suspicious nature, did narrow his eyes and ask
And what of the Bad News?
And the Party Planner, looking towards the floor, did say,
But there are not enough Meals, for you must share them with the Photographers and the Video Guy. Furthermore, thou must eat your meals in 10 minutes. And furthermore, there are no Utensils available to those of lowly caste, and so thou must eat with thy Hands.
Whereupon a great lamentation arose from the Sidemen, reaching unto the very depths of the Temple.
And the Leader heard, and came hither and said
My Children, why dost thou raise thy voices, so that even above the DJ you are heard?
And the Bass Player cast his eyes at the Party Planner, saying
The Jezebel doth tease and mock us, even as does one to a mule with a carrot!
And a great Fury rose up in the Leader, as he was, as these things go, a Righteous Man.
And he turned to the Party Planner and swore great oaths, and saith,
Thou thinkest to save a nickel here and a dime there, at the risk of our Relationship? Doth thou have Animal Dung for Brains?
Shall I go unto the Father and tell him that his son David’s Mitzvah will be interrupted while we send for the pie that is from Rome that is called Pizza?
And the Sidemen did cheer, as did the Photographers and the Video Guy.
And so the Party Planner did stammer and shuffle her feet, and summon her Flunkies, and many more meals were discovered, as well as Forks and Knives, and even Napkins. And there was Fish as well as Fowl, and even Vegetables and Fruits.
And thus was David’s Bar Mitzvah saved, and the Leader kept the respect and love of his Children, for at least another week.
III. NOAH IS COMMANDED TO BUILD A JOBBING BAND
And so in the dark of night the Lord awoke Noah, and spoke to him.
Noah, awake and heed my words!
And Noah, being sore afraid and disoriented, did cry out,
Who goeth there?
And the Lord did smite him upside the head, saying
It is the Lord of all things, dumb ox!
And Noah did tremble, saying
Lord, why hath thou wakened me?
And the Lord did say
Noah, build me a Jobbing Band.
For the earth will be visited by a plague of Brides, followed by forty days of Trade Shows and forty nights of Awards Banquets.
And Noah did say
Command me, Lord.
And the Lord did say
First, thou must find me a Leader.
And Noah replied
But Lord, will I not be thy Leader?
And the Lord did smite him again, saying
Fool, thou will be my Contractor. Ask not why!
And Noah did bow his head, saying
Yes, my Lord. And what will this Leader play?
And the Lord said
It mattereth little, whether he play or not, or whether he be proficient or not. For his job shall primarily be to talk to the Brides and their Mothers, and to deal with Clients, and to count off Tempos wrong, and to inquire as to whether Overtime will happen, and to try to segue tunes that should not be segued. If he playeth any instrument, thou must always have another player of that instrument on the band, just to be safe.
And Noah did say
And what else shall this Leader do?
And the Lord replied
It shall be his job to spread Bad Information and Confusion amongst the Sidemen, and to pit them one against the other, and to delay all payments.
Further shall it be his job, until he can afford a Soundman, to create Feedback, and to invent new Equalization Curves thereof.
And Noah did shake his head in assent.
Next, find me a Rhythm Section.
First, find me a Drummer. And Three Things above all must this Drummer possess.
And Noah did ask
What are these Three Things? Double Bass Drums? An Electronic Kit? Congas?
And the Lord did smite Noah again, saying
Second-guess me not, my servant.
First, this Drummer must have slightly imperfect time, so that whenever he playeth a Fill (and he shall play many), he always emergeth at a different place, sometimes early and sometimes late, but thou may not guess which.
And second, he must be Supremely Discontent, always hoping for the Big Break which will lead to him playing with Chick Corea or Madonna, so that he despiseth Jobbing.
And third, he must always be convinced of his Righteousness, in all things, including Time, Volume, Tempo and Feel, so that he argueth always with the Bass Player.
And Noah did say
As you command, Lord. And what next?
And the Lord did say
Thou art learning, Noah. Next shall be the Bass Player. And he shall be Bored. That is all.
And Noah did say
Of course. And next, my Lord?
Next shall be the Piano Player. And he shall play as if he has twenty fingers, and he shall ply Substitute upon Substitute, until no man may name the Chord, and he will not be helpful.
Furthermore, he shall always be Late. And he shall always be trying out New Gear, of which he has no knowledge.
And Noah did wonder aloud
Lord, Great is thy Wisdom!
Next shall be the Guitar Player.
And he shall be a Rock Guitar Player. And he shall be Loud, and he shall sing 'Old Time Rock n' Roll'.
Also shall he know not The Page, and so shall rely upon his Ears, which have been damaged by exposure to High Sound Pressure Levels. For the Guitarists who Read shall already be playing Shows, and will be making the Big Shekels.
And his tux shall be the Rattiest.
And Noah did say
It shall be done.
And the Lord did say
Next thou shall need Horns.
First shall be the Saxophones. And they shall be Beboppers. And they shall play their Bird Quotes in every song, yea, even the Celine Dion ballad. And they shall Get High on every break, and make the Long Faces all night long, but especially when 'In The Mood' is called.
Next shall be the Trumpeters. And they shall every one attempt to take everything Up an Octave, and fail frequently. And of Changes they shall know nothing.
And finally shall be the Trombone Player. And many jokes will be made about him, for he will have a Beeper, as well as a Day Job, and he will be the first to be Cut from the Band.
And Noah, taking many notes, did say
Mighty is the Lord!
Next shall be the String Players. Find me Three Women, and attach Pickups to their Violins that are more ancient even than Myself, so that their instruments screecheth and causeth great pain.
And their job shall be to dress in Evening Gowns, and to Fake Parts on all Ballads, and to occasionally Stroll, and to complain about the Volume, and the Intonation, and to impede the Swing.
And Noah did say
What else can be left, Lord?
And the Lord did say
Finally, find me the Singers.
And they shall be Three, one a Male, and two Females.
And the Male shall be a Strutting Peacock, with the Rock 'N Roll Hair, and he shall never have to wear The Tuxedo, and also shall he play The Harmonica.
And of the Females, one shall be Black and one shall be White. And the Black one shall ALWAYS sing the Aretha songs, and the Disco.
And the White one shall ALWAYS sing the Power Ballads, and the Country Songs.
But both shall share the Motown Medley, and shall sing Backup for the Male, and forget the Words, and be Late, and know nothing of Keys or Form. And they shall leave every gig immediately, having never touched a piece of Equipment.
And they shall be paid many more shekels than the Sidemen. Ask not why.
And Noah did say
As Thou sayest, my Lord.
And the Lord did command him
Search high and low for these, as not every musician can fulfill these requirements. And though we have No Work yet, a Commitment must be secured from All. And make haste for ye must straightforth start looking for Subs, too.
And Noah did say
Lord, thy will be done.
And so it was.
IV. A GENEALOGY OF THE HOUSE OF NEBULON
(Translator’s note:It is believed that the bandleader referred to herein, Nebulon, is the bandleader portrayed in Fragment III, rather than the one portrayed in Fragment I. Obviously, an earlier Fragment is yet to be unearthed.)
...And so it came to pass that the bandleader Nebulon, He Who Seeeth Not The Forest For The Trees, did take the Chick Singer Shriekula (she who had commanded that the Drummer Valentino be flayed alive, boiled in oil, amd rent asunder by crazed horses for playing the Samba beat during her rendition of Misty; she who hath a vibrato so wide that one could drive a legion of chariots through) for his wife, and he began a
And Shriekula did bear him three sons, named Macarena, Rubato, and Sid.
And in time did these sons grow into men, and have families of their own.
And Macarena begat Tarantella, who begat a daughter, Hora, and a son, Zorba.
And Hora begat Havah Nagilah, Tzena Tzena, and Simon Tov.
And Zorba begat a Great House, including Volaré, Rico Suavé, Achy Breaky, Hokey Pokey, Chim Chim Cheree, Slidus Electricus, Lichtensteiner Polka, Disco, and the three idiot sons, Jump, Jive, and Wail.
And from this House did also descend Freebird (the drunkard), Danny Boy (the weeper), Mack (the Knife), LeRoy Brown (he who was Bad Twice), New York New York, Auld Lang Syne, Ipanema, La Bamba, and others too numerous to name (including the House of Andrew Lloyd Weber, which ruled the world during the terrible period known as The Dark Ages).
And the second son Rubato did sire the sons Largo and Lento.
And Largo begat Ritard, who begat Fermata, who begat Arrythmia.
And Arrythmia begat the twin sons, Tempo Erratica and Tempo Nebulous (named after his Great-Grandfather).
And the twin Tempos did sire many children, including Lachrymosa, Turgid, Dirge, Somnambula, Quaalude and Sominex.
Lento, the other son of Rubato did begat Rallantando and L’istesso, and Rallantando begat Poco, and Poco begat Con Brio, and Con Brio begat Vivacé, and L’istesso begat Allegro, and Allegro begat Presto.
And the third son Sid did not enter the Study of Music, preferring to work in The Office. And he began his own Dynasty, sending the Bands of the House of Nebulon to the far reaches of the Earth, to perform at banquets and weddings and Mitzvahs and wars and natural disasters.
(Translator’s note: It is believed that it was the House of Nebulon which provided bands for the destruction of Pompeii, the burning of Rome, the assassination of Julius Caesar, the fall of Constantinople, and the Mongol campaigns of Genghis Khan; a House of Nebulon band may also have been the house band for the Tower of Babel. Another House of Nebulon band evidently missed making the cruise of Noah’s Ark due to a chariot jam.)
And Sid begat Morris (known as Mo), who begat Max, who begat Irving, who begat Mickey, who begat Abraham (known as Abe). And this line did Prosper, long after the rest of the House of Nebulon had passed into history. And the House of Sid did take 15% off the top until the end of time...
V. THE FIRST JOB
And so it was that a decree was issued by The Office of Noah to the leader Nebulon, and Nebulon gathered his minions together and said,
Rejoice! For we have a Job!
And it is during the afternoon of a weekday, and it is the slow season!
And the men of the House of Nebulon did rejoice and ask many questions.
Is it a wedding?
Is it a mitzvah?
Is it a war?
And Nebulon answered them saying
No, my children. It is a Corporate Gig. The client is the Pharaoh Rameses, and it is the Dedication of his new Pyramid Complex!
And the men did dance for joy. And Nebulon extorted them to make haste.
Gather your finest raiment and marshall the chariots, for we leave immediately! For we must cross the desert in order to make the hit on time!
And the musicians of Nebulon did scurry to their hovels and gather their finest clothing, and their instruments, and their water-bags and cheese-wheels, and all set off across the Great Desert, and their number was great.
And at the appointed time they arrived at The Pyramid Complex, whereupon they were stopped by a Warrior. And when he had seen all of the horde he appeared suspicious and ill-at-ease.
What business have you here? We have no need of more slaves, as the Pyramids are completed.
And Nebulon said
I am the Great Leader Nebulon, of the House of Noah the Contractor. "We have come to provide music for the Pharaoh. "
And the guard told them to wait and rode off to get clearance.
Two days did the host of Nebulon wait until the guard returned, saying,
You are to go to the Pyramid of Cheops for your Security badges.
And Nebulon thanked the guard and they set off for the Pyramid of Cheops.
And it was not until the setting of the sun that they arrived at the Pyramid of Cheops.
And Nebulon said,
We are of The House of Noah the Contractor, and we have arrived to play music for the great Pharaoh 5 days hence. We have come for our Security badges.
And the guard said
and rode off for instructions.
And at dawn the guard returned with a scroll of papyrus.
Enter here all of your names, as well as descriptions of your musical instruments, and the license plates of your chariots, and the names of your horses.
With much grumbling this was done. And each man was given a medallion of copper to wear about his neck at all times, upon penalty of death.
And now thou art to take your chariots to the Pyramid of Khufu, there to unload your equipment.
And Nebulon's heart was filled with hope and he asked,
Are we to perform there?
Saith the guard,
Truly I know not, but I have heard whispers in the winds that the pagaent is to be held at the Pyramid of Gizeh.
And Nebulon replied
Then may we not take our instruments and chariots directly to that Pyramid?
But the guard had wandered off to cook a jackal to break his fast saying,
It is not my job to know anything.
And so the men went to the Pyramid of Khufu, and indeed were made to unload their instruments, the horns of brass and the reeds, and the drums and cymbalons, and the bells and ouds and zithars and santours and zarbs, and made to carry them by hand to the Pyramid of Gizeh, a mile away.
And when they had arrived at the Pyramid of Gizeh with their horns of brass and the reeds, and the drums and cymbalons, and the bells and ouds and zithars and santours and zarbs, they were met by a Flunky who inquired of Nebulon,
Art thou the band?
And this is how Nebulon acquired the name He Who Seeth Not The Forest For The Trees, for he replied,
Yes, we are.
The Flunky looked them over with dismay, for they were dusty and their feet bled and were bound by rags.
I think I shall put you in the corner.
So the Men of Nebulon did set up their instruments, their horns of brass and the reeds, and the drums and cymbalons, and the bells and ouds and zithars and santours and zarbs, in the corner, and settled in to wait for the appearance of the Pharaoh.
But presently did appear a stunning young woman who sniffed the air with suspicion, and asked for Nebulon.
Who told thou to set up here? This is all wrong!
And Nebulon, prostrated himself at her feet, moaning,
But it was certainly your Flunky who instructed us thus.
And she said
No, no, and no! You will have to move to the other side of the Pyramid!
Then a sideman cried
But is that not the side that the sun shines on at noon?
And the Party Planner said,
That is no concern of mine. That is where you will look the best.
And another sideman cried out
But is that not next to the Plain of Camel-Herders, who curse and beat their animals all day long?
And the Painted woman said
Then thou will have to play loud, I guess.
Then Nebulon asked,
And is not the pagaent to take place here where we have set up already?
And the Party Planner raised her voice saying
Yes, but thou are hired merely for atmosphere. And by the way, where are your turbans? Did we not ask for turbans? Get thee hence!
And she left to consort with a hyena, and the men of Nebulon got them hence.
And so for three days the Band of Nebulon did play in the sun for the Camel-Herders and the occasional lost guest, and for the jackals and vultures, and during the night they were assailed by the Women Who Sold Themselves and by Thieves and Cut-throats.
And they ate sand and the occasional sand-rat, and had no wine to drink. And some of the men did slip away into the night to become Bedouins, and to raid caravans.
And on the last day of the gig did finally appear the Great Pharaoh Rameses, who looked drunkenly upon them, and inquired of no one in particular,
We had a band?
And then he staggered back to his guests.
And so it was that The House of Noah the Contractor and The House of Nebulon the Bandleader were able to say that they had worked for The Great Pharaoh.
[During this translator's recent hospital stay, a mysterious package containing this document was delivered to my room. While recuperating, I had the time to work through this latest translation.]
VI. AND GOD CREATED SIDEMEN
And so the great Leader Nebulon did embark upon a search for suitable Sidemen for his orchestra, and he could find none;
For in those days there were not many, and those that he could find were already working;
Some worked the Ark with the House of Noah, and some had the house gig at The Walls of Jericho.
And many played behind the scat-singing team of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago.
So Nebulon did return to the Lord and and rent his clothing and saith,
Lord, there are many musicians, but no Sidemen!
And the Lord did say,
Shmuck! Have you looked everywhere? Did you call the Union?
And Nebulon did say,
Lord, I have looked high and low, especially low, and only one or two could I find. What shall I do?
And the Lord did afflict Nebulon with boils, saying,
Leave me to think on this!
And just to buy some time he did also visit a plague of locusts on Egypt.
And the Lord did summon a league of Angels, and sent them forth over the land, commanding them to find him some Sidemen.
And the Angels did go to the four corners of the earth, but the only unemployed Sideman they could find was one holy man in India who did play the horn with the slide.
So with great fear the Angels did return to the Lord with the bad news, and filled with wrath he was.
How can this be? At one time the world did teem with Sidemen, as a dead oxen does with maggots!
And the Angels did say,
Lord, many left the business, many have become idiots, and some have even become Leaders, and no Leader will work for another Leader.
So the Lord did cause drought for 40 days while he thought, and the answer came to him. And he called the angels together and said unto them,
Do we not have a factory, that was of the Beasts Of The Field, Inc., a division? And is it not true that this factory no longer is used to make that for which it was built?
And the angels answered him saying,
Yes, Lord. For You had ordered us to create golems, for which it was found there was no great demand, and You were filled with a mighty wrath and ordered us not forsake market surveys nor focus groups in the future. And the operation was closed down with great wailing and desolation for many jobs were lost.
And He said,
Come. Let us retool, and start turning out Sidemen.
And so it was done, and the Sidemen started rolling off the line of assembly.
But a remnant of the golem program remained, and the Sidemen did come out acting unpredictably.
Some stammered and stuttered, some talked to themselves under their breath, and some would not bathe.
Some refused to shave their beards or to have their hair shorn, and some refused to wear the Jobbing Toga.
And some wore the Toga, but left them crumpled in their chariots in between Gigs, or slept in them, or wore Togas from eons past, with ruffles.
And some did not believe in maps, and wandered the land aimlessly looking for the Gig, and some did not believe in the use of the hourglass, and arrived at the Gig whenever they chose.
And some loved the wine of dates, and some loved the burning of hemp.
And some were created without ears, and some with knuckles where their eyebrows should be.
And some did worship the gods Trane, Jaco, Mahavishnu and Ornette, and mocked their Leaders.
And some did steal food from the buffet line, yea, even before the Guests had dined.
And some did try to lay with the Chick Singers, and some with the Guests.
And some did not Read, and some could only Read, and not Blow.
And some had no social skills, and some had no musical skills.
And many of them were Dark, not in pigmentation of the skin, but in the Outlook on Life.
But every once in a while the line did produce a Perfect Sideman;
One who followed orders without question;
One who showed up on time;
One who wore the Toga;
One whose chariot always ran;
One who Knew Tunes;
But these Perfect Sidemen were few and far between, and besides their eyes were glazed, and they were shunned, for they were Boring, and knew not how to Hang.
And soon the land teemed with Sidemen milling about, looking for Gigs, complaining and whining and arguing and occasionally stabbing each other in the back.
And the Lord looked down upon his work, and said,
It will do.