Episode One, in Which The Lion in Tweed plays at the Eastern Economics Association Annual Meetings for an Audience which includes Paul Krugman.



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Partial transcript below.


The Lion in Tweed stood uncomfortably near the guitar, amp, and music stand. His friends had been skeptical of this idea, of playing a few old labor and union songs to a bunch of his fellow economists at a cocktail hour, and he'd been adamant that it was a good idea. "It's all coming together," he'd said, over and over. "It all makes sense," he assured them.

But now he was having second thoughts. The sign on his guitar that read, like Woody Guthrie had, "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS," had been half covered up with a less politically-charged note: "THIS MACHINE MAXIMIZES UTILITY." His attempt to make the guitar sign less politically charged (why is it politically charged to mention fascism, when all polite company agrees: Fascism is bad news?) now looked like a corny joke. 'Laugh at Woody Guthrie, everybody!' it seemed to say. The Lion cringed inside. "It's all coming together," he said out loud. "It all makes sense."

He got into the little capsule he'd built, with a stepladder with the blue Tascam four-track portastudio, a beautiful machine that recorded to audio cassettes. Those were getting difficult to find now a days. Two harmonicas, and a harmonica "rack" to his left. Next to it, slightly to the right, was the Fender Tweed-finish guitar amp made famous for its distortion in Chicago Blues harmonica. Then the microphone for his mouth, then the one for his shoe. He wished again it wasn't carpeted floor...his mic'd foot is a lot less useful when he can't make an audible tap. Was he going to have to bring a piece of wood to gigs from now on?

Was playing for the Eastern Economics Association Presidential cocktail hour a 'gig'?

Then was the music stand, with his binder with just five song sheets in it, some in plastic sleeves. He'd written notes of what he was going say between songs. Suddenly he wondered whether he was really going to be able to do that. Say things.

Well. Time to start, he supposed.

He plays one verse and stops.

He'd came to a complete stop. A complete and total stop. Part of him didn't want to start again. Most of him didn't want to start again. "It's all coming together," he said to himself. "It all makes sense." The writing he'd done about the role of silence, how Odetta used rhythm and silence in a way that he could only point to, only reference. "It all makes sense," he said to himself. "It's all coming together." The lion took a deep breath, smiled, and started again.

[Playing John Henry (mp3)]



Well, that was it. No big fanfare, now that his eyes were open he saw the crowd had thinned considerably since when he'd started. Did it work? Was it a success?

He looked around at the room. A few people had been listening, many people had not. He wasn't really sure what he'd been looking for here, really. "I guess I just wanted to know if I could do it," and he did it. So that made it a success, right?

He shifted his tail uncomfortably under his blazer. He probably needed a drink. John Henry still rang in the the lion's head: Before I let that steam drill drive me down, I'm gonna die with this hammer in my hand.


The first song I play, "John Henry," is a traditional American folk ballad which tells an economic story, a story of technological change. The second song is called "In like a lion." It's an original.

All four songs from this event:

  1. I've been driving on Bald Mountain/Water Boy an Odetta cover.
  2. Sittin' by the mailtrain, an original.
  3. Moonshiner, a traditional folk song, performed in the manner of Uncle Tupelo.
  4. John Henry

The Lion in Tweed.

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