April Fools.

1 April 2012

But if you had been able to anticipate the grand march of human progress and poetic feeling by fifty years, and asked her to sing

You made me love you, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do it,

she would have asked a policeman to remove you to a third class carriage.      (George Bernard Shaw, writing about his mother).


Lord, what fools these mortals be.

     1090 Page Street         San Francisco

     This was what it cost to see Peter Albin and me play in 1965.

When I first walked into 1090 Page Street in the spring of that year, these are the lines that I declaimed from the staircase down into the Victorian gloom of the foyer:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale fowles maken melodye,

That slepen al the night with open ye,

So priketh hem nature in hir corages:

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.

What do you want ? I had been an English major and was now studying linguistics in graduate school at UC Berkeley.

When this prologue is pronounced more or less the way it would be spoken in the fifteenth century, the rhythm and the music of the lines can be overwhelming.

In 1582, Charles IX, king of France, introduced the Gregorian Calendar into his country, and New Year’s Day was moved from 1 April to 1 January.

Many people, even in France, only learned of this change years later. Some are still not sure about it.

The first day of April seems like a far better time to start a new year than the first day of January.

Actually, to me, the first day of September would be best. This is the beginning of the year in many cultures.

The people who were too ignorant or too stubborn to accept 1 January as the  new new year were labeled “fools” by everyone else and were mocked with fool errands, fool invitations and fool parties.

The butts of these pranks were called “poissons d’avril,” April fish.

A young fish is easily caught.

So, on the first of April, it was common to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke.

  You think he noticed it ?

In the 18th century, this lovely custom reached England, and was introduced into the American colonies by the English and the French. Here is a visual and literal pun on “poison” (poison) and “fish” (poisson).

Below is a ticket to see the “washing of the lions,” something that never happened, so this is an April fools trick in earnest.

In Scotland they take “butts” of jokes literally, so April Fools is devoted to spoofs involving the buttocks and is called Tally Day.

The origins of the “Kick Me” sign can be blamed on the Scots.

In Rome, this holiday was called Festival of Hilaria and it celebrated the return of the god Attis on 25 March, which was also called Roman Laughing Day. Hilaria was also called Cybele.

Another Hilaria in South America: OK, children, tell this pupil Aldo what are the requirements for being a congresswoman? To be Peruvian by birth and older than 25.

The Huli Festival in India comes on 31 March and is a celebration of Spring. People play jokes on each other and smear colors on their friends.

Perhaps because the cold winter is ebbing and the beautiful spring is springing, in many cultures there are lighthearted feasts around this time. One of them is the Jewish Purim which fell on 7 March this year at sundown.

Queen Esther Palin… April Fools !

Japanese style:

Things that happened on April first:

On 1 April 527, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus became the emperor of Byzantium (Constantinople, Istanbul), the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

In 1578 on April first, William Harvey discoverer of the circulation of the blood, was born.

The ruins of Pompei were found on 1 April 1748.

On April Fools Day 1778, so the story goes, a New Orleans businessman Oliver Pollock created the $ symbol.

Another possible and much more interesting and ancient origin of the dollar sign is a kind of map made by the Phoenicians of the Pillars of Hercules. This was the Greek name of the promontories on the entrance to the straits of Gibraltar. When the Lebanese traders sailed by these eminences on their way out into the giant Atlantic ocean, the map they made of their threading the pillars was like a dollar sign. The Phoenicians were nothing if not a commercial race, so they took this map to heart.

King Ferdinand was able to make Gibraltar part of the Spanish estates in 1492 and he adopted the symbol of the pillars of Hercules. Later, King Charles V used it in his coat of arms and the symbol in combination with two hemispheres was printed on coins made of the silver and gold that was brought from America by the counquistadores. These coins then spread to America and Europe and the symbol adopted as a currency symbol.

Edmond Rostand who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac was born 1 April 1868.

Paul Gauguin the painter left Marseilles for Tahiti on 1 April 1891.

One fool that should have been kept in jail: 1 April 1924 Hitler was sentenced to five years labor, but General Ludendorff, a coconspirator in the Munich Putsch was acquitted. Herr Schickelgruber used his jail time to write a book.

Louis Marx introduced the Yo-Yo on April Fools 1929, the same day that Luis Buñuel released Un Chien Andalou. By the way, “yoyo” spelled backwards is “oyoy.”

Some other YoYos.

On 1 April 1930, the film Der Blaue Engel (Blue Angel) premiered in America.

Jimmy Cliff first saw the beautiful light of Jamaica on 1 April 1948.


Hey, it looks as if he is playing my Hummingbird… and right handed too.

Big Brother and the Holding Company played a Delano Grape Strikers Benefit on 1 April 1966 with The Great Society and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

     Three Slicks.

1 April 1967, we played at The Avalon Ballroom with The Charlatans and Blue Cheer.

April Fools Day 1973, John and Yoko perpetrate the hoax that they are having dual sex change operations.

2003, April first, Big Brother and the Holding Company play at Musiktheater Rex, Lorsch, Germany.

The President playing Peoria.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.                   George Bernard Shaw.

I will see you again on 8 April when the first chapter of my history of Big Brother and the Holding Company will appear.  All the best to you.

Sam Andrew.

Big Brother and the Holding Company