Wednesday, August 24, 2005

All money will be useless

MARKOS VAMVAKARIS "Those Who Have Plenty of Money"

I'm really feeling the Greek music from the '30s lately, specifically Rembetica/ Rebetika/ howeverthfuckyouspellit stuff, the "greek underworld music" not so wrongly referred to as "Greek blues" rather often. This song is from the excellent 1998 Rounder collection Bouzouki Pioneer: 1932-1940, a record I got on a whim with trade-in money seven years ago in Tennessee and barely listened to until recently. (When you have too much stuff you don't really need to go shopping, you just look more closely at your own things...)

Vamvakaris was a self-described "hooked on hashish" dude who lived in the poorest section of the island of Syros. He hated working in the slaughter houses and by his own admission just plain didn't want to work at all. (We've all worked and we've all read Bob Black, so we can relate to that right?) When Markos heard someone play the bouzouki, he was transfixed, vowed to himself he'd "cut off his hand with a cleaver if he didn't play one within six months." In another six months he was a self-taught prodigy on the instrument, though he says he could not tune it himself for years. He instantly began writing his own songs, most within the Rebetika tradition, mournful tales of women and drinking and drugging and all that good stuff.

This song was cut in Athens in 1936. The lyrics go: Those who have a lot of money/ I wish they knew what to do with it/ Do they think that when they die/ It can be taken with them?/ In my pocket I never have/ Two coins to rub together/ And all my troubles go away/ Only when I'm really stoned/ Since there in that other world/ All money will be useless/ Why do they worship it so/ And why do they not spend it?/ Why do they worship it so/ and not have it just to blow it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Mike...being Greek myself, I'm glad that my family raised me with the records of Vamvakaris, Tsitsanis, Papaioannou, Mitsakis, Tountas etc etc. I'm sure that you'll enjoy this site ( a lot, since you'll be able to download a few thousand songs in .mp3 format, totally just need a registered account (which you can get through this

Unfortunately the site is in greek, but it does offer you the chance to translate in in english through Sytran (just click the link ENGLISH to the far bottom right corner). If you do have problems, don't hesitate to contact me through blueblackviper at, in order to help you out. It will be my pleasure.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me about Bob Black. I will try to keep this from my pre-adolescent daughter, who is trying to abolish chores at the moment.

7:07 PM  
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4:25 AM  

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