When Black Friday Comes

Black Friday has evolved in the United States to mean an early morning of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.  It is not a recent pastime, as some people think; it has been associated with the fourth Friday in November for at least 40 years.  There was always a myth that this pseudo-holiday has been the busiest shopping day of the year, and that it gets all the retail stores back on a profitable track.  This is both false and true.  It has only increased in popularity in the last couple of years, probably with state of the economy in the last half of the decade.  Canadians can probably sympathize with the annual event, since their Boxing Day has recently evolved into a day of shopping as well.  Now, I love a good deal as good as the next guy, but this Black Friday stuff has never excited me.  In fact, the notion of camping out in line for anything — be it concert tickets, Xboxes, iPads, or whatever — is tough to do.  If you do this dance each year, then God bless you.  Having said all that, I will most likely be getting up at 4 a.m. and driving my wife to Walmart and J.C. Penney.  Not to buy stuff, but to get her Mickey Mouse snow globe that they use for bait!

Now, every time this day comes around, I start to hear a track playing in my head and then sing it out loud.  “When Bla-ack Fri-day comes…I’ll stand down by the door…” Of course, I’m singing the Steely Dan tune “Black Friday” which is the first cut off of their 1975 album, Katy Lied.  Great tune, but what “Friday” could Donald Fagen be singing about?  I know he wasn’t referring to the upcoming door-buster at Sears.  So what other Black Friday’s are there?  Plenty!  And the list includes a veritable cornucopia of subjects (See what I did there, I crowbarred in a Thanksgiving reference!)  Just for your edification, I included, in chronological order, over twenty examples of what Black Friday has meant.  And if you are a Steely Dan listener, try to guess which one is described in their song.

Black Fridays:

1688 — Imprisonment of the Seven Bishops on the eve of the Glorious Revolution (June 8)

1869 — Fisk/Gould Scandal, a financial crisis in the United States (September 24)

1881 — Eyemouth Disaster in which 189 fishermen were killed (October 14)

1887 — Haymarket Affair, four Chicago anarchists were hanged, without evidence, for the deaths of seven police officers during a labor meeting (November 11)

1910 — Failed campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union the Conciliation Bill outside the British House of Commons (November 18)

1919 — Battle of George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, a riot stemming from industrial unrest (January 31)

1921 — Announcement of British transport union leaders not to call for strike action against wage reductions for miners (April 15)

1939 — Devastating bushfires killed 71 people in Victoria, Australia (January 13)

1942 — Air attack on Dartmouth, Devon (September 18)

1944 — A disastrous attack by The Black Watch of Canada (a/k/a Royal Highland Regiment) near Woensdrecht during the Battle of the Scheldt (October 13)

1945 — Air battle over Sunnfjord, Norway (February 8)

1945 — A Confederation of Studio Unions (CSU) strike resulting in a riot at the Warner Bros. studios was called “Hollywood Black Friday” (October 5)

1950 — Red River Flood, which burst several dikes flooding much of Winnipeg, Manitoba (May 5)

1959 — Cancellation of Avro Arrow which resulted in massive layoffs in the Canadian Aerospace industry (February 20)

1960 — San Francisco City protest and riot against the House Un-American Activities Committee (May 13)

1963 — John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas (November 22)

1977 — Game 3 of the NLCS in Major League Baseball, in which the Philadelphia Phillies lost a two-run lead to the Los Angeles Dodgers with two outs in the ninth inning and no runners on base (October 7)

1978 — Slaughter of protesters in Iran (September 8)

1985 — Barrie Tornado, United States – Canadian tornado outbreak (May 31)

1987 — Edmonton Tornado, Alberta, Canada (July 31)

2004 — A crackdown in Malé, Maldives on peaceful demonstraters (August 13)

2005 — Tribal students killed in Meghalaya, India (September 30)

According to Walter Becker, the song attempts to see the 1869 Fisk/Gould Scandal through the eyes of one of the speculators.  Like many of their tunes, this one takes a slight left turn but doesn’t get lost in the trip.  Some people have picked apart the logic in the character in the song flying down to Muswellbrook, Australia, of all the locales in the world.  Whatever.  I just like jamming to the album, and I don’t take the lofty lyrics so seriously like some of my friends did.

I can’t believe this song is 35 years old!


Words & Music by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker

When Black Friday comes
I’ll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor
When Black Friday comes
I’ll collect everything I’m owed
And before my friends find out
I’ll be on the road
When Black Friday falls you know it’s got to be
Don’t let it fall on me

When Black Friday comes
I’ll fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book
Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos
When Black Friday comes I’ll be on that hill
You know I will

When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til
I satisfy my soul
Gonna let the world pass by me
The Archbishop’s gonna sanctify me
And if he don’t come across
I’m gonna let it roll
When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna stake my claim
I’ll guess I’ll change my name