The tune is 16 bars in the form of AABA. It is in 4/4 meter but is often played with a 2-feel. The melody consists of a motif around a descending C Spanish phrygian scale (the A section) and a chromatic sequencing of the same motif a fourth higher on an F Spanish phrygian scale (the B section). The chordal movement by contrast suggests a C Major tonality rather than C Spanish phrygian, its relative minor f (melodic or harmonic), or its relative Major, A♭ Major. However, the song ends on a D♭maj7 (#11) rather than a C chord, a displacement which is characteristic of Monk compositions.
The song was first recorded by Monk on the sessions for the album Thelonious Monk Trio in 1952. It was later recorded with Monk as a sideman on the Miles Davis album Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants. Monk revisited the song on his acclaimed 1957 LP Brilliant Corners.
The funk rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the song durng their 1989-90 Mother's Milk Tour, renaming their version "F.U." and adding some lyrics. A live version can be found on their Out In L.A. album. Their bassist, Flea, is a huge fan of Thelonious Monk.
In 1993, American jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood covered the song with “Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley in one track, “Bemsha Swing-Lively Up Yourself,” for their album It's a Jungle in Here.
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