Week 124 – Down by the Seaside

To welcome in 2014, here’s one of my favourites, and almost certainly the only traditional song I know to mention a pair of opera glasses.

I can no longer remember whether I first heard ‘Down by the Seaside’ sung by Shirley Collins on her album Adieu to Old England, or from Shirley’s source, George Maynard, via the Topic LP Ye Subjects of England. I suspect that I heard both of those records at around the same time, having borrowed them from my local public library in Kent, in the late 1970s. It would have been a few years later that I worked out the concertina accompaniment. It must have been one of the first accompaniments that I learned to play, but I’ve not consciously changed it in the intervening 30-odd years. You can check out a 1990 recording of the song on my album Love Death and the Cossack.

This turns out to be one of those songs which have only ever been collected from one traditional singer – although Mike Yates has apparently unearthed a printed source, in the shape of a “chapbook printed c.1820 by J Fraser of Stirling as The Sailor’s Loss” (from the notes to the Musical Traditions CD, Just Another Saturday Night).

Down by the Seaside

Andy Turner: vocals, G/D  anglo-concertina

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