Archive for February, 2016

February 27, 2016

Week 236 – One Night As I Lay on My Bed

I first encountered this song c.1977 on the debut Steeleye Span LP, Hark! the Village Wait, though it can’t have been very much later that I heard Shirley Collins’ version, on the LP Adieu to Old England, where the accompaniment switches between Dolly Collins’ portative organ and Ian Stewart’s plucked psaltery. Shirley’s version has a few extra verses, but when I learned the song I stuck to the five printed in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Those five verses work just fine, and as the Steeleye album notes suggest, “this ballad can perhaps claim to have the most discreet ending of any folk song”. I can’t remember whether I stuck to those verses simply because I liked the song that way, or because I’d already learned the song before I heard Shirley’s version. Or if, in my innocence, I thought I was preserving the purity of a single collected version. That’s something I’d set less store by these days (although if the words from a single source do hang together OK, I feel no need to start meddling with them). In any case, if I’d read the notes to this song in the Penguin volume properly, I’d have noticed that, while the tune and first verse come from Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset, the remaining verses were collected from Mr. George House, from Beaminster, also in Dorset, and also collected by Henry Hammond.

One Night As I Lay On My Bed, as sung by Marina Russell. From the Henry Hammond Manuscript Collection via the Full English.

One Night As I Lay On My Bed, as sung by Marina Russell. From the Henry Hammond Manuscript Collection via the Full English.

One Night As I Lay on My Bed

February 19, 2016

Week 235 – The Lobster

Percy Ling - photo by Doc Rowe

Percy Ling – photo by Doc Rowe

I received a comment recently on a post from October 2011, from the great granddaughter of the song’s source, the Suffolk singer Percy Ling. That reminded me that I know another of Percy’s songs, learned like ‘Underneath your apron’ from the Topic LP Singing Traditions of a Suffolk Family.

This has the potential to be easily the rudest song on this blog but, Percy being a man of great taste and discernment, he manages to avoid using any offensive words. Which is more than can be said for the seventeenth century version found in Bishop Percy’s Folio (c 1625-40), and quoted in full in this Musical Traditions article by Steve Gardham.

I think it’s also worth noting that Percy Ling provides, in verse 2, one of the great non-rhyming couplets in folk song – one of those cases where the singer seems to go out of their way to avoid an obvious rhyme. And, needless to say, I do exactly the same.

The Lobster

February 11, 2016

Week 234 – Johnny Abourne

Photo of Phoebe Smith by Mike Yates, from the Veteran Records website.

Photo of Phoebe Smith by Mike Yates, from the Veteran Records website.

Tune, title, and words of verse 1 (mostly):  from the great Phoebe Smith, via Mike Yates’ recording on the Topic LP The Travelling Songster: An Anthology from Gypsy Singers.

All other words: from  ‘Bothy Songs & Ballads’ by John Ord.

Phoebe Smith’s title, ‘Johnny Abourne’, is a mishearing or corruption of the original Scottish title ‘Jamie Raeburn’.  Similarly, she consistently sang ‘Canada’  rather than the perhaps unfamiliar word ‘Caledonia’.

The Wikipedia entry for ‘Jamie Raeburn’ states that

Jamie Raeburn is reputed to have been a baker in Glasgow before being sentenced for petty theft, although he was allegedly innocent, and then sent out to the colonies as punishment…

In Robert Ford’s ‘Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland: With Many Old and Familiar Melodies’ (1901) he writes the following in relation to the song:

The above was long a popular street song, all over Scotland, and sold readily in penny sheet form. The hero of the verses, in whose mouth the words are put, I recently learned on enquiry, through the columns of the Glasgow Evening Times, was a baker to trade, who was sentenced to banishment for theft, more than sixty years ago. His sweetheart, Catherine Chandlier, thus told the story of his misfortunes: We parted at ten o’clock and Jamie was in the police office at 20 minutes past ten. Going home, he met an acquaintance of his boyhood, who took him in to treat him for auld langsyne. Scarcely had they entered when the detectives appeared and apprehended them. Searched, the stolen property was found. They were tried and banished for life to Botany Bay. Jamie was innocent as the unborn babe, but his heartless companion spoke not a word of his innocence.

You’ll find numerous recordings of the song from Scottish tradition at http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk

I’m always amazed that this version, with it’s wonderful tune, is not more widely sung.

Jamie Raeburn: broadside printed by James Kay, Glasgow. Probable period of publication: 1840-1850. From the National Library of Scotland Word on the Street site.

Jamie Raeburn: broadside printed by James Kay, Glasgow. Probable period of publication: 1840-1850. From the National Library of Scotland Word on the Street site.

Johnny Abourne

February 7, 2016

Week 233 – The Widow that Keeps the Cock Inn

On Boxing Day I posted – for the first time – a song where I had never really intended to learn the words. Here’s one which I did intend to learn, once upon a time, but after 35 years of not learning it, I think I should probably face up to the fact that it’s never going to happen!

I got the words – originally sourced from a ballad in the Nottingham University Library Broadside Collection – from The Common Muse: An Anthology Of Popular British Ballad Poetry, edited by Vivian De Sola Pinto and Allan E. Rodway, and made up a suitable tune.

I have to say, I rather like the tune, but otherwise the only reasons for singing it are a few weak puns, and the deliberately lewd last line of each verse.

 

The Widow that Keeps the Cock Inn