Mudcat Café message #3903745 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #105162   Message #3903745
Posted By: Vic Smith
04-Feb-18 - 06:47 AM
Thread Name: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
The two gentlemen with the same forename appear to differ in their memories and appreciation of The Singers Club, so I thought that it might be useful to have a third view on the subject. This is text-scanned from pages 81 - 82 of The Elliotts of Birtley by Pete Wood Herron Books [2008] ISBN 9 780954 068233 In fairness it ought to be pointed out that one of the Jims is quoted in this extract :-

Some time in the early '60s there was a Club trip to the Singers' Club in London at the request of Ewan and Peggy. A 40-seater coach was duly filled and down they all went. Some have mixed feelings about the trip, saying MacColl was arrogant and didn't let them sing. They had thought they were taking over the Club for the night. In fact, however, it was just the Elliott family that had been asked to go. Imagine the effect of these boisterous Geordies, all het up and raring to go, on the staid Singers' Club audience of that time!
However, as Bob Davenport, the Gateshead singer long exiled in London, comments, Jack was told what to sing at the Singers' Club. It seemed he was there as a performer, obliged to pop up from time to time in order to illustrate a point from MacColl's 'lecture'. He was delighted to find that when invited to sing at the Fox Club in Islington, he could sing anything he liked when he liked! (Different approach, different people, the Folk Revival had it all.)
Jim Bainbridge, long-exiled singer and musician, and member of the legendary Marsden Rattlers of the 60s and 70s, has this to say:
"Tolerant folk clubs taught many of us that, given the opportunity, most singers improve with time and experience, and that this serves the tradition much better than the quality control exercised at Ewan MacColl's Singers Club. MacColl was a wonderful songwriter and promoter of the tradition as he saw it, but as a man of the theatre - with little time for imperfection - his ideas for improving the quality of singing were applied via technical advice and analysis rather than absorption by exposure to the perceived inadequacies of unbelievers. No less a singer than old Jack Elliott of Birtley was once castigated by this crowd - after a return visit to the Singer's Club, disappointment was expressed that his singing hadn't "improved" since his last visit -What a damn cheek!"
There was also apparently a comment by either Ewan or Peggy that Jack "hadn't moved on", implying that they expected him to develop a stage act, much as they had done. It's sad that they didn't see the true value of such a natural singer who had such a wide appeal without artificial devices. Certainly the way the Elliotts' visit to the Singers' Club was treated looks like that, but for Graeme Miles there was something more. For him, doing it that way was just as artificial a way of presenting the material as was the Owen Brannigan/Peter Pears approach. It seems the essential point here is the different reasons for singing. Both McColl and Brannigan were professional singers, and in my opinion therefore professional entertainers, and they needed a worked-out stage act to make a living. So folkies like me can take a lofty view of Brannigan's style as decidedly 'art' rather than 'folk'. But then McColl didn't sing like a working man or a traditional singer either. (This area will be taken up in more detail later.) But like most things involving MacColl, it was never as simple as that.