Mudcat Café message #56834 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8767   Message #56834
Posted By:
02-Feb-99 - 09:01 AM
Thread Name: 'Orrible Murder!
Here's three more - funny, sad and gruesome. - Susanne

THE IRISH BALLAD (Tom Lehrer) is in the DT.

[1960:] Now I'd like to turn to the folk song, which has become in recent years the particularly fashionable form of idiocy among the self- styled intellectual. We find that people who deplore the level of current popular songs [...] yet will sit around enthralled singing "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care" or "Green Grow The Rushes, Oh!" - whatever that means. At any rate, for this elite I have here an ancient Irish ballad, which was written a few years ago, and which is replete with all the accoutrements of this art form. In particular, it has a sort of idiotic refrain, in this case "rickety- tickety- tin" you'll notice cropping up from time to time, running through, I might add, interminable verses - the large number of verses being a feature expressly designed to please the true devotees of the folk song who seem to find singing fifty verses of "On Top Of Old Smoky" is twice as enjoyable as singing twenty- five.

This type of song also has what is known technically in music as a modal tune, which means - for the benefit of any layman who may have wandered in this evening - that I play a wrong note every now and then. I think you'll notice that.

This song though does differ strikingly from the genuine folk ballad in that in this song the words which are supposed to rhyme - actually do.

I, ah, I really should say that - I do not direct these remarks against the vast army of folk song lovers, but merely against that peculiar hard core who seem to equate authenticity with artistic merit and illiteracy with charm.

Oh - one more thing. One of the more important aspects of public folk singing is audience participation, and this happens to be a good song for group singing. So if any of you feel like joining in with me on this song, I'd appreciate it if you would leave - right now. (Intro 'Tom Lehrer Revisited')

[1989:] Dennis Nilsen, a former policeman and a bespectacled Job Centre employee, was Britain's worst mass killer up to [1983], but he couldn't tell a lie. Killing came naturally, but lying did not. (Michael Prince, Murderous Places)

(James Simmons)

The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by
At each end of Main Street the hills and the sky
The small town of Claudy at ease in the sun
Last July in the morning, a new day begun

How peaceful and pretty, if the moment could stop
McIlhenny is straightening things in his shop
His wife is outside serving petrol and then
A child takes a cloth to a big window-pane

And McCloskey is taking the weight off his feet
McClelland and Miller are sweeping the street
Delivering milk at the Beaufort Hotel
Young Temple's enjoying his first job quite well

And Mrs. McLaughlin is scrubbing her floor
Artie Hone's crossing the street to a door
Mrs. Brown, looking around for her cat
Goes off up an entry, what's strange about that

Not much, but before she comes back to the road
The strange car parked outside her house will explode
And all of the people I've mentioned outside
Will be waiting to die or already have died

An explosion too loud for your eardrums to bear
Young children squealing like pigs in the square
All faces chalk-white or streaked with bright red
And the glass, and the dust, and the terrible dead

For an old lady's legs are blown off, and the head
Of a man's hanging open, and still he's not dead
He is shrieking for mercy while his son stands and stares
And stares, and then suddenly - quick - disappears

And Christ, little Katherine Aiken is dead
Mrs. McLaughlin is pierced through the head
Meanwhile to Dungiven the killers have gone
And they're finding it hard to get through on the phone

Repeat 1


A boy to me was bound apprentice
Because his parents they were poor
So I took him from St. James's Workhouse
All for to sail on the Greenland shore

One day this poor boy he did annoy me
Nothing to him then did I say
But I rushed him to my frozen yard-arm
And I kept him there till the very next day

When his eyes and his teeth did hang towards me
With his hands and his feet bowed down likewise
And with a bloody iron bar I killed him
Because I wouldn't hear his cries

[1967:] Early in the nineteenth century, a whale skipper was charged in King's Lynn with the murder of an apprentice. A broadside ballad, in the form of a wordy gallows confession and good night, appeared, and in course of circulating round the East Anglian countryside it got pared down to the bone. The poet George Crabbe was interested in the case, and took it as a model for his verse-narrative of 'Peter Grimes', which subsequently formed the base of Britten's opera. The opera is in three acts. The same ground is covered in three verses by a song as bleak and keen as a harpoon head. (Notes A. L. Lloyd, 'Leviathan!')