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2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act

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Jim Carroll 11 Dec 19 - 12:22 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 19 - 12:43 PM
Dave the Gnome 11 Dec 19 - 01:04 PM
GUEST,HiLo 11 Dec 19 - 01:07 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 19 - 01:19 PM
Joe Offer 11 Dec 19 - 01:23 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 19 - 02:00 PM
Jim Carroll 11 Dec 19 - 02:59 PM
Iains 11 Dec 19 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Dec 19 - 03:40 PM
Vic Smith 11 Dec 19 - 03:59 PM
Iains 11 Dec 19 - 04:00 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 11 Dec 19 - 04:03 PM
Dave the Gnome 11 Dec 19 - 04:51 PM
Dave the Gnome 11 Dec 19 - 05:04 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Dec 19 - 05:52 PM
Dave the Gnome 11 Dec 19 - 06:19 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 11 Dec 19 - 06:51 PM
Big Al Whittle 11 Dec 19 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Dec 19 - 01:25 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 12 Dec 19 - 02:21 AM
Joe Offer 13 Dec 19 - 02:50 AM
GUEST,Redneckred 13 Dec 19 - 03:24 AM
Joe Offer 13 Dec 19 - 04:45 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 13 Dec 19 - 11:36 AM
Dave the Gnome 13 Dec 19 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Ray 13 Dec 19 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Dec 19 - 07:52 AM
The Sandman 14 Dec 19 - 08:30 AM
Vic Smith 14 Dec 19 - 08:49 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Dec 19 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Dec 19 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 14 Dec 19 - 04:12 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Dec 19 - 04:15 PM
Steve Gardham 14 Dec 19 - 04:22 PM
Vic Smith 15 Dec 19 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 09:12 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 09:28 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 10:32 AM
Steve Gardham 15 Dec 19 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 12:06 PM
Vic Smith 15 Dec 19 - 12:29 PM
GUEST,Pseudonymous 15 Dec 19 - 01:31 PM
Vic Smith 27 Dec 19 - 10:58 AM
Vic Smith 27 Dec 19 - 11:04 AM
The Sandman 28 Dec 19 - 05:49 AM
Vic Smith 28 Dec 19 - 06:30 AM
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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 12:22 PM

"Just talk about the bits you bad interested in bringing up then, Jim, and ignore the rest."
No Dave
I have made my point - including the fact that discussing MacColl's politics etc. has not just diverted from talking about him as a leading figure in folksong, but has closed innumerable threads.
MacColl was an artist not a politician - what's your problem in concentrting on thet for a change ?
I have ignored nothing - I have participated in every single hread on MacColl - usuually in the terms they have been set out - his politics - written reams on it, his war recod - the same, all the stories - done them at length
If we can't discuss someones wotk on singing for a change on a forum heads itself to be abot "Folkson, Folklore tand the Traditional Arts" then the forum is no longre fit for puropse
Whtyt is it necessary to fight for the right to discuss macColl as an artist edvery time his name comes up
Pwerhaps I should take that to the forum on the State of today's folk scene
If MacColl's work had been taken into consideration you youdn't have todays folkies running around like blue-arsed flies saying "nobody knows what folk song is anymore"
Plwase, please, please - MacColl was a singer, not a politician or even a political activist - let us discuss that
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 12:43 PM

I just had a quick sprint down the list that heads this thread
Nowhere is there a serious discussion about Ewan's research on singing - the majority of them get bogged down in personal attacks or more abourt MacColl's personality
Time for a change maybe

What did you do in the war, Ewan? (303) (closed)   Not about singing
Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes? (239) Bogged down in personal attacks
Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe? (182) as previous Closed
Ewan MacColl on bandcamp (14) Future plans for old recordings
Stage Play: Joan & Jimmy (March 2019) (10) Theatre work
Ewan Maccoll - Atheist or Religious? (23) Religion
Missing MacColl Albums (6) Albums
Stop The Ewan Maccoll Bickering (107) Complaint about same-old, same old
Ewan MacColl's trousers (110) Piss take
Ewan MacColl tribute-Maxine Peake (15) Posthumous tribute – not about his singing   

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 01:04 PM

I have ignored nothing - I have participated in every single hread on MacColl

Yes, we know that, Jim. That is rather the point. Maybe if you did ignore some of the stuff that winds you up, not as many of those threads would be closed and there would be no need for the moderation team to consider any deletions or suspensions.

Still, this is not sticking to the subject so I shall take my own advice. Consider yourself ignored!

Back to the topic in question. The first song I performed in public, albeit as part of the school class choir, was "Dirty Old Town". The gym teacher played guitar, a couple of us played mouth organs and the rest sang. During rehearsals the teacher played us a MacColl version that had a jazz feel to it. As a callow 15 year old into Hendrix and the Who it nearly put me off folk for life. Luckily I persisted:-)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,HiLo
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 01:07 PM

This thread is clearly about the biography "Class Act". It is not about his singing, his religion or his trousers...it is about this
particular biography.
If you wish to discuss his singing , open another thread..(as If another McColl thread were needed) For the most part this discussion has been intelligent and respectful. I have learned much about McColl and would appreciate it Jim, if your unfettered hero worship, would not get in the way of informed discussion.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 01:19 PM

"It is not about his singing, his religion or his trousers...it is about this"
If you read the book a major part of it is about him as a singer - how could it have been about anything else -- that's what he was
If his hadn't been the important singer he was his politics would hhave measured insignificantly next to many millions of others
He never spole publicly on plolitcs, he never wrore about it, his songs were about his humanism rather than his political beliefs
We have had many dozens of threads on MacColl's politics - at least half of them have been closed because of the acrimony
If we can't manage to discuss him as an artist at least go open a thread on his politcs on the below the line section - that's where politics is designated to be discussed
Even the threads which started discussing his singing have ended up about everything but that
This is simple sabotaging the memor of a great artist - nothing less
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 01:23 PM

OK, Jim. It appears you haven't learned your lesson. We close threads when people start fighting in them and make it impossible for others to carry on a rational discussion - you are the primary offender, but it seems your self-righteousness makes it impossible for you to see your responsibility in this. We close threads because you fill them full of shit and destroy what had been an interesting discussion. We close threads because that preserves what is valuable in a discussion - sorting out what's good and bad is just too complicated and too arbitrary, so it's best to close a thread and let things cool down before allowing it to start again.

I know you want us to censor threads to your specifications and you want us to ban people your consider unworthy, but that's not going to happen.

MacColl threads get closed often, because you, Jim Carroll, tend to go bonkers in them, because you cannot allow disagreement with your opinions. Mr. Carroll, you are not allowed to comment on moderator actions in any way in any thread - as there is a general prohibition against discussion in threads of moderator actions because such discussion is harmful to the good of the forum. If you wish to discuss such things, do so by email to max@mudcat.org or joe@mudcat.org.

I will leave this thread open to the end of the day. If it keeps going off topic, I will close it.

And you, Mr. Carroll, are within an inch of getting yourself suspended until January 1. Talk about Ewan MacColl all you want, but while this thread is open, MacColl discussion is allowed in this thread and this thread alone. If you step off the path, you're gone.


-Joe Offer-


Ewan MacColl Songs (click)

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger Info (click)

No, we don't have a group of threads for Ewan MacColl's singing, but you'll find many comments about his singing in the threads in these two groups. And yeah, I suppose the usual pattern is that when somebody talks about MacColl's singing, someone else will talk about MacColl singing with his finger in his ear, and then Jim Carroll will go ballistic, and then the thread gets closed.

But mark my words: it's not the thread topics that get threads closed. It's people going ballistic that get threads closed. And you do it regularly, Jim Carroll.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 02:00 PM

Macol was not about pilitics with a capital P - this is what MacColl's politics was about
If we can't discuss that, we can't discuss the artistry of MacColl

This is from a semibnar Ewah held with a group of teachers in the sixties
Take it or leave it
Jim Carroll

EWAN: If somebody put to me the preposition of doing a radio ballad on bank clerks, right away it seems to me that we're doing a programme about how a bank is run, we have to ask ourselves what is our objective? It would be to ask a very simple question. How is it that after so many thousand years of human evolution and social evolution, we can still find tens of thousands, millions perhaps of human beings who are prepared to spend their lives, not in creating wealth which men can use, coal or even motor cars or cans of peas, or whatever, but who are prepared merely in the transfer of one kind of wealth to another kind. Now as soon as you ask yourself this question you begin to see the possibility of a programme in which it is conceivably you'll get all your bank clerks speaking with the same kind of intonation, all contented perhaps, and all completely oblivious to the fact that they're wasting their lives, for basically it is a waste of human endeavour. How would you do this?   I think you'd have to set it against the remarks of other people. I think the mere inactivity of speech, if their speech did turn out to be remarkably inactive, I think it could be used to highlight the extraordinarily tragic nature of their position inside society. But to highlight it, obviously you'd have to inset it against active speech, and you'd have to get active speech from other people perhaps, out¬side the area of the bank clerks existence, you'd have to get coalminers and so on. How would I bring that in? Well, these days almost everybody banks, for holidays and that kind of thing. I'd get it from the kind of across the counter stuff. I'd say, Johnny Sangster, who is a miner at the Howarth pit, puts 8 quid a week in the bank every, Saturday morning he's at that bank putting his money in for his holidays, and I'd use him as well.   All right Johnny, you go to the bank, what feelings have you about it? You undoubtedly would get something like that.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 02:59 PM

I put that up in the hope somebody might like to talk about Ewan's real politics
There is much more of it
I don't take threats of suspension seriously any more - I frankly no longer care one way or another
If people feel Ewan's artistry has no room on this thread I will happily open another (at the risk of it being closed no doubt)
I have no desire to take part in yet another same-old-same old kicking match
Jim Carroll
    Glad you don't mind threats of suspension, because you're suspended until January 1 and this thread will remain open but without your participation. I warned you, and you defied my warning in two posts.
    -Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Iains
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 03:02 PM

This is a summary of Ewan MacColl from The Working Class Movement Library that is located in MacColl’s home town of Salford. The Library's holdings include material from all aspects of Ewan's political and cultural life

Ewan MacColl will be known to most people as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. He was a committed socialist all his life and his political sensibilities underpinned all his creative activities.
https://www.wcml.org.uk/maccoll/

To me it seems a very fair synopsis of his life. It is hardly surprising he was a political animal considering his background:
Ewan MacColl was born James Henry Miller in Salford, Lancashire, on January 25 1915. His father, William Miller, was an iron-moulder, militant trade-unionist and communist who had left his native Stirlingshire in his mid-twenties. His mother, Betsy Hendry, was from Auchterarder, Perthshire. Both parents were active left-wing socialists and from his earliest days, MacColl was familiar with the cut-and-thrust of political discussion and argument. Equally important in the life of the household were the songs and stories his parents brought from Scotland – a huge repertoire with which his father and mother kept themselves and their friends entertained.
I wonder if his creativity was in part motivated by his politics?
If satisfied with the status quo would he have had the drive to produce his body of work?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 03:40 PM

Who knows what drives creativity, though personal convictions do I suppose express themselves in this way, and through art, and so on.

The book says that he wanted to be a novelist at one point, and did write a novel. I think it says he wrote poetry as a child. His father tried to educate him, and bought him Darwin's Origins of Species as he did not want him to be religious, and some novels too.

The book says that his mother had some social aspirations, which may sound odd in view of her politics, but then a friend of mine whose parents were CP members was sent for elocution lessons as her mother did not want he to end up with a Scottish accent. I'm fearful of sounding judgmental here: we all have our contradictions.. So one thing his mother did was buy him a piano, which the book says was part of this project.

His father was a performer and used to give lectures mid performance if I remember correctly. So on one level, mixing politics and performance was simply doing what his father had done?

Also, again if I remember correctly, the book says that as a skilled worker (iron moulding being relatively skilled) his father considered himself somehow above the less-skilled.

So to some extent I think maybe there were aspirational elements within his background?

But the book (and maybe at some level the writer is making a point) seems to emphasise that MacColl lacked practical skills, to the point where it was a family joke that he could not wire a plug. It doesn't seem that he was suited to be a motor mechanic, despite getting taken on for an apprenticeship.

So maybe put all this together, with his interest in books and so on, and his lack of opportunity via the grammar school/education route some people in that era were able to take, some sort of arts-based career would have been attractive, especially to somebody with something to say and creative ability (which I don't think anybody is denying he had). Whether it was acting, play-writing, documentary radio making, and the path he eventually specialised in, songwriting and performance, coupled and infused with the political vision?

Does this make sense?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 03:59 PM

Right! I feel that I can make this comment now.....

Mention of a very silly thread had me scurrying back look at it. I'm talking about the Ewan MacColl Trousers thread. I didn't look at for quite a while after it was started, but when I did, I joined in with gusto. Unlike all the other heavy combative threads, this was light, funny and scurrilous without being disrespectful. I had a good laugh reading through it again.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Iains
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 04:00 PM

Had he the educational opportunities that the following generation had, the grammar schools and expanding tertiary education in the 60's......
Who knows where it may have lead him? He got to where he was with a minimal formal education and was innovative and successful in several different fields.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 04:03 PM

Dave the Gnome

The recording played to you by your teacher was almost certainly by Alan Lomax and the Ramblers. When Lomax & MacColl joined in the Skiffle Craze. It was a strange mixture and I can quite easily understand how it mignt have put you off folk for life. The two jazz musicians involved were Bruce Turner on clarinet and Jim Bray on bass. The rest of the line up was Lomax, MacColl, Peggy Seeger Shirley Collins and Brian Daly. As I say a strange mixture, one which people might find surprising when they think about Ewan and Peggy's (supposedly suggested by Lomax) feelings about only singing the songs from your own background.
I had no problems with most of them when they did their own thing but mixed up this way it didn't work.
I do however realise that if you are trying to make a living as a musician then you take the work that you can get.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 04:51 PM

Could well have been, Hootenanny. Just had a listen and it doesn't sound the same. But what does 50+ years later! As I was looking it up I found what may have been the strangest version. 1963. Esther and Abi Ofarim. Not had a listen yet. Not quite sure if I am ready for it :-)


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 05:04 PM

Just had a listen. Quite pleasant but is it folk? :-D


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 05:52 PM

I loved the trousers thread. Some much needed levity, and some sharp wit.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 06:19 PM

A working trouser link

I hope.

Did I tell you how he got his stage name?

Listening to a Scotish miner describing his day. I wus doon the pit aw day. 'ewin ma coal...


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 06:51 PM

A couple of points I had thought about (being serious again) from the early chapter.

In an interview, MacColl's mother said that there would be heated arguments between her and MacColl's father. She felt that while politics were important, bread and butter was important since you cannot 'live on wind'. Harker uses the word 'bitter' to describe these arguments. And sometimes kids from homes where there is a lot of argument do struggle in school. I don't know if it was bad to that extent, but maybe this was another factor making things tough for MacColl? Though plainly he did have good times too.

Also they had lost two children and there were two miscarriages, so MacColl was an only child. Later in the book it says (not sure who supplied this information) that in his mother's eyes MacColl could do now wrong. So an only child, can do no wrong in his mother's eyes, I dunno what the effect of this may have been. There is a risk of a child in this situation ending up 'spoiled' in some sense, maybe? It also says his mother kept him away from rougher kids so all that was a shock when he started school, and one of his nicknames (he seems to have been bullied) was mammy's boy. And then he had diphtheria, which can be fatal (and did kill some of my family at this time, another getting polio) and near death experiences are not easy.

So where was I going with this? Maybe that some of this background, as well as the poverty, may have fed into his creativity, and also into the personality, as on some accounts MacColl did not like being disagreed with and it could provoke him.

None of this detracts from his achievements.

I found the end of the life story sad. He seems to have been lonely.

Finally, Harker discusses the autobiography which as I indicated earlier seems to have been something of a mixed bag, and written in a couple of bouts of work. He lists people missed out, because, in his view, they had upset MacColl, and also suggests that it includes some exaggeration, I think he uses the phrase 'self dramatisation' somewhere. And he does refer in it, according to Harker, to the 'party I served' which he regarded as moribund.

I was wondering whether to ask the library to get me the autobiography, and I would suggest that this biography and the autobiography might ideally be read together, to get a fuller picture.

Has anybody here read the autobiography, and if so, do they think it is an interesting read?

I am sorry if my conduct here has spoiled people's enjoyment of Mudcat, by the way. I really shall try to be better in future, I did want to discuss a book I had read and very much enjoyed. I take my hat off to the author, who seems to me to have put in a lot of work and research. I can see that people who knew the subject of an autobiography, especially of such a colourful and controversial character might be upset at some aspects of it, but then had a lot of time passed it would not have been possible to interview so many people who knew him, and so maybe the result would not have been so good?

Enough.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Dec 19 - 09:16 PM

Just received the autobiography. Its a big book with small print. I'll need my reading glasses! I'll be back with an opinion eventually.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Dec 19 - 01:25 AM

Al, sorry I just gave away the ending. My kids go bonkers if I do that.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 12 Dec 19 - 02:21 AM

From Peggy Seeger's web site as recommended by a poster above:

"At the time I wrote that interviewers always went to Ewan first."


"aking political points with humour is well instanced in her Give 'Em An Inch, a little something that touches upon the transition from boyhood to adultery represented by an inch of dangly flesh. "I do think in feminist songs that you have to somehow make people laugh at what everybody realises is a humorous situation like this little kid that's born with a little inch of flesh. I got that idea from a cartoon where the mother looks absolutely exhausted and the midwife is holding a baby up and saying, 'Oh, this is why they're so powerful'. There's this little dick sticking out. It was an excellent cartoon. You laughed at it immediately. This is why cartoons put things into a capsule, in one statement, something that you can then open out into a whole situation. Both men and women laugh at that. They can't do anything else. The average man does not think of himself with a willy an inch long. More women, than men would like to believe, laugh at where the penis leads men. Laughter apparently does all kinds of things to the brain and the body that they don't even really know about. Laughing with somebody at the same situation, rather than at somebody, works."

Now what did Ewan write about (among other things in his biography)? I did mention this before, and now maybe the point of this reference may become clearer.

This also had chimes with what we know of Ewan's own family background, with its mention of 'bitter' arguments. History repeats itself they say:

My daughter Kitty told me recently that I'd said at one point that Ewan was my perfect life-partner. I still think he was. She said, 'But you argued all the time!' I don't remember arguing all the time. I don't remember bitter arguments. Were they bitter ones? When she told me about one, then I remembered it. I tend to remember the good things."

And one thing I personally got out of the autobiography is how much the women MacColl hooked up with did for him, in terms of supporting him, doing organisational work he could or would or did not do, in terms of bringing theory to his attention and so on. I don't think he would have been the phenomenon he was without his wives. It seems to me that Peggy may have worked a lot harder than he did, as she seems to have taken on all the domestic stuff that the live-in help did not do. Harker does mention I think that he hit her on one occasion but you don't get this picture of bitter arguments. But Peggy herself has put that into the public domain, so there it is.

It'll be interesting to hear what Al gets out of Peggy's autobiography if he feels like sharing what he reads.


I am sorry if my line of analysis seems controversial, I mention it to express my responses and not to try to wind anybody up. And, yes, to some extent this is how things were at the time.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 02:50 AM

I scored a used copy of "Journeyman," MacColl's autobiography, for $9.32 at Amazon, supposedly in "like new" condition. Class Act is more expensive, but still under $20. Guess I'd better get that one, too.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Redneckred
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 03:24 AM

if Ewan MacColl had done nothing more in his life than write The Ballad of Accounting and Dirty Old Town, I'd still consider him to be a major contributor to the songbook of our lives and times. The details of his personal life, or the rumours about the same, have little explanatory relevance and still less interest.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 04:45 AM

Hi, Redneckred - I think the MacColl song that moves me most, is Sweet Thames, Flow Softly. It's just a beautiful song.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 11:36 AM

It is a nice song.

The 'sweet Thames, flow softly' may come via T S Eliot from the Elizabethan poet Spenser. Apologies if somebody has pointed this out before.

CALM was the day, and through the trembling air
Sweet breathing Zephyrus did softly play,
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan's beams, which then did glister fair;
When I whose sullen care,
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In prince's court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,
Walked forth to ease my pain
Along the shore of silver streaming Thames,
Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,
Was painted all with variable flowers,
And all the meads adorned with dainty gems,
Fit to deck maidens' bowers,
And crown their paramours,
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
      Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

And Eliot alludes to this in his The Waste Land

The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.175
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.176
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;180
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear185
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 11:52 AM

The Joy of Living always gets me. First heard it at a funeral an it brings a lump to my throat just thinking about it. He was certainly a true craftsman.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 13 Dec 19 - 01:16 PM

I think he claimed that it was written to a Sicilian folk tune.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 07:52 AM

Something potentially controversial but worth discussing if possible nicely: the view that traditional singers should be 'revered' but that one could not learn to be a better folk singer by observing and adopting their techniques as they tended not to be very good singers, a thought also expressed by Peggy Seeger in some other contexts. Age, I think, is sometimes said to have something to do with this.

I don't want to decry the achievements, and my intention is not to enflame opinion, just to express what I noticed, and invite discussion, but there seems a bit of a contradiction in maintaining teaching practices informed by a variety of theoretical frameworks and a claim that the resulting 'techniques' or 'style' are traditional.

It all seems to me mixed up with the largely untraditional context (eg clubs, concerts, radio programmes, gramophone records) within which the output of the classes run by Seeger and MacColl was consumed by the public?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 08:30 AM

psued ,what exactly are your motives,please, what is the point of all this is it to demolish the roots of the music?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 08:49 AM

Pseudonymous:-
It all seems to me mixed up with the largely untraditional context (eg clubs, concerts, radio programmes, gramophone records) within which the output of the classes run by Seeger and MacColl was consumed by the public?

I don't think that there were "classes run by Seeger and MacColl.... consumed by the public."
Seeger and MacColl were very important and they did point out a possible direction for the revival and their influence, their collection, their research and knowledge was vital and influential. According to Vic Gammon's words in a radio interview with me, "MacColl was the finest writer of vernacular song in these islands since Robert Burns." and that will be his greatest legacy.
However theirs were not the only approach, there were several parallel approaches to traditional music and song. The most important other strand was exemplfied by the approach taken by the likes of Reg Hall and Bob Davenport. They eschewed that top-down didactic approach and initially, rather than talk about or dissect what they were doing, they hoped to spread their approach by their practice - though Dr. Reg Hall did go on be come one of the most admired, respected and thorough of folk song academics. This approach is best exemplfied here in the posts by Jim Bainbridge - a good friend of both.
The most controversial aspect of the approach of Seeger/MacColl was undoubtedly the Critics Group. This divided the folk scene at the time and eventually divided the group itself. We know that there are some former members on this forum and elsewhere who swear by the approach decades after it finished. Others felt that it became too narrow and instructive and who wanted to broaden their approach. One former member said to me in interview, "We don't need gurus any more." and in the other interview Vic Gammon said to me, "Sadly the Critics Group took themselves down a blind alley."

If we are to judge success by how people learn about a traditional approach to singing and playing today then we can, for example, see countrywide week-long, weekend or day workshops where the leader is saying, in effect, "Here is what I think and have learned; take it and use it in the way that you think best." Of the more structured approach exemplifed by The Critics Group, I cannot think of any examples.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 03:06 PM

Hello Vic

Hope you are well (just saw a TV ad about making the internet a nicer place).

My knowledge of the Critics Group is based on what I have read on Mudcat, the biography of MacColl, which spends quite a bit of time on it, BBC programmes about MacColl and Seeger and a few other odds and sods. I agree with what you say about it suiting some and not others. It has been said that for some it verged on destructive! But clearly others were inspired on a lifetime basis.

I absolutely take your point about top-down and bottom-up teaching. This contrast came into my mind when reading a transcript of a 'seminar' MacColl gave to teachers which was posted earlier. It seemed very top-down. In fact, more like a lecture than a seminar? And I think Gammon's use of the word 'guru' seems apt.

You comment on my quotation. I wrote

"It all seems to me mixed up with the largely untraditional context (eg clubs, concerts, radio programmes, gramophone records) within which the output of the classes run by Seeger and MacColl was consumed by the public?"

Sorry if this did not read as intended. I have the idea that the Critics Group was sort of invitation-based, and know it wasn't open to the public. The word 'output' here was intended to refer to the work that those who had attended the Group did when they went out into public.

I guess I was musing on how one the one hand there was a respect for 'the tradition', and on the other hand, some practice that was very different from that tradition. Perhaps the use of the term 'revival' sometimes functions to gloss over the differences? Not saying this would be terribly wrong, just noticing.

The biography is long and throws up a lot of thoughts, or it did for me anyway.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 03:55 PM

Sandman

Hello. No, I am not 'trying to demolish the roots of the music'.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 04:12 PM

Hello Sandman again
I found the link to some of your work via Mudcat, and if you don't mind my saying so, I enjoyed it. Sorry for thread drift.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 04:15 PM

"We don't need gurus any more." Amen to that. I've been singing traditional songs now for nearly 60 years, longer if we include those passed down in my family, and while I'm pretty certain I will have picked up some style and nuances along the way I'm not conscious of any. I know of no-one personally, other than a passing acquaintance with Sandra Kerr, who was part of any passing on of traditional style in a teaching situation. I've come across workshops on singing in general, to improve vocal strength, endurance and breathing, but haven't felt the need to participate.
I have also listened to many traditional singers and although one could perhaps detect a local style where there was a strong tradition these styles varied enormously from region to region and in some cases from singer to singer.
Singers generally adapt to prevailing circumstances, e.g., chanteymen sang in a high-pitched well-projected style for obvious reasons, likewise it has been found that recordings from WWI and earlier, male singers also sang in a high register to project more (No PA in those days).


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Dec 19 - 04:22 PM

Pseud
Certainly the source singers are 'revered' some for their excellent singing, some for their large repertoires, but mainly because they preserved the songs for us, and surely that is right. Anyone interested in traditional song surely owes them this reverence.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 08:06 AM

Pseudonymous wrote: -
I think Gammon's use of the word 'guru' seems apt.
.... but it wasn't he who said that to me; I wrote: -
One former member said to me in interview, "We don't need gurus any more." and in the other interview Vic Gammon said to me, "Sadly the Critics Group took themselves down a blind alley."
Sorry if this sounds like nit-picking but it is important to attribute quotations to the correct source. Mis-quoting has been a source of much unneeded conflict on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 08:55 AM

Thanks Vic. I agree, having been the victim of mis-quoting myself, probably at the hands of the same person as Vic has, and certainly at the same hands of other posters who have complained about it. No excuses; sloppy reading on my part. Pleased that somebody is paying attention!

Steve, the point I was making, or trying to make, when I said that MacColl believed that 'source singers' should be revered, was this: seems to be a contradiction between this position and the position outlined by Peggy that teaching within the Critics Group could not be based on the practices of said singers because they weren't very good. I think age was one factor she mentioned.

As it happens, for me, the word 'revere' has religious connotations (as in 'Your Reverence'). I think it too strong. My dictionary gives 'venerate' as a synonym. 'Revere' comes from a root meaning 'to fear', 'to be in awe of', hence I suppose its use in religious contexts. An apt word for a 'cult' perhaps, but for a flesh and blood human being, not in my book.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 09:08 AM

Sorry my second sentence was garbled. I should have said 'certainly at the same hands AS other posters, who have complained about it.'

I know we seem to have had moderator approval to discuss MacColl generally on this thread, but I'm still on the book, because as I said, it throws up all sorts of questions - and contradictions.

While we are on the topic of 'source singers', something else in the book made me think.

Actually, if I am honest, I was a bit surprised to read Steve saying that traditional singers had 'preserved' the songs for us, as I had an idea that one thing we could look to Steve for was the use of documentary evidence to date the songs collected from such singers. And also, I understood that there is no evidence of some Child ballads having actually been sung, only documentary evidence?


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 09:12 AM

There has been some debate about whether the idea that people should only sing songs relevant to their own backgrounds arose democratically or within the Critics Circle or was a dictat from MacColl.

One possible answer comes from the book, via the writing of MacColl on sleeve notes (quoted on page 159).

'I [note the pronoun} have made it a point on insisting on the rule that singers do not sing anything but the songs of their own native tradition.'


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 09:28 AM

The book refers to MacColl's tendency to romanticise, and this would appear to extend to his own father. Whatever you think of the song 'The Iron Moulder', it simply is not true that Maccoll's father, an iron moulder, supported his family, as that song implies. His wife did that.

Ill-health, partly in the form of lifelong asthma, seems to have been one reason that Miller Snr was out of work. From 1925 to 1947, his wife said, he worked three years and two months. 'For most of that period his contribution to the domestic economy was the nine shillings paid through his trade union'.

I'm not decrying the love for his father that seems to shine through the song, however. It's just that I only yesterday found that particular song.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 10:32 AM

On traditional singers, the book outlines some thoughts MacColl had about this (page 227) as expressed in the introduction to a book about the folklore of the Stewarts of Blairgowrie.

The book (Till Doomsday...) was produced by MacColl and Seeger jointly. The ideas seem to apply to all source or traditional singers.

Harker also says in this context that this book illustrated some of the contradictions in which the Seeger/MacColl vision was always caught. So it isn't just me who has noticed these contradictions.

Seeger and MacColl hoped to bring the riches of folk culture to light through 'politically oriented folk institutions.' But in the book they noted that these institutions had made minor celebrities of 'the folk' whose songs and stories were 'now being used, almost exclusively, to entertain the visiting folklorist, journalist, and television crew'

'Twenty years ago, the Stewarts saw themselves as Travellers', now they were 'observers - sympathetic, but detached observers'. (Quotations from the Till Doomsday in the Afternoon Book.)

Singing for the folk scene, MacColl and Seeger thought, had 'eroded their authenticity, introducing self-consciousness into performance' (Harker page 227). It's the contradictions around this concept of 'authenticity' which caught my attention. In saying this I am not 'having a go' at left wing philosophy, but pointing up the contradictions around the idea of 'authenticity'.

(But of course, the politically biased ideological framework within which source singers were so often presented within the 2nd revival brings with it more questions about the authenticity of the vision offered. I know saying things like this makes you unpopular, and leads to allegations that only somebody 'right wing' would say them, but there you are! )

McC and S referred to 'stereotyped formats of presentation, borrowed from the music hall, the cinema, and television' (quoted on Harker p228)

MacColl and Seeger wanted the folk to be unselfconsciously authentic (their songs and stories should be what Seeger called 'a function of their everyday life')AND knowingly to embody and preserve the pure artistic practices MacColl and Seeger associated with the tradition..' Harker p 228.

IN a 1980 interview, according to Harker, 'MacColl admitted in a 1980 television documentary, 'Our intentions were good - are good. We have tried to liberate whole areas of a submerged but living culture - the survival of which is, we think, vital to social and political progress.' But MacColl now asked himself whether one could expect the resources of that culture to withstand the rapacious culture industry.

NB
Harker says that one traveller pressure group took issue with the book -in a publication called 'Traveller Education'. But the Stewart family themselves admired the book and it was critically well-reviewed. Here I try to reflect what the book says accurately, and to focus on the broader issue, not on folk song and Traveller culture (which is dealt with in other threads).


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 11:04 AM

If you don't like 'reverence' Sue because of some of its connotations, I'll happily modify that to respect and gratitude. I suppose one bestows the same kind of gratitude on the collectors as well, or at least those that left us what they recorded intact as they found it.

As a researcher I'm overwhelmingly interested in the songs themselves and I'm not at all worried how the later source singers became celebrities and were affected by the folk scene. Some of them I've known and know as friends. Most of them simply had a foot in both (at least 2) camps, their own communities and the wider folk scene. I don't see this as a problem personally. A few like Walter, and Arthur Howard, compartmentalised their repertoires for different audiences, and some more recently as their traditional communities no longer valued their songs.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 11:52 AM

Hello Steve

'Respect' and 'gratitude' are two of the alternatives I had though of, so I am a lot happier with these.

I am aware of your work on the origins songs and it seems very interesting. A lot of what you have said on Mudcat makes sense to me.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 12:06 PM

Regarding collectors, especially those of what they seem to call The 2nd UK Revival, I am discovering that one thing that interests me is the 'discourse' or 'narrative' within which they frame their presentation of what they find. Perhaps because of the distance in time between then and now, the ideological biases and assumptions underpinning this seem evident. It's about what they say and what they leave out. But not everybody shares this interest.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 12:29 PM

Pseudonomous wrote: -
'Twenty years ago, the Stewarts saw themselves as Travellers', now they were 'observers - sympathetic, but detached observers'. (Quotations from the Till Doomsday in the Afternoon Book.)

After quite a search, I have found this quotation on page 35. I felt that I wanted to be able to comment on it but could not do so without examining the context it was written in so here is the full paragraph that it is taken from: -
It cannot be denied that the Stewarts' contact with the Gorgio world has resulted in their becoming entertainers, personalities and public performers, and has accelerated the process of their alienation from the Traveller community. At the same time, it has alerted them to the danger of their imminent destruction as a cultural and social unit. It is one thing, however, to be aware of a situation and another to actually do something to change the course of events. Twenty years ago, the Stewarts saw themselves as Travellers, as members of a community of outcasts. Time has changed their view of themselves: from being members of a community they have
become observers - sympathetic, but detached observers. The "us" and "them" of early Stewart conversations referred to Travellers on the one hand and Gorgios on the other. That is no longer the case. The "us" and "them" now seem to indicate the distance that lies between the Stewarts and other members of the Travelling community.

We got to know Belle & Alex very well. We corresponded for many years and they came several times to stay with us in Lewes just as we went quite a number of times to their house in Yeaman Street in Rattray. Ewan & Peggy met Belle, Alex and their family in 1961, Tina and I not until 1968. The book was not published until much later in 1986.
I find much to disagree with in that paragraph though I would agree with the first part of the first sentence. They did alter the way that they would present their songs stories and tunes so that it would become a folk club 'act' and it is also true that there was some jealousy and some opposition to their sharing their culture with the collectors - but then with the Scots travellers, family rows were a way of life; they always found something to fall out over and often the row would be forgotten as quickly as it began.
We tried to make arrangements about when we could visit but Belle would not hear of it - 'Jist come...jist turn up; yer aye welcome!' We knew that we would be expected to stay for most of the rest of the day and would be fed. When we visited so we always made sure that we had a food and drink gift to give them.
Every time we were there it was like Open House, various traveller 'freens' would drop in for a chat and a cup of tea and swap the news of mutual friends and family. Once a man turned up and he had come to complain about the sale of a car. He and Alex had a blazing row and were cursing one another roundly. We got up to go but Belle stood in front of us and told us to sit down and be quiet because it would over in a short while. And it was! The visitor turned and from the row to have a few jokey words with Belle and she responded in kind before he left. Immediately our hosts reverted to their normal charming selves.
We organised tours for them in England which was easy to do as we knew the clubs that would be interested. The Singers Club, Guildford, Horsham, Swindon and our club in Lewes - all in the south and perhaps Nottingham on their way south and Newcastle on their way back north. One time we were travelling over from Lewes over to Horsham with them in their car. We saw some vardos aitched on the side of the road and Alex stopped the car. Belle got agitated.
"Now, Alex, We havna' got time for this; we huv tae get tae this folk club."
"Jist bide in the car yous three. Ah'll no be long."
He was gone for about 15 to 20 minutes with Belle fretting all the time. When he came back the rest of the journey was taken us with Belle wanting to know everything that had been said. Alex did not know these people but they had many acquaintances in common and were able to give many updates to one another.
Does this sound like "alienation from the Traveller community"?

Finally it is simply wrong to use the word 'Gorgios' to describe the settled community, though they would have recognised this word as a Romany word used by English travellers. They might have said 'gadgie' for a man though they told me that this was more used by their Aberdeenshire 'freens'. Talking about settled people that they in villages and towns, they would talk about the 'country hantle'.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: GUEST,Pseudonymous
Date: 15 Dec 19 - 01:31 PM

Vic

Interesting contribution, worth a careful read. The fact that you have access to a copy of the Seeger/MacColl 'Till Doomsday' and are willing to share information about it is one of the things that makes Mudcat so amazing!

To give Harker his due, he did find and mention a response to the S/MacC book from a Traveller organisation, albeit an anonymous review.


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Dec 19 - 10:58 AM

I don't know who was responsible for the transcriptions of the song words in Till Doomsday in the Afternoon but they clearly were not conversant with the various Scots dialects used in the Stewarts songs or Scottish place names because there are a fair number of errors. For some reason, one of these errors really annoys me. On pages 245 - 247, the notes tunes and words of the song that the book gives the title as Geordie Weir (Roud No. 5205). The book gives the first line of the chorus as:-
S



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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Dec 19 - 11:04 AM

>>>"Submit message<<< pressed in error:-

So I wish I was back in Smarendale Rye


When what Belle actually sings very clearly is:

So I wish I was back aince mair in Dalry


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 05:49 AM

'I [note the pronoun} have made it a point on insisting on the rule that singers do not sing anything but the songs of their own native tradition.'
That was how i understood the rule at the time, it also bears out the story of the english singer who sang single girl at the club lisa? and was stopped by MacColl, however Jim Carroll states that this was not the case it was only the residents that had to follow that rule


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Subject: RE: 2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act
From: Vic Smith
Date: 28 Dec 19 - 06:30 AM

Dick wrote: -
the story of the english singer who sang single girl at the club lisa?

Lisa Turner.


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