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Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics

06 Oct 03 - 01:44 PM (#1030670)
Subject: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,Len Wallace

Hello Mudcatters,

Interested to know people's feelings about the following.

I end up performing a lot of pubs. In the Irish pubs I always getting the usual requests for "The Unicorn", "Irish Eyes", etc., requests. I know how to handle them.

Inevitably there come requests such as the time when a young woman came trapsing up to the stage and asked me, "Can you play that song where we all yell, 'You Bitch, You Slut, you Whore!". She was refering to "Seven Drunken Nights". Seems that in the past few years people have taken to (enouraged by some performers) to shouting this in the song in the lyrics:

When I called my wife -
"Hey Wife!"
(the crowd starts roaring You Bitch, You Slut, You Whore)

I told the young woman I don't perform the song. When she asked why, I said precisely because people shout out that nonsense. That a rather humorous song becomes a song where abuse is made gfun of. She walked away disgruntled. She just didn't get it.

At the odd times that I give in to perform the song I inform the audience that if people start singing those lyrics I would stop the song (and have).

My question is . . . Why do people want to hear such songs?

Why is it that more and more people want to hear songs such as "Where The Fuck Is Alice?", and every such song that sometimes ends up being just crass, disgusting, full of nonsense swearing? And why do some performers feed into this nonsense? (it makes it harder foir the rest of us trying to perform good songs).

Is it sexual repression on the part of the audience? Are audiences becoming more stupid, crass and ignorant? is it the musician's fault?

For music that never dies,

Len Wallace

06 Oct 03 - 02:15 PM (#1030696)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Clinton Hammond

Len... it's "Who the f*ck is Alice?" And yer right... It's just crass and disgusting... and the word I toss at audiences who request it (And we BOTH know who we're talking about) is "juvenile"... I don't care if he owns the place or not! LOL

" in the past few years people have taken to (enouraged by some performers)"

Again, I know who you're talking about, and do you know, he doesn't even do the song anymore? Nor will I, nor others... if we all stick together and refuse to play it, eventually audiences will forget about it and be content with "Bugger off" (How is that one any different) and "Beer Run"

"And why do some performers feed into this nonsense?"
You'll never starve to death playing to the lowest common denominator... And you'll go home at the end of your gig with the audiences base howls of approval ringing in your ears... Hard to deny praise like that... Look how well it worked for other bar acts like Mclean and Mclean... or to help Bowser and Blue get started (Fortunately one of M&M died, so they stopped, and B&B matured out of that silliness...)

"Are audiences becoming more stupid, crass and ignorant?"
Becoming? That implies that at some point they were other than that...

Sounds to me Len me-ol'-soup-spoon, like yer looking to find a better CLASS of gig than the average bar/pub deal... well, you and me both chum!

So, let's get it together and get this show on the road eh!


06 Oct 03 - 02:25 PM (#1030701)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

Yeah, I would get out of the bars with the low class who usually haunt them and find a better scene.

06 Oct 03 - 02:26 PM (#1030703)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Clinton Hammond

Easier said than done MG...

06 Oct 03 - 02:29 PM (#1030710)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: M.Ted

The tradition of singing filthy lyrics while roaring drunk is ancient--it has been much neglected by academics and folklorists, though some long supressed collections have been recently printed for the first time. The internet has also brought a lot of stuff into wider circulation--but it's always been with us.

As a kid, I never heard any of my neighbors sing Barbara Allen or any of the other more literary ballads, but my best friend's Uncle did a rip-roaring version of "Eskimo Nell" and he, and others, taught us bits and pieces of some of the most unmitigated filth you could imagine--of course, in those days, they and we were very careful about who it was shared with--and in what circumstances--

In those days, I would never have imagined that the radio would play music full of scatological references, or that it would be performed anywhere other than in the back room--The fact is that certain people have always wanted to hear that stuff, but nowdays, they need for everyone else to hear it as well--hopefully, it will only go so far, and then start to swing back again--

06 Oct 03 - 03:24 PM (#1030742)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: alanabit

My problem with this sort of filth is not so much that it is obscene, but that it is witless. There are a number of rugby songs which are far more obscene than "Who The F*ck Is Alice", but which are far wittier. In essence it is the same audiences that want your your bored, disinterested versions of American Pie and Country Roads which want this gormless filth. Boy am I glad that I don't do Irish Pubs any more!

06 Oct 03 - 03:27 PM (#1030745)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Mooh

Len...I was just looking for you internet presence the other day, having not seen you in ten years or so. I liked you act then. Any chance of a return to Goderich Celtic Roots Festival?

My last couple of visits to the local watering hole revealed an increasing amount of the kind of behavior you're talking about. It seems to me it's done now with less twinkle in the eye and more leer, more malice and less humour. More's the pity. My sister would have said it's just another way of expressing violence and I think she's right...have fun at insult and abuse is still insult and abuse.

This is exactly why (along with smoke) I quit the bars long ago. But I also believe that the disparity between the extremes of human behavior is increasing. It's cool to be crass in some circles.

The aforesaid is right, get a better gig (though you might have to starve a bit). It's not our (musicians) fault. Sigh.

Peace, Mooh.

06 Oct 03 - 03:59 PM (#1030764)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST, Mikefule

I don't know about requests for obscene versions, but I do know that - in England at least - it's always wise to move down market if you want to shift stock. See any nice new restaurant and go back a year later... and a year after that. Everything moves down market until it becomes acceptable to the masses, even if the price remains as high!

In song, therefore, I see no reason why it should be different.

These people are The Folk. How can we say they're wrong? ;0)

More seriously, there are things which spoil good songs. Daft alternative versions (of which I've written a few) can spoil people's enjoyment of the original.

As soon as a song is seen ironically, then it can no longer be taken seriously. Is The Wild Rover really a substantially worse song than any number of other mediocre/banal folk songs? Yet it has this special place as "The Song Not To Sing" if you are " a real folkie", and "The only folksong we know" if you are not a folkie, but just a "Folk".

06 Oct 03 - 05:18 PM (#1030811)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: pavane

Not only Irish pubs. We have been to several social clubs in South Wales where they have signs up warning performers not to sing Alice.
Never heard it sung, myself. Must have lead a sheltered life.

But I do recall the a guy who sang 'cats on the rooftop..cats with piles..' in a folk club got a frosty reception.

06 Oct 03 - 05:18 PM (#1030812)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Bill D

alanabit has it right!--there is 'good' and clever and funny raunch, and there is stupid, vulgar stuff that is done just for the excuse to shout obscene words. "Eskimo Nell" is raunchy, but it is 'about' something, and generally well constructed. Beware giving in to the requests for the lowest form, you are pegged for life....but if you learn a few really witty and funny songs of an 'earthier' sort, you attract a MUCH better class of audience.

06 Oct 03 - 06:51 PM (#1030856)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

Yes I've wondered about this. The witless filth I mean. I used to get requests, in pubs, for songs like "Running Bare" oops I mean Running Bear" so they could sing "without your pants on" at the end of EVERY line. Tiresome! so tiresome! I once was singing to a bunch of very little kids in a school and they wanted "If I were a Rich Man" I couldn't fathom it. I asked them to sing it for me and they were delighted. They came to "...... biddy biddy bum" and we all fell about laughing. For the benefit of Americans BUM is a very rude word in Australia if you are a little kid. Or was.
So I think it all starts early.

06 Oct 03 - 07:02 PM (#1030860)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Cluin

They do it for the same reason they go to see the "Rocky Horror Picture Show". Because their behaviour there would shock Aunt Mabel. And they can go back to their jobs Monday and feel like they went wild on the weekend and nobody knows how crazy bad rebel fun they really are.

And our job is to whip them up into a frenzy and get them drinking as much as we can. I'm just thankful when it pays well. Then I can fool myself into thinking I'm getting a good price for my soul.

But by the end of the night, I grab a beer and sit in the corner hiding and scowling because I've had my fill of drunk and stupid for another weekend.

06 Oct 03 - 07:19 PM (#1030870)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: clansfolk

It's a very tricky situation - why are you there?

If you are being paid to entertain and that's what the audience want??

But if you upset one person in the audience then it's one too many...

Choice - don't work that kind of venue... hard for a gigging musician who needs a regular income..... change your moral stance... and bite the bullet... say you don't know that song and suggest one "equally as funny with a great chorus to sing" -

Lets face it the songs I sing in a rowdy Blackpool pub ay 11pm at night aren't the same songs I sing at 2pm in the day care centre!

Pub songs aren't the same songs I sing at festivals and folk clubs - I have a choice whether to play the venues or not - and I'm not there to try and force my tastes on the audience - only as as been said before get the sales over the bar up! and this is how your success and popularity in the pub entertainment world is judged.

You may have the best voice in the world play guitar like an angel and have some lovely songs - but if the audience don't like you and don't buy beer you won't be re-booked - Hey it's just a job!!!!

Good days and bad days....... and now for a rousing chorus of Wild Rover    arrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggggggggggg!!!!!!!

06 Oct 03 - 07:37 PM (#1030884)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

I don't play pubs now. Never did too much and the smoke got to me. I did once have the wonderful compliment of being fired from a pub job because the manager complained that the audience was more interested in listening to me than in buying beer. I love that. My True-love has a sure-fire way of getting away from an audience at the end of the night. He just plays a loud chord and sings "Day-O! Day -O!" and they're off. We quietly slip off home and they never notice.

06 Oct 03 - 09:38 PM (#1030971)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: LadyJean

I once met a charming man who translated the infamous Greek Sailor song into classical Greek, so he could sing it in mixed company.
Many years ago, Larry Huges and Walter Scott, two well known Pittsburgh folk singers, sang The Ball of Kerrymuir at the Blarney Stone. It had a mixed reception.

06 Oct 03 - 09:57 PM (#1030979)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

I've never been quite ready to sing The Ball of Kerrymuir or many other wonderfully singable songs with poetic but improper words. I love to sing The Blacksmith however, and often people will just hear it as a pretty song. Which it is, of course and a good one. "....the more it grew soft, it grew hard the more slow...." is a far cry from "Balls to your partner...." I must admit. I never sing it for audiences who have their own office-clown, who is quite able to entertain his friends by putting a condom on his head and dancing on the table.

06 Oct 03 - 10:02 PM (#1030981)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Charley Noble

My uncle had a different dilemma. After making ten recordings of traditional folk ballads in a classical concert fashion, he produced a recording that featured Mark Twain's "1601," an extended mock Elizbethan discourse of the fart. Some reviewers thought he did it to shock THEM into comment. But I think he was just providing context for his other recordings, and having a lot of fun doing it.

Charley Noble

06 Oct 03 - 11:01 PM (#1030997)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: The Fooles Troupe

Len - one word reply to your first post...



06 Oct 03 - 11:07 PM (#1031000)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Amergin

I like a bit of raunchy myself...but the clever type of raunchy....just not verbal porn...like this weekend i sang Micca's Manchester Wanker and it was well received...but it was also FUNNY....I would not sing Eskimo Nell....thats porn.

06 Oct 03 - 11:56 PM (#1031016)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Shimbo Darktree

Folks, are we missing the point here? What happened to the freedom that folkies are so fond of singing about (or were when I started, anyway)? If you don't like listening to a particular type of song at particular venues, don't go! Or are your feet nailed to the floor?

If you are making a living singing at venues you don't like, then maybe it is not the audience who are all out of step ... consider a career change!

I don't sing outright crude songs because I find they are not usually clever (as others have mentioned). If I am an audience member at a club/concert/whatever where I seriously disapprove of the performer's lyrics (or, for that matter, anything else about the performance), I leave, and consider not going back. I have the freedom to do this, and others have the freedom to stay.

Anyone for a chorus of "We Shall not be Moved"?

06 Oct 03 - 11:57 PM (#1031017)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Amergin

i dont sing we shall not be moved songs either....

07 Oct 03 - 12:00 AM (#1031018)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Bill D

Is that like the famous Unitarian Hymn, "We Would Rather Not Be Moved"?

07 Oct 03 - 08:25 AM (#1031167)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Roger the Skiffler

I admit to singing my share of these when I was in the Sea Cadets, though the Scouts frowned on them - I remember being censured for pretending to be drunk in a campfire skit (well, the Scout leaders WERE "'ymn-singin' Methodies")!
    However when I became adult (?), I preferred more subtle innuendo-I'm a great fan of the Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Jack Dupree, George Melly line of "bawdieville" songs: Hot Dog Man, Put a Little Sugar in My Bowl, Kitchen Man, Garbage Man, Under Your Hood etc.
This genre is celebrated in a new George Melly series: "Filthy Jazz" starting on BBC Radio 2 tonight at 21.30 British Summer Time. I'll be out at the jazz club but will catch it later online.


07 Oct 03 - 05:23 PM (#1031382)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: IndolentCin

Renaissance festivals (at least in the States) tend to have a lot of songs with lyrics full of innuendo, and I have noticed that the groups getting the biggest crowds at times are the ones doing songs that are less witty and more explicit. For me, they may be slightly amusing the first time but grow old very quickly.

If you like the RnB/Blues "subtle innuendo" songs, look for a CD called something like "Filthy Fifties R-n-B." Most of them aren't "filthy" but certainly toe that line pretty close, but are great songs. And they weren't novelty songs, just blues/swing/RnB that fell out of favor. I found the CD because I recently saw Maria Muldaur at Blues Alley in Washington, DC and she did, among other things, a song called "It Ain't The Meat, It's the Motion" which is on the CD along with "Big 10 Inch Record", "Keep the Butter Churnin'" and "(I love to play your piano) Let me bang your box" (and the song isn't nearly as blatant as the title but my 14 year old son got the word play!), and others.


07 Oct 03 - 07:07 PM (#1031463)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

Some of us play in venues where most of the audience are ok, or at least not a distraction for the ones who like us. It's just the odd dumb drunk or wild office party that is the problem. We learn to deal with it, if performing is what love to do, and it helps to let off steam a bit among friends at a forum like this.
It's not complaining it's bonding!!
Of course we'd rather play folk clubs and festivals when we can. Remarks like "well just don't do it" are meaningless to a performer. How could we just not do it?
Jerry Lewis said, "Open the fridge door, the light comes on, and I do a few routines" Now that I understand.

07 Oct 03 - 07:32 PM (#1031483)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Mark Ross

I was playing 20 years ago in a bar in Eureka, Montana, not too far from the Canadian border. A lot of Canadians would slip across the border to drink under more liberal American auspices. A bunch of them kept coming up to the bandstand and requesting something called the RODEO SONG, which I had not heard at the time. Trying to be accommodating I asked how it went. The reply was some alcoholic mumbling , something on the order(as near as I could make out) of, " I got in my truck, and I don't give a fuck, so I'm off to the rodeo." As if I was supposed to divine how the rest of the song was supposed to go from that! After many requests for this deathless bit of poesy, requested over the course of the evening I finally decided to give them THE CASTRATION OF THE STRAWBERRY ROAN, which I had learned from Glenn Ohrlin. No reaction, but I didn't get any requests from them again for the rest of the weekend!

Mark Ross

07 Oct 03 - 08:30 PM (#1031511)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Clinton Hammond


It's 40 below and I don't give a f*ck
Got a heater in my truch and I'm off to the rodeo...

With the memorable chorus

"Ya p!ss me off... ya f*ckin' jerk!"

Mclean and Mclean... one of the reasons I'm glad they're gone...

08 Oct 03 - 03:38 AM (#1031627)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Cluin

Not MacLean & MacLean, actually. That was Showdown.

MacLean & MacLean's signature song was "Fuck Ya".

Fuck ya, fuck ya,
Eff you see kay why ay
Fuck ya, fuck ya,
Eff you see kay why ay
I really hate your fucking guts
And I'd like to kick you in the nuts
So fuck ya, fuck ya,
Eff you see kay why ay
(We really mean it)
Eff you see kay why ay

An easy mistake to make, but here on the Mudcat, we thrive on accuracy.

08 Oct 03 - 03:44 AM (#1031630)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Roger the Skiffler

Thanks to the magic of the Internet I'm listening to the replay of George Melly's programme now with Butterbeans and Susie doing "I want a hot dog for my roll".


08 Oct 03 - 08:13 AM (#1031701)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,noddy

As Alex Harvey said

There's no such thing as a dirty book
It's just the way you read it.

08 Oct 03 - 08:20 AM (#1031702)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: greg stephens

Well you're right, GUEST noddy, but just how many different ways are there to understand a group of drunks shouting "Who the fuck is Alice"?

08 Oct 03 - 08:52 AM (#1031710)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Midchuck

Charley, your uncle was Richard Dyer-Bennet? Holy F***.

I have that recording. I can rant whole long sections of it, when in that mood. Then my wife hits me and I stop.

Mark, one of my projects before I die is to learn all the words to The Castration of the Strawberry Roan. That and California Joe. Even though I'd get in trouble for singing either one of them in public, the one being horribly filthy by anyone's standards except cowboys; the other being hopelessly politically incorrect (...Too late, the painted heathens had set the house afire...)


08 Oct 03 - 11:52 AM (#1031810)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

If anyone wants to sing that crap, I cannot respect them as an artist. It's not that I'm a prude. Far f*cking from it.

08 Oct 03 - 12:00 PM (#1031813)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Willie-O

The Rodeo Song was written by an Alberta cowboy/singer named Gaye Delorme. Well, life ain't easy for a cowboy named Gaye.

I got in a lot of shit with a bar manager once because I let someone borrow my guitar on a break and he played The Rodeo Song. The doors were open and they already had a problem with noise in the residential neighbourhood. This was all my fault. So I learned several things not to do that night.   

It has everything to do with alcohol and some people. "She walked away disgruntled and just didn't get it" is about a best-case scenario.


08 Oct 03 - 12:05 PM (#1031815)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,Len Wallace

Hey Mooh! Sure. Would love to perform again in Goderich. Put in a good word for me there with Warren Robinson. Nothing like friends calling up or emailing Festival directors saying you'd like to see someone come back.

As for the filthy lyrics. Am I wrong or has the taste of audiences just lowered over the years. Could it be explained by the garbage that passes for music on radio and television and video? The stuff that passes for supposedly good songwriting no longer conveys a story, not even an entire thought. More like bumpersticker stream of consciousness.

Len Wallace

08 Oct 03 - 01:39 PM (#1031877)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Mooh

Len...Will do! Mooh.

08 Oct 03 - 02:11 PM (#1031895)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Richard Bridge

Hmm. "Good taste" as an arbiter of folk music.

Isn't that where the Victorian bowdlerisers we now so scorn came from?

Perhaps a different answer is that most of these modern fuck songs are not folk at all...

08 Oct 03 - 07:07 PM (#1032025)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

I do think the standard used to be higher - (says she just like her Mum did 50 years ago) I think about the wonderfully poetic lines from the past like -
Come a-tie my pecker to a pole, to a pole.
Come a-tie my pecker to a pole.

and many others too unlady-like to mention but just as singable. Pure uncensored poetry some of it. And the images!

08 Oct 03 - 08:22 PM (#1032063)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Charley Noble


Yes, you're absolutely correct but don't tell anyone else.

He was an interesting uncle, shall we say. I have fond memories of his stories, especially the Georgian folk tales.

My understanding is the Smithsonian will burn any of Uncle Dick's CD's on demand if you're interested. Or you can wait until they finish the present process of re-leasing all of his recordings.

Charley Noble

08 Oct 03 - 08:27 PM (#1032069)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

Oh Charley! I do hope you are my Secret Santa. If you are I'm hinting! I'm hinting.

08 Oct 03 - 10:39 PM (#1032144)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Maryrrf

I just came upon this thread - interestingly the same thing happened to me, not long ago, and it was the same song. I only play "Seven Drunken Nights" when it's requested and I didn't know about the part where the audience shouts "you bitch....". A wedding party came in and wanted to hear it and the drunken bride got angry because I didn't pause long enough for them to shout these words. Although I was a good sport and went along with them (I know I'm there to entertain and I do so to the best of my ability) I have to say that I hated every minute of it. I found the group truly repulsive (including and especially the bride and groom) and just found myself wondering why adults get such a kick out of something so ...I don't even know what to call it...pathetic?? What a thrill - we got to yell out naughty words in a pub!!!!

08 Oct 03 - 10:42 PM (#1032148)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Maryrrf

Oh I've had requests for the "Alice" song too but have been putting off learning it indefinitely.

09 Oct 03 - 12:39 AM (#1032213)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: LadyJean

On those rare occasions when I sing "The Fair Flower of Northumberland", I sing, "Get ye doon frae my horse you're a brazen faced miss" or lass, or girl. It's funnier if it doesn't rhyme.
Clam Chowder did "Seven Nights Drunk". Kathy Sobanski would sound wonderfully indignant as the wife, while her husband ad libbed.
"You're drunk!"
"Well I wish I were!"
and similar comments. If someone had called Kathey Sobanski a bitch or a whore, I wouldn't have given much for their chances of survival. Their rendition of "A Glass of Madiera My Dear" had to be heard to be believed. I much prefer the suggestive to the outright bawdy.

09 Oct 03 - 12:55 AM (#1032221)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: LadyJean

Just thought of something else. For two years, I was a square peg in a small denominational college in Kentucky. Folk music was one of the things that kept me sane. It was just bawdy enough to counteract the Precious Moment spirituality so many of my friends practiced.
One night I found myself at a Christian coffee house. A friend and I stood the maudlin music as long as we could, then we went out to the foyer, and swapped dirty songs. "The Bastard King Of England" is not one of my favorites. But that night it was pleasantly refreshing.
When the tornadoes hit Kentucky that spring, my friend of the dirty songs took time off from class to join the relief efforts. Most of the alleged Christians didn't even donate a pair of socks.

09 Oct 03 - 01:00 AM (#1032223)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

Me too Lady Jean. I have always been a bit concerned about that rather startling word in the middle of "The Fair Flower of Northumberland" even if he did say it, mainly because I think listeners focus on it and it's hard to get them back to the story. "It's hard enough to tell them that she is barely thirteen". By then you've nearly finished of course.

09 Oct 03 - 09:12 AM (#1032370)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: HuwG

It sometimes raises a laugh, to put in an obvious misrhyme where an obscenity is the natural progression. An example is from Billy Connolly's take on "Two little boys":

"If you see them on the beat
As they swagger down the street
Here's a piece of advice for you
Don't trust your luck
Turn round ! Run like the clappers
From the little boys in blue"

09 Oct 03 - 09:31 AM (#1032382)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Snuffy

Most verses of Cosher Bailey follow that pattern:

Cosher Bailey's brother Matthew
Had a job of cleaning statues
And while cleaning one of Venus
He did slip and hurt his .... elbow

etc, etc

09 Oct 03 - 11:30 AM (#1032452)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Richard Bridge

Of course, many Irish (and Scots, and I think some American) songs incite the listeners to murder the English.

Being English, I find this less than delightful...

09 Oct 03 - 12:16 PM (#1032479)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Dave Bryant

I must admit that I'm intrigued by the idea of "Playing Lyrics" - I assume you mean accompanying songs with lyric which you deem "filthy". I myself wouldn't describe anything of a sexual nature as "filthy" - I could imagining using words like "Risque", "Bawdy", "Crude", "Disgusting", "Perverted" etc. Most of the lyrics which have been mentioned would get get no further down the list than "Bawdy" although some (mainly due to their lack of sublety) might just creep into the "Crude" category.

In the UK we tend to call the more extreme examples of this genre "Rugby Songs" - named after the game (or rather the boozy post-match sessions) rather than the town. Many of these lyrics have been compiled with some measure of skill - even if it's only the ingenuity with which rhymes are found for many bodily parts and sexual functions. Some are quite clever (The sexual Life of the Camel for instance).

There are also many other songs - a large number of which can be found in the DT under the category of "Bawdy". Many of these have their roots in the Music Hall, others come from the armed services and a large number of songs (mainly employing inuendo, phallic symbolism etc) come actually from the folk tradition itself. For an example from Tudor times see Watkins Ale.

If you are performing in venues where the clientelle request such songs either sing them, or if it upsets you, find other more genteel audiences to entertain. I do sing the odd bawdy song ("The Lobster Song", "Gentlemen will please Refrain", "Gladiator Song" etc) and find that in some circumstances that they can lighten the atmosphere and shut a noisy audience up. "The Thrashing Machine" did exactly that at Tenterden FF last Saturday - Fellow Mudcatter "Synbyn" complimented me on getting the audience "back in listening mode". The important thing is to use these songs wisely - ration them and find other songs with interesting (non-bawdy) words to sing when you've got their attention.

Incidently, I've earned many a pint though a contest to see who knows the most verses to "In Mobile".

09 Oct 03 - 07:08 PM (#1032715)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joybell

Ah but it was the word "filthy" that attracted so much comment wasn't it?
Speaking of Rugby songs - I have always wondered why "The Maiden's Prayer" a variant of "The Butcher's Boy" - collected in The British Isles and in Australia - can be found among rugby songs. It contains the word "virginity" but there is nothing else remotely rude about it. If you start to sing it here in Australia,(folk clubs excepted) people start to smirk before you've even got to "... stole of her virginity" I've been told there are rude army versions but the only words anyone has ever been able to come up with were the same ones I sing. I did find it in a book of "Rugby Songs" but it was exactly the same. The other songs in the book could only be described as filthy. It was like finding a pearl in a swine feed trough. Sorry I really like pigs but you know what I mean.

10 Oct 03 - 04:51 AM (#1032941)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Dave Bryant

Many years ago, an old thameside pub at Wapping, "The Prospect of Whitby" used to be noted for the singing of rugby songs. They had a small instrumental group (I think they were Polynesian) who played electric Guitars, Mandolins etc. The band didn't actually sing, they just played tunes like "The Ash Grove", "Eton Boating Song", "My Bonny Lies over the Ocean" and many others which had "Rugby Song Lyrics". The Pub was always packed with people of both sexes singing the songs - various people would start a verse and the rest would join in.

On a Saturday night there were often many genuine rugby players whose clubs didn't have a bar coming along after a match. The atmosphere was fantastic - and the singing was great - I wish we could get many folk club audiences to join in choruses with the same enthusiasm. They were great nights. It was impossible to find a parking space anywhere near the pub, and local urchins would offer to "Keep an eye on your car for 'alf a crown, Mister".

Incidently, hanging over the corner where the band played, was a sign which read "The singing of songs with obscene words is expressly prohibited". Somehow I think it was meant to be a joke.

29 Jun 04 - 04:36 AM (#1216043)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics


The Maiden's Prayer

A maiden young and fair was she
Who lived in high society
A soldier brave and bold was he
Who stole of her virginity

And when her apron strings hung low
He chased her through the ice and snow
And now her apron strings don't meet
He passes her by on the street

Her father returning late one night
He found her home without a light
He went straightway up to her room
And found her hanging in the gloom

(2 lines missing)
He took his knife and he cut her down
And on her breast these words he found:

Oh Father, Father dig my grave
Place me beside a garden wall (sic)
And on my grave place a turtle-dove
To show this world I died for love.


29 Jun 04 - 04:49 AM (#1216049)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

If you are singing this to Schubert's sacred Ave Maria which was originally not based on Latin but taken from Sir Walter Scott's "Hymn to the Virgin" in The Lady of the Lake....I can understand the snickers.


29 Jun 04 - 07:22 AM (#1216107)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Leadfingers

Just a passing comment - 'Alice' is a quite well crafted song that had a brief popularity a few years ago even getting into the top twenty . Then Roy Chubby Brown started doing it in his act with the
'Who the F**k is Alice' business . Some Disc Jockeys latched on to this and now the whole point of the song is to shout obscenities at the top of your voice . A great shame , but its the AUDIENCE that does it , not the singer/group .

29 Jun 04 - 08:38 AM (#1216140)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST, Su Rynas

Self selection does work both ways.
You can go elsewhere if they demand you perform the unclever songs, or they can go elsewhere when they realize you won't. The first avoids a prudish reputation. (Although how much would that woman you mentioned really remember, eh?)
Another facet of this whole self-selection business is that if you only sing cleverly bawdy songs with lots of vague reference and double entendre, the crass class just won't get it. They'll see people of a different sort smiling and snickering softly, and realize they are simply in the wrong place. Well, at least that's what one hopes, anyhow.

As for spacing them out...
An interest group I was a member of once had a singing contest, and I had the great misfortune to sing a bawdy song. Clever, I had thought, but apparently not as clever as the guy who came before with a more well known bawdy song. Two in a row was in bad taste, and I came out looking like the one who had gone over the top.

I think the previous gentlemen's suggestion to use bawdy songs like bait on a hook is quite useful.

Good luck to you!

In harmony,
Su Rynas

29 Jun 04 - 10:25 AM (#1216229)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Flash Company

Joybell's comments about The Virgins Prayer strike a chord. I remember back in the '60s being told that Whistle, Daughter Whistle was rude (I am weary and oh so tired of my virginity!)
Burl Ives was once thrown in jail for singing The Foggy Dew.
As to the now prevelant custom of audiences, both male and female, to communicate in obscenities, Flanders and Swann spotted the trend years ago, Mum's gone out, Lets say rude words; Pee Po Belly Bum Drawers!


29 Jun 04 - 07:47 PM (#1216616)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: GUEST,Paranoid Android

Back to the same old story - either you are a purist who will sing only politically/regiously correct songs or you are there for the "CRAIC". You can be full of your own ego and sing some 30 verse lament expecting the drinking public to shut up and appreciate the artistry of your performance or you can sing some low down shite ballad and have a laugh. I do the latter.
I have sessions with my friends who appreciate the former .

29 Jun 04 - 07:49 PM (#1216619)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Joe_F

I didn't think "The Fair Flower of Northumberland" was supposed to be funny.

29 Jun 04 - 08:28 PM (#1216640)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: michaelr

Where did this idea originate that the audience can demand what the performer's repertoire is to be?

Guest P.A. -- I find your "either-or" dichotomy much too limited. I perform music for money (not much money, generally), and I do it for the craic, which is to say, because I enjoy it. I do not sing 30-verse laments for the benefit of my own ego, nor do I sing PC or RC material. Neither do I perform "low-down shite".

As I've said in another thread, just because they pay you doesn't mean you're a prostitute. My band plays material we deem to be of quality. Many folks like it, others don't care. We don't do requests unless it happens to be something that's in our repertoire.

Any performer who lets himself be intimidated by drunken boors should find another gig. To thine own self be true!


29 Jun 04 - 08:30 PM (#1216641)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Little Hawk

This is one of a number of reasons why I never wanted to play bars, and very seldom ever did.

29 Jun 04 - 10:03 PM (#1216686)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Bert

I sing lots of songs that are nowadays borderline for polite society. In the Fifties they would have been a no-no.

I consider none of them crude; suggestive, cheeky and bawdy, yes.

There's lots out there which your audience has never heard and will be greatly loved. Just say, I don't know that one but here's one that you will like. And then sing 'em Amos's song "When your pickle glows at night"

You'll be a hit and you'll never be able to sing there again without singing that song.

If you're iun a pub and things aren't going right and you're really desperate! just sing Danny Boy.

30 Jun 04 - 04:19 AM (#1216814)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Big Al Whittle

Robert Graves mentions Cosher Bailey being sung by his fellow troops in WW1 in his biog Goodbye to All That.

Guys who were going off to face death and were probably pretty frightened. And presumably we're talking about Welsh guys who were from the chapel infested valleys where enlightened sexual attitudes were something of the future.

The thing is we have so many tabus about sexuality- it's no wonder we get it wrong and sometimes we appear base and don't always behave and express ourselves as well as we might.

I think what I'm trying to say is that the urge to sing dirty songs is probably how some of us need to approach the dirty subject. It's the life force, that gets most of us born.....a bit of respect please.

30 Jun 04 - 10:41 AM (#1217022)
Subject: RE: Discussion: Playing Filthy Lyrics
From: Dave Bryant

I noticed this thread has surfaced again.

I must admit that unlike many of the other singers who've posted, the number of times when I've actually had 'cold' requests (ie not "Can you sing that song which you did last time about . . . . . ") for bawdy songs in pubs is quite rare compared to those for "Wild Rover", "Fields of Athenry", "Streets of London" and a whole host of pop songs. As I said previously, bawdy songs are often a useful 'bridge' to a primarily non-folk audience. I'd hate to do a gig which had no humour in it at all, and it's a fact that people seem to find jokes of a sexual nature funnier than most others.