Martin Carthy at the BBC

26 January 2022

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 26 January 2022

Partly in response to the recent news that the Carthy family have been struggling to survive the pandemic, Colin Harper has started the process of pulling together the necessary strands for a ‘Martin Carthy at the BBC’ box set. Colin is crowd-sourcing any available off-air recordings that may be gathering dust in attics and spare rooms.

If you have any recordings that are in reasonable shape, particularly any ‘Folk on 2’ episodes from c. 1981-90 (but basically anything that was originally broadcast on the BBC), please get in touch with Colin. Don’t assume they’re already in the archive, lots of pre-21st century recordings have been wiped or only exist in substandard off-air recordings.

Below is Colin’s social media post and underneath that, in case anyone has a stash of recordings with dates but no contents specified, I’ve listed what I think is a complete list of all known Folkweave or Folk on Two shows that featured Martin. These all include Martin solo unless stated. I have some of the post-1987 episodes and a smattering of the earlier stuff and I’m already in touch with Colin. Happy hunting!!

If you have anything that fits the brief you can contact Colin via his website or at: colinharper123 [at] gmail [dot] com

Colin Harper wrote:

In the early 20th century, folk music enthusiasts went bumbling around Suffolk looking for people of a certain age who might have held on to old songs… In the early 21st century, the equivalent (in this case, me) go bumbling around social media looking for people who may have held on to old cassettes of Martin Carthy BBC broadcasts…

Yes, a ‘Martin Carthy at the BBC’ box set is in the very earliest of stages – expressions of interest from artist and label, but nothing more than that as yet. So expect Sue Grey’s report first… The chicken/egg aspect of this is to establish ‘what’s there’. I’ve already roughed out five discs of off-air material from three online sources, and I anticipate a list of BBC-held material in the next few days.

From experience of working on several similar sets, anything from roughly 2005 on is likely to be retained at the BBC; anything prior to that is a lottery.

Where I’m hoping people around here might be able to help is with Martin’s ‘Folk on Two’ appearances. There were 12 studio sessions and broadcasts from clubs/festivals between 1981-90, for instance. ‘Folk on Two’ stuff never seems to appear in the BBC database of audio survivals… but lots of people taped episodes off-air at the time and these cassettes might well be in your loft. Have a rummage – let’s see if we can crowd-source a sensational tribute to the great man!


24 November 1965
1 August 1974
26 September 1974 (Watersons – possibly with MC)
27 March 1975 
25 September 1975
December 1979


16 February 1981
11 May 1981 (Watersons)
27 July 1981
8 March 1982 (Watersons)
15 April 198230 August 1982
4 January 1983 (Watersons)
25 January 1983
20 December 1983
10 July 19843 November 1984
2 February 1985
8 May 1985
29 October 1986
14 January 1987 (Watersons)
7 October 1987 (MC and Chris Wood)
17 February 1988 (Watersons)
13 July 1988 (MC presents)
20 July 1988 (MC presents)
27 July 1988 (MC presents)
12 October 1988 (Carthy & Swarbrick)
9 November 1988 (Blue Murder)
19 April 1989 (Carthy & Swarbrick)
19 April 1989 (interview only)
27 September 1989
7 November 1990 (Carthy & Swarbrick)
27 March 1991 (‘round table’ discussion)
24 April 1991 (Carthy & Swarbrick)
12 June 1991 (‘Traditional Workshop’)
28 January 1992 (MC discusses Peter Bellamy)
28 July 1993 (Band of Hope)
18 May 1994 (Waterson:Carthy)
2 April 1997
23 April 1997 (Waterson:Carthy)
15 October 1997 (Carthy & Swarbrick)
17 December 1997 (Carthy & Swarbrick – excerpt from 15 October 1997 episode)

Martin’s 80th Birthday roundup

27 May 2021

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 27 May 2021

Now the dust has settled on the celebrations around Martin’s 80th birthday – which was on 21 May in case you missed it – I thought it would be a good opportunity to give a roundup of what happened online and on the airwaves to mark the occasion.

Thank Goodness It’s Folk 

In a special edition of the show, Sam Hindley and James Fagan interviewed Martin, who chose 12 pieces of music that have inspired and informed his own life in music.

The Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe

Half of the 19 May BBC radio 2 programme was taken up with an interview with Martin by host Mark Radcliffe.


Not birthday-related but Sean Rafferty speaks to Martin and Eliza ahead of their appearance at the Brighton Festival.

Folk London

Folk London had a lengthy piece by Sarah Lloyd including a new interview with Martin.

Genevieve Tudor 

There was no unique content in this episode, but Genevieve played several of Martin’s  songs to celebrate his birthday.

New merch shop

Scarlet Media have set up a merch shop to try to raise some funds as Martin has been out of work (like all performers) since March 2020:


Eliza’s Twitter feed was the place to go for birthday greetings on the day (and, in fact, for a few days before):

I also marked the occasion here with a special page header:

There were also a number of programmes celebrating Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday on 24 May and Martin was included in some of them:

Front Row

Martin was one of several musicians and celebrities discussing Dylan on a special edition of the BBC radio 4 programme.

Bob Dylan’s Big Freeze

Another repeat of the classic 2008 BBC radio documentary on Dylan’s first trip to the UK in the frozen winter of 1962.

Photo Archive: Carthy & Swarbrick, 1989

7 June 2020

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 7 June 2020

I recently dug out some aging slides taken at a Carthy & Swarb gig at Rotherham Arts Centre on 23 September 1989. They’re not the best quality but I thought they would be worth sharing for reasons of historic interest.

This was part of the second annual UK tour (the ‘Second Farewell Tour”) following on from the previous year’s reunion gigs. Support was by Dave Burland. 

I made a recording of the complete show and although the only copy was stolen many years ago I still have a note of the set list:

First Set:

  1. Arthur McMride And The Sergeant
  2. All In Green
  3. Sovay
  4. The Bride’s March, etc.
  5. The Dominion Of The Sword
  6. Carthy’s March
  7. A-Begging I Will Go
  8. Ship In Distress
  9. Porcupine Rag
  10. Peggy And The Soldier

Second Set:

  1. Tunes 
  2. Bill Norrie
  3. Oh Dear, Oh
  4. Lovely Willie
  5. Prince Heathen
  6. Byker Hill 
  7. The Bows Of London (encore)

“Versions” Spotify playlist

30 May 2020

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 30 May 2020

Here’s a little something to keep you occupied during lockdown.

“Versions” is a career-spanning Spotify playlist showcasing different versions of the same, similar or related songs from Martin Carthy’s solo, duo and band recordings.

Wash your hands to the Famous Flower of Serving Men… and wash and wash and wash…

9 March 2020

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 9 March 2020

I posted this on the Facebook and Twitter feeds a couple of days ago and it seems to have been popular so I though it should have a permanent home here.

#CoronaVirusMemes #WashYourHands #StaySafe

Martin Carthy: 9 September 2019

10 September 2019

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 10 September 2019

The Rose and Monkey Hotel is a new venue on the edge of Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter and right next door to the historic Band On The Wall. It’s a small venue and tonight’s sold out gig was nicely crammed.

Martin continued his recent exploration of his older back catalogue and gave further hints that a new album might be on the horizon. John Barleycorn, High Germany and The Bedmaking (a request) are quite familiar by now and tonight he included the slightly less familiar (in terms of recent gigs) Bruton Town to the list of resurrected songs from his ‘60s and ‘70s repertoire. It came with an amusing intro featuring Davy Graham breaking into Martin’s 1960s flat and Martin ‘teaching’ Davy the tune Moanin’, only to subsequently discover Davy had already recorded his own version.

I hadn’t previously realised that Martin actually wrote one of the verses to Mike Waterson’s A Stitch In Time, but that appears to be the case based on that song’s intro tonight. I’m not sure I’ve heard Martin sing The Taylor’s Britches since the late 1980s, although I have a niggling doubt about that – maybe I have heard him sing it more recently? Either way, it that was a nice amusing addition. Martin expressed his indifference towards the well-worn tropes characteristic of songs such as Harry Cox’s The Barley Straw, from which Martin cribbed the tune for The Foggy Dew.

Bendigo, Champion of England has been a relatively recent addition to his repertoire and the rest of the set was fairly familiar from recent gigs. Martin abandoned Young Morgan after forgetting the words and there were a couple of other touch-and-go memory lapses but nothing that came close to spoiling the night. The first set was pretty low-key and quite short but the second was much longer and a bit less restrained.

First set:
John Barleycorn
Her Servant Man
The Foggy Dew
Bruton Town
High Germany
A Stitch In Time
Bill Norrie

Second Set:
Don’t Go In Them Lions Cage Tonight
Bendigo, Champion of England
Young Morgan
The Deserter
My Son John
The Bows of London
The Tailor’s Britches
Long John
The Bedmaking
Downfall of Paris
Oor Hamlet

Martin Carthy: 11 March 2019

12 March 2019

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 12 March 2019

It’s almost two years since my last Martin solo gig and this one was in the same venue. The Midway in Stockport is a proper old school folk club, with all the attendant pros and cons that come with grass roots music promotion. The seating was cozy to say the least, with people rammed into every available corner, and the lights took on a life of their own, deciding to stage a strike for at least 90% of the gig and only intermittently bursting into life at a few odd, unscheduled moments (see for example my Bows Of London video below at around 6:14).

The set was fairly familiar with only two items I’d not heard Martin sing before: Scarborough Fair has been back in his set recently in a version from Goatland originally learned for the BBC short drama Remember Me and there was a nice introduction referencing his experiences of that recording and his reaction to the finished version; Tea’s Made was one of only a handful of self-written songs regularly sung by Mike Waterson and it’s nice to hear Martin keeping this one alive and with Mike’s introduction/explanation pretty much entirely intact.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that Martin forgot the words to two songs during the evening: Bill Norrie missed a couple of verses (Martin stopped and gave a brief précis of the missing verses before carrying on) and The Devil And The Feathery Wife had to go without its last verse.

First Set:
The Bedmaking
Her Servant Man
Scarborough Fair
When I Was A Little Boy
Nancy Of London
Bill Norrie
A Stitch In Time

Second Set:
Don’t Go In Them Lion’s Cage Tonight
Bendigo, Champion Of England
The Deserter
High Germany
My Son John
The Downfall Of Paris
Invitation To A Funeral
The Bows Of London
Young Morgan
The Devil And The Feathery Wife
Tea’s Made



This is… Martin Carthy: the album that changed everything!

10 February 2019

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 10 February 2019


“This is… Martin Carthy – The Bonny Black Hare and other songs” was one of a couple of major compilations of material from Carthy & Swarbrick’s 1960s recordings to appear in the early ‘70s. It was also the first Martin Carthy album I ever heard about 15 years after its original 1971 release, but I’ve never actually owned a copy until today.

I’d been obsessing over The Watersons for months after hearing them by accident on Andy Kershaw’s Radio 1 show in August 1986 and had borrowed everything of theirs I could find in my local record library. At the time, I worked as a printer and my mate and colleague Allan Wilkinson – you may know his tireless work as head honcho at Northern Sky Magazine – suggested I check out Martin Carthy: “He does the same type of songs as The Watersons but sings solo and plays great guitar. You’ll like him”.

I wasn’t interested. Not one bit! The thing I loved most about The Watersons was precisely their lack of guitars (or any instrumentation, for the most part) and the thing that set them apart was their inspiring harmonies. How could one bloke warbling on his own to a guitar accompaniment ever match the intensity of a Watersons album? I wasn’t having any of it, so I forgot about this “Martin McCarthy” bloke for a while.

Eventually, when it became clear I’d exhausted the record library’s supply of Watersons releases  I took the plunge and borrowed a Martin Carthy album. This was in the pre-CD era when most mainstream record shops simply didn’t stock folk music, and even if they did it’s unlikely I’d have been able to afford them on my meagre wage so I borrowed. I’ve no idea why I chose to borrow this particular album on this occasion. I suspect it was the only one they had available at the time. The fact it was a cassette copy would seem to back this up – I’d always prefer vinyl back then given the option.

I don’t recall what I thought of Side One – The Fowler; Brigg Fair; The Barley Straw; Byker Hill; John Barleycorn; Streets Of Forbes. There was no Road to Damascus moment just yet, but I must have been impressed, or perhaps intrigued, enough to turn over for Side Two because I know I got as far as Ship in Distress, Jack Orion and White Hare. Then the next track started and everything changed…

Anyone growing up in the British Comprehensive schooling system in the 1970s and early-80s will know the excruciating agony of the weekly (if you were lucky – perhaps daily if you were less so!) communal school assembly sing-along. This is where I first learned – and learned to hate – such dross as Kum Ba Yah, All Things Bright And Beautiful, and He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands – the agonising list could go on! And because the Teacher Training Colleges of the ‘60s and ‘70s were breeding grounds not only for our future educators, but also for a future generation of folkies, the repertoire would invariably also be troubled with a smattering of contemporary folk ‘hits’, one of which was Sydney Carter’s Lord Of The Dance.

God, I hated that song! It was an irrational hatred, sure, but a real hatred nevertheless. I should say that I also hated Streets Of London and several of Simon & Garfunkel’s better-known ditties. It didn’t matter that some – probably all – of these were fine songs by any normal standards. The fact we were forced to sing them to insufferable piano or guitar accompaniments instilled a special kind of revulsion in the souls of those pre-pubescent lads and lasses who would much rather be listening to Sex Pistols, The Specials, Big Wheels Of Motown… virtually anything, in fact.

I wasn’t 100 percent certain the ‘Lord Of The Dance’ listed on the cover of my borrowed cassette was the same song I’d learned to despise several years earlier, but within the first few bars it became clear that it was. Then something weird happened… I found myself actually enjoying it. I mean – REALLY enjoying it! I still don’t know why – all my experience should have told me to hate it but, for reasons I still can’t properly explain, I was strangely fascinated by this odd little quasi-religious song.

Maybe I was finally hearing the song in a new light, or maybe it was just the forceful nature of the performance, driven by Carthy’s occasionally idiosyncratic vocal phrasing and Swarb’s driving fiddle. Whatever it was, it made me sit up and listen in a way I hadn’t quite managed with the previous tracks on the album. When the song ended, I played through the rest of the album – Poor Murdered Woman; Bonny Black Hare – then turned over and started Side One again, this time with a renewed interest in the words, their stories, the phrasing and the rhythmic quality to the guitar playing.

Ultimately, Lord Of The Dance didn’t last too long in my affections and was fairly quickly supplanted by the likes of John Barleycorn and Byker Hill from this album and a whole list of tracks from many other albums. In fact, it may be true to say that Lord Of The Dance is now one of my least favourite tracks from Martin Carthy’s 1960s albums, but I’m not sure that matters. Along with the other tracks on this album it did its job when I first heard it and got me started on a 30-plus-year passion – some may say near obsession (near? Who am I kidding?) – with Martin Carthy’s music. And today I can finally say I own a copy of the album – albeit on vinyl and not the cassette I originally heard – that changed everything…

This is… Martin Carthy in DISCOGRAPHIES

Memorabilia: c. 1971 press pack

19 July 2018

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 19 July 2018

I’m not much of a memorabilia collector but, perhaps because I started my working life in the print industry, I do have a soft spot for vintage posters, press materials and printed ephemera in general. So, after paying an unexpected £16.80 customs bill (not exactly extortionate, but still!) I just took delivery of this.

It’s a c.1971 US press pack from September Productions Limited from the personal collection of Ed Ward, a writer and radio commenter known as the “Rock-n-Roll Historian” for NPR’s program ‘Fresh Air’. Ed is one of the original founders of the SXSW festival and was on the staff of Crawdaddy!, Rolling Stone and Creem magazines in the 60’s and 70’s.

Martin was signed to September Productions throughout the period he was in Steeleye Span during 1970/71 and for a brief time afterwards. The Carthy/Swarbrick album referred to in the hand written letter is most likely the 1971 Selections compilation that has been reissued several times and is still widely available. The album they hoped to make “for Europe and most English speaking countries” with the help of Transatlantic Records never really happened, although there was a (now extremely rare) release in New Zealand and Australia, also called Selections and including the two songs quoted in the letter. I’ve written about this ultra-rare release in a bit more detail previously.

1988: Interview with Kevin Boyd

2 June 2018

Posted by Kevin Boyd, 2 June 2018

Exactly 30 years ago today I was a young wannabe Kershaw-esque DJ type when I interviewed a slightly older (but in hindsight, still very young) Martin Carthy for mine and Northern Sky editor Allan Wilkinson’s hospital radio programme.

The recording has been gathering dust for three decades (although a full transcript is here) so I thought this anniversary would be a good opportunity to liberate it. It’s perhaps not the most professionally executed or insightful interview you’ll ever hear but listening back I think I managed to force a few interesting moments from Martin – if only by accident!

Anyway, here it is: nervous delivery, fumbled questions and all…

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