01 : The Bedmaking
02 : Locks and Bolts
03 : King Knapperty
04 : Geordie
05 : Willie’s Lady
06 : Virginny
07 : The Worcestershire Wedding
08 : Bonny Lass of Anglesey
09 : William Taylor the Poacher
10 : Old Tom of Oxford
11 : Palaces of Gold
7″ single “The Bonny Lass of Anglesey” b/w “Palaces of Gold” issued in the UK 1976 by Topic Records STOP7002. Click here to read blog entry.
Martin Carthy: vocals, guitar
Tony Cox: Synthesiser on Willie’s Lady, Bonny Lass of Anglesey and Palaces of Gold
Recorded at Old Sawmills Studio, Cornwall
Produced by Ashley Hutchings
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Photograph: Keith Morris
Original sleeve design: Field
All tracks Traditional, arr. Martin Carthy except:
11: Leon Rosselson
The Bedmaking is a variation on the “servant-girl-abused-and-discarded” theme, but altogether more indignant than most, and it was the redoubtable Mrs Marina Russell of Upwey in Dorset who gave the tune, a version of “The Cuckoo’s Nest”, to the Hammonds at the turn of the century. However, she did what was apparently her usual trick of not remembering too many of the words, so these were taken from other sources by Frank Purslow in The Wanton Seed, a compilation of songs from the Hammond and Gardiner manuscripts, and slightly stretched by me.
Locks and Bolts comes from the repertoire of the woodcutter, hop-picker, poacher and marbles champion George Maynard. It was collected by Ken Stubbs and printed in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (1963), whence I learnt it. At first glance it seems to be a Victorian song, but it is probably very much older, although not in this form.
It seems that fifty to a hundred years ago there was a tendency among some scholars and others to attribute the exotic in traditional song and balladry to a Scandinavian origin. Alternatively, as many songs as possible – and a few beside – had Arthurian origins postulated for them. (Britannia with her growing Empire doing homage at the shrine of this mighty long-dead warrior. Certainly the romantic imagination was caught by this ragamuffin warlord and his band of Romano-British cast-offs.) C. K. Sharpe, in his Ballad Book (1823), seems almost to suggest both origins for Kempy Kay: “This song my learned friends will perceive to be of Scandinavian origin and that the wooer’s name was probably suggested by Sir Kaye’s of the Round Table …” King Knapperty is basically the version from Peter Buchan’s MSS printed in Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads with interpolations from other sets, and is the story of the wedding of the queen of all sluts to the king of all slobs.
It is often said that the English version of Geordie is a later copy of the Scottish song about George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, who was imprisoned and threatened with death in 1554 for “failing to execute a commission against a Highland robber.” The motive was obviously political and in the end a fine was exacted and he was freed. A later song called “The Life and Death of George of Oxford”, while being superficially a copy of the Scots one, at least in part, also seems to me to be an attempt to tart up and bring up to date something else. The “something else” being the English version of an idea with , maybe, two distinct strains. It is a gritty, passionate little song with the sting of rage in its tail, and one is tempted to suggest that English versions which have survived – some are still current – could be that “something else” possibly used as the model for George of Oxford. Learned from John Pearse many years ago, I really determined to sing it on hearing a recording of Mrs Louisa Hooper made by Dr Maud Karpeles in about 1941 and deposited in the BBC Sound Archives.
It was a particularly happy stroke of genius on Ray Fisher’s part to marry the song Willie’s Lady to the tune of the Breton song “Son Ar Chistr” (The Song of Cider), and it is with her permission that I have recorded it. I was informed by a young Breton that the tune was written in 1930 by a piper who became a tramp on the streets of Paris. The story of the song is very close to that of the birth of Hercules, although there the timing of the trickery is, if anything, even more critical.
Charles Gamblin, a helper of the folksong collector George Gardiner, obtained Virginny from a Mrs Goodyear just outside Basingstoke. Mr Gamblin was considered unreliable as a notator of tunes by some who felt it necessary to double-check his finds, but this one seems to be all right. The song dates from before the American War of Independence when the British Establishment used Virginia and the Carolinas as a dumping ground for their social effluent. Victims served out their sentences in slavery, and, at the end, if they survived, often stayed to work the land for their own benefit. Many subsequently became extremely wealthy. The song seems only to have been collected twice – the other time from the East Anglian singer Bob Hart, in whose mouth the location is Australia.
The Worcestershire Wedding is another of Martina Russell’s songs. Again she could only recall the tune and part of the text, so what is sung here is a severely truncated version of the text published from an 18th century broadside in “The Foggy Dew”, also compiled by Frank Purslow from the Hammond and Gardiner MSS.
The idea of a champion to do one’s fighting is older than David and Goliath by far, only not many of them seem to be women. Peter Buchan said about the Bonny Lass Of Anglesey: “It is altogether a political piece and I do no wish to interfere much with it.” While echoing the “much” in that statement, I have stretched the idea slightly, added a few verses, and she appears as a formidable sister-in-arms of Fair Maid On The Shore, and all those others who are the despair of chauvinist males the world over. “Come Dancing” was never like this. The melody is an Irish-American fiddle tune, one of several sharing the title of Bonaparte’s Retreat, and I learned it from Tom Gilfellon.
William Taylor The Poacher is another song from George Maynard collected by Ken Stubbs. It does not seem to have been reported very often. I know nothing about it except that I like it and have done since I first saw it.
I learned the morris dance tune Old Tom Of Oxford from Rod Stradling, and it is included with the permission of Francis Shergold, Squire of the Bampton Morris Men, to whom thanks.
Leon Rosselson wrote Palaces Of Gold when the news came out about the pit heap disaster at Aberfan and feelings that had been floating around for a very long time overflowed.
Martin Carthy, 1976
Q Magazine March 1996 ***
Although best known for his days spent with Steeleye Span, not to mention fruitful collaborations with Dave Swarbrick, The Albion Band and Brass Monkey amongst many others, much of Martin Carthy’s most stirring work has been a solo performer. At times he’s given the impression of keeping traditional English folk music alive almost on his own, thanks to albums like Crown Of Horn, from 1976, which is spartan even by his own exacting standards. Sometimes with just unaccompanied voice, more often propelled by his heavily percussive guitaring, the songs here are typically full of dark deeds and unwanted pregnancies, with Willie’s Lady taking pride of place as the one bona fide epic.
Reviewed by Peter Kane