The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110621   Message #2337300
Posted By: Nerd
10-May-08 - 04:39 PM
Thread Name: Bertsongs? (songs of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd)
Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
Charlotte, it's not so much that no one knows the answer as that it's inherently unanswerable (and the answer wouldn't necessarily tell us much). The question assumes Lloyd was a significant "collector," which he wasn't; his "collections" from Australia and from his days on ships may never have existed at all; if they did, they were never published and the manuscripts (if there ever were any) have disappeared. His "collection" "Come All Ye Bold Miners" is really an anthology; he reprints previously published material, sometimes claiming an "as-sung-by," which is almost always unverifiable, sometimes making no claim at all that an item was ever sung, or a "folksong." (One item in the book is a 400-line-long abridgement of an even longer poem by Edward Chicken, which was never in the oral tradition.) Often, the material is reprinted from old books, sometimes from old sheet music, with no indication that they were ever in oral circulation. So it's not what a folklorist would call "collecting."

Because of this, the only "collecting" work Lloyd did, in the sense of collecting from verifiable oral tradition, was (1) a very small project (seven songs and a tune) and (2) recorded on disc by the BBC, so any alterations he made will be immediately apparent (if the BBC saved the recordings).

Sometimes, he created a song text and CLAIMED to have collected it from someone. The two times we pretty much know that happened were with The Recruited Collier and Reynardine. Other times he changed the person he claimed to have collected a song from ("one of the has-beens"). If we add these three to the seven songs we know he collected, we get ten songs. Three of them he made false claims about, or 30 percent. Two of them we know are substantially different from any collected version, so 20 percent. If someone could compare his later sung versions of "The Foggy Dew" and "Pleasant and Delightful" with the ones he collected, I suspect we'd get ap around 40 percent. But these are all based on a very small sample of material he "collected," and therefore pretty meaningless numbers.

If we wanted to base it instead on the number of songs he "passed on," we'd doubtless get a smaller percentage that he had substantially altered in a way that misrepresented the past. But we run into the difficulty that no complete list exists of the songs he passed on, so we can't work out a proportion.

When Dave Arthur's book on Lloyd finally comes out, we MAY have a better idea of how many songs from the revival have been substantially altered by Lloyd, but even in that work it isn't likely Dave will have had a chance to do all that much song-sleuthing.