The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #145654   Message #4180673
Posted By: Brian Peters
05-Sep-23 - 09:59 AM
Thread Name: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
Subject: RE: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
I've been very irregular on Mudcat recently (it never seems to be working!) so I'd missed the resurrection of this thread earlier in the year. There are people involved here who I don't meet in my other social media interactions, so I thought it might be of interest if I brought this thread up to date with my own research (aided along the way by one or two participants in this thread).

Over the last four years I've carried out a lot of research into the songs Bert Lloyd brought to the folk revival, both through his own singing and by passing on songs he'd reconstructed to young singers of the day, most notably Anne Briggs. I had been apparent for a while that he did a lot of 'tinkering', but that word doesn't begin to describe the scale or depth of his modifications. On some of the landmark LPs the majority of the songs have been modified, often quite drastically. North American texts were plundered on many occasions, with no hint that the results weren't authentic 'English folk songs'.

As has been suggested above, modal melodies were not only composed for texts lacking a tune (e.g. 'Weary Whaling Grounds'), but substituted into many songs known to tradition with exclusively major tunes. This was particularly true of the erotic songs LP 'The Bird in the Bush' (where they served to make the songs more sensual and mysterious), but also in the case of many sea songs, especially those on 'Leviathan', where they made the mood more exciting and edgy. I think Lighter's point above about the exoticism and apparent antiquity of these melodies was a part of the appeal too. However, the Wyndham-Read version of 'Black Ball Line' with which Gibb reopened this thread is so weird that I'm inclined to agree it might have been mis-transcribed.

I gave a couple of talks about all of this, which are online - I'm linking the maritime one below. There is actually one song I'd like to consult the hive mind about: in the talk I mention 'Off to Sea Once More' and contrast the major tune generally collected orally with the modal one Lloyd (and most who followed after him) used. My belief is that Lloyd made up that tune, and that its appearance in Hugill's book suggests that he got it from Lloyd (who had recorded it five years earlier). However, a friend who knew Stan H. has pushed back against this, saying that, if Stan had used a song from Lloyd, he'd have given it proper attribution.

So my question is, are there any example where you know that Hugill published a song he'd obtained from Lloyd? I know we've speculated about it in the past.

Anyway, here's the talk - it starts at 43 minutes, but you might be interested in the other contributions too.