The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #145654   Message #4181306
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
11-Sep-23 - 06:44 AM
Thread Name: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
Subject: RE: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
Good questions/comments, Keith, thanks

"Of course you believe Lloyd made it up on the basis that it was never collected anywhere else."

That's not *the* basis. That's one factor in the interpretation, yes, but not the definitive one. So, I don't propose the idea that simply because only one instance of a given song was documented that the song's existence in tradition should be doubted. However, speaking to that point, 1) We have a track record of examples (it's basically the topic of this thread!) of Lloyd creating songs, which doesn't prove anything about this song individually but contributes to reasonable skepticism of his methods; 2) more importantly, we have Lloyd mentioning MacKenzie, as you said**—while what he did was NOT MacKenzie; 3) We have quite a few documents of this song (the chanty with the "Ranzo, ranzo, way" chorus). They all compare well with one another, including MacKenzie's, whereas Lloyd's piece does not match the set; 4) Lloyd's piece does not match the musical style of chanties in general, either (refer to guestD's opinion above).

(**I must note, however, that the liner notes of _Blow Boys Blow_ (1957) do not say this, they say, “One of the great halyard shanties, seemingly better-known in English ships than American ones, though some versions of it have become crossed with the American song called Huckleberry Hunting. From the graceful movement of its melody it is possible that this is an older shanty than most. Perhaps it evolved out of some long-lost lyrical song.” The first sentence is bullshitting. What are “the great halyard shanties”? There is nothing in the literature to indicate its status as “great,” nor is it often attributed to halyards [though that in itself may be meaningless; see below], nor is there data to support “better-known in English ships.” Like many of the liner notes, Lloyd is making wild assertions that are neither possible to make from the documentation and nor is there any information to suggest that Lloyd did the sort of research anyway that would be required to make the claim if it was possible.) Anyway, mention of MacKenzie is on a later, 1964 album.)

I mentioned the Mudcat thread about this song (in which Dick also participated). That and Brian's recorded talk, above, spoke to the relationship between Lloyd's song and MacKenzie's book, now summarized again by Lighter. Which is all why I hoped to refer to the song without dragging this all out because I believed all the people actively engaged already knew what it’s about. They also know the standard concept that chanties are rhythmical. And with that they can put two and two together to know what I was expressing about Lloyd’s intellectual dishonesty and about the problem with the Glasgow shanty workshop.

So, here’s an image of MacKenzie’s transcription, “The Wild Goose”

It’s a completely coherent, rhythmic piece. It’s not that Lloyd, taking MacKenzie as the germ of an idea, made a “slow” song so much that he made a non-metered one. It simply does not make sense as a working chanty. I have theories on why he may have done that, but won’t digress. And I hate for us to have to keep saying that Lloyd can do whatever he wants, someone can adapt chanty material to sing whatever they want etc. That’s not the issue. The issue is when people interpret this creation, which is *not* characteristic of traditional chanty style, *as representative* of traditional chanty style—all because they have been led to believe it is a representative sample. After all, Lloyd tacitly implies that *what he sang on record* was that “great halyard shanty” “well-known in English ships” etc. Even when he later mentions MacKenzie, he only says it—we are led to believe “it” refers to what he is singing—is found there. This is not a confession of his adaptation of MacKenzie’s material to a new (uncharacteristic) form. It reads, rather, as a further validation of the pedigree of what he’s doing. Lloyd, I believe, bears responsibility for poisoning the well. I cannot blame most people for being misled by Lloyd; I don’t expect most people to have known not to trust Lloyd. If we do blame them, we must also blame Jim Mageean in the Glasgow Shanty Festival clip. Yet Dick says, “If I want information about Shanties. I don not use AL Lloyd but i contact Chris Roche or Jim Mageaan, who are very knowledgeable." Dick— Jim is using AL Lloyd. Do you not finally see what this is all about? Lloyd f*cked up the entire pool, and that probably goes for problems in Hugill’s work, too. You revised: “When i want info on sea shanties, i do not go to Lloyd, i contact Chris Roche, who knew Stan Hugill well, and is imo an EXPERT on Shanties and sea songs.” (Jim is omitted this time around, why?) What if Chris knew Stan Hugill well… and gets some of the same poison from the well that Hugill got? For example, why did Hugill start singing Lloyd’s form of “South Australia,” whereas this appears in none of his books (and no one sings the South Australia in Hugill’s books? I mean, hitching one’s hawser to Hugill isn’t exactly the authoritative flex you seem to think it is. This isn’t about Jim or Chris, who seem like fine gentlemen and maybe in the same boat of Lloyd’s victims. I don’t see why you seem to be dismissing the significance of Lloyd’s ideas’ effects as if they could be isolated from the business of how shanties are now presented in the UK?

In the 1972 recording, as I started to explain, Lloyd creates a half-truth situation. He says chanties were sung slower (than revival performers sing them). That’s true…some of the time. Some chanties were sung quite quickly, it depends. I think the tempo at which Lloyd sang “Yellow Gals,” which he called “ridiculous,” was absolutely perfect. This idea “we sing chanties too fast” is a truism. True some of the time, but ultimately not accurate. The familiar truism gets heads nodding, “ah yes, (in absence of all the facts) that makes sense; he knows of what he speaks!” and obscures the falsehood: “As proof of that, here’s an example of a ‘slow’ one.” Need I go on? He’s planted evidence. The funny thing is that MacKenzie’s “Wild Goose” could reasonably be sung, in a brake windlass working situation, at the same tempo that Lloyd sings “Yellow Gals”!

As far as whether a chanty belongs to a category of “windlass” or “capstan” or “halyard” or whatever goes, that is a long discussion that I won’t get into here. In brief: I think these categories are bunk. We have primary source accounts that describe people doing one or another job X and singing chanty Y, from which we get some limited data for certain purposes. But as for both the classificatory scheme that took hold in discourse that sifts chanties into these categories, that is a reduction that usually confuses and harms more than it helps to understand anything. More importantly, most of the statements by writers in the popular sources and by revival performance presenters are so unscientific that this supposed point of information (e.g. “Y was a halyard chanty”) is completely useless for understanding chanties historically. I think most people don’t even know what it means (in any significant way that would be worth noting) when they say that, but rather they just copy what they heard/read in an effort to give the impression that they’re providing something. Just about all these ascriptions to categories are good for are detective hunts like the one here about what source a revival performer like Lloyd might have read/heard.

In The Keelers’ workshop clip, because I was not there and I’m only seeing the clip, no, I cannot testify that they *said* Lloyd’s Wild Goose was a brake windlass chanty. What we can see, however (and the reason why I shared the clip) is that they are imitating the action of working a brake windlass. So, I see no reason to question Jerzy’s caption on the video: we see it in the video.

This is where the meta-conversation about categories does have some trivial application. I suspect that The Keelers, in a workshop intended to show the uses of chanties, went through an outline of various categories of work, one of which was brake windlass. I surmise that what we are seeing is the choice to employ Lloyd’s Wild Goose to illustrate that part of the workshop.

How they settled on the idea that LLOYD’S Wild Goose would make a good example for brake windlass work is the puzzling part. I can conjecture how they got the idea that “The Wild Goose Shanty,” *as an abstract idea*, would be categorized as brake windlass. It’s an issue of equivocation. Terry’s _The Shanty Book_ has “The Wild Goose Shanty”, to which he affixes the label “Windlass and Capstan.” The first, trivial matter of equivocation is that “windlass” gets mixed up. I’m not at all certain that Terry had the brake windlass in mind when he writes “windlass” in the book. As in Colcord’s similar usage, the book never speaks to brake windlass specifically, instead always grouping it in the phrase “windlass and capstan.” “Windlass” also referred to the capstan-driven windlass (the nature of which working was totally different), and that was the “windlass” that I believe would have been in Terry’s mind, due to the fact e.g. that the brake windlass had practically fallen to the wayside long before. Maybe not, but that’s what I think; I said it was trivial. In any case, both Terry’s book and MacKenzie have “Wild Goose” as the title of this item. Someone very fixated on that *arbitrary* title might overlook other documentation on this chanty. They might say, accepting Lloyd’s Wild Goose as the real McCoy (or MacColl—see Lighter’s recent link), “Let me go look for more info on ‘the Wild Goose Shanty’,” after which they would discover Terry’s score but not necessarily the other documents of “Ranzo way.” They would see “windlass” affixed to Terry’s score and say, “OK, this is appropriate to windlass… [then equivocating] *brake* windlass.” Maybe that’s what led The Keelers to their categorization. I don’t know, and I don’t think it’s very important what *led* to that.

It—“it” being “Ranzo Way,” disguised under the label of “Wild Goose” by Terry and MacKenzie—*is* appropriate to brake windlass work. Incidentally, it was one of the items I had considered when I was creating a recording to illustrate singing chanties with brake windlass work in mind. One of my criteria for all the items I was consideringwas that there must be a first-hand descriptive account of people working a brake windlass while singing the chanty.

The non-trivial equivocation comes in when Ranzo Way qua Wild Goose (Terry and MacKenzie) gets mixed up, by sharing the title, with Lloyd’s Wild Goose. Lloyd might have gotten the idea from MacKenzie but his composition is not the same species of thing. So, the mistake is to take “Wild Goose #1” (MacKenzie/Terry) and the ideas about its historical application and apply them to “Wild Goose #2” (Lloyd). That, in my opinion, should not have happened, not because The Keelers didn’t appraise the provenance of Lloyd’s Wild Goose. We could call that an innocent mistake. It should not have happened because it should have been obvious that Lloyd’s Wild Goose is not functional for brake windlass work. The puzzle is: What inhibited this common sense “check”? Perhaps it was such faith placed in the product of Lloyd and/or the writing of Terry etc that common sense was sublimated: “(Lloyd’s) Wild Goose is the traditional chanty, and books say ‘Wild Goose’ is a windlass chanty, and that must mean brake windlass, and we want to use a popular song to show brake windlass action. It *must* work (Jesus told me so), so we must figure out how it works (rather than question its utility).”

Briefly, Keith:

“You note how slow both Ree Baldwyn and Alex Henderson are singing, the same point Bert makes at the Top Lock folk club.”
No, not the same point. Merely calling attention to the slow tempo, and the correlation to brake windlass work (which was the slowest job, on average, though the tempo varies I’d say up to about 65 BPM).

“if Bert was right and it was used as a halyard, at that very slow pace, it would be possible to get four pulls on the chorus.”
Four pulls per chorus at a halyard does not exist.

“I don't think any of the examples of working shanties given are too successful 'Let the Bulgine Run' for 'Heaving Brake Windlass' is a bit of a shambles.”
Not sure what you found shambolic about it. As you may know, video examples of practical chanty singing are very rare. Most plentiful are videos from the squad at Mystic Seaport, which is where that came from. The dearth of such visual examples, and none with a “full size” brake windlass, is one reason I made Songs of the Windlass: Singing Chanties on Gazela.
The point of that second halyard clip was to talk about the creation of verses, improvisation, pertaining to the situation.

“completed the task in 10.5 verses and 42 pulls, which you considered to be the 'typical length' I'm not sure an experienced crew would agree with you.”
That was data collection. I counted what happened there, and count in other instances, to see the range. I’ve had quite a few chances to do this or observe it in different situations, collecting the data from all, and that instance was not an outlier. Do you know anyone doing this on the eastern side of the Atlantic (I’d love to get their examples). What would they say? 5 verses? 25 verses? We have no historical accounts that I know of of people saying how many verses. What we have is 1) noted texts, which vary quite a bit but suggest a range 2) Recent applications, all of which, however, are associated with Mystic Seaport folks or something I have set up—and all under circumstances we can certainly quibble about (Where there “too many” on the line? Was the weather too nice? Is synthetic line different than hemp? What material are the yards made from? Are the ships too big / too small?), but which don’t suggest that 10 verses is atypical. Imagine those kids as bigger people, and a ship bigger to scale, and accumulated fatigue. I did it on Bark Europa (great crew) crossing Azores – Brittany and 10 sounds about right to me as an average. Big difference between when you do it in isolation versus at the end of 2 weeks at sea doing things often and you’re tired and unenthusiastic.

By way of another example, here's an experienced crew on Charles W. Morgan eagerly showing off, with 34 pulls (= 8.5 “verses”)