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2007 Ewan MacColl Bio - Class Act

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The Sandman 14 Oct 07 - 12:56 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Oct 07 - 01:12 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 14 Oct 07 - 01:18 PM
The Sandman 14 Oct 07 - 01:44 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Oct 07 - 02:10 PM
The Sandman 14 Oct 07 - 02:50 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Oct 07 - 02:58 PM
TheSnail 14 Oct 07 - 03:50 PM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 14 Oct 07 - 03:51 PM
The Sandman 14 Oct 07 - 05:07 PM
The Sandman 14 Oct 07 - 05:50 PM
Barry Finn 14 Oct 07 - 07:25 PM
TheSnail 14 Oct 07 - 07:34 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Oct 07 - 07:52 PM
curmudgeon 14 Oct 07 - 08:02 PM
Barry Finn 14 Oct 07 - 08:37 PM
TheSnail 14 Oct 07 - 08:46 PM
Big Al Whittle 14 Oct 07 - 09:29 PM
Effsee 14 Oct 07 - 09:38 PM
GUEST,Jim Carrooll 15 Oct 07 - 02:41 AM
Bryn Pugh 15 Oct 07 - 05:25 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 06:13 AM
Bryn Pugh 15 Oct 07 - 06:59 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 07:22 AM
Bryn Pugh 15 Oct 07 - 08:03 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 08:24 AM
theleveller 15 Oct 07 - 08:28 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 08:31 AM
Dave Sutherland 15 Oct 07 - 08:47 AM
The Sandman 15 Oct 07 - 08:57 AM
The Sandman 15 Oct 07 - 09:07 AM
Bryn Pugh 15 Oct 07 - 09:35 AM
Folkiedave 15 Oct 07 - 09:38 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 09:47 AM
Bryn Pugh 15 Oct 07 - 09:56 AM
TheSnail 15 Oct 07 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,Winger 15 Oct 07 - 03:04 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 15 Oct 07 - 03:30 PM
The Sandman 16 Oct 07 - 10:33 AM
curmudgeon 16 Oct 07 - 11:49 AM
Joe_F 16 Oct 07 - 10:58 PM
Nerd 16 Oct 07 - 11:16 PM
Folkiedave 17 Oct 07 - 03:39 AM
Folkiedave 17 Oct 07 - 03:41 AM
Nerd 17 Oct 07 - 04:50 AM
GUEST,Winger 17 Oct 07 - 12:25 PM
GUEST 18 Oct 07 - 03:01 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 20 Oct 07 - 04:04 AM
TheSnail 20 Oct 07 - 07:51 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 20 Oct 07 - 12:36 PM
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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 12:56 PM

On one occasion I was doing a support for EwanMacColl/PeggySeeger[late Eighties] .
Peggy made an astonishing remark,she said there dont seem to be many people writing good songs in England at the moment,which is the opposite of what they found in the USA.
At the time the following people were writing good songs, Peter Bond, Leon Rosselson,Anne Lister,Bill Caddick,Richard Grainger,Jez Lowe and many more,they appeared not to have heard of many of these., I didnt ask their opinion of Leon Rosselson.
IMO Ewan and Peggy became isolated,and out of touch from the rest of the folk revival,partly because they didnt like having support acts,and partly they didnt visit or get booked at many English/uk folk festivals at this time ,they tended to operate in their own isolated sphere,and were unaware what other people were doing in the British Folk Revival,much happened that did not involve the Singers Club.Dick Miles.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 01:12 PM

Can't be that pissed off with Ashley - she was in The Etchingham Steam Band. She used to have a stick like a hobby horse and thump it on the floor to the music. There was most of Six Hands in Tempo in that line up.

God, I hate being old.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 01:18 PM

"Did the British Folk Song and Dance Ensemble exist? Were MacColl and Lloyd involved with it?"
No idea if it existed - Bert and Ewan certainly weren't involved.
Personally, I think it was more likely to have been an EFDSS idea. I think MacColl assisted Ralph Rinzler to record Michael Gorman for and album called Irish Music in London Pubs, but I don't think it went any further than that
Cap'n,
Ewan and Peggy were professional singers who were booked all over the UK. They organised tours for themselves (Pat did a couple for them at one time) and they played to packed houses wherever they went. At the Spinners Club in Liverpool, where I first saw them, it was necessary to book a couple of weeks in advance in order to be guaranteed to get in, Manchester (MSG) was the same. Sounds fairly successful to me. They didn't like festivals, though they appeared at Keele once - Ewan said "never again".
As far as songwriters were concerned, don't know when he made the remark but Peggy edited the New City Songster for around 20 years which included compositions from songwriters from all over the UK and Ireland;
WLD contributed a song to one issue.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 01:44 PM

I told you when PEGGY made the remark,LATE 1980,S.
Cap'n,
Ewan and Peggy were professional singers who were booked all over the UK. They organised tours for themselves (Pat did a couple for them at one time) and they played to packed houses wherever they went. At the Spinners Club in Liverpool, where I first saw them, it was necessary to book a couple of weeks in advance in order to be guaranteed to get in, Manchester (MSG) was the same. Sounds fairly successful to me. They didn't like festivals, though they appeared at Keele once - Ewan said "never again".
As far as songwriters were concerned, don't know when he made the remark but Peggy edited the New City Songster for around 20 years which included compositions from songwriters from all over the UK and Ireland;
WLD contributed a song to one issue.
Jim Carroll,
I never suggested they were not successful,just out of touch with the rest of the revival.yes we all know about New City Songster,her being editor proves nothing,professional songwriters of a high standard,publish their own songs,they do not need to send them to NCS,
This to me epitomises the mistake they made,over emphasing the importance of the singers club,and NCS.
Ewan and Peggy were gifted performers,they were excellent songwriters,and very good singers,she is also agood musicianthey were both helpful to others with research,but they also made mistakes and like all of us had feet of clay .


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 02:10 PM

well there were a lot of other songwriters used to send there work to NCS and found the experience useful . As I remember there was the work of Eric Bogle, Miles Wooton, Jack Warshaw, as well as Ewan Peggy and Hamish's in the NCS. Are these not 'profesional songwriters of a high standard'.

I was terrifically proud of getting in NCS. My work has never found favour in the folk world, but Ewan and Peggy did me a great service in giving me that little bit of recognition that kept me going as a songwriter.

The thing about Peggy and Ewan was that they did their own thing. They were far too bohemian and plain intelligent for the world of poxy folk music - with all its stifling orthodoxies.

They didn't mind telling you something that would upset you - but so bloody what....! Most of us can't go a day without upsetting some eejit on the mudcat. Weigh that against a lifetime of achievement, and trying and committment, and be nice to his memory. please.

PS See the Lincolnshire folksong competition thread. if Peggy and Ewan hadn't encouraged me, I might never have made it to be alongside the Seal Sanctuary on The Skegness website - not to mention writing the 17th most popular football song in Germany!


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 02:50 PM

WLD The point I am making is this,and I should have phrased it better,
Some professional songwriters did send their songs to NCS,but many didnt,and didnt want to and didnt need to,therefore Peggy relying on NCS as an indicator of which new songs were being written throughout the UK,was/is not a valid way of getting a true representation and I believe they over emphasised the importance of the NCS.however NCS song books were of a high standard.
What they hadnt realised was that times change, Some Songwriters wanted to have more control over publishing of their material,and that a songwriting publication with a limited distribution[NCS],was mot necessarily the best way of publicising ones material,They preferred to bring out their own songbooks,or record them.
I have never sent any of my songs to NCS,and I am sure there are hundreds of somgwriters like me .Dick Mileshttp://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 02:58 PM

well at the time , there wasn't an internet - and there certainly weren't many other people out there encouraging you.

And Ewan and Peggy made it clear that publishing the song in NCS would protect your interest - and not exploit you. Honestly Dick - they were really bloody nice.

they deserve better than all this slagging off.

I hate to think what they're going to say about someone like me who's been a bit of a bastard in his time.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 03:50 PM

I think I really need to see Folk Britannia to find out what really did go on. Is it on DVD?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 03:51 PM

Cap'n
Who said she ran NCS for the benefit of 'professional songwriters. Her aim was to encourage songwriting and to circulate the many good songs that were being written by non-professionals. I can think of very few professional songwriters whose songs would suit the NCS.
Again, as with the Critics Group, it was an example of them being prepared to spend time helping other singers, not a particularly prevalent attitude among professional singers then or now.
How did they 'overemphasise' the importance of NCS. She just did it off her own bat for free and ploughed back anything that was made into the next issue.
"Songwriters wanted to have more control over publishing of their material"
I think you're right, which reminds me of an earlier thread discussing the reluctance to share material.
Sorry about the Ewan/Peggy confusion regarding the dearth of songwriters.
I believe she said something similar on television. Maybe she felt, like me, that much songwriting has become far too introspective and private. Tom Munnelly put it well in The Journal of Music in Ireland when he wrote, "you feel like tapping them on the shoulder and asking permission to come in".
This does not mean there aren't good songwriters about, just not as many IMO.
Not the case in Ireland with Con 'Fada' O'Driscoll, Sean Moan, Fintan Vallely, Tim Lyons et al - and of course Scotland has the magnificent Adam McNaughton.
Ewan and Peggy's contact with the rest of the revival changed radically after the John Snow fiasco, but this didn't mean they were not aware of what was happening - they just chose to work with the Critics - thanks be to whoever!
Having said this, they were leading figures in The Peace Movement, The Anti-Apartheid campaign, various anti-fascist organisations, the Folksingers For Freedom in Viet Nam (proud to say I stood shoulder to elbow with Peggy in Grosvenor Square (would have been shoulder-to-shoulder but I'm not tall enough). It goes without saying they were fairly unstinting with their time and energy - and there are only so many hours in the day.
Of course Ewan wasn't perfect - who is; but he must have been a baaad, baaad boy to deserve to be slagged off eighteen years after his death.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 05:07 PM

Jim .I think my posts have been balanced,I have pointed out many of their good points.
I did not say she ran it for the benefit of professional songwriters,
WLD gave some examples of professional songwriters whose songs did suit the group ,Bogle, Warshaw and Wooton.
WLD,You are right they were/are honest people,financially and creatively.
Jim,I too,along with many others in the folk scene have attended many CND,Anti Apartheid, and Anti poll tax demonstrations.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 05:50 PM

Jim,What was the reason for them not liking festivals,did they feel that they didnt fit into a local community ,as well as the best folk clubs?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 07:25 PM

Geeze, How the hell could 2 individuals have done all this stuff, Impossible, I say. Who has that kind of energy, that kind of compassion for others, that kind of talent, that kind of free time, that kind of orginisational skills, that kind of mind to be able to trap all that data, that kind of willingness to collect then to share that collection so freely, that much ink to have written so much & been so dispised by so many. They couldn't even enter the US for a period of years to perform they were hated so much by the US governement, that says something right there that they must've been doing something humane, God, how the hell did anyone not overlook some of their human failings. How the hell do any of us get by without being perfect, always having someone tapping us on the damn shoulder, "can I have a word with you?" or "A moment of your time, please?", "fuck off you pesty folkie & leave me the fuck alone!". You all should give it a rest & be happy that they did what was alomst imposible & stop digging up the dirt that's best left over the poor fucker's grave. I don't think any of us hasn't pissed off at least a few folks when it comes to music but there are none of us here that have done so much for it as they have, tough shit. From most of what's been posted here with very few exceptions they've slighted so few & been so more than for most every one else in the many fields that their lives covered that those who want more keep digging but leave the dirt that over his body alone, there's nothing left their but a dead body & there's no sense in cutting that up.

As for not knowing about all the hidden talent writing songs then or today, please, we all have only 2 ears each & if there's alway someone in one of them that cuts down your chances to half.

Barry


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 07:34 PM

Trash the reputations of the living to protect the memory of the dead?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 07:52 PM

snail, cos he disagreed with people - perhaps expressed himself badly in some situations.

nobody's trashing anyone - except MacColl.

If people wanted to take his words and misconstrue them into bad behaviour - its the last thing he would have wanted. Really he was okay.

My songs take all my money, all my time and they don't get anywhere in the folkworld - cos I think 'traditional' music is a load of bullshit. An insult to my intellect. Nobody handed this pile of rubbish down to me. I've suffered from the shits who have twisted MacColl's words more than most, although not as much as the ones of my generation who are dead.

But it doesn't mean Ewan wasn't a great and decent human being.

rest easy

al


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: curmudgeon
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 08:02 PM

Snail - The living at least have a chance to defend themselves.

On another front, has anyone posting to this thread even bought the book?

I've gotten to the time of his desertion from the army. Anyone else gotten that far?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Barry Finn
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 08:37 PM

I'd be happy (actually overjoyed) to read it after you're done Tom, thanks for the offer. HeHeHe. Or has it already been spoken for, finiances are bad this month.

Barry


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 08:46 PM

weelittledrummer

nobody's trashing anyone - except MacColl.

and Shirley Collins, and Britta Sweers and Frankie Armstrong and Reg Hall and the Leveller and anyone else who dares question MacColl's perfection. Read the thread WLD.

I think 'traditional' music is a load of bullshit

I know you do WLD. You've said so a great many times. Nobody cares.

curmudgeon

Snail - The living at least have a chance to defend themselves.

Aginst abuse and being called a liar? Not easy.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 09:29 PM

'anyone else who dares question MacColl's perfection. '

thers only you who seems to think he should have been capable of perfection.

I know you don't care what I think, bit at least I do think.

doesn't seem to be a lot of cerebral activity in your corner, pal. just a load of snotty remarks about a great man. You invoke all these people, I doubt any one of them would deny his greatness as an artist.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Effsee
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 09:38 PM

Mymy, what a stushie. I never met the man but have enjoyed and admired his works for decades. This thread has brought to mind the words of a man I think Ewan might have admired.

Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister Woman,
Tho' they may gang a kennin' wrang,
To step aside is human:
One point must still be greatly dark,
The moving Why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it.

Who made the heart,'tis he alone
Decidedly can try us,
He knows each chord it's various tone,
Each spring it's various bias,
Then at the balance let's be mute,
We never can adjust it,
What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted.

Robert Burns
The address to the unco guid, or rigidly righteous

Hmmm?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Jim Carrooll
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 02:41 AM

"Jim,What was the reason for them not liking festivals,did they feel that they didnt fit into a local community ,as well as the best folk clubs?"
Why should you assume this Cap'n?
It seems to me a case of applying a somewhat unpleasant motive to something perfectly reasonable - not an entirely original approach to MacColl and Seeger.
I don't like festivals - I find them impersonal and uncomfortable. The ones I have been to, mainly The National, have been far too curate's eggish and diverse. The only one I thoroughly enjoyed was at Sutton Bonnington the year it went Irish; Junior Crehan, Eamon McGivney, Bobby Casey, The Keane Sisters, Kevin and Ellen Mitchell, Frank Harte, Cathal Goan - lovely stuff.
I realise that not eveybody likes the same type of thing as me, but I much prefer the more intimate, concentrated singing week-ends we have here, Ennystymon (RIP), Roscommon, Sligo, Cork (singing week-end), Frank Harte weekend.
Hand on heart - the big festivals never once made me feel "I didn't fit in" - I just don't like them.   
Snail
"Shirley Collins, and Britta Sweers and Frankie Armstrong and Reg Hall" were not being slagged off; they all made statements which were disagreed with and in each case the statements were challenged, not the individuals concerned - do you think this has been the case with the MacColls
Off to Kerry for a few days to do some research
Enjoy
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 05:25 AM

'. . . They didn't like support acts. . . "

Welcome back, Capting, and I hope you are feeling better, and your relarive as well and hapy as may be.

Capting - I supported Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger on several occasions, both as 'support' and as MC.

Where, please, is your evidence for the above statement, that they didn't like support acts ?

I have commented here (I think) and in other threads as to their courtesy, and encouragement of talent great and small. Perhaps I am biased, as I was complimented on my singing of a version of Child #1 by Peggy, called 'The Devil's Nine Questions'.

What I abominate is the slagging-off by those who never met Ewan McColl and/or Peggy Seeger - of, for that matter, Jim Carroll or me.

It isn't a case of 'McColl right or wrong' with me - I have said earlier that there was, and is, a fair bit in their music that I do not care for. As people, though, and speaking from my own acquaintance - they do not deserve, and have never deserved, the shite thrown at them.

I will finish on a repetition - How can a second, third, fourth or fifth hand opinion be 'valid' ? Hearsay is not evidence, regardless of how much the utterer would like it to be.

I, too, do not care for festivals. I far prefer the intimacy of a folk club.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 06:13 AM

WLD

Have you actually ready ANY of this thread? I'l ignore you until you say something that actually relates to anything that was really said.

Jim

You don't consider accusing people of waffling and lying as "slagging them off" then?

Bryn

How can a second, third, fourth or fifth hand opinion be 'valid' ?

Why do you keep repeating this mantra when what we are talking about are people who did know him personally?

I'm beginning to think that nobody is interested in the real Ewan MacColl, only the legend. You'd better not read the biography then in case you find something you don't like.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 06:59 AM

Snail - Perhaps you did know him personally. I certainly did.

I said that I was reiterating, but it is the second part of my (as you call it) 'mantra' which I think is the more important :

that 'Willie' heard 'Marjorie' say that 'Bruno' had heard that 'Googeen' had been told by Joe Bloggs that Lizzie Dripping had said that Ewan McColl was arrogant, rude and unhelpful.

I have read the biography, thank you very often, and I didn't find anything I didn't like.

I also didn't find many surprises, which is not to say that I was familiar with the materials.

Tell you what - I'll give you another chance to have a pop at me for repeating myself :

it is not a case, with me of 'McColl right or wrong'.

I knew a man, not a legend.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 07:22 AM

I am not remotely interested in what 'Willie' or 'Marjorie' or 'Bruno' or 'Googeen' or Joe Bloggs or Lizzie Dripping had to say about MacColl.

Shirley Collins new MacColl. Reg Hall new MacColl. Frankie Armstrong new MacColl. The Leveller met MacColl. Dammit, Peggy Seeger who I have quoted earlier new MacColl very well indeed. What they have to say is not hearsay, but anything they say that dosn't fit the party line seems to be inadmissable evidence.

Do you mean you've read the Ben Harker biography several times? Then how about returning to the thread subject and telling us a bit about it.

I knew a man, not a legend.

Then tell us about the man. I'm willing to bet that it will be a lot more interesting than the legend.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:03 AM

Sigh.

Wit, or sarcasm, as you choose, can be wasted on some.

Had I read the biography more than once there would have been a comma between 'thank you'and 'very often'.

Similarly, I use 'knew'- note the 'k' - as the perfect of 'know' as in 'acquainted with'. 'New', to me, connotes that which is fresh, ; or 'previously unknown' or 'not previously acquired'. Perhaps you omitted or elided the 'k' in your hurry to have a pop at me.

The phrase 'thank you very often' is a Northern humorous one, variants being 'thank you not enough' or 'thank you very glad'.

Being humorous, clearly it passed over your head.

I have said all I have to say about Ewan McColl - I have said all I know.

I am glad that you agree Hearsay to be inadmissible. Perhaps you might explain your use of 'party line', because that has gone over my head.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:24 AM

This is a technique I have come across before. Have a go at someone's typos to avoid actually addressing what they said.

The people I have listed KNEW MacColl. They had first hand experience of what he was like. What they have to say is not hearsay.

The "party line" is that MacColl was invariable polite and helpful and much loved by everyone who knew him.

I have said all I have to say about Ewan McColl - I have said all I know.

Apparently you don't want to know any more.

'thank you very often'

My parents are from Merseyside. Never heard it before.

Have you read Ben Harker's biography? Any comments?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:28 AM

Hi folks, hope everyone had a nice weekend.

There's been mention above about people commenting before they've read the biography. Personally, I haven't read it but, then, I was just pasing on a personal experience. Will I read it? Maybe, but I've a huge reading list and it's somewhere near the bottom. I wonder how many people read it simply to see if they're mentioned.

One aspect that has been mentioned that I do find really bizzarre is the Critic's Circle. Who were the critics and what were their credentials for being critics? Were they elected or self-appointed? Did they criticise personal style, content, or what? How does this fit in with the whole point of folk music; that any performance is relevant because it is the music of the people, not of some elitist group?

Perhaps it's the rather pompous and authoritarian name, but it immediately brought to mind 'Animal Farm' with the pigs sitting in judgement on the other animals. Were there slogans written on the wall, like '4/4 good; 2/4 bad'?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:31 AM

Double take.

Bryn, are you saying that what Peggy Seeger said was hearsay?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:47 AM

Leveller, MacColl explains the purpose of The Critics Group very clearly in "Journeyman". In a nutshell the group's name was meant to infer that they were there to criticise themselves.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 08:57 AM

JIM,as a matter of fact I prefer folk clubs to festivals,Iam sorry if I didnt express myself very well.I wondered if their reasons were the same as mine.
my reasons are this,in a good folk club,there is a feeling of being in a community,or part of a local community,that the club has a local flavour[Swindon folk club is a good example].whereas festivals can be,[not always]rather like glorified road shows, one act following another with out any continuity.,or relevance to the local community
,or the localconmmunity being involved at all.
Bryn,they did prefer to work without support acts,they said this to organisers,they told the organiser of the concert,of which I did the support[we thought Dick Miles was very good],but we prefer to work without support acts,and if you wish to book us again,that is how we prefer to work.
I am fairly sure,when I booked them for Bury ST Edmunds folk club[They gave a great night],they booked into a hotel,had exact stipulations for when they would perform,stipulations for certain kind of seats[this is not a criticism, just a fact].


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:07 AM

Peggy, was very complimentary about my song accompaniment and playing,and unfortunately from my point of view[I am always keen to hear other peoples approaches to song accompaniment on the Concerina],didnt use her concertina for the rest of the night.Their performance that night was one of the highlights of my time as organiser of BuryStEdmunds folk club.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:35 AM

Mr Snail - no ; yes ; no ; and no.

I can speak only for the Manchester critics, of which I was a member at Jim Carroll's invitation.

The purpose of this, as I understood it, was to criticise - CONSTRUCTIVELY - my interpretation and presentation of the traditional songs I was at that time singing.

There were, as I remember, seven of us, and through Jim C's generosity, I has access to materials and techniques on singing which otherwise I might not. I was delighted to receive advice from singers on the Manchester scene more experienced than I, or less, as the case might be.

Dave S has the rights of it - we were there to criticise constructively one another ; analyse, and, above all else learn from those with greater experience - Ewan McColl, via Jim C, being one of these.

At no time was any criticism (with one exception, which I shall outline below) directed to any other than a Member of the Manchester Critics ; and at no time was any such criticism other than constructive. I can say whose singing I don't care for, at any time, but I would not think, now or then, of criticising another's singing.

To give an example : 'Your breathing is shit in that song, Bryn - try . . . etc.'

The criticism to which I referred in the earlier paragraph was apropos the night Jim C came to Critics and announced 'Ewan wants me down in London'.

I wouldn't dream, now or then, of criticising the singing of another. Criticism never went outside the Manchester critics membership. I can say, now and then, whose singing I do not care for.
Let it be remembered (since I shall be pulled up for repeating myself) that I said, of Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, I do not care for much of the non-traditional material they were responsible for. Let it further be remembered that I have posted to the effect that I have followed and damn near worshipped Martin Carthy since 9th October 1966 - my 'Sam Larner' moment.

For the last time, I hope : I never found Ewan McColl anything but courteous and helpful. If that is toeing the party line, so be it. If others had different experiences, fine.

I never said Ewan McColl was much loved - from what has been going on in this thread, anything but.

I have read the Harker biography. From what has been going on in this thread, anyone who expects me to comment on it should bear in mind the axioms :

'Only a dog comes back after a kicking'.

'Only a fool puts his balls in the mangle twice'.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Folkiedave
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:38 AM

I am not sure who or what the "Critic's Circle" is. However if you mean the Critic's Group which is referred to a number of times in this thread then there is an article here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Critics_Group

I don't normally take Wikipedia as gospel - but in this case it covers my understanding of what the Critics Group was about.

They were simply criticising each other with the aim of improving their own performances and thus needed no credentials to criticise anyone else. So really the last two paragraphs are just based on a mis-understanding. (Does no-one ever look in Google before asking questions like this?)

I have eventually found the one remaining copy of the New City Songster I have, which is Volume 9 and dated October '73. There were twenty-one eventually. Because of a printing problem no's 4 and 5 were combined. A number 22 was written but never published. This Volume 9 will be going up on ebay (blatant plug) around the end of October.

Here is what is says in the introduction:

"Over the past year we have had many many songs sent in - the production is prodigious. The editors have spent long hours listening to tapes, pouring over hand-written texts have importuned every singer or writer to 'please send us everything you write'.

To such a request, some people say "O you wouldn't be interested in the stuff I write". Or "I have lots of different kinds of songs, they're not like the one you just heard" Or.."The NCS has such a particular song in it..........". Our reply is that we are interested in every song anyone ever writes. We have found from experience that a writer is not always the best judge of his material, that in a tape of a dozen really bad songs you can find agem. So the tapes and letters come rolling in anywhere from 10 to 25 songs per week".

Later on they say they are willing to make tapes of the songs for those who do not read music, for the costs of the tape and 10-15p towards the Songster Fund.

I think this bears out very well what Jim was saying about them both being willing to share their time and expertise.

As for them not liking festivals, Peggy will be doing the Shepley Spring Festival next year (second blatant plug in one reply).


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:47 AM

Bryn Pugh

If that is toeing the party line, so be it. If others had different experiences, fine.

Thank you Bryn, you have finally stopped dismissing other peoples experiences as hearsay. Now if we can just persuade a few of the others, we might start to get a picture of the real Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:56 AM

Please, Mr Snail -

If this is how it came over, my unresrved apology.

My dismissal of other peoples' experiences was reserved to those who repeat the other party lines - 'ethnic' ; finger in lug ; etc., and who never met Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, but repeated scurrility they had heard from others.

If it came over differently; if it came over as my having a go at those who HAD met or known either and both, then I am sorry that such people do not have the pleasant memories of Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger which I have.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 10:08 AM

Thank you Bryn. I'm afraid that is how it came over.

I have no wish to denigrate Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger. They were clearly hugely important figures in the folk revival and I would like to know more about them but I want to know the whole truth not just a partial version. There are some on this list who have attacked people who were/are also important in the revival in ways they do not deserve simply to protect their image of McColl and Seeger.

I may even have to buy the book.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Winger
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 03:04 PM

Phew! You've been a busy lot over the weekend and it'll take me some time to read through this stuff.

But thankfully, we seem to be making some progress. In particular, Jim and I have found some common ground at last: "they were leading figures in The Peace Movement, The Anti-Apartheid campaign, various anti-fascist organisations, the Folksingers For Freedom in Viet Nam".

And some people see MacColl merely as a singer, Jim!

It appears that his politics informed his song-writing and quite possibly his views on traditional song. But it still leaves me wondering about the WWII years. I've heard (hearsay, of course)that he was quite prolific in his songwriting during that time. Does anyone have any information about that?

Since the Harker biography appears to deal with that era, it's definitely on my wish list.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 03:30 PM

"One aspect that has been mentioned that I do find really bizzarre is the Critic's Circle. Who were the critics and what were their credentials for being critics? Were they elected or self-appointed? Did they criticise personal style, content, or what? How does this fit in with the whole point of folk music; that any performance is relevant because it is the music of the people, not of some elitist group?"

Oh dear! Here we go again! I believe that Folkiedave and Bryn Pugh have dealt with this point more than adequately - but I do find this sort of thing really, really, really irritating!!

"Any performance" is NOT adequate if it does not do justice to the genius of the people. This was a central point of Ewan's teaching. To suggest that any old shite will do for the people's music is patronising in the extreme and, I contend, ELITIST!


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 10:33 AM

The critics group, did contain some good singers,whether they were elitist is irrelevant,what they did, was try to make suggestions to people[who wanted criticism] as to how they could improve their singing,that is a good thing,whether their criticisms were right is another question,their intentions were good.
Personally I never felt it necessary to join them.I did ask people for advice [such as Isobel Sutherland],in the end Ithink more can be acheived[stylewise] from listening to good traditional singers like PhilTanner and Harry Cox.
I always thought MacColls presentation was very good,the same can be said for Roy Harris,the best way to learn[imo] is to observe other good performers,this can be done without forming a group such as The Critics.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: curmudgeon
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 11:49 AM

Now having just completed "Class Act," I found the book a fine biography, informative, thoroughly documented, good photos, an overall good read.

This is a "warts and all" book. MacColl's detractors will find grist for their mean spirited mills, and thos who admire his achievements will gain some new insights. If nothing else, this book demonstrates that MacColl's flaws, unlike our own, have become magnified in light of his outstanding accomplishments.

The book doesn't have answers for all the questions on this thread. It is a study of MacColl's "Cultural and Political Life." And while his WW II activities are well documented, the reasons are not. I would tend to look to a line in one of his songs;

"But I'd sooner never travelled if the only way to see
The world was through the battlesights of a Mark IV 303."

As to Winger's question about songwriting during this period, there was virtually none. He was still immersed in theatre. Before "Dirty Old Town," c. 1950, the only songs he'd penned were "The Manchester Rambler," his reworking of "Jamie Foyers," and "Browned Off."

While many condider MacColl to be a song writer and revival singer, at the time he met Alan Lomax, he was a source singer, having abosorbed his songs from his parents and the Scottish community of Salford.

Buy the book or borrow it, but read this book. Then come back for further discussion - Tom Hall


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Joe_F
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 10:58 PM

Curmudgeon: -- and, presumably, the Second Front Song?


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 11:16 PM

Curmudgeon, I haven't read the new bio, but I have read much of the other MacColl literature, and you're off on some of the history. In the Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook, Peggy Seeger points out that Ewan wrote political songs for nine different factory newspapers in the 1930s (I've only found one in the book, from 1932...since there is no date index, it's hard to know if there are more in there!)

He also wrote songs like "The Plodder Steam" in 1939, "The Leader's a Bleeder" (about Sir Oswald Mosley!) in 1943, "The Second Front Song" in 1943-44, "Ivor" in 1944, "21 Years" in 1946, etc.

Given that he was a professional songwriter and actor by the age of 18, and a professional radio playwright by 21, I doubt if too many collectors would ever consider him a "source singer." We could, of course, argue at length about what that term means, but MacColl, like Bert Lloyd, learned at least as much about folksongs from books as he did from his family and community, even as a teenager (Seeger recounts that he spent most of his time during the depression reading in the Manchester Library.)

Like Lloyd, MacColl is situated in a way between the tradition and the revival--but he was never, I think, a "source singer."

I'll certainly read the book when I can!


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 03:39 AM

I am not sure about the usefulness of the phrase source singer and prefer to use "tradition bearer". In that case since he sang songs he learnt from his mother - who I am fairly sure has songs in the School of Scottish Studies archives and was regarded as a "tradition bearer" - then there is a good chance he learnt those from her.

As far his early song-writing - I feel sure Joan Littlewood mentions in her biography that "he wrote a song a day" at some point when he was married to her. But I haven't a copy of the book to hand to check.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Folkiedave
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 03:41 AM

Sorry posted before I checked. Should read "then there is a good chance he ought to be regarded as a "tradition bearer".


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: Nerd
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 04:50 AM

That seems reasonable, folkiedave.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Winger
Date: 17 Oct 07 - 12:25 PM

Thanks, Folkiedave, I believe it was the Joan Littlewood book that gave me the impression that MacColl was writing quite prolifically during the war years.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Oct 07 - 03:01 AM

Ah, that's better - amazing what a few days surrounded by lakes, mountains and beautiful weather does for the soul.
Regarding MacColl a being a source singer. It is true that he got songs from his mother , Betsy. There is an album 'Garland For Betsy' on which they both sing songs from her repertoire.
There is also this from 'Prospero and Ariel, (The Rise And Fall Of Radio) by D.G.Bridson, Victor Gollancz Ltd.1971.
"MacColl had been out busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learnt from his mother, border ballads and folk-songs. One night while queueing up for the three-and-sixpennies, Kenneth Adam had heard him singing outside the Manchester Paramount. He was suitably impressed" (can't lay my hands of the date of the incident, but I think it was around 1936).
However, MacColl always rejected the label 'traditional'; I think Folkiedave's point is an accurate one.
Regarding his output as a songwriter, while looking for above I came across this gem of misrepresentation from a radio programme on the history of Topic Records, 'Little Red Label'.
".....but ultimately, in the sixties, when he formed The Critics Group, he was very anti songwriting, which led to kind of bizarre situations, kind of Bob Dylan coming down at the infancy of his career, and MacColl kind of feeling ambivalent about it, which is bizarre. I mean, to a lot of people Bob Dylan couldn't sing properly, he also wrote his own songs or updated old songs, and all those things were a bit of a no-no in the philosophy of The Critics Group who thought they were just purely there to kind of dust down old songs".
Is it really any wonder we get pissed off sometimes?
When Karl Dallas organised a symposium in honour of Ewan on his 70th birthday, I was asked to speak on the work of the Critics Group. I have been trying to cut this down to a manageable size, but, like Topsy, it just growed. I'll keep slogging at it, but I may have to leave it as it is and send it out to whoever is interested-if anybody. This is what I've got so far.
"In the early sixties a group of people not happy with what was happening in the revival, approached Ewan and asked him to take singing classes, these included Bob Davenport, Eric Winter and Enoch Kent. He refused, but agreed to organise self-help workshops to work on singing.
In preparation for this he devised a number of technical exercises, on voice production, pitch and tone control and relaxation along with a series of singing exercises for coping with articulation, diction and managing difficult intervals. A number of these were ones which had been used by him in Theatre Workshop.
Early members included Gordon McCullough, Bobby and Helen Campbell, John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr, Alasdair Clayre and Luke Kelly. The first meetings concentrated on technique, but also included the listening to and discussion of recordings of traditional singers.
Once the technical exercises had been established a format was devised where a singer was asked to perform a number of varying types of songs and perform them to the group, who would then discuss them and, if appropriate, make suggestions on how they might be improved. Ewan took no active part in the discussion, but acted as a chairman and, where necessary, made sure that all the suggestions that were made were fully understood. After the discussion had reached some sort of a conclusion the singer was asked to comment on his/her performance and on the ideas thrown up in the course of the evening. A song, or maybe two, was selected and worked on by the entire group, including Ewan.
The singer was then asked to bring back one of the songs a couple of weeks later.
The whole process was entirely voluntary; it was never demanded that singers must take up suggestions made during the criticism; the only obligation members were under was to turn up regularly, and that there should be some indication that the members were working on their singing. If singers were having problems, other members stepped in to help with private sessions; I was assisted by John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr and Dick Snell.
Quite often Ewan would assist privately and Peggy ran regular instrumental classes.
Other work included research on specific areas of repertoire (The Critics were the first to open up the London Repertoire with the two Argo albums); group song-writing sessions (resulting in Grey October and The Hull Trawler Disaster, among others), and numerous other ongoing projects.
The hardest part of the work was the initial act of singing in front of a group of people who you knew were going to subject your performance to close (if friendly) scrutiny, but once you had got over this idea, it was plain sailing (and incidentally, once you could sing in those circumstances, you could sing anywhere - I can honestly say that, whatever problems I now have with my singing, I never feel nervous in front of an audience).   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Oct 07 - 04:04 AM

Well - that brought the house down, didn't it - Sorry 'bout that?
One last request.
Some time in the late seventies - early eighties Radio 2 (I think) produced a programme on the Radio Ballads. It lasted around an hour and was an overview of the series - probably the most comprehensive ever made.
We have a very bad (unlistenable) recording of it.
I wondered does anybody have any information on it. Any help would be appreciated.
There are rumours that a book on the series is in preparation.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: TheSnail
Date: 20 Oct 07 - 07:51 AM

Jim Carroll

Well - that brought the house down, didn't it

Hang on a minute Jim, we haven't finished reading it yet.


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Subject: RE: New Ewan MacColl Biography
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Oct 07 - 12:36 PM

Thanks snail - needed that
Jim Carroll


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