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Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?

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GUEST,redmax 10 Oct 07 - 05:39 AM
Bryn Pugh 10 Oct 07 - 06:44 AM
maeve 10 Oct 07 - 06:55 AM
Folkiedave 10 Oct 07 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,clockwatcher 10 Oct 07 - 07:45 AM
GUEST,theleveller 10 Oct 07 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,redmax 10 Oct 07 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 10 Oct 07 - 10:38 AM
The Borchester Echo 10 Oct 07 - 10:44 AM
maeve 10 Oct 07 - 10:52 AM
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Folkiedave 10 Oct 07 - 11:28 AM
maeve 10 Oct 07 - 11:48 AM
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Bill D 10 Oct 07 - 12:15 PM
maeve 10 Oct 07 - 12:19 PM
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GUEST,Brian Bull 10 Oct 07 - 12:58 PM
greg stephens 10 Oct 07 - 01:52 PM
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Subject: E. MacColl - first-hand trivial anecdotes?
From: GUEST,redmax
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 05:39 AM

It seems a shame to me that a lot of MacColl threads tend to get so heated, and that a lot of assertions are made about him (as opposed to his legacy) by people who never met him. I was struck by a posting in a recent thread where someone mentioned the kind of beer he drank. Utterly trivial, I know, but it struck me that it might be diverting to start a thread which doesn't go down the well-trodden path of his name changes, his deserting during the war, etc.

Can anyone who met the man share any recollection they have of him. Did he stand on your foot? If so, did he apologise? Did you find yourself standing at the next urinal to him? Did he talk to you about the weather, the price of fish, the FA cup?

Come on, let's have a nice, fluffy, pointless thread!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 06:44 AM

It's a good idea, redmax, but I'll lay seven to two you won't get a fluffy, pointless thread.

The posting that mentioned that Peggy drank cider, and Ewan drank brown over bitter, was mine. Thank you for reading it. Did you notice also that I spoke of their unfailing courtesy ?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 06:55 AM

I can vouch for Peggy's courtesy. Unfailing? Yes, indeed. I never had the pleasure of meeting Ewan.

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 07:15 AM

I met them both - and I can vouch for their unfailing courtesy too. And all the people I know that met them also vouch for their courtesy. And Peggy is just the same now. (She is on tour here next year and will be at Shepley Festival which is a blatant plug for both of them).

I have on the other hand met a lot of people who have not met them, who will tell you how arrogant Ewan was.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,clockwatcher
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 07:45 AM

Well, I knew someone who used to write really bad songs, quite hopeless, and he sent two of them to MacColl asking him what he thought of them.

The reply he got back, whilst leaving no doubt that he didn't think they were much good, was perfectly polite and even encouraging.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,theleveller
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 08:53 AM

Thanks for that, folkiedave, enjoyed Shepley so much I'm going back to be blown away (literally) again next year.

Well, here's some useless fluffy info. I've just been told that Peggy Seeger lived in the next village to me for years, so I may have bumped into her without knowing it. Also, a friend in the village knows Msrtin Simpson's roadie really well. And Eliza Carthy used to babysit the plasterer who's been working on my house; and mrsleveller and I had a lovely chat to her mum and dad in the toilet queue at Shepley; they just turned round and asked us if we were having a good time. Trivia - don't you just love it?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,redmax
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 10:09 AM

This is the right kind of stuff!

Jim Carroll, this thread needs you. Please don't think me flippant, but I've read so much second-hand opinion about MacColl that he seems as real as the Big Hewer in my mind. Give us some banal recollections and let's try to remember the living, breathing chap.

Did anyone ever buy him a packet of crisps? If so, what flavour did he prefer? Come on, this is the stuff we need to know.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 10:38 AM

The last time I saw Ewan, about a year before he died, was at a folk club near Warrington. For some reason (which completely escapes me now) the conversation got round to natural history. Ewan, of course, was one of those people who was interested in everything and told me about a recent holiday that he and Peggy had taken on a Mediterranean island (Minorca, I think) and how the wild flowers on the island had been wonderful. I told him about a Victorian flora of Manchester that I had recently found in a second-hand book shop and he was particularly amused by the idea that wild daffodils had once grown in Trafford Park.

I asked him if he would sing 'Black Dog and Sheepcrook' during the evening (my favourite among his vast repertoire) and he readily agreed - and, in the course of the evening, sang it magnificently.

After the club we went back to someone's house and he regaled us with stories about collecting folk songs in Italy with Alan Lomax.
I also remember that the evening was rather spoiled by the somewhat boorish behaviour of one of our party (not, incidentally, directed towards Ewan) - but that's another story.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 10:44 AM

No crisps but we shared a bag of cherries as he gave me notes to which I had to pitch in thirds and fifths above and below till he discovered my range. Didn't take long.

Yes, he was unfailingly polite and courteous, and always inquired into what I was doing musically and even if it was in the hope that I wouldn't burst into it instantly, he never actually discouraged me.

Contrary to most people's beliefs that he never performed it, I have seen him do First Time Ever, the song that paid for he and Peggy to produce his youngest daughter Kitty.

Seventeen years after his death, I still can't get more than half way through The Joy Of Living without collapsing in tears.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 10:52 AM

Diane- Same here, regarding Joy of Living. I did manage to sing it for a friend's memorial service, at the request of his family. How fortunate you are to have known him.

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 10:53 AM

I met them during a house concert in L.A. in the very late 70's. It was a strange way to meet. The host asked who had come the farthest to see them, folks knowing I was on the road traveling ask me how far I came, I said from Boston so I got to hang with them as a door prize. We got to talking, he was very interested in the type of labor I did (Roofing) & wanted to know about how the old time slater's passed on their craft & about our unions, he told me he had done a bit of stone work. I don't know if he ever did much labor, he didn't strike me as a man that worked his back & hands but he sure was interested in how the working man labored & survived. We didn't really talk music. I found them both to be very nice, engaging & more than polite & encouraging, I was always enamored of them but they became my hero's after that night. I just chanced upon the house concert by glancing at a local newspaper & couldn't believe my luck. That was probably the #2 highlight of my year & 1/2 venture to Hawaii & back, #1 was the sail back from Lahania to San Diego, that couldn't been topped unless I had spent the night with Peggy.

Barry

Barry


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 11:01 AM

Diane, he did "First Time Ever" there too. Peggy also did "I'm gonna be an engineer" because it was requested but mentioned that she didn't do it often anymore because while singing it she would catch herself going over her shopping list & other daily erands because she had done it so often thather mind got to wondering. In doing the request she was very gracious about honoring it even though she had been steering clear of it.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 11:28 AM

I don't know if anyone ever recorded the Desert Island Discs programme that Peggy did - Joy of Living was the final song.

For the first time in my experience the producer allowed the song to be interrupted so that as Peggy described how she and the children were sat by the bedside in came the line "here's to you my chicks......"

Two of us in tears here and when the programme ended a close friend telephoned to say "Did you hear that?"


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 11:48 AM

I'd like to hear that programme, FolkieDave. I wonder if it is available for a listen. Hmmm.

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 11:59 AM

Unlikely - it is never available on listen again because of ownership/copywrite issues with Roy Plomley Estates. But a private recording maybe????


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:00 PM

Ach, well, perhaps a 'Catter will have it. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Ebbie
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:08 PM

My ignorance, here: Is 'Ewan' pronounced EVan or YUen?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Bill D
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:15 PM

Perhaps 20 years ago, I was asked to 'lead' Ewan & Peggy from suburban Maryland to downtown Wash.D.C. for a concert. We arrived early, and I had perhaps 30 minutes with them as they checked out the hall and did a sound check.
   I had gone thru my LP collection and found everything by them I had and brought along a stack of 8-9 records, which I asked if they would sign. They cheerfully did, and suggested other things I might like, including "The Long Harvest"...which I finally acquired on CD just last year! They were polite, open and friendly.

Since then I have met Peggy twice and she was as friendly as she could be in the hectic pace of post-concert. I took some digital pics of Peggy doing a house concert at the house she grew up in and gave her a CD of them at the recent concert of all 3 Seegers....a few weeks later, I got a very nice email thanking me.

I suspect, that, like most people, Ewan could be irritated at times, ...often, no doubt for good cause...and no doubt there ARE stories by folks who didn't like something about their meeting with Ewan, but I seem to see that he was usually polite, gracious and interested....and he WAS an incredibly talented and creative artist, no matter what some think of certain details of his life.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:19 PM

Thanks for your post, Bill D. I appreciate your balanced view.

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:24 PM

It's more the "YUan" pronunciation, Ebbie.

Regards,

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Brian Bull
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 12:58 PM

Back in the early sixties I was bluffing my way through college in London but really much more interested in folk music. I went a couple of times to the Singers Club (then at a pub near St. Pancras called 'the Pindar of Wakefield') and was so impressed by Ewan and Peggy that I booked them twice for a folk club I had started at College. Whatever anyone else's experience, I can only say they gave a very professional performance and were polite and totally non threatening. Ewan particularly spent several minutes chatting to me about folk singing and was clearly very knowledgeable and articulate. He was a great talent and as for the criticism, just remember, nobody's perfect.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 01:52 PM

Well, alas, I only met him once, incredibly briefly, and nothing happened of any interest at all. He was very courteous, very polite.I was in awe!He had a bad press of course with people claiming he went around telling everyone what they could or couldn't sing. Well, sure he had opinions, who doesn't, but he didn't go around assaulting people if they were singing the wrong songs. I remember Peggy Seeger reminiscing about a time she had openly and cruelly derided a young singer for singing in the "wrong" accent, but I have no knowledge of McColl ever doing that.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 02:11 PM

Peggy Seeger's MT piece was posted by Folkie Dave earlier in the other thread about the MacColl bio, but it hasn't stopped those who never went near B&B/Singers from posting total crap about what the policies were and how that were determined.

In this, Peggy describes how she laughed uncontrollably at a Cockney's efforts at an American song - because she couldn't help it, it was so funny. That's not the same as 'derision'.

Ewan asked me and Anne Briggs at the same time if we'd like to come along to the Critics. Anne refused point blank, declaring the very idea 'preposterous' and it certainly could be argued that she didn't actually need further guidance. I went for a few weeks on the basis that I needed all the help I could get. Ewan never told me what I could or couldn't sing. He just encouraged me to do what I did a bit better.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 02:52 PM

We booked them three times when I was involved with South Tyne Folk and Blues and each time they were supremely professional, on time, well prepared and very encouraging about the club and its residents. The first time we booked them, and the first time I met Ewan, I stutteringly asked him to sing "Sweet Thames Flow Softly" which he decided was "not a bad idea". On the ensuing occasions I asked for "Through Moorfields" and "The Midwife's Ghost" both of which he declined on the basis that he no longer sang them but he told me that his son (probably Hamish)sang the latter and he enthused over its "noble tune".After the gig that night he talked to me at length about different versions of "Tam Lin" and we discusssed the plans to make a film of the ballad which was being mooted at that time. He asked what sort of songs Ed Pickford was writing and told me how impressed he was by a young singer from the Gosforth Traditional Club (Benny Graham). All that was between 1968 and 1973.
By the way in those days he smoked Players and drove a Merc.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 02:55 PM

Have stayed out of this one deliberately because of my tendency to monopolise, but will perhaps join later.
One of my earliest memories was of the first time I went to stay at their home; I had been asked to re-wire the lighting system which was giving trouble.
Ewan was writing the script for 'The Festival of Fools' (an annual political show the Critics group and volunteers (Diane?) put on at the end of the year).
Whatever we were doing, Ewan would come down from his workroom with part of a script and demand that Peggy and I listen to and comment on it after he had read it through. He did this towards the end of the day once when I had miscalculated how long a job would take me. We had to sit there in the almost dark and listen while he read the script by the light of a torch, then I had to borrow the torch to finish the light circuit.
That week we drove to the Singers Club where they were performing. I sat through what I believed to be a near perfect night of singing, but going home in the car he and Peggy went step-by-step through everything they had sung that night, criticising it minutely; then they asked me what I thought. I replied with an extremely feeble "it sounded all right to me".
My fondest memory of Ewan was when I moved to London and they gave me a home (and fed me) for a month. Ewan was totally impractical and, instead of letting me go out and find work, he would insist I help him in the garden, though most of the time we sat in deck chairs and talked.
He seldom spoke of his childhood, but on one of these occasions he told me of an incident when he was still in junior school (Grecian Street Salford). His father had been blacklisted at work and had taken to the bottle. One time he turned up at the school during playtime, the worse for drink and had beckoned him through the railings. Ewan said he deliberately pretended not to know him - he was still ashamed at having done so.
Nuff sed.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Winger
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 04:46 PM

Well done, Jim. By your own definition you've just become a fully paid-up Folk Luvvie. ("What is a Folk Luvvie - well; as I was just saying to Martin the other day................").


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: maeve
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 05:00 PM

Thanks for the post, Jim. Their graciousness and generosity show clearly, balanced by other very human traits.

maeve


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 06:10 PM

Well, I met Ewan MacColl twice. Once, Enoch Kent rather wickedly introduced me in the darkness -I was sat in a car, Ewan MacColl was stood outside - as 'another Ewan', which rather startled MacColl.
Another time we briefly conversed across the width of a venue where he and Peggy were sound-checking. I learned with astonishment that he and Peggy had learned and sung my Shift And Spin song for a workshop. I had made a few versions of the song for different shows, so asked which version they had used. MacColl was again startled - why had I changed it?
In addition I had various correspondence with both, mostly via Peggy. They were unfailingly polite and encouraging re various projects, and gave a very fine commendation quote for me to use for the Scottish CND Buskers cassette.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: johnross
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 12:48 AM

I organized and produced concerts for Peggy and Ewan in Seattle several times over about the last ten years before he died. They also did a master class in ballads for us (and before you ask, yes, there's a tape of that session here someplace). They were always a joy to work with; fully professional, they knew exactly what they wanted and needed, but they weren't pushy or prima donnas.

Once, when I was in London, I went to the Singers' Club at the Bull and Mouth to see and hear them. I happened to arrive before the upstairs room was unlocked, and waited on the stairs with a handful of other people. One of them was a Folk Bore, who observed my obvious American accent, and decided to tell me all about his wonderful record collection of American Folk Music. I was trapped in the stairway, so I had to stand there and listen politely as he went on and on. After about ten minutes of this, Ewan and Peggy arrived with the key. Ewan greeted me warmly and Peggy gave me a big hug, and one of them said, "Why didn't you tell us you were in town?" As this is happening, I could see that the Folk Bore was shrinking back, with a look on his face that said, "Oops. I should know who this is, shouldn't I?" It was a great moment.

During the interval that evening, I mentioned to Ewan that I had found an old Wheatstone concertina at a bargain price in a street market that day, but I didn't have the cash to buy it, so the seller had put it aside for me. But I was leaving before I could get the chance to go to the bank and arrange to buy it. Ewan said, "that's too good a deal to miss. Give us the name of the shop and we'll get it for you. You can send us the money." Which they did, and took it to Harry Crabbe to repair. Of course, I sent them the money immediately after I heard from them. On their next U.S. tour, which ended here in Seattle, Peggy brought my concertina instead of her own, and played it at all their concerts. On the final night of the tour, she left it with me.

So, yes, I would agree that he (and Peggy as well) was generally gracious and approachable. But I never got into either a political or artistic confrontation with him, so I don't know how that might have gone.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: TRUBRIT
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 01:57 AM

If any one does have a copy of that Desert Island Discs (one of my favorite programs) with Peggy, I sure would love to hear it......


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 01:58 AM

Winger:
"Well done, Jim. By your own definition you've just become a fully paid-up Folk Luvvie. ("What is a Folk Luvvie - well; as I was just saying to Martin the other day................")."
If it pleases you to thinks so - please feel free; I knew and worked with Ewan for over 20 years, and consider(ed) both he and Peggy good friends, as well as contributors to my love and knowledge of traditional singing. This is not the creeping, first-name, assumed familiarity that infested the revival at one time (and maybe still does); merely personal reminiscences I was asked for.
By the way, I intended to ask you - do you always tell anybody who offers you advice on singing to "fuck off?"
I think that one of Ewan's greatest achievements is probably that, nearly twenty years after his death, he still manages to provoke frothing-at-the-mouth hatred from people like yourself, whose contact and knowledge of him and his ideas was so marginal as to be non-existent, .
Regarding the myth of the Singers Club policy not allowing singers to sing songs out of their own region, there is, of course, the other side of the coin:
On numerous occasions E&P and other members of the Critics Group were offered bookings at clubs on the condition that they didn't sing their political songs; and also, they were requested by some not to sing 'modern' songs (ie-their own compositions); kettle/black springs to mind!!! (They turned down both requests, by the way).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 02:46 AM

Just for the sake of getting #100 I recall the feeling of terror when Ewan & Peggy were espied climbing the stairs to the XXX club - a week early. They'd driven back especially that day from mainland Europe too, for what? A floor spot? And indeed that is what they did, being true pros. And a 'Don't forget to come back again next week.

Fortunately, a copy of the contract was swiftly produced, clearly showing the date of the booking. Phew!

Semi-Luvvie Department: As a certain performer was saying to me only last week after blowing a gig: 'I'm 48 years old and this is the first time ever I've misread my diary . . . '


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 02:49 AM

Ah, no, that's the other thread that's up to #99 . . .


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 03:41 AM

A bonne bouche for those who like trivia: Ewan and Peggy dined with us at a seafood cafe in Vancouver (the Marine View, almost entirely shoreworkers and now long gone) a few decades back and Ewan was DISGUSTED that they fried oysters there - apparently a no-no for people who've only ever eaten them raw (I've never eaten one at all!).

Rika Ruebsaat and I were their guests in Kent when we asked for their input on our radio series, and they gave it to us with both barrels, for which we are eternally grateful. We regarded them as comrades in a joint struggle for traditional music, and their greater experience made our music better. We both grew up in households where argument and back-and-forth were one of the joys of living, and so strong opinion is to us a blessing. I can well understand that those whose childhoods lacked that back-and-forth because "it's not polite to argue/disagree" might well have trouble dissociating the personal from the political in a loud argy-bargy.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: pavane
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 05:02 AM

I turned up at a club in Stratford, London in 1970 to see them (and the BBC also turned up to film Peggy Seeger for a documentary about foreigners in England, which I later saw on TV). Although I had great admiration for Ewan and his work, I was not happy that the evening was full of songs like 'Ho ho Ho Chi Mihn'. I did prefer work like that on the Long Harvest, which I used to borrow from my local record library in the 60's.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,redmax
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 08:11 AM

I've enjoyed the posts so far, thanks for sharing this info. Please stay with us, Jim. Let's keep it going!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 09:34 AM

In the very early days I used to go for a pee when Peggy sang, amazing what getting old does for you.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 09:45 AM

Somewhere above it is stated that Ewan never attacked anybody. Well you obviously were not at the Horseshoes in Tottenham Court Road the night Malcolm Nixon was forced to step between Ewan and Dominic Behan.
Dominic had been suggesting that Alan Lomax had been going around Ireland collecting from ageing singers and rewarding them with a bottle of Guiness and Ewan obviously thought that he should physically defend Lomax's honour.
Bold Sportsmen All.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Winger
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 12:25 PM

"By the way, I intended to ask you - do you always tell anybody who offers you advice on singing to "fuck off?"

I've no idea what you're on about, Jim, and I take strong exception to you suggesting that I may have done so. For this, I expect you to apologise.

"This not the creeping, first-name, assumed familiarity that infested the revival at one time (and maybe still does); merely personal reminiscences I was asked for."

Clearly, you feel that the revival has left you behind and does not show you the respect you feel you are due. Words like "infested" suggest a note of bitterness towards those who are merely a mirror image of yourself.

Leave it out, Jim.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 01:29 PM

Winger
My apologies, I was confusing you with Leveller
As for the rest of your posting stet.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 04:32 PM

Jim, do you mean that as you get older you don't have to go so often? I bloody hope so.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe_F
Date: 11 Oct 07 - 09:29 PM

Jon Bartlett: I like oysters both raw and fried. However, in deprecating the frying of oysters MacColl agreed with another eminent person, viz. H. L. Mencken, who waxed eloquent on the subject in his columns. He once recorded having been in a respectable restaurant that had deigned to serve fried oysters because a misguided VIP had ordered them. The maitre d' should at least have had the decency to set up screens around the table, he said.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 02:25 AM

Jim, do you mean that as you get older you don't have to go so often? I bloody hope so"
Guest - on the contrary unfortunately.
I learned to appreciate Peggy's American analogues as much as I did the British repertoire.
Thank you for asking
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 02:27 AM

Afterthought.
Joe Heaney once said that it takes him all night to do what he used to do all night.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 10:14 AM

At risk of thread-creep, following on from Joe Heaney's squib :

I am slowly beginning to understand what my pupil master meant when, many years ago, he said :

'There is only one f*cked in my home, and it is I'.

(See other threads for advice as to over 60s farting, micturition ansd naughties).


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 12:27 PM

Opened for Maccoll & Seeger a number of years ago at the Queens Hall in Hexham. Peggy was very protective of Ewan - due to his heart condition. I had travelled up from Stockport to play the gig. Ewan was pleased to tell me he used to live there and described the location of the house (on the side of Werneth Low for those who know the place) - a house I've always coveted because of the view. During the interval Peggy was playing a song backstage and I picked up my mandolin and jammed along. Her reaction was that she was not ready to do the song in public yet but that I wouldn't be there when she was so we'd better do it in the secong half. An altogether memorable night!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 02:25 PM

I never met the man, but do know a story, related by one of the many Brits (it could have been John Roberts, Mike Waterson, or any number of others -- I truly can't remember) who came through Helen Schneyer's house "back in the day." I can't tell the story properly, and don't know the address that comes as the punch line, but here goes.

An acquaintance of the story-teller was looking around a junk shop and came upon a stuffed turtle. Huge thing, it was, but, on a whim, he bought it. It got wrapped in brown paper -- not enough to totally cover it, but enough to let him carry it out of the shop -- and he trotted off down to the bus line. On the bus, a woman said to him, "What's that?"

"My turtle," he answered.

"Oh, what does it eat?" she asked, oblivious of the fact that it was dead and stuffed.

"Slugs."

"Oh," she said, "My garden is full of those. Would you like me to send you some?"

"That would be very kind," he answered.

"What address should I send them to?" asked the kind old soul.

"Ewan MacColl, 50 High St., Soho*" he answered, giving Ewan's real address.


Bob

* I told you I didn't know the real address.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 03:17 PM

Bob,
Heard it as being Mervin Plunkett.
If you want to tell the story with authority, the address was 35 Stanley Avenue, Beckenham, Kent.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 06:17 PM

I think Peggy must have given him a real sense of security on stage. She could play things. with Ewan - he had theatrical training - the show must go on, etc - and really it was all a pose. There was nothing only his presence there onstage. Peggy was so relaxed - she ate a pork pie one night onstage at The Nottingham Club that used to be at The Coop.

people weren't nice to Peggy. i remember Tony Capstick (a great singer in my opinion) saying as he introduced Freeborn Man - Ewan MaColl and peggy Seeger - they say every man carries his own cross....

Yet I think - it meant a lot to him that he could collect himself while she sang Freight train or Peggy Gordon or The Travelling Man. People found that weird sort Appalachian/Hedy West sort of voice - unnatural, when they were being asked to honestly focus on their roots.

I'm sorry if these reflections aren't about what a great guy he was - i don't know if he was ... this is just about what I remember feeling and thinking at the time.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 06:38 PM

She could play things. with Ewan - he had theatrical training - the show must go on, etc - and really it was all a pose.

Really? what sort of pose? How do you know?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Oct 07 - 07:12 PM

Well of course it was - he was flesh and blood like the reat of us - but onstage he was manliness personified - the great hewer, the hunter for shoals of herring. You can't do that stuff for two hours a night without training. he was an actor for godsake - a great one!
That's why he could do Tam Linn - he had that focus, it was to him his King Lear - a longer soliloquy than Shakespeare would have dared to write..

has that really never occurred to you?

Did you ever see that Not the Nine o'Clock News Sketch - where they pretend to be interviewing Lawrence Olivier. Someone or other is there pretending to be Olivier sitting in very studied attitude with his unlit pipe as a prop.
One of the team asks, do you ever stop acting Sir Laurence?

that was Ewan! with his backward chair instead of a pipe! And credit where its due - he was a damn good act!

well he fooled you apparently.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 03:51 AM

Sorry WMD;
I don't think I have ever read such ill informed and pseud psychobabble (about anybody).
The inspiration for the contemporary songs you mentioned came directly from actuality which was recorded from Sam Larner, Jack Elliot and other working men who were interviewed during the making of the Radio Ballads. If you listen to these field recordings (which are accessible at the British Library and Ruskin) you will see the skilful way MacColl has taken the speech patterns and the use of the vernacular of those singers and woven them into the songs. Far from being masculine posturings both were, for me, accurate and sympathetic representations of fishermen and miners.This is what made the songs and The Radio Ballads unique.
Some years ago we recorded a magnificent elderly storyteller named Jack Flannery in County Roscommon. He gave us around a dozen tales the longest of which was two-and-a-half hours, and the shortest about forty-five minutes.
Clare singer Martin Reidy (octogenarian), prided himself on long songs and once said "a song isn't worth singing unless it has a few verses in it". His 'True Lover's Discussion is slightly longer than Tam Lynn - penis substitution, do you think?   
Regarding his sitting back to front on his chair; it was part of the relaxation technique he devised for himself and discussed regularly in the Critics Group. It was never taken up by members of the group because they did not wish to be seen 'worshiping at the shrine of St Ewan' by adopting a technique that was so readily identifiable with him - (for justification of this fear, see 'finger-in-ear epithet).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 04:09 AM

PS,
I vaguely remember the Not The Nine-Oclock News sketch, but I recall vividly the Monty Python 'Arthur 'Two-Sheds' Jackson one about the artist being interviewed and failing to discuss his art because of the interviewers insistence on concentrating on his 'Two-Sheds' nickname - wonder what brought that to mind!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 05:35 AM

As Jim says listen to the Sam Larner recording (can't lay my hands on it - so I can't quote chapter and verse but it is on CD) and you can virtually hear Sam Larner speaking the "Shoals of Herring" - "a shimmer we calls it, a shimmer of hearing".........

You can't do that stuff without training? So what training have all the others who came up through the revival had? Mike Waterson sang Tam Lin without any theatrical training. Never (as far as I know) went to Critics' Groups meetings. Ewan never even liked the Watersons at first thinking they were a copy of the Coppers. How wrong can you be. Now they appear on Peggy's tours of the UK. And will be there on Sunday at the next Shepley Spring Festival (blatant plug).

He was practised (he and Peggy were the first singers I ever saw to do scales before a performance) and he often sang "Highland Muster Roll" as a way of getting his voice going at the start of a performance; he was thoroughly professional; but I met him and saw his performances a number of times and he never struck me as an "act" no more than any other folk singer was anyway.

Never occurred to me? Nope I was busy listening to him perform.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 05:58 AM

well I suppose it depends on how you view these other singers.

i was a fan of Ewan, not some of the others you mention (I can see they float the boats of all the traddies - but just lets not go there) - and yes I think it does require a thoughtful studied approach.

psychobabble - i don't think so. I asked myself where he came from and how he got to where he ended up.

Things don't arrange themselves by magic and good fortune. perhaps we would see better performances of traditional material if this were more widely realised.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 08:23 AM

"Things don't arrange themselves by magic and good fortune"
No they don't, they arrange themselves by hard slog; this is what MacColl did and what he urges everybody he came into contact with to do.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 13 Oct 07 - 10:46 PM

I was usually in London a couple of times a year beginning in 1969. Always checked the newspaper for folk clubs and sometimes I was there on the right night for the Singers Club. I remember being in the Bull and Mouth at least twice and other pubs whose names I forget. I saw Ewan & Peggy a few times, once with A.L. Lloyd. On one occasion, Ewan and I were near each other at the bar and I offered him a drink. We spoke for perhaps 15 minutes. He was quite gracious, listened sincerely and was very encouraging. I remember that we talked about the folk scene in Britain, Europe and, particularly, America because he'd been unable to get a visa and had not been there for a few years.

About 1980, I was preparing The Bonnie Bunch of Roses for publication and I wrote Ewan asking whether he might like to donate a song for the book. It did not take very long for him to reply. Ewan sent "The Campanero" which he and Peggy had collected from Ben Bright. I had admired Ewan McColl for a long time before meeting him and he did not disappoint in any way, except that I had expected him to be a foot taller.

All the best,
Dan Milner


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Susanne (skw)
Date: 14 Oct 07 - 05:53 PM

I made it to the Singers' Club once - in the late Seventies, I think. At the time it took place in a singularly uninviting room, but not being used to folk clubs at all I didn't really mind. Ewan and Peggy were there, Tom Paley, and a songwriter called Kevin Littlewood from Wales (different story, told in another, earlier thread). That's all I can remember.

I was a bit disappointed at the time. Apart from an exchange between Ewan and Tom ("Is there any instrument you can play without tuning for hours?" "The accordion!") humour seemed to be in short supply, but that may have been due to my, back then, limited command of English. I didn't care that much for Peggy's rather shrill voice or Ewan's slightly monotonous delivery, th be honest.

But during the interval I picked up the courage to speak to them. Ewan appeared a bit tired but explained politely about one of Martin Carthy's songs (learned from Ewan, as it said in the sleevenotes), and Peggy tried to help with one of her brother's songs. When she couldn't she jotted down his address on a slip of paper and assured me it would be perfectly ok to drop him a line. Sadly, I never did, and never made it to the club again.

Now, of course, I look back on that night as a highlight of my folkie life!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 02:45 AM

("Is there any instrument you can play without tuning for hours?" "The accordion!")
Tom was notorious for tuning - everybody made a joke of the time he took, including himself
He didn't play accordion, banjo, guitar and fiddle.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,redmax
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 05:28 AM

"I had expected him to be a foot taller"

Ah yes, the well known phenomenon of surprisingly short famous people.

About the alleged posturing nature of the guy, the checked shirts with the sleeves rolled up etc. Did anyone hear the pair of Critics seafaring LPs? On one of the shanties Ewan emits such a lusty "yargh!" between one of the lines, it always makes me laugh, it's so hammy.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Oct 07 - 09:07 AM

Bit of an aside, here. I've just been reminded of my very, very old and much-loved ((scratched) vinyl copy of Tom Paley and Peggy Seeger's Whose Going To Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot on Topic. Anyone know if this is available on CD - can't seem to find it anywhere?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Rowan
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 12:21 AM

Went to the Singers Club (@ Bull & Mouth) when I was in London in '77; they were both polite. I did my song in the floorspot but didn't have a chance to chat with them afterwards because, when I sat down, the guy in front of me turned around to ask me if I was from Sydney ("Melbourne" I said) and whether I knew Sedenka; I knew I'd found Linsey Pollak and we were sidetracked into gasbagging when the evening formally finished.

I saw Peggy and Ewan when they visited Melbourne and they were again, polite and interested in what I was doing; Peggy was kind enough to offer a suggestion about my concertina playing. She was concerned that, by resting it on my knee I might wear a hole in the bellows. I took the hint in the spirit it had been been offered and declined to point out that it was only one endframe that had been resting against my thigh (unlike the more commonly seen - among English players - middle of the bellows across the top of the thigh) and therefore the bellows had no contact with trousers' fabric.

A friend of mine taped Ewan's voice projection workshop, given also on a visit to Oz, and Ewan's presentation was informative and helpful. My friend lived at Wyong at the time and practised the diaphragm 'grunts' in the bathroom in syncopation with Ewan's versions of the same grunts on the tape. This caused a treefrog, resident in the tree outside the bathroom window to join in, adding yet another level of suncopation to the experience. I don't know if Ewan ever found out he'd instigated a frogs' chorus.

All positive encounters.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 06:41 AM

Correction for Jim Carroll
"Tom Paley WAS notorious for tuning" Delete 'WAS' insert 'IS'. Won't use an electronic tuner as he apparently doesn't think they are accurate ?

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 07:28 AM

I've seen him only once, in London, in the singers' club. He was one of those singers I longed to hear and see for a long time. In many years before that, at least four times, when I ended a journey to Scotland or Ireland with a few days in London, I found that I should have come the week before or the week after to hear MacColl. That was such a streak of bad luck that I actually found out before the next journey when the singers' club was and I arranged the vacation so that I could see the man.

I have forgotten nearly all about that evening except: A visibly old MacColl sung Joy of living which I heard for the first time then and immediately fell in love with.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 07:21 AM

"A bonne bouche for those who like trivia: Ewan and Peggy dined with us at a seafood cafe in Vancouver (the Marine View, almost entirely shoreworkers and now long gone) a few decades back and Ewan was DISGUSTED that they fried oysters there - apparently a no-no for people who've only ever eaten them raw (I've never eaten one at all!)." John Bartlett 11 Oct 07===

Not such trivia, perhaps, If Ewan did have a fault it was over-prescriptiveness; this seems to me an example of it, even tho on a culinary rather than a folk-musical matter. There isn't only one way to cook & eat an egg, or a steak; so why cavil at others' taste in bivalve molluscs? raw oysters taste one way, fried another; I myself am fond of both.

He was indeed usually polite: but sometimes both unreasonable & unmannerly ~~ I gave an example of this in some very dodgy treatment of a close friend of mine on the What Did You Do In The War? thread on 30 Aug 09 12.37 AM.

I had that Peggy Seeger sitting on my lap for a car journey from a club in 1956. Match that, any of you?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 12:31 PM

Tina and I were fairly frequent guests at Ailie Munro's famed dinner parties when she lived in Sussex. Ewan and Peggy were also guests on a couple of occasions when we were there. Ailie liked to mix and match from the vast number of people that she knew with academic, media, NGO, folk scene and political backgrounds. On one of these evenings, there were a number of Ailie's fierce feminist friends from the Hove Labour Party. Ewan had been doing most of the talking and it was clear this was getting a frosty reception from some of his listeners.

Ewan left the room, presumably to go to the loo, and one of the Hove group bristled and said, "Doesn't that man have any subject of conversation but himself?" and as you can imagine, that killed all conversation stone dead for quite a while. However, in the context of what had happened up to that point in the evening, it was fair comment.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 12:59 PM

Met him many times. Interviewed him for my radio show a couple of times too.

My anecdotes would be favourable, yet the reputation for offhandedness and elitism are not entirely without foundation. the price of genius I guess.

Mind you, I once thought it rich when I did a floor turn warming up their night at a local club, and was asked by a friend to sing a song I wrote about the Irish famine. During their first set, he looked at me and reminded the audience that people should only sing what is indigenous to themselves. I thought it a bit rich coming from a bloke called Jim from Salford, borrowing his father's Scottish accent and singing like a bloke who might have been born Ewan.

Funny how the old bugger could bring the worst out in people. I didn't hang around for his second set that night.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 01:34 PM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny - PM
Date: 16 Oct 07 - 06:41 AM

Correction for Jim Carroll
"Tom Paley WAS notorious for tuning" Delete 'WAS' insert 'IS'. Won't use an electronic tuner as he apparently doesn't think they are accurate ?

Hoot
Tom is right, they are not as good as the ear, but they get you close, i use them and then make final adjustments by ear, they are usefulk if you have been using several different tunings and the guitar strings are getting upset about being moved about


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Rozza
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 02:51 PM

I met Ewan and Peggy on a number of occasion and have quite a few recollections of when we booked them at Rotherham Traditional Music Club, when they came to collect my Great Aunt's songs, and when they used to come and stay with mutual friends at Healing. I particularly remember the training course they did at Ipswich - Laban's efforts, vocal exercises, tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm. very inspiring.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 07:36 PM

I organised a couple of folk concerts at Ruskin College, Oxford in the mid 1970s.

We discussed who to book, Ewan and Peggy obviously being a popular choice. Then the grumbles started on the liines of what you may have read in the 2007 posttigs above.

As a long standing fan of Ewan's songs I insisted - and we booked both Ewan and Peggy.

Ewan was extremely polite and we had a 10 minute chat about politics and folk music. He sang none of his well known song, yes a bit disappointing I admit, but they gave us an excellent performance including up to the minute political compositions.

Ian Fyvie

PS. I live a few minutes walk from where Ailie Munroe lived when she had Ewan and Peggy along as guests. One of those tragedies - that I didn't get to know Ailie until after Ewan had passed on.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 01 Feb 11 - 07:49 PM

'they are not as good as the ear'

digital tuners may not be as good as some peoples ears, they're better than my lugholes by a country mile.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:47 AM

I remember first being asked to join the Critics Group while I was re-wiring the lights of their home in 1968. I dithered about taking the giant step leaving family and friends and moving from from the North of England to London - no home or job to go to.
We sat down and discussed it for a couple of hours and he and Peggy offered me their hospitality for as long as it took to find lodgings and work.
It took me nearly a month to get settled - not because work or accommodation were difficult to find in London in the sixties, but because, every day I found it near impossible to tear myself away from the inevitable discussions on songs and ballads, on theatre, on literature, on politics, (not to mention the private excericise he put me through in order to catch up with the work of the Critics Group) - probably the most memorable four weeks of my life.
My abiding memory of both Ewan and Peggy is of two insprational and extremely generous people who dedicated their lives to understanding, performing and passing on what they considered to be the songs of the people - that's the memory that remains with me still, that's the memory that will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 06:05 AM

Schweik,
Do you ever play in a session or group setting? It certainly helps to use electronic tuners in a situation like that. Four or five people tuning by ear is a bit risky in my experience. I don't believe too many people have "perfect pitch" although some think they do.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 08:41 AM

I met him just once in B irmingham at a folk club in Edgebaston, can't recall the name but it was in Waterworks RD Ladywood. I was following round the Ian Cambell Folk group, round about 1974 and I'd only just ghot interested in folk music. The Cambels were the support act and at the end of their set Ian said " I want to introduce you to someone, so we went into thev bar and there was this short beared guy at the bar, Ian said "this is Ewan McColl" and he shook my hand, seemed nice enough. I'm ashamed to say I didn't know then who he was! Shortly after he was about to begin his set, I noticed a great reverance around him, even Ian cambell who wasn't easily impressed showed due deference. Me I decided I'd leave just as he started, I did wonder why Ian gave me a baffled look! And of course later I realised what I'd missed!

Desi C
Host of
The Circle Folk Club
at Coseley working men's club
Ivyhouse Lane Coseley
]West Mids UK
WV!$ 9JH
Every Wed night, open mic
Showcase spots available
Mail crc778@aol for more info or to join free mailing list


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 09:30 AM

Nowt wrong wi' electronic tuners [ or capo's ] bloody musical snobs.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Acorn4
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 10:26 AM

During the seventies I became involved with the CND goup in Leicester, and they put on a fundraiser at the University with Ewan and Peggy. I agreed to compere and assumed that all necessary arrangements had been made. Unfortunately, although CND were great people, when it came to organising things, the words "piss-up" and "brewery" immediately spring to mind.

I went onto the stage and then introduced Ewan and Peggy, but then Ewan turned to me and said: "we need the curtains drawn", meaning the front curtain of the stage so that the expanse of the stage behind them wouldn't be visible.

This was a Sunday and I had no idea how the curtains worked, so had to traipse off stage in search of a caretaker, who as anyone who works in educational establishments knows can be elusive. I had to leave the duo on stage during all this. I managed to find a caretaker eventually and had to walk across the stage with a pole with a hook on the end to draw the curtains, and the concert then got under way.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Northerner
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 10:58 AM

I went to Ewan's club in the 70s when I was living in London for a year. I did a floor spot there. Ewan asked me to sit on his knee but I refused. I went back to the club a few times but never when either Ewan or Peggy were there. I have to say I didn't really like the atmosphere at the club - I definitely found that both Ewan and Peggy were the object of a bit of hero worship and I didn't like that very much. There were other clubs in London at that time that I found were much more enjoyable. I respected Ewan McColl for his achievements but I can't say I liked him. That's just my experience though.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 11:22 AM

Acorn4 wrote
"Unfortunately, although CND were great people, when it came to organising things, the words "piss-up" and "brewery" immediately spring to mind."


I could top your experience to a considerable degree with my experiences in performing in fundraisers for CND... but we have already had thread-drift into digital tuners so I won't.

Actually, it feels like we are getting a rounded view of the strengths and weaknesses of Ewan's personality; it is most unlike a Mudcat/McColl thread - no rudeness, no hoary old pro/anti arguments being dragged out of the cupboards. Most unusual! The seventh post said let's try to remember the living, breathing chap. and do you know? That seems to be happening.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Mike Yates
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 01:54 PM

Funny, but when I heard the MacColl/slugs story (many, many years ago) the perpetrator was said to be the late John Brune.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 01:57 PM

"Actually, it feels like we are getting a rounded view of the strengths and weaknesses of Ewan's personality;"
Wouldn't it be a refreshing change if we discused his work and ideas rather than his personality.
I can't think of one other singer on the folk scene, (or any other artistic field, for that matter) who has had his/her 'personality' dragged through the mire more than MacColl has - and it's still happening twenty-two years after his death.
For instance, What do people think of his work in relating Laben's work on movement to singing efforts?
or
Did the relaxation and voice exercised work for anybody who became familiar with them.
Was his work using Stanislavski's 'application of the idea of 'if'' or 'emotion memory' valid for the singing of folk songs?
Or how about his approach to ballads - as outlined in articles he wrote on The Bonny Earl of Moray or Edom O' Gordon.
Or his suggestion that, when writing songs, the secret in getting them to work for audiences was that the writer should start "from the specific and move ro the general" so that everybody is given the opportunity to identify with the song..... MacColl did far more work on the singing of folk songs than anybody else in the revival; he was always ready to discuss that work with anybody who showed an interest. Despite this, we still don't appear to have moved beyond facile questions like 'why did he change his name' (never asked of Dylan/Zimmerman, or ' what did he sing with one hand cupped over his ear (never mentioned in relation to Bert Lloyd or The Watersons - the latter sang with both hands over their ears).
I'm quite convinced that, where MacColl is concerned, most of the revival is constantly acting out the Monty Python 'Arthur 'Two Sheds' Jackson sketch (the one where a composer can't get his work taken seriously because of his nickname.
Maybe it's time we started discussing other singers by their personality traits or problems - "did you hear the one about Alex Campbell chucking up on stage......?"
MacColl was a complex individual, often dificult to fathom by those who knew him, and pretty obviously impossible by those who didn't , but he was a creative artist who did far more to encourage creativity in others than anybody else on the scene - by miles.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 02:17 PM

Well, we do, Jim. How about Marilyn Monroe ~~ an exceptionally gifted actress, but who has written books about that, or quotes her on acting, rather than on "It's not true I was in bed with nothing on ~ I had the radio on"? We have several books entirely devoted to her suicide, a complex historical matter in which my wife happens to be particularly interested; but I don't know of any analyses of her acting.

As to Alex Campbell, I remember once writing of a gig of his that I could never fathom how he could hold an audience so expertly when he couldn't even hold a melody line ~~ an observation I recall Peter Bellamy saying was most pertinent and he wished he had written it: with Alex it was always the personality far more than the performance that people reacted and responded to.

With Ewan, OTOH, it was BOTH: which it seems to me makes it a bit captious and pernickety and over-defensive of you to object to; rather than accepting it as the tribute it undoubtedly is to the complex personality he undoubtedly was.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:09 PM

"Well, we do, Jim. How about Marilyn Monroe "
Oh come on Mike - Marilyn Monroe my arseum; no other folk figure is debated as superficially or vituperatively as MacColl . - is so, name them.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Ewan MacColl
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:11 PM

So, in your opinion Jim, why did Ewan MacColl have two sheds?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:22 PM

Jim: you posted "on the folk scene, (or any other artistic field, for that matter)"; & I provided precisely what you asked for. (Even if you argue that you specified 'singer', then go back & listen to her incomparable "My Heart Belongs To Daddy".)

So Marilyn Monroe your arseum [ɷɷɷɷɷɷ] right back to you.

♥♫❤···Michael····❤♫♥


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:26 PM

Sorry that was me, who asked the vital two sheds question, my mind must have been elsewhere, calling myself Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:35 PM

Two sheds? I expect he was thinking of the folktale of the Welshman shipwrecked on the desert island who was found when rescued years later to have carefully built two chapels. Asked why, he said, "Well, you see, that one on the right is the one I go to on Sundays." "Oh? And what's the other for?" "That one? Why, I wouldn't be seen dead in that one!"

Sospan-vach ···

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:41 PM

Now I come to think about it, I think I may have the answer to the two sheds problem.

In shed one - Ewan took his stand; ecce homo; this is the man taking a stand for the preservation of tradition,; there I stand, like Luther... upon my principles.

In shed two - Ewan was the liberated artist; writing plays; writing and performing songs, acting; the big hewer; the great artificer.

Once you have understood the sheds, then you have understood the man.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:44 PM

Jim wrote:
MacColl was a complex individual, often dificult to fathom by those who knew him, and pretty obviously impossible by those who didn't , but he was a creative artist who did far more to encourage creativity in others than anybody else on the scene - by miles.

Exactly, which is why you, Jim, and Pat, are the best people to write something substantial on Ewan's work and ideas.

Derek


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 05:30 PM

"So, in your opinion Jim, why did Ewan MacColl have two sheds? "
Oh dear!
Any 'Python' fan will describe the sketch where a composer wants to talk about his music, while the interviewer will only discuss his nickname - pretty much the same as threads like these.
"Exactly, which is why you, Jim, and Pat, are the best people to write something substantial on Ewan's work and ideas."
Thank you for that Derek.
In 1978, Pat and I began to interview Ewan - it lasted over six months (about a dozen nights) and concntrated almost exclusively on his work and ideas on song; it was an incredibly rewarding experience for us. At one time our aim was to transcribe it and make it available to all but, as the world seems full of people who 'were asked to sit on MacColl's knee, and never went back' it will probably be archived and let the future decide.
I've thought I'd heard it all about MacColl, but 'Ewan the letch' is a new one on me (Bert maybe!). As a regular at The Singer's I heard the 'sit on my knee' joke a dozen or so times, every time they played to capacity audiences, which was virtually every time they were on. I even received the invitation a few times myself - it was a reference to the club being full (an indication of their popularity as artists). It wasn't one of his better jokes, but it was mildly amusing the first half-dozen times, especially (as Mike, I'm sure, will confirm), MacColl always sat on a back-to-front chair (a relaxation technique) and so, didn't have a lap to sit on. I can't believe that anybody could take it seriously (especially in the light of Peggy's feminist politics).
Mike:
"Jim: you posted "on the folk scene, (or any other artistic field, for that matter)"
Fair enough - I rephrase and ask again - what folk artist has had his or her character placed before their contribution to the music to the extent MacColl has?
Maybe we should concentrate on Grainger's S & M fetish rather than his Lincolnshire collection - what do you think?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 05:40 PM

well, Jim, if people worried about what others might say, or worried about philistinism or trivialism, then a lot of academic works would get published.
I seem to remember, from reading, that Ewan was ridiculed (by Joan Littlewood for example) for giving up the theatre for folk song. Thank goodness, he took no notice, and carried on!
Derek


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Tim Stevens
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 06:18 PM

Back on track slightly, I met Ewan MacColl once back in the early seventies. My father had taken me to a folk club somewhere on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and had been rather surprised to discover that he'd known Ewan at Bletchley - although he wasn't calling himself Ewan Macoll back then. Indeed, it was my father who'd initially nursed him back to health after he'd had the slight breakdown. That sort of thing wasn't uncommon, apparently, due to the obvious pressue and my father dealt with a number of cases. When we bumped into Ewan outside the club he looked at my father as though he'd seen a ghost, but after the initial shock I remember them shaking hands and having a quiet pint together whilst the band played on. I don't remember ever seeing him again and my father seldom talked of those days until his final few months.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 06:59 PM

How about Oscar Wilde Jim?

I think his name has been dragged through the mire somewhat for some reason or another. I don't know much about him but I think he wrote a play or two.

Regarding Ewan and Laban, you could always start a thread on the subject.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Anne Neilson
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 07:17 PM

I first met Ewan and Peggy in the summer of 1962 when they came up to Glasgow to record material for what eventually became the radio ballad "On the Edge". I had just left school and our English teacher Norman Buchan had organised a group of young people to be available for recording. The two females stayed with Peggy at Norman's house -- for the whole day, fuelled with snacks by his wife Janey, who disappeared for the rest of the time -- and the lads went with Norman and Ewan to Matt McGinn's house, where they were left alone with Ewan.

Peggy was a most empathetic interviewer and the other Anne and I relaxed until it seemed as if there was the equivalent of a 'stream of consciousness' release. The two of us came away feeling valued, vindicated and more in touch with our feelings than either of us expected!

It was quite a few years later before I saw them again (in performance at Kilmarnock Folk Club). I was well aware of Ewan's contribution to traditional and political song, and Peggy's background in American tradition -- but I wasn't prepared for her recognising me when I went in a bit early, and quoting me one of the lines from our long-past interview that had made it into the Radio Ballad! They did a great night, as you would expect, but at the end I was in awe of Ewan's skill and depth of knowledge -- and stunned by Peggy's ability to relate on a personal level. (Truthfully, I doubt I could have hacked it at a Critics Group meeting, being too insecure at the time, so Peggy's 'softer' approach was more acceptable to me.)

The last time I saw them both was a performance in the Washington Street Arts Centre in Glasgow, when they must have known that Ewan was dying, and there were rumours about. There were no obvious compromises in their programming (although, with hindsight, Peggy was probably quite protective), and the evening ended with 'The Joy of Living', which was completely unknown to us. I looked along the row and saw Norman Buchan with tears on his cheeks, and he wasn't the only one.

A major figure whose influence has yet to be adequately measured -- but I do wonder how readily I would have recognised his importance without Peggy's 'mediation'? (Have to explain that my main influence as far as traditional music is concerned was the aforementioned Norman Buchan, who set up a Ballads Club at our school Rutherglen Academy in 1957, and who introduced us to singers like Jeannie Robertson. Jimmy MacBeath, Pete Seeger, The Weavers etc.)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 07:30 AM

Not a direct Ewan story, but relevant here I think.....
Very quickly after getting into folk clubs in the early 1960s, I was smitten - still am - by the magnificent singing and repertoire of the various Scots Traveller families. This was before I heard the radio ballad The Travelling People which remains a favourite with all those magnificent songs. Soon after hearing the album, I started to spend summers in Scotland and was in contact with various traveller families, mainly the Stewarts of Blair who were so wonderfully welcoming. I started to find in long conversations with Belle that lots of the phrases and constructions that she used had also been used by Ewan in his compositions for this radio ballad. Somehow, this made me feel uncomfortable.
About this time we booked Bert Lloyd at out folk club and he stayed with us after the club which was the usual pattern. I used to love talking to Bert, who I always regarded as a very wise man. I mentioned the fact that I had found many of Belle's phrases in Ewan's songs and that I felt that this was in some way a form of plagiarism.

Bert listened carefully to what I said and then answered, "Perhaps what you are describing is the great skill of the man."

Hmm... oh yes....hadn't thought of it that way.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 07:56 AM

Vic,

What you are describing is something which poets and songwriters all do to some extent. IE., taking the speech and sayings of people around them and working same into their compositions.

Like Bert, I've always regarded it as one of MacColl's great song writing strengths, and a measure of just how close he could get to the people he wrote about.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 09:32 AM

Ewan did this with a number of his songs, most of which, not surprisingly, became classics.
The songs from The Travelling People were based on some of the actuality recorded from not just Belle, but other Travellers, Minty Smith and Caroline Hughes for instance.
Similarly, if you listen to the recordings of Sam Larner and Ronnie Balls made for Singing The Fishing you will hear phrases used in Shoals of Herring. Sam said of the song that he felt he'd known it all his life.
Peter Keenan's song (The Fight Game) drew from recordings of a Glaswegian boxer.
Elsewhere the much neglected 'Shellback' was based on field recordings of mariner Ben Bright.
The also neglected 'Tenant Farmer' came from a conversation about an eviction in the Scottish borders.
It is why his songs reflected the subjects they dealt with and were not pastishe copies
His least successful Radio Ballad songs (IMO) were those where he stood remote from the people he was dealing with (Body Blow and On The Edge); the actuality was fine but the songs don't seem to have stood the test of time.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 09:34 AM

Thinking about Belle Stewart after what I wrote in the posting above, it made me think of the times in the 1960s and 1970s that I used to organise folk club tours for the Stewarts and a number of other traditional Scots and Irish performers who had found acceptance in the one sort of folk club. I always used to contact the Singers' Club when I was organising these tours and invariably they would either book the people that I suggested or give me a very good reason (already booked etc.) why they would not. As our club met on the night after the Singers Club, it meant that the Stewarts would come to Lewes after staying with Ewan & Peggy in Beckenham. Belle was never neutral about that pair. She would either arrive telling us that they were the most kind loving couple that she had ever met or she was "bliddy glad tae get oot o' that awfa' hoose." though it was usually Peggy rather than the pair of them that raised her ire. Belle was always contrary in her opinion of the folklorists she worked with; Hamish Henderson was alternately a saint or a devil according to Belle.
Writing this has made me remember the extensive coverage that Ewan gets in that marvellous book The Elliotts of Birtley by Pete Wood (Herron Publishing ISBN 978-0954068233). Here are two of the more relevant quotations; once again we get a mixed view of Ewan MacColl:-


When MacColl met the Elliotts, it must have been like all his birthdays coming at once. I think that in Ewan's mind, the working man had been endowed with dignity, fierce pride, great honesty and openness, a keen sense of the unfairness of the capitalist system, and a political drive to replace it with a fair, humane, and sensitive brave new world in which the workers would be at the same level as the bosses. In doing this, it would be the community culture that would make it possible, and songs, particularly those of protest, would put the fairy on the top of this idealised Christmas tree. The Elliotts, although far from typical of their community, had quite simply fulfilled all his dreams.
Accordingly, Ewan, Charles
(Parker) and Peggy (Seeger) became the first of several teams to set up their cumbersome recording gear in Brown's Buildings. During the course of a week in March 1961, they recorded their 'actuality', mainly from Jack and Reece Elliott, pitmen all their lives. As we saw earlier, there is wonderful material here about the traditional games the miners played, the terrible conditions, wriggling through a 16-inch seam, the dangers of roof fall and water in the pit, Jack's two accidents, and living conditions at home.
A great deal of this was used unedited in the ensuing radio ballad,
The Big Hewer. The programme had as its theme the pit's superman, the one who outshone all his mates, could fill two tubs to the others' one, and hold up the dodgy roof with his back. MacColl had come across this in several of the coalfields, and thought it a myth, a John Henry figure. However, there were real men who were like this, and most pits had one. As with every job, there was always somebody who could do it better or faster than the rest.

Pages 53/54

Some time in the early '60s there was a Club trip to the Singers' Club in London at the request of Ewan and Peggy. A 40-seater coach was duly filled and down they all went. Some have mixed feelings about the trip, saying MacColl was arrogant and didn't let them sing. They had thought they were taking over the Club for the night. In fact, however, it was just the Elliott family that had been asked to go. Imagine the effect of these boisterous Geordies, all het up and raring to go, on the staid Singers' Club audience of that time!
However, as Bob Davenport, the Gateshead singer long exiled in London, comments, Jack was told what to sing at the Singers' Club. It seemed he was there as a performer, obliged to pop up from time to time in order to illustrate a point from MacColl's 'lecture'. He was delighted to find that when invited to sing at the Fox Club in Islington, he could sing anything he liked when he liked! (Different approach, different people, the Folk Revival had it all.)
Jim Bainbridge, long-exiled singer and musician, and member of the legendary Marsden Rattlers of the 60s and 70s, has this to say:
"Tolerant folk clubs taught many of us that, given the opportunity, most singers improve with time and experience, and that this serves the tradition much better than the quality control exercised at Ewan MacColl's Singers Club. MacColl was a wonderful songwriter and promoter of the tradition as he saw it, but as a man of the theatre -with little time for imperfection - his ideas for improving the quality of singing were applied via technical advice and analysis rather than absorption by exposure to the perceived inadequacies of unbelievers. No less a singer than old Jack Elliott of Birtley was once castigated by this crowd - after a return visit to the Singer's Club, disappointment was expressed that his singing hadn't "improved" since his last visit -What a damn cheek!"
There was also apparently a comment by either Ewan or Peggy that Jack "hadn't moved on", implying that they expected him to develop a stage act, much as they had done. It's sad that they didn't see the true value of such a natural singer who had such a wide appeal without artificial devices.

Pages 81/82


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Brian May
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 01:54 PM

I met Peggy Seeger and Ewan at a college gig in Bognor Regis in the late 60's.

I had done a song called 'Talking Bognor Regis Sewage Blues'. Peggy approached me after my spot and asked if she could have the lyrics as they were collecting 'modern' English folk songs.

Being a cheeky sod, I said I'd send the lyrics by post, but surely they didn't expect me to pay for the postage . . .

Bless her, she got her bag out and gave me 4d (4 pence - which was the price of a first class letter in those days - which usually arrived next day too).

I never sent it - I owe Peggy and Ewan 4d. I must admit I found him a bit aloof or distant (seemed to be somewhere else), Peggy was nice though and I liked her brother of course.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 02:57 PM

"I must admit I found him a bit aloof or distant"
Doubt if he would have cheated you out of 4d though, or asked for it in the first place!!!!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Bert Lloyd
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:08 PM

I never met him.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Brian May
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:19 PM

"Doubt if he would have cheated you out of 4d though, or asked for it in the first place!!!!!"

Ah well, perhaps if you understood the humour of the song then the humour and fun in the request, Peggy was more than on my wave length.

There was certainly no intention to 'cheat' them. I realised that my friend's dad had written the song, I only wrote the last verse. It wasn't mine to give. Which I realised when my mind had 'cleared'.

So pray tell me how a young teenager sends the price of a stamp back? So, I might as well laugh about it.

And Yes, he was aloof - didn't seem to be a warm character at all, and that with anybody in the hall.

Still, believe what you wish - this thread asked for first-hand anecdotes, this was one whether anyone likes it or not.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:26 PM

Vic Smith, which Pete Wood is that?
Is that Pete Wood, that used to sing with the Keelers, or a different Pet Wood.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,folkiedave
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:46 PM

Keeler's Pete Wood.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Grampus
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:49 PM

Pete Wood Website


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:51 PM

But with respect to all concerned, It is well known that Bob Davenport, tried to have a fight with Ewan MacColl, in view of that ,Bob Davenport's statement can hardly be called impartial.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Grampus
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:52 PM

Sorry original link didn't work
Try this:

Pete Wood Website

G.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 05:55 PM

oh well, its not Pete Wood from Petts Wood then.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 03 Feb 11 - 06:48 PM

As the good soldier mentions a wish to fight with Ewan by Bob Davenport I can add that he was not alone. I am sure that I mentioned this on a previous thread, but one night at the Ballads and Blues Club when it was held at the Horshoes in Tottenham Court Road. Dominic Behan was there. I can't remember if he was a guest that night or whether he had just dropped in as many did in those days. Anyway the subject of Alan Lomax came up and Dominic was of the opinion that when Lomax was collecting in Ireland he would often pay his informants by giving them a bottle of guiness. Ewan took exception to this and the upshot was that Malcolm Nixon had to jump in and keep them apart. All part of the night's entertainment.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 01:19 AM

I remember also Dominic taking a punch at Ewan in the bar of the Princess Louise, after Ewan had denounced Dominic upstairs in the first half, having heard he had been insufficiently respectable of 'The Tradition' in another club earlier in the week. I was there! I mentioned this to open my review of Ewan's autobiog 'Journeyman' in The Times; & asked Ben Harker years later why he had not mentioned it in 'Class Act', as internal evidence there showed that he must have read my review; he replied that he had thought he wouldn't do so as he had no independent corroboration, which he would have preferred to have before including such an incident; adding that he had also heard of a bit of a puch-up one night between Ewan & Hamish Henderson.

So the Davenport incident doesn't seem that unusual, & presumably, like the others, would not have led to any permanent hostility.

I go on in my review, which seems a relevant point to make here, that Ewan always reminded me of the lit critic Dr F R Leavis, under whom, in part, I had recently studied at Cambridge: he regarded it as a mission to set everyone right about Eng Lit, which he seemed to regard as his sort of bailiwick; while E MacC appeared to have something of a similar view of Folksong. I have dug out the review from my file: what I wrote was "MacColl was the self-appointed guardian of the folk revival, a responsibility he jealously preserved. He reminded me in many ways of F R Leavis... In each case, along with a single-minded, rather self-righteous devotion to a cultural cause ... went the ability to inspire a new generation with knowledge & principles" [The Times, 16 Mar 1991]: a summary I think I would still stand by.

And Jim: lighten up. There are lots of threads on Ewan's musical abilities and contributions. This one calls, OTOH, for personal anecdotes, which may be hostile or otherwise as we have seen; so there is no point in your constant objections to the resultant content, which is just as much pro as anti, & largely simply straight anecdotage which is neither.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 02:54 AM

The point is, he was an exceptionally interesting personality of many facets, in whom considerable interest remains. There are surely worse legacies?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Kevin Littlewood
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 03:51 AM

With the surname Littlewood, I did get a few odd looks when I first put my name down to sing as Ewan and Peggy's club, but they were very friendly and encouraging; they published one of my early songs 'We're the men making the missiles', in their New City Songster (I lost my only copy, so I can't tell you the date).
Anyway, one night I got there a bit early, and Ewan was sitting at a table on his own in the bar,sorting out his song list. He had his back to me and didn't see me come in; I approached tentatively and I could hear him singing a song under his breath as he wrote down his list. As I got nearer, I realized it was Kirsty MacColl's 'Don't play the cowboy with me Sunny Jim'. He knew the words too! but stopped when he saw me and put on his serious face.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 03:57 AM

"Maybe we should concentrate on Grainger's S & M fetish rather than his Lincolnshire collection - what do you think? Jim Carroll "
===
And no doubt to those that way inclined, or even to those just interested overall in Grainger as a personality, this would be a legitimate and reasonable field of interest in considering the man as a whole.

You talk, Jim, as if interest in a distinguished person's overall personality is incompatible with consideration of his/her main contributions and achievements. Not so: both can quite reasonably co-exist, and in many cases even be mutually enlightening, surely?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:02 AM

Hoot,
Not heard the story of Ewan's fight with Davenport at the Horshoes, but I have a wonderful recording of the one at The John Snow some time in the mid-sixties - I wonder if this is the one the Cap'n is referring to. Perhaps the two are not unrelated.
Ewan and Bert had organised an open forum on the state of the clubs in Britain; Bert, Alex Campbell and Bob Davenport were asked to give short assessments of their experiences and opinions, then the discussion would be thrown open to the floor; MacColl made no statement but was to chair the proceedings.
Bert gave a historical analysis of folksong and the revival, a little scholarly and middle-of-the-road, but that was Bert.
Campbell, a little the worse for wear, opened with how he "loved the auld folk" and complained bitterly about "young singers who hadn't been on the scene five minutes" being booked in preference to him at equal, and even higher fees.
Davenport, it seemed to me, set out to prove that folk song didn't exist and went on at length about how working people's music was art with a small 'a' and not Art with a capital 'A'.
There followed a fairly lively discussion which was interrupted continuously by Davenport cutting across the speakers from the floor, despite Ewan's (fairly restrained, I thought) attempts to shut him up.
Ewan, as chairman, then began to sum up what had been said, constantly and increasingly interrupted by Davenport's attempts to talk him down.
It becomes a little difficult to hear the last five minutes of the proceedings, but at one point Davenport shouted "Jeannie Robertson's a terrible singer", followed by loud protests, sounds of scuffling and furniture being moved! I understand that Ewan and Davenport went for each other - I wasn't there but, as I said, I do have the recording.
I make the point about Davenport in relation to accusations that Ewan was "unapproachable and aloof" - I never found him anything but friendly, helpful and ready to listen, (a little reticent with subjects out of his comfort zone perhaps).
On the other hand I found Davenport, one of Ewan's bitterest critics, ill mannered, aggressive and unhelpful.
Our last encounter with him was at the Musical Traditions club in London about a dozen years ago when we had gone along to hear two Irish women singers. One, an Irish speaker from the Aran Isles, made a point of giving brief translations of her Gaelic songs, during which Davenport, sitting in the row behind us, spoke loudly and pointedly across what she was saying, until it reached the point where Pat turned around and asked him to shut up.
His reply; "I thought we'd left this shite behind us in the sixties; I came here to listen to singing, not talk".
Several people came over and thanked Pat for her intervention, at the end of the evening.
"And Jim: lighten up..."
Sorry Mike - that was me being 'light' I'm afraid. I'm far more interested in why Brian chose not to pass on his song than I was the 4d.
Despite the shit heaped on them, I never saw either Ewan or Peggy refuse to pass on one of their songs.
I was hoping somebody would take up Vic's story of the Elliots; far nearer what Ewan was about than hot-blooded youthful fistcuffs IMO.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:05 AM

Kevin: in interests of accuracy [someone once wrote on another forum "MtheGM, your pedantry is legendary", which I think she meant as a put-down but I took as a great compliment] ~~ as I was saying, it's "Don't COME the cowboy with me, Sunny Jim".

And how delightful that Ewan should have recognised and appreciated his beloved daughter's somewhat different sort of achievements.

This is not in any way to belittle the fascinating insight of your anecdote. I am reminded of the photograph Ewan [or, perhaps, posthumously, Peggy?] chose to have included in "Journeyman", of Ewan giving Kirsty away at her wedding, clad faultlessly and correctly in morning suit and tall hat! I can imagine he might have jibbed a bit, but submitted to it to please her; tho this is of course mere speculation.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:08 AM

"Not so: both can quite reasonably co-exist,"
Sorry cross-posted Mike.
Yes, they certainly do, but my concern is that with Ewan, one seems to cancel out the other, and, as I said, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN WITH ANY OTHER FIGURE ON THE FOLK SCENE (not shouting - still haven't learned italics on Mudcat - despite Bryan's advice, if you're in on this).
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:21 AM

Jim ~ The fisticuffs were scarcely 'youthful'. Ewan was surely in his 40s before he abandoned the theatre in favour of folk ~~ to the expressed contempt, as has been mentioned, of Joan Littlewood; & also, as he mentions in "Journeyman" & I cited in my review, of Hugh MacDiarmid and Louis MacNeice. And Dominic and Hamish were hardly in the first flower of youth either,

Bob Davenport was much younger, mind: certainly one of the finest examples ever of the dangers of over-indulgence in the demon rum. {Drift-alert: One of my fave quotes from Damon Runyon: "Her parents often warn her of the perils of the Demon Rum, and indeed rum is very terrible stuff, except in cocktails"}.

I agree that all that about the Elliotts is most fascinating, enlightening and germane; and would thank Vic sincerely for his having drawn attention to those excellent extracts from what is clearly a most distinguished book, previously unknown to me, by Pete Wood.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:34 AM

=my concern is that with Ewan, one seems to cancel out the other, and, as I said, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN WITH ANY OTHER FIGURE ON THE FOLK SCENE==

As I suggested in a post a bit back, Jim, this surely may be seen as a compliment to Ewan, & to the impact he had and to the rare but fascinating contradictions in his so engaging [in both a favourable & a pejorative sense] personality, that so much interest should remain, and should persist so long, in him as an individual as well as as an artist.

Would you not agree? (Just to show that I can do them, so yah-titty-yah-yah and snubs!)

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 05:14 AM

I really don't understand all this resentment about about curiosity about the man.

Of course people are interested. As for it being a long time. Go to Stratford, see how every disputed half fact about Shekespeare is fascinating. That's a long time. Ewan still around and gigging afew years ago. It seems no time at all to me.

People are always interested in artists and their style. Particularly young people - they are looking for a way to comduct themselves and their lives.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 05:37 AM

About a year before he died I experienced, what must have been, one of Ewan's last performances at a folk club in North West England. Before the performance started I got into conversation with him. We discussed my adopted city of Manchester and I told him of a book I had been reading about its history - he listened with interest. I was also able to tell him how much I admired his Topic LP, 'The Manchester Angel' and what it meant to me. I asked him if he would sing a particular song from it ('Black Dog and Sheepcrook') and he agreed and sang it as part of his set. This was all very civilised and a treasured memory for me. It's not often that you get to tell a favourite artist what their work means to you and, in this case, particularly poignant because he died so soon after. I usually find that if I meet someone I admire I either can't think of anything to say or I say something embarrassing - thankfully, neither of these things happened on this occasion!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 07:13 AM

Davenport was not a very good person to interview to get an impartial view of MacColl and his relationship with the Elliots, particularly as he had a track record with Ewan.,and has been noted on more recent occasions misbehaving in an excitable aggressive and eccentric manner.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 07:55 AM

"I really don't understand all this resentment about about curiosity about the man."
Alan; there is no resentment - certainly not from me, about genuine curiosity about the man, he was a fascinating individual.
What I object to is the imbalance and the (often deliberate) inaccuracies and the snide that often accompany, and usually dominate discussion - (take a peep at the Harry Lauder nastiness).
I also become extremely frustrated at the fact that his work and ideas on singing are NEVER discussed. This is the reason why Pat and I embarked on our six month interview with him – to put the record straight and to fill a hugh gap.
When Ben Harker interviewed us for his book (which also has a fair number of inaccuracies BTW) he commented that most of those closely associated with MacColl were very defensive about him. I suppose that's true; MacColl was a human being with human frailties, but we appear to exist in a milieu where people are only interested in his weaknesses and none of his strengths. I suggest you root through the threads on him listed here and point out some which deal with his work and ideas rather than his finger-in-ear image.
Also how come we never discuss the attacks on MacColl – for instance, how many people know about the deliberate attempt to sabotage the Travelling People radio ballad which led to Sheila Stewart being excluded from the programme?
So far this thread has been reasonably positive – let's keep it that way, and let's see how long it takes......!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 08:05 AM

Bob Davenport could be accurately described as the Epitome of Impetuosity.
I think MacColls vocal exercise warm ups and singing exercises could be very useful to a lot of singers. What a pity he never wrote any books on the art of songwriting , has Peggy Seeger?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 08:17 AM

Jim Carroll wrote (or should I say wanted to write):-

it does not happen with any other figure on the folk scene

I wonder if this is true, Jim? Since Bob Davenport has been mentioned in this thread, how about all stories that say alternately how volatile, amusing, mercurial, loving, argumentative, interesting, belligerant, fascinating he is? Then there is Alex Campbell, for similar reasons.

On the other hand, why do people not talk about (let's say) Martin Cathy's personality when they talk at length about the doings and scrapes that Dave Swarbrick got himself into (and I would include Swarb as one who circulates such stories)

I believe that what we are talking about here is human nature; people don't talk about the personality of an even, predictable, totally admirable character like Carthy because we feel we always know where we are with people like that. On the other hand we do talk about those whose actions and reactions are a bit more unpredictable and more difficult to fathom because we want to find out a bit more about how they tick.... and I would put both MacColl and Davenport into this latter category.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 08:25 AM

The 'what was he like' thing seems to be taking over the original question. Having met people who knew him it seems he was both 'difficult and inspired. Why you you British/English put so much store by whether someone was 'nice' or not. Only the British have this mania for judging my personality over achievement. I'm a huge fan of Brendan behan, who by all accounts was a hopeless drunk, criminal, womaniser etc, yet he's given the reverence in death of a saint. Ewan McColl was surely the greatest Britishy Folk artist ever, and did as much for the British folk movement as any, and more. Had he kissed the right arses and foregone his principles (like Nick Clegg and Co) he'd surely have been knighted. You should be erecting statues and unveiling paintings of him, and bugger his character


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 08:32 AM

On the subject of electronic tuners, yes I do use them but not for my concertina, i use them for the guitar, and then i use my ear, Tom Paley Is right they are not entirely accurate, i find them useful to get close, quickly.
please do not adress me as Schweik, it is impertinent and over familiar and possibly rude, if you wish to use an abbreviation please use GSS.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 09:00 AM

Well I've always thought ewan was a brilliant bloke, and you only had to chat to someone like Ian Campbell to gain an idea of the high regard he was held in, by those who knew him well.

I shouldn't worry too much about the negative anecdotes, Jim. His achievements speak for themselves. i can appreciate it might be hurtful - people who barely met him, like myself giving our three pennyworth. But its a bit like having met Elvis - people want to know about the experience. And I suppose some people spice up the stories to give them more impact. ( I mean seriously - a fight between Ewan and Davenport, neither of them looked as though they could make it twice round round the park, without taking a rest.)

I used to do a gig at a pub called The drill Hall Vaults in Salford. I introduced Dirty Old Town - saying it had been written about salford. Several people in the pub were quite surprised to hear that. Further amazement when I said I had met the chap who wrote it.

Thats the nature of fame and recognition - you can't really tell which way the firework will go off. At least Ewan never had one of his songs on a compilation cd called 'Complete Shit of the 80's' - which happened to one of my songs.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: TheSnail
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 09:10 AM

Jim Carroll

(not shouting - still haven't learned italics on Mudcat - despite Bryan's advice, if you're in on this).

<i>You do italics like this.</i>

Just keeping an interested watching brief. I never met Ewan MacColl nor heard him perform but I know many who did and they seem to be divided between those who loved him and those who loathed him. He seems to have generated deep loyalty in some while severely getting up the nose of others. Surely any analysis of his influence has to look at all aspects of the man.

I don't fall into either of those camps (perhaps because I'm a musician not a singer). What does concern me is that it seems to be considered fair play by the pro-Ewan lobby to disparage those with whom he fell out in his lifetime, some of whom I do know.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 10:06 AM

Dick,

I don't know what rank you reached in the army but during my time serving my country I was often addressed by my surname but never by any one that I was over familiar with.

Ex Pte Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 10:52 AM

Others have made the point that many other geniuses and inspired creative people had/have 'difficult' personalities or personal flaws.

I can't help pointing out that Ewan MacColl is often portrayed as having been difficult and tempremental while his contemporary, Bert Lloyd, is usually portrayed as having been rather saintly and avuncular.

Neverthless, on the occasions when I met Ewan he was always polite and friendly whereas Bert was (quite unjustifiably, in my opinion) rude to me on one occasion and quite aloof and stand-offish on another. I still have a high regard for his work and achievements though.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 11:11 AM

Thanks a million Bryan and Vic
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Brian May
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:51 PM

Just to pick up on something mentioned a few times above.

This thread is about 'first-hand anecdotes'. My personal experience of Ewan WAS that he was aloof and distant... that's not an attack on the guy at all - it's simply an observation.

He was already a giant in my folk world but probably saw exactly what I was - a brash kid with an attitude (I'm not a kid anymore but the rest fits).

I don't dislike him, I never did. But my personal one on one observation was just that. He spoke but was laconic and Peggy took over.

I think important enough to clarify.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 04:55 PM

Jim wrote:
When Ben Harker interviewed us for his book (which also has a fair number of inaccuracies BTW) he commented ....

Harker's biography and MacColl's Journeyman complement each other. The former often fills in the details of what the other ignores.

But Harker's biography will be a standard work on this very important figure of the folk revival.

It would be very useful, therefore, for Jim to identify and publish the inaccuracies (here, if no-where else).

Incidentally, although there are many biographies of the key, and not so key, figures in the American folk revival, the only biography of the English revival is the Harker one on MacColl. (Though hopefully the Bert Lloyd biography will eventually be published.)

Keeping to the theme, I saw MacColl several times at folk clubs and at the celebration of his work in London (when the Stewart family book was launched). Can't remember a conversation with him - when he came to the folk club in Crewe, it was Peggy that did all the 'business' - that was in 1975.

Derek


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 Feb 11 - 06:23 AM

Derek Schofield wrote:-
"(Though hopefully the Bert Lloyd biography will eventually be published.)"


Gosh! I have just seen some pigs with DA tattooed on their backs flying past my window.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 08:54 AM

Serendipity being what it is, I was looking through my huge collection of old folk music magazines this morning for something else when I came across this editorial article in a long extinct magazine called FOLK MUSIC BALLADS & SONG. This issue (No.2) is not dated but it appears to come from 1966. Neither is the author of the editorial named but we read that the managing editor is KARL DALLAS. The writer admits that he was not at the (mainly) Davenport / MacColl discussion which is referred to above in this thread, but to me he seems to sum up the known positions of the two main protagonists quite well and calls for a sensible middle group between what he sees as two extreme positions. The article has the title:-

"TIME FOR A TRUCE"
THE SINGERS' Club of London recently organised a con­frontation between Ewan MacColl, Alex Campbell, A.L. Lloyd and Bob Davenport on the subject of the future of the folksong revival.   We have heard various reports of the occasion, from the fans, followers or disciples of the various protagonists, which show the others up in various shades of black.   -But, frankly, we did not go. There have been similar discussions before.    The old Lon­don Folk Music Centre had MacColl and Davenport at it, along with Leon Rosselson, Stephen Sedley and John Marshall.    Nothing very constructive emerged from that particular meeting and there was nothing to indicate that the Singers' Club meeting would be any better.    From what we hear, it was worse.
What did emerge from both these meetings was that the basic divergence of opinion is not between the Dylanites and the traddies, nor between the purists and the commercialists, nor yet again between the serious students and the entertainers.
The only argument of any significance is between the intell­ectual dissection wing of the revival, headed by MacColl and anti-analytical primitivism, represented by Davenport. To an outsider, there would not seem to be much quarrel between the two.   Both profess, sincerely, to be passion­ately concerned with the tradition.   Both, in their quite different ways, are performers of tremendous stature.   One can quarrel that MacColl's analyses of the sound of tradition are over-intellectual on the one hand, or based on insuff­icient evidence on the other.
One can complain that Davenport does not appear to make any real distinction between popular music and the folk tradition, and that anything "of the folk" can be considered as traditional.
One can point outh that MacColl sounds like no traditional singer in the archives of recorded song, and yet still be chilled to the marrow by his rendering of one of the great old ballads he has brought back into the common repertoire. One can become impatient at Davenport's obscurantism, his woolly use of terms like "middle class" and "working class" which are used to mean simply "bad" and "good", or "them" and "us". Yet when he sings The   Lambton Wairm followed by Hanging   on   the   old   Barbed Wire, it is still possible to learn something from him about living traditions.
The real point about MacColl and Davenport is that they are not contradictory, they are complementary. Folksingers have never been the brainless noble savages Davenport would have us believe.    If literacy dealt the first great blow at the tradition, then what of the broadsheet ballads, which used literacy to spread folk songs throughout the land in the greatest explosion in folk culture before the present day?
Davenport refuses to let his songs be printed, and yet many of the music hall songs he professes to love were born in print, and were sold to the semi-literate classes that created the popular culture of the music hall. What of the Catcheside-Warrington songbooks that can still be found in colliers' front parlours throughout the north-east?   Like many great artists, folk musicians of any calibre find it difficult to talk about their art in any other way than the music itself, so it s hardly surprising, especially with a tradition that has been bashed about like ours, that not many folk musicians or singers are articulate about their work.   But you do have the occasional stylist like Joe Heaney, who can analyse his own technique of decoration. And Jack Elliot of Birtley was no mindless child of nature, unaware of what he was doing!
MacColl's antagonism to the depredations of the mass media have blinded him, perhaps, to the valuable and creative effects of enjoyment in the appreciation of folk music. Cerebral analysis is not the only way to approach culture. Bertholt Brecht, the most incisive analyst of modern times, found room for the belly laugh while still cutting away with his intellect at the ills and follies of modern life. Great theatrical craftsman that he is, MacColl has the technique to become one of the great popular performers of our time, who could use the mass media on his own terms, without sacrificing his integrity, which is unquestioned. He could also be criticised for his love of the exotic, which colours his comparisons of nativeborn traditions with those of Central Europe and Asia.   Complexity for its own sake is no criterion of cultural vigour; many a great society van­ished up its own anus in a great flourish of arabesques. If debaters in this still infant revival of ours were willing to define their terms, confine their discussions to what is rather than what might be, listen to what the other fellow was saying and consider it on its merits, avoid falling back on personal abuse when the argument started going against them, consider their own positions as critically as their opponents', there would be room for polemic.    Indeed, "Folk Music" magazine was started with the aim of promoting discussion.
But the time has come for calling a truce.   What unites us is more important than what divides us.   What we can learn from you, whoever you are, is probably greater than what you can learn from us.   The real enemy is the mass media, which will try to kill folk and popular culture, and if they cannot kill it they will emasculate it, and if they cannot emasculate it, they will pervert it,   and if they cannot pervert it they will feed on it.
MacColl and Davenport, and anyone else who is in the re­vival for more than just personal glory or profit, have a com­mon interest in building up something that can resist that sort of onslaught.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 10:46 AM

Fair piece indeed ~~ tho I can't quite unquestioningly accept the description of that occasionally cogent & mordant, but more often sententious and didactic old fraud, Bertholt Brecht, as "the most incisive analyst of modern times"!

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 11:33 AM

Vic,

1966 would indeed be most likely year of publication. I used to have a copy and was surprised to find how much of that article I could recall after 45 years. Davenport and his woolly use of terms.....


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Feb 11 - 11:47 AM

Vic, thanks for that! The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:42 AM

That didactic old fraud Brecht - unAmerican to boot! From Ronald Hayman's biography of him - another didactic old fraud maybe?
"Bertolt Brecht is the most influential playwright of this century, and probably the greatest writer to emerge from the confused cultural milieu of Weimar Germany. Though he had only spasmodic success during his life, he has, since his death in 1956, been the subject of increasing study and acclaim. His plays are constantly being produced; his verse is considered some of the best of its time. Yet the complex and interesting character behind this resonant literary voice has remained an enigma.
Mischievous yet earnest, unscrupulous yet idealistic, exploitative yet compassionate, Brecht was a man of contradictions who recognized the value of ambiguity as a deliberate means of artistic expression. He saw literature as an instrument of change, and many of his ideas were rooted in practicality; yet his social and political commitment always accorded with his sense of fun and entertainment. Brecht's personal and artistic development took place against a background of violent changes, both private and national -from his carefree early life in Augsburg, through political storms in the Germany of the 1930s, two marriages and countless affairs, the traumas of exile, to his role as East Germany's literary figurehead."
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:05 AM

We have drifted a bit from MacColl to Brecht ~~ tho there is the connection of their being both avowedly left-wing propagandists with an avowedly didactic purpose. What I always feel so off-putting in Brecht {alienatory in a sense quite other then the Verfremdungseffekt at which he claimed to be aiming}is that he never seemed to know when he had made his point, but would pertinaciously go on making it over and over and over again, and then make it once more, & then one more time: till one could scream. Was it because he thought the proletarian audience at which he was aiming was too thick to get it the first [or even the second or third or nth] time? How patronising. And this from one who prided himself as a thoroughly professional man of the theatre. I always valued the story of his rehearsing the Berliner Ensemble while there was some sort of anti-authoritarian riot going on outside. A few rioters threatened by Soviet tanks crept into his Schiffbauerdamm Theatre for refuge and disturbed the concentration of his cast and himself. "Get those bloody amateurs out of my theatre," he yelled. Perhaps apocryphal, but se non è vero, è ben trovato & all that.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,bobf
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 10:28 PM

My impression is that real issue was between the musicians who were more into resisting the commodification/corporatization of folk music or its denial of airwaves access by the mass media and the musicians who personally had no philosophical or political objections to folk music being commodified or denied airplay time eventually by the corporate media conglomerates.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 11 - 04:08 AM

bobf
I certainly think that this bit was true.
"between the musicians who were more into resisting the commodification/corporatization of folk music........ musicians who personally had no philosophical or political objections to folk music being commodified."
I'm not sure where the 'airtime' issue fitted in.
MacColl had produced his 'song Carrier (10+4 programmes) series, in my opinion, still the best analysis of folk music, and Bert was producing some magnificent stuff, mainly international music. It was a 'golden age' of broadcasting, or, if not 'golden' certainly 'gold-plated'.
'Singing horse' music was pretty well covered too, so there was no need to fight your corner over airwave access.
There was a genuine concern about the public face of folk music, which ranged from the purist clubs that wouldn't allow instruments or anything later than 19th century songs, to anything goes. Ewan and Bert lay somewhere in the middle, tending towards 'doing what it says on the folk tin' but welcoming newly composed songs using folk styles; both of them were happy with accompaniments.
The abandoning of standards at clubs hadn't happened yet, and when it did (leading to a mass exodus out of the scene), this was covered by a pretty heated debate, mainly in Folk Review, prompted by an article, (Fred Woods?) 'Crap Begets Crap'. I'm pretty sure neither Ewan nor Bert took any part in this and had retreated into their own particular corners; MacColl with The Critics Group and Bert with his academic (mainly Eastern European) work.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,jackaro
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 07:24 AM

I first met Ewan and Peg in, I think 1960 at their concert in Oberlin Ohio. After that Ewan was barred from entering the US on account of his politics so Peg toured alone. Arriving in England in 1965, they were the first people I looked up and hooked up with at the Singers Club, Festival of Fools etc etc. I had sung alot but was still pretty green, with much to learn.

As others have said, Ewan was complex, often contradictory but, in Peg's words, "a genius" who wrote and performed with Peg's arrangements and accompaniment probably the most comprehensive and moving corpus of songs ever written in Britain. I still sing some and remember others which have passed into history like "The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh." I/we owe Him and Peg a lot. He was kind and generous but also demanding, sometimes terrifying, especially as author/director. He and Peg encouraged me (Peg was glad of a fellow American to work with I think) and sang some of my songs. I and everyone else had to earn their place and if for some reason one fell foul, the master's wrath would know no bounds.   

The Critics Group was Ewan's vision for a revolutionary period in which revolutionary artists would play a vital part. But it was doomed because it was his vision with a veneer of democracy that eventually wore away, because Britain is not Vietnam or Chile and because it was a left wing niche in a country that would soon elect Thatcher and has now elected- ???.

I often meet younger folk who sing his songs, both traditional (even Strawberry Fair, which they think was created by Simon and Garfunkel) and original, third hand with no idea where they came from. With some of the others who "graduated" from that committed but naive hothouse, are still around but getting older, I hope I'm worthy of passing on the inheritance and craft learned in the 60s and early 70s.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: davyr
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 07:40 AM

"(even Strawberry Fair, which they think was created by Simon and Garfunkel)"

Eh? Unless I've missed something, neither "Strawberry Fair" nor "Scarborough Fair" (which I think you must mean) were written by Ewan MacColl, were they?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: davyr
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 07:41 AM

Ah, sorry - just noticed the reference to "traditional". Still think you meant "Scarborough Fair", though!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 09:51 AM

"neither "Strawberry Fair" nor "Scarborough Fair" (which I think you must mean) were written by Ewan MacColl, were they?"
Nope - but MacColl and Joan Littlewood collected it in the forties; it took Dylan and Sim and Gar to try to claim ownership.
Haven't aired the story that shows the other side of the MacColl legend for a while, so here goes.
While he, Peggy and Charles Parker were putting the finishng touches to th radio ballad, The Travelling People, they began to look for songs that Travellers had made themselves as examples of their creative abilities.
They were sent a tape of an 'old gypsy woman' singing such songs and decided to include one in the programme, giving it to Sheila Stewart to sing. Immediately prior to the programme's release they discovered that the 'gypsy woman' was John Brune with a funny voice, singing his own songs - they were forced to remove it from the programme as it would have undermined the whole programme - 'a real gypsy song' written by a folkie. That is why Sheila, one of our finest traditional singers, never appeared in the programme.
Sheila tells this story herself in an interview published in The Living Tradition, so, unlike many of the ones told against MacColl and still circulating twenty odd year after his death, it is well authenticated.
Had the rather nasty stunt remained undiscovered it would have severely damaged the credibility of a programme that did more to make us aware of the hardships and abuses still being meted out to Travellers nearly a dozen years into the 21st century - think on't!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 11:15 AM

JohnBrune fooled Ewan into thinking it was an authentic traditional singer[ fact].
this does not diminish Ewans standing as a song writer or singer, but proves an entirely different point.I agrre it would have been sad if the credibilitity of the radio ballads had been undermined, that presumably was why Brune owned up.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 11:30 AM

"that presumably was why Brune owned up."
Not soon enough to put the programme at risk and lose one of the best traditional singers we have - a Traveller herself. I do hope you aren't defending this behaviour Cap'n - it would have been the travellers that would have lost out (a little more than "sad" I think).
The fact that he fooled Maccoll is immaterial - anybody can do funny voices, The Kipper Family, Rambling Sid Rumpo even.
My old friend Brian Pearson could do a wonderful Bert Lloyd and a passable Harry Cox.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:26 PM

since John Brune is now dead,and cannot confirm this unless we hold hands and have a seance, I am making an assumption.
I am assuming his reason for fooling MacColl, was to expose the nonsense of categorising singers, he did this successfully, he fooled none other than Ewan MacColl[fact].
I am not sitting in judgement on any one or defending anyone, merely trying to undertsand why Brune impersonated a traveller singer.
it clearly wasnt to make life more difficult for traveller singers or to sabotage the radio ballads, otherwise he would not have owned up.
your statement about impersonating and funny voices, is a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters, the Kipper family and the others you mentioned were not trying to show, The ridiculous categorisation between revival and traditional singers, if MacColl was fooled it proves one thing, that unless the collector knows the category beforehand there is no difference musically.
another example of this was Bob Blake who would never have been collected if the collector[mike yates] had known he was not a traditional singer.its time this phoney categorisation was exposed for what it is BUNKUM,this categorisation is about as useful musically as those middle class victorian butterfly collectors


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:27 PM

above should read.. collections not collectors


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:30 PM

One thing that hasn't been mentioned.

Ewan McColl was a stage name. His real name was Jimmy Miller.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 01:27 PM

Hey Stringsinger,

The next thing I guess you will be telling us is that he wasn't Scottish.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 01:45 PM

Hey and you'll never guess what. That should have been Jimmie Miller, not Jimmy Miller. Now, here's your starter for 10. From which minor Scottish poet did Jimmie(y)Miller take his stage name?

That's right. It was Ewan MacColl.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 03:39 PM

I have heard the John Brune/Old Gypsy woman story from a number of sources - always told from the point of view of trying to make MacColl look like a fool. I always thought that the story had something of an urban myth quality until I read the Sheila Stewart/Living Tradition piece. Certainly, as Jim and Dick have stated, it would have damaged the reputation of the radio ballad if the spoof had been allowed into the finished article. But some interesting questions remain:-

* Why did John Brune want to try to fool (mislead?) MacColl in this way? Was there a difficulty in their relationship?

* Just how good were these spoofs? Certainly Brune would know enough about traveller singing to construct something that sounded authentic enough to fool MacColl? And if they did excite MacColl enough for him to want to include them in the radio ballad, then the surely must have been pretty convincing even if they were not authentic. I don't suppose that these tapes still exist; does anyone know?

Dick goes on to mention Bob Blake, who I knew well, and makes a strong and valid point about him:-
another example of this was Bob Blake who would never have been collected if the collector[mike yates] had known he was not a traditional singer.its time this phoney categorisation was exposed for what it is BUNKUM,this categorisation is about as useful musically as those middle class victorian butterfly collectors
I would agree with what he says about 'phoney categorisation' but feel that it is important to establish the origins of a singer's repertoire in the interests of historical accuracy if nothing else. Here's Mike Yates on the subject of Bob Blake:-
When we first met I assumed that Bob was a traditional singer, similar to the other Sussex singers, such as George Spicer and Harry Upton, that I was recording at the same time. Following Bob's death, his daughter sent me some manuscripts which indicated that Bob, unlike George and Harry, had learnt all of his songs from printed sources and that I, in my naïveté, had unwittingly helped to present Bob as a 'traditional folk singer, rather than as a singer of traditional songs. I cannot stress enough that this article is not meant as a condemnation of Bob Blake, a charming and generous man, but rather is meant to be a re-evaluation of Bob, his songs and my approach to him. It is as much a critique of myself as it is of Bob.

This is part of the introduction to an excellent article by Mike at http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/blake.htm
Following on from this is the question - Was Bob trying to mislead Mike Yates into believing that he was a traditional singer when he wasn't? Answer a firm NO. Bob heard the likes of Pop Maynard, Harry Holman and George Spicer in the singing at old Sussex pubs like The Cherry Tree at Copthorne, loved it and wanted to learn songs that would enable him to be part of the crowd - and he knew where to look for them. He found the tradition and wanted to join in - no ulterior motive.
From a personal perspective another question arises - If we had known that Bob Blake had learned his songs from printed sources, would we still have included him in the 'Sussex Traditional Singers' Evenings' along with the likes of The Coppers, G. Belton, G. Spicer, G Hall, J. Doughty, L. Fuller etc. etc. that we held frequently at our folk club in Lewes? Answer a firm YES. Nothing that the ear could detect would have put him - in terms of style and repertoire - in a different category from the other Sussex singers.

Collecting folk song in the mid-twentieth century was a minefield and inevitably meant that the collector was likely to record items that had been learned from media or folk revival sources. In Mike Yates' case there items released by Duncan Williamson and Joe Rae that fall into this category.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:05 PM

"I am assuming his reason for fooling MacColl, was to expose the nonsense of categorising singers, he did this successfully, he fooled none other than Ewan"
Even if this piece of wild speculation had any basis whatever, how vindictive was it to use an important subject like Travellers as a means of making a point?
Ewan had 'difficulties' with many people in the revival, Brune included - see hedgehog story above - personally, I believe it was n act of spite on Brune's part, made even more mindless by Brune's insistence that he was concerned with the plight of Traveller.
Sorry Cap'n - another anti-MacColl apologist with no evidence to back up your speculation.
As far as Bob Blake is concerned, I've no knowlege of the man so I am unable to offer an opinion as to whether he was or wasn't a traditional singer. I do know of many singers, in Ireland, Scotland and England, who have learned their songs in a similar fashion to him and whose pedigree as 'traditional is not only unquestioned, but who are often held up as living proof that the singing traditions in these islands are still thriving. Even if I was not heading off in the morning for a few days break in Inishowen, I certainly would not be prepared to discuss their standing in the tradition any more than I would Bob Blake's.
I agree completely with Vic's suggestion on the matter - a minefield.
Trust you will have come up with some hard evidence by the time I get back Cap'n.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:34 PM

Thanks Vic and Jim, for your excellent responses, quite like old times. I will go wawy and cogitate


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 06:13 PM

There is no easily traceable Scottish poet called Ewan MacColl. There is a gaelic poet called Eoghan MacColla - this name is usually translated as EVan MacColl. But I suppose (and Harker indicates this is so p.69) it is possible to translate his name as Ewan. Harker seems to indicate they had a fair bit in common.

http://www.poemhunter.com/evan-maccoll/

Having said that - I don't actually think it is all that important.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 04:28 AM

It is about as important as being called Folkiedave, I mean johnny Handle is a pseudonym, so I think is Martin Carthy, who cares.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 05:44 AM

Martin Dominic Forbes Carthy is his full real name ~~ tho Johnny Handle's name is not Handle, which is an abbreviation of Panhandle, as his real name is Pandrich.

So now we all know that ~ as Dick implies, how much better off are we?

~M~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 06:23 AM

Sorry folks. It was my attempt at humour. I was just so surprised at somebody thinking they had had something new to tell us in revealing MacColl's stage name. However, that MacColl took his name from said Scottish poet is indisputable, as is the fact that Ewan, Evan and Eoghan are all variants of the same name.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 07:23 AM

Hi... am really sorry to change the subject of this post... just for a moment... but please PLEASE could you help me? I see on a previous post from some time ago that you have a copy of Don Shepherds The Sun and The Moon . . . I am trying desperately to track down a copy or find someone to copy it for me ... or at very least, a list of the tracks on it . Is there any way you can help me please?
Once again, sorry for interrupting this thread!

Regards

Lou


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 07:52 AM

Fair point Jim, but in music more than most arts isn't a writer/performer personality part of the whole so to speak. Especially when the music becomes well known and reaches so many as McColl's did. Also particularly in Folk music big names such as McColl, tend to be much more accessable for people to meet, talk to etc in the relative coziness of a folk club, hence performers and fans get to see/meet the peronality more and as we see in this thread, have their own feelings good and bad about the person in question, and after all the original aim of this thread was for personal experience. I don't think anything in here has taken away from the fact that McColl was a hugely important figure in Folk and British music overall


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 09:20 AM

and Steve Turners name is not Steve Turner, AND Dick Miles is not Dick Miles, and of course I am happy to be corrected, if am wrong,Martin I believe was born Martin McCarthy .NOW ON TO THE SUN AND THE MOON search for th thread don shepherd is he still around, you should track it down


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 10:32 AM

It's MacColl, not McColl, at least get one of his names right.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,folkiedave
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 11:19 AM

You can believe Martin Carthy was born Martin McCarthy all you like Dick.

But he wasn't.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: The Sandman
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 11:47 AM

who cares, only people like you.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: RTim
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 03:40 PM

I happened to play a CD last week that I haven't listen to for awhile.
The Tradition Years - Classic Scots Ballads, sung by Ewan MacColl.

This is a 2005 CD re-issue of the original 1961 (?) vinyl version.

I assume the notes are from the original sleeve, and I quote in part:
"EWAN MacCOLL was born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of a Lowland Scots father and a Gaelic-speaking mother, both of whom had an extensive repertoire of Scots folksongs and ballads."

I assume that this information was given them by Ewan? There is NO mention of Salford!

How much can we believe?

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 04:08 PM

"How much can we believe?"
We can believe that whatever self-delusions he might have had in his early days, he was one of the finest singers of folk songs, still capable of persuading people to take pleasure from recordings of his singing some fifty years after they were issued.
We can also believe that he is still capable of drawing out the odd grave-dancer all agog to do Riverdance impersonations on his grave over twenty years after his death.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: RTim
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 04:15 PM

Jim - Don't get me wrong, I loved his singing and he was a great influence on me when I started to sing solo, but I wondered about some of his motives over the years?

Tim


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Brian May
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 04:25 PM

I still think he was aloof - not at all engaging.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 04:59 PM

Hi Tim,
I've always known about his 'Scots' affectation, and tackled him about it once.
His family moved to England shortly before he was born, his mother was from Aucherarder. He said he was brought up in a Scots household surrounded by Scot singers, and it was this repertoire that first attracted him to songs and ballads.
I knew both his parents sang, his mother Betsy sang for me on numerous occasions, and I was once told by Salford historian Eddie Frow, his father's contemporary and friend that William was forever singing "queer old Scots songs". I suspect that many of these were incomplete and he re-built them over the years
According to Douglas Bridson (Prospero and Ariel - the rise and fall of radio), in 1931 he had been found by Kenneth Adam:
"busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learned from his mother, border ballads and folk songs".
He said he adopted his Scots persona to "make him more comfortable in his chosen repertoire" - unnecessary, but, as far as I'm concerned, understandable.
In spite of his apparent self confidence, he could be remarkably uncomfortable about some things.
Sorry - didn't mean to knee-jerk.
"I still think he was aloof"
He could be occasionally when he was out of his comfort zone, I never found him so, but I could be as shy as he was.
You should have seen him slightly drunk - still got the lipstick marks on my collar!!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 05:08 PM

It was Ewan's mother Betsy who was born in Auchterarder. In both Ewan's autobiog Journeyman & in Ben Harker's biog Class Act, his place of birth is given as Salford ~~ Harker even gives the precise address and exact time of day. The sleevenote quoted above by Tim appears to be the result of some confusion.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Mar 11 - 03:34 AM

"The sleevenote quoted above by Tim appears to be the result of some confusion."
I think the confusion was between Ewan and Ken Goldstein, who did the potted biography for the album.
Anyone who came into contact with Ewan was left in no doubt that he was born and brought up in Salford, a fact that that both made him proud and depressed at the same time. He was forever quoting Engles' Conditions of the Working Class in England, much of which was based on 19th century Salford, a little more than a half century before Ewan was born.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 15 - 12:27 AM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 07:19 AM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 02 Feb 11 - 03:09 PM

"Well, we do, Jim. How about Marilyn Monroe "
Oh come on Mike - Marilyn Monroe my arseum; no other folk figure is debated as superficially or vituperatively as MacColl . - is so, name them.
Jim Carroll.
Bob Davenport? Bert Lloyd?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 07:55 AM

Sorry guest, don't follow -
Lloyd is criticised by scholars for his questionable scholarship, certainly not for his contribution to the revival as a singer - Daven port, never (except by me maybe).
Anybody wishing to hear of MacColl's work can do so through the two programmes, 'Freeborn Man', made by traditional music producer and singer, Paula Carroll for Irish radio's Lyric F.M.
Programme 1 will be broadcast this coming Friday at 7pm, programme 2, a week later.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 08:30 AM

Thanks for the heads up on the programs.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 08:33 AM

You're welcome
I'll open a thread giving the full details of them as soon as we have them.
We're hoping that Lyric FM can be accessed from the U.K.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 11:42 AM

MacColl had his failings but he wrote some very good songs and put a lot of thought and effort in to his performances.
Probably the best way to remember him is through his songs and performances
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KiBLqfIEWw




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 12:03 PM

"he wrote some very good songs and put a lot of thought and effort in to his performances."
Did a bit more than that - the problem is, we never get past the 'Arthur 'two-Sheds' Jackson (why he changed his name) level of discussing MacColl's work - that's what they have been put together to do.
Hopefully the Lyric Programmes will redress the balance somewhat.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 12:47 PM

I've just got round to checking the listing for the Real MacColl and am surprised and disappointed.

First of all the programme is only 30 minutes long, plus it's fronted by John Cooper Clarke.

Who?

Well John Cooper Clarke is a performance poet whose only claim to fame in this respect seems to be that he was born in Salford, (Thinks. Yeahh mate, so were an awful lot of other people.) Hang on though. He did begin his career by doing floor spots in Manchester folk clubs, so I suppose that counts as another qualification. But I can just imagine what MacColl would have said if JCC had turned up at the Singers Club and asked if he could do some of his performance poetry!

More to the point. How on earth do you cram a life like MacColl's into one solitary half hour? How much time do you give to the Red Megaphones, or to Theatre Workshop, or to the plays he wrote, or to the radio ballads, or to the Critics Group, or to the huge number of recordings he made (which BTW includes no less than four multi-volume antholgies of Child Ballads), or to The festival of Fools, or to his collecting work, or to his songwriting? Where on earth are you going to find 30 seconds or so to discuss his poverty stricken upbringing and his Marxism?

Given that this programme is timed to celebrate MacColl's centenary and given McColl's enormous influence in the folk revival, in the theatre, and in broadcasting, surely the BBC could have done the thing properly and devoted a bit more than 30 mintes to his life story? And surely they could have found someone better qualified to front the thing than John Cooper Clarke?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 03:01 PM

Legacies of Ewan MacColl
The Last Interview
Price:£65.00
Ashgate ISBN: 978-1-4094-2431-4
Illustrations: Includes 9 b&w illustrations and 2 music examples
Published: December 2014
Edited by Allan F. Moore, University of Surrey, UK and Giovanni Vacca

Strongly recommended.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 03:24 PM

how much!?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 04:20 PM

Price:£65.00 from Ashgate, the publishers - I think it is cheaper elsewhere - Google it to find out.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Lou Judson
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 08:27 PM

A couple of nights ago I did sound for Shay and Michael Black and Celia Ramsay at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, and they did several of Ewan's song and spoke of him fondly. I have a friend in Seattle whose parents wer big in the folk and labor scene back in the fifties, so I called him and asked if they had ever had Ewan as a guest in their home, as they had with many other folk singers of the time. They hadn't and I was sad until I found this lovely thread full of stories! Thank you all.

I'm just a sound guy in California, but get to work with some wonderful people (including Peggy once or twice) and hanging in the backgound on Mudcat brings me some very nice things. So thanks again for all the stories, old and new!

Do you know there will be a feature on Ewan on BBC 4 on January 22nd at 11:30 UT? I'll see if I can catch it here online http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ykk4y

and if anyone has links to share of any past programs I would love to hear more!

And this is a really touching piece:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlJ6P9EkoWw

Enjoy.
Lou




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 18 Jan 15 - 08:46 PM

that's a ridiculous price. the weird thing is Ewan and Peggy were always so fair in their pricing policy.

how can it possibly cost all that money to produce that. i think a lot of folk fans would buy this for a tenner. he was afascinating man with an amazing talent, and from very humble origins.

i know Jim gets very tetchy - thinks we should just concentrate on his body of work. but it is fascinating. just how he became |Ewan MacColl - the artist.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jan 15 - 05:32 AM

"that's a ridiculous price. the weird thing is Ewan and Peggy were always so fair in their pricing policy."
It is indeed
It has been put out by an academic company and that is apparently the price their books go for - nothing to do with Peggy, who was as unhappy as we were.
It has kindly been pointed out to us that in March, the book will be offered at £16 via Dance and Song.
"i know Jim gets very tetchy - thinks we should just concentrate on his body of work. but it is fascinating. just how he became |Ewan MacColl - the artist."
Sorry Al - don't understand a word of that - have always been interested in most aspects of Ewan's life and work - as an actor, singer, artist, teacher.....
Have just re-listened to the rough of the Lyric FM programme - magic,
For someone who started out knowing nothing about MacColl, Paula has done a wonderful job.
The first programme deals with his early life, his theatre work, his entry into folksong, the start of the Singers Club his approach to songwriting and the importance he attached to the ballads
Despite the fact that the programme is an hour long she has only been able to use a fraction of the material on hand and has had to just touch on some subjects.
Will be putting up the details later
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 23 Jan 15 - 09:52 AM

I have been reading 'Tis Sixty Years Since and no, I am not referring to the sub-title of Sir Walter Scott's novel Waverley though that is undoubtedly where the title came from. No, I am referring to the 2011 publication whose own sub-title is The 1951 Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh and the Scottish Folk Revival edited by Eberhard (Paddy) Bort and published by Grace Notes (ISBN 978-1-907676-10-9)
I cannot understand why I have not heard of this before as it is normally the sort of book that I snap up as soon as I hear of it, but in fact I received it as one of of my Christmas presents from Tina. It is a delight! The fact that I have met more than half of the 23 contributors is obviously a strong factor.
It's relevance to this thread? Oh yes, I was just getting round to that. This morning, I was reading an essay by the great Adam MacNaughtan called The Poets And The Folk Revival. He is writing about Helen B. Cruickshank whose poems set to melodies by Jim Reid have made such an impact on the Scottish scene. The People's Ceilidh in Edinburgh in 1951 is widely recognised as one of the sparks that began the bushfire of the folk revival with Alan Lomax, Hamish Henderson and Ewan MacColl all involved. Here is what Adam writes on pages 89/90:-
She was a friend also of to those who arrived for the People's Ceilidhs, because she undertook to find accommodation for many of them and her home was the venue for the After-The-Ceilidh ceilidhs. There the traditional singers met with members of the audience and with performers from Theatre Workshop and ther Hamish Henderson and Ewan MacColl had one of their frequent casting oots. Hamish accused Ewan of hogging the stage and Ewan replied that folk would rather hear him than the rum-soaked voices of people like Jimmy MacBeath.

Really? I had the great pleasure of hearing Jimmy in quite a number of different settings in the last three years of his life; on festival stage, in pub and in tenement flat. I have been lucky to hear many of Britain's traditional singers formally and informally. Some had better voices than Jimmy but not one was in the same class as Jimmy as a performer in front of a crowd however large or small. He was a mesmeric performer; his sense of timing was immaculate and his involvement with a song was total and convincing. For me, it is Jimmy rather than Ewan every time.

This may help to answer something raised by MGM on this thread as long ago as 04 Feb 11 - 01:19 AM




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jan 15 - 10:00 AM

I suppose Ewan's 100th is as good a time as any to drag out all the old stories of Ewan
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Jan 15 - 02:55 PM

As this thread is personal anecdotes only, here's a good question. Has anybody personally heard him sing the Ballad of Joe Stalin?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jan 15 - 03:07 PM

Heard the 78 once in the early sixties
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Jan 15 - 03:11 PM

well i suppose what i meant Jim was that my family grew up in the same neck of the woods. lancashire....as manchester was then. my lot were irish, rather than scottish - also a family with a respect for music and education.

however the grinding poverty of those days tended to make boys in particular rather hard headed - rather than having artistic ambitions.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jan 15 - 05:49 PM

In 1972, I met Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in a pub in what I remember to have been in North London (I know that might be vague). They were performing upstairs in an informal setting--really it was a combination performance, singalong, and open mic night (without the mics). They could not have been more gracious. If anyone knows the name of this place I would be grateful.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Jan 15 - 08:12 PM

In 1972 their regular club would have been 'The Bull and Mouth' in Holborn in Central London, on the edge of the City of London
Wasn't a singaround/open mike club
Would be interested to know where it was if you find out.
The nearest the Singers ever got to 'informal' was their, "you name it, we'll sing it" nights, where up to half a dozen residents would take the stage and sing songs on subjects passed up by the audience on scraps of paper.
One memorable subject was "gazumped brickie goes berserk and slays two" - Bert Lloyd worked out that it was 'Lamkin'
"however the grinding poverty of those days tended to make boys in particular rather hard headed - rather than having artistic ambitions."
MacColl, and many of his generation became interested in the arts during the depression - he described how he and his mates used to shelter in Cheetham Mill public library to get out of the rain and both educated and politicised themselves in the reading room.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 25 Jan 15 - 09:50 PM

yes i've heard that before. i did a fair bit of educating myself in reading rooms in libraries.

it still doesn't quite add up. theres obviously some mentor - maybe in the WEA ......or the communist party.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 03:35 AM

"it still doesn't quite add up. theres obviously some mentor - maybe in the WEA ......or the communist party"
Never really came across one Al
His mother took in lodgers during the depression and he mentioned a couple of Scotsmen among them, but they were people who he learned songs from rather than politics.
He was a contemporary of Eddie Frow, the man who set up The Working Class Library in Salford, but I think they grew up together politically.
I worked at Eddie and Ruth's Manchester home once (in those days their house was full of books and they lived in a caravan in the garden) when I was researching Peterloo songs and he and his wife described Ewan's father as being very political - he went to Australia to make money for his family during the Depression, but was packed off back home for his union activities there - Eddie described him as the only Trades Unionist to be deported FROM Australia TO Britain.
In a film clip shown as an obituary, Ewan described groups of Salford lads getting together to discuss politics, but as for their being a single mentor - don't think so.
Peggy describes in the Lyric FM programme how Ewan was a speed reader who could read and absorb a book in a day, that was my impression of him when I lived with them for a short time
He would read a book during the day and quote from it at length at a Critics Group meeting - love to be able to do that
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 04:45 AM

maybe so - i find it hard to imagine someone that original.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 05:20 AM

"maybe so - i find it hard to imagine someone that original."
Lots of people like that Al
Suggest you listen to what Peggy has to say on the programmes
Even Ewan's enemies (those that knew him - plenty that didn't) accepted that he was a genius - you only had to sit with him for an hour to realise that
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Rain Dog
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 05:38 AM

Article in yesterdays Observer newspaper

Ewan MacColl: the godfather of folk

Ewan MacColl: the godfather of folk who was adored – and feared

Best known today as the man who wrote Dirty Old Town, the singer and songwriter was a leftwing firebrand who instigated the 60s folk revival. On the centenary of his birth, Neil Spencer recalls an inspirational yet controversial figure while family, friends and fans pay tribute




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 05:59 AM

There is a slight error in that article. Referring to the policy of singing songs only from your own culture. Peggy refers to "our club" after which is the following "[the Ballads and Blues Club based in London]". "Our Club" was The Singers Club which Ewan and Peggy set up after a disagreement about the policy which they wished to introduce at the Ballads and Blues Club. The Ballads and Blues Club continued under the guidance of Malcolm Nixon until May 1965.

About that "policy", in August last year in an article in the Guardian Peggy groans and says "We were snobs etc etc. We went about it the wrong way".




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 06:22 AM

"Malcolm Nixon"
Here's a dedication to Malcolm written at the time of the move
Jim Carroll

NO AGENTS NEED APPLY (1960)
In the early days of the folk revival, before commercialism hit, there was no need for a singer or songwriter to have an agent. One of the first agent-cum-managers who not only looked to the future but who was trying to create it prematurely, was a fast-talking, capable but not overly straightforward Scotsman. Ewan wrote this scurrilous piece as a gauntlet and flung it offstage many times in an accurate imitation of his victim's vocal mannerisms. He later wrote about it: This light-hearted piece is written in the spirit of pure malice, though it does not refer to any agent to which the author wishes to be known. In fact, all the agents of our acquaintance, particularly those Scots agents resident in London with the initials MN, are known to be fine, noble citizens who spend all their spare time making sacrifices in order to further the cause of folk music. If an occasional folk artist gets trampled on, this must be considered as a mere occupational hazard.

I'm just a simple modest chap, as onyone can see;                        (anyone)      
I'm easy to get on wi' if you'll just agree wi' me.       (with)
And yet there's folk that scorn me, dinna ask the reason why -       (don't)
Whene'er I show my face they roar, 'No agents need apply!'
When first I cam' tae London, 't was an awful sicht tae see,
Folks singing up and doon the place wi'oot the leave o' me, but       (my permission)

Chorus:       Today, tonight or anytime, you never will repent
If you join the happy family that pays me ten percent.

It was me invented folksong and I've made it a' the go,       (trendy)      
I'm kent in a' the folk clubs as an impresario;       (known)
Oor tradition it was deein' till I set it on its feet       (dying)
And dragged it by the short hairs doon the length o' Denmark Street.
I breathed on it and gave it life and sent it tae the top,
And noo ye'd hardly ken it frae the music they ca' 'pop'. So (chorus)       (know)

I met a laddie frae the North, a wee bit feckless boy,                                             (small, helpless)
I kent that he had talent by his suit o' corduroy;
So I walked up close behind him and I whispered in his lug,       (ear)
And noo the lad's as tame as ony weel-trained poodle dog.       (any)
Noo, he sings for bobby-soxers on the telly, that's no lie,         
And yet there's folk still say tae me, 'No agents need apply!' So (chorus)

They say a wee bit talent helps a lad to get ahead,
But my singers have nae need o' it, for they've got me instead.
Their trust in me is boundless, but there are still some who cry,
'Get back to Tin Pan Alley, for no agents need apply!'
I ken a' about show business and there's nothing I don't know,         (all)
I've been hanging roond the fringes for the last three years or so. So (chorus)      

O, little did my mither think when first she cradled me       (mother)
That I would be a big shot in the folk song industry;
My rise has been spectacular, there's no one can deny,
Except the orra folk who say, 'No agents need apply!'       (awkward)In the programs that are seedy, where the budget's somewhat low,
I can get a cut-rate spot for you upon the radio. So (chorus)

Music note: Frank Harte places the probable origin of this tune as London, 1863. Sheet music of the song 'No Irish Need ApplyÓ appeared in Cleveland the following year, with the credits: 'An original song written by                                 Miss Kathleen O'Neil.' See chapter heading note for THE IRISHMEN.

No Agents Need Apply




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 07:24 AM

Thanks for that Jim, never heard it and never seen it previously.
As it says above "Written in pure malice" but I don't know how accurate Ewan's imitation of his victim's vocal mannerism's were. Did you ever meet Malcolm Nixon Jim? Perhaps you can answer that.
Strangely enough I thought the opening two lines sounded autobiographical.

I believe that you will find that the agency came about almost by accident. The Ballads and Blues club being in London was able to put on a wide variety of singers/musicians, people visiting and passing through on their way around Europe. People such as Alan Lomax, Peggy Seeger, Ralph Rinzler, Sandy Paton for instance. These in addition to home grown talent. Other clubs around the country would contact Malcolm wishing to contact/book various performers and so the agency arose. This is as I know it, having known Malcolm for about four years previously to working for him for a further four years.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 07:30 AM

Click here to see a photo, taken yesterday by Doc Rowe. His caption reads Celebrating Ewan's Centenary in London yesterday. Prominent amongst the 13 people in the photo is Ewan's close friend and great admirer. Bob Davenport.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 08:01 AM

Vic, do I detect a sense of irony in that remark?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 08:06 AM

I can only detect 11 people, or possibly 12, if that's someone's head at the back and not a gnarled lump of tree.

Does this mean the missing person has suffered the same airbrushing fate which once befell Leon Trotsky?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 08:13 AM

Vic, do I detect a sense of irony in that remark 




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 11:04 AM

"Did you ever meet Malcolm Nixon Jim?"
No - never did - I first met E & P in 1967 and knew him to just before his death in 1989; personally, I never heard him ever make a remark any more vindictive than "I thought the opening two lines sounded autobiographical"
In the frighteningly over half-century I have been involved in folk music I never met anybody else who were as busy and hard working at the music as Ewan and Peggy were, who were prepared to devote a night a week to working with less experienced singers (for 8 years), or happy to throw their home open to song enthusiasts and researchers to enable them to use their library or song collection
The more successful ones I knew were too busy getting on with their careers (when they weren't busy telling the world what a bastard Ewan was)
It's quite often forgotten that the disputes Ewan had with the rest of the revival had two sides, like the Malcolm Nixon bit, which has more sub-plots than King Lear.
The story of how John Brune nearly sabotaged one of the socially most important radio programmes on Travellers, 'The Travelling People' out of either vindictiveness or sheer stupidity doesn't get much of an airing, and when it does, it's usually told as an anti-MacColl yarn.
Shortly after the formation of The Critics Group Ewan and Bert Lloyd attempted to mend some fences by organising a forum of leading figures on the folk scene in a pub in Soho - the panellists were Lloyd, Bob Davenport and Alex Campbell, MacColl chaired
All three spoke and when Ewan attempted to sum up - he was shouted down by Davenport, as was every speaker from the floor - the meeting broke up in near fisticuffs at the point where Davenport described Jeannie Robertson as "a terrible singer"
I confess I wasn't at the meeting, but we often play our recording of it to remind us what we're missing on the British folk scene.
Ewan was never the world's greatest diplomat, but he mellowed somewhat with age - we found, at the cost of a pleasant evening of Irish singing at The Musical Traditions Club in London a few years ago, that Bob hasn't.
Not so long ago BBC 4 did a programme entitled 'Folk Britannia, on which a leading folk name declared that Ewan's and Bert's aim when they first helped to set up the revival was to form "Folk Ensembles" similar to those found in Eastern Europe (god-awful things where the singers and dancers dress up in 'traditional' costume and perform pseudo-ethnic songs and dances)
As proof, he produced the insert notes of an Irish music album where this aim is stated - what he neglected to mention was that the notes were written by an American musicologist!
And the beat goes on....!
One of the great pleasures of working on the Lyric FM programmes on Ewan recently was that the producer, Paula Carroll (no relation) was totally new to Ewan, Peggy and the British folk scene so she she didn't have to clamber over the shit mountain in order to discuss Ewan as an artist - we're really proud to have been involved in the project (so far - haven't hard programme two yet)
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 12:36 PM

Jim,
Am I missing something?

Ewan writes a song about someone "in pure malice" and it is lighthearted.
When I suggest that it sounds more like autobiography it is vindictive.
You really should lighten up a bit.

You never met Malcolm Nixon and only knew Ewan and Peggy from 1967.

"more sub plots than King Lear". You know that and yet you were not there.

What can I say?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,jim bainbrdge
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 01:11 PM

Must say I'd never have suspected Vic Smith of photoshopping anything but really!!   Come clean, Vic....




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 02:02 PM

"Ewan writes a song about someone "in pure malice" and it is lighthearted."
I didn't say it was lighthearted _ I don't believe for one moment it was - I agree with Peggy that it was "scurrilous"
Doesn't reduce your own statement though.
I found Ewan one of the easiest people to discuss with - I argued with him on numerous occasions over politics.
I admit, the first time it happened I was somewhat querulous, thanks to the reputation that surrounded him, but honestly - no problem - I believe he shifted his attitude on one subject we somewhat heatedly debated   
"Ewan and Peggy from 1967."
True, but I knew him right up to his death - twenty years continuously.
I hope nobody ever holds me to account for what I was like in the early 1960s - and as I said (and you have chosen to ignore) there were two sides to the disputes MacColl got into.
"You know that and yet you were not there"
Again, true, but I know enough to understand that it was not just about 'singing songs from your own background' as it is often presented.
In the end, it really doesn't matter to me - I was a recipient of Ewan and Peggy's generosity and, as I said, no other performer, professional or otherwise, has shown the slightest inclination to help a no-mark wannabe like me the way they did - and I was one of about fifty.
It's said Ewan was arrogant - maybe - if I'd dragged my way out of Depression Salford, helped set up a ground-breaking theatre, then moved on to become the respected figure in folk song that he did, I miht have a little trouble in squeezing through narrow doorways.
It's the people who are arrogant without having a reason that bother me.
Perhaps if people addressed the situation as it was back the, with the fake voices that nearly wrecked 'The Travelling People', or the arrogant bullying of an audience gathered together to attempt to bring some sort of unity to the folk scene, or the downright lies told on television - or maybe just the fact that over half a century after MacColl's death it is still impossible to discuss his work as an artist without this shit... perhaps then you might have point
\Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 02:35 PM

   Come clean, Vic....
I think the problem is that once we get into double figures my poor old brain becomes confused.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,JenBurdoo
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 03:04 PM

Second-hand anecdote -- Sci-fi and comics author Dan Abnett told me he knew MacColl when he was a kid; apparently one of Abnett's relatives was in the same music scene and made bodhrans. I asked because Abnett's most popular series, the Warhammer 40,000 military SF tie-in "Gaunt's Ghosts", focuses on a Celtic regiment with a background clearly patterned on the Wild Geese and the '45. (Heck, listen to "The Highlander's Lament" and you have the backstory right there.) One of the main characters is named Oan Mkoll.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,John from "Elsie`s Band"
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 03:49 PM

When we were emerging from being "skifflers" to becoming enthusiasts for traditional music and songs I remember meeting E.M. and P.S., on a number of occasions, in a singing club, not too far from Charing Cross station,( the name deserts me). A regular to be seen there was Fitzroy Coleman, a fine player and singer.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 07:12 PM

OK Jim. I will try and start a discussion on his work,
Ewan MacColl in my humble opinion is in the same class as Woody Guthrie as a songwriter, what are the reasons for this?

in my opinion their best songs reflect their closeness to the source of their subject matter and in MacColls case to source singers, an example being Shoals of Herring and Sam Larner.

Dick Miles.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Elmore
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 08:59 PM

Soaked the daylights out of us to do a concert. Felt like he was a bit of an a-hole. Peggy was adorable




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 09:23 PM

wassat mean - soaked the daylights?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Elmore
Date: 26 Jan 15 - 10:13 PM

Sorry Al. "Soaked" used to mean overcharged in the States. That was unfair. We had worked very hard and hoped to make a bit of money for our folk club, but only broke even despite a full house. Our fault, not Ewan's. Regards, Elmore.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 03:44 AM

I would interpret Bob Davenports appearance to honour MacColl as a positive, an attempt to put aside past differences.
MacColl and Seeger came and played the club in Bury St Edmunds folk that I organised, they were excellent, they drew a big crowd, the evening was a success financially they did not over charge.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 03:56 AM

"apparently one of Abnett's relatives was in the same music scene and made bodhrans"
Peter Abnett made Appalachian dulcimers - he made one for Ewan's son Hamish
That dulcimer now hangs on our workroom wall few feet from my head
Didn't know he made bodhrans otherwise I might of thought twice before I hung it there!
"I would interpret Bob Davenports appearance...."
I would put Bob's appearance possibly down to Photoshop.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 05:04 AM

they had a good reputation in England for charging folk clubs not very much. i suppose the huge distances involved in travelling round America made it more difficult to work out in advance what to charge.

i wouldn't know where to start. over the years , i've had offers to gig abroad - the gulf, Europe, and even Canada a couple of times.

respect to anyone who can get their head round it. oh yeh i did some gigs in Spain - however like a twat, i asked the RAC to plan my route. this they did with a ruler and a school atlas.

A piece of advice to all musicians - never try to drive a Lada over the Pyrenees.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 05:50 AM

I would put Bob's appearance possibly down to Photoshop. 

A man who can't even count up to 13 is facing two accusations of having the technical ability to use Photoshop!




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 06:14 AM

Bob was certainly there. I have a similar photo....




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 07:20 AM

"A man who can't even count up to 13 is facing two accusations of having the technical ability to use Photoshop!"
Deepest apologies Vic - I mistook what I believed to be a somewhat coy confession - would have been worth a commendation had you done it though.
When Tom Munnelly fell ill, not realising how ill he was I Photoshopped his head onto a photograph of a man carrying a sandwich board declaring "It's going to get worse".
When Tom saw it, he insisted we put it up in our local bar - it remained there till a few months before Tom's death, when the landlady insisted we took it down.
Apologies again
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 07:42 AM

Maybe Davenport really was there and all the other people were photoshopped in.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 08:32 AM

Bob was there, if Derek says so, then as I said before that is a positive.
When Ewan came to my folk club he was very interested in the area and the local industries etc,
When I later did a support for them in Leicester BOTH OF THEM were polite and chatty.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 08:49 AM

Another quotation from what is proving to be a thoroughly enjoyable, informative read; 'Tis Sixty Years Since, this time from an essay called Hamish of the Songs by poet, journalist, song collector and all-round good guy, Maurice Fleming. He informs me of something about Theatre Workshop and MacColl that I did not know when he writes on page 150:-
It was a stroke of enormous fortune that the School of Scottish Studies had opened in 1951 just when Hamish was considering his future. His temporary appointment as a research fellow was to become permanent. What would he have done barring that happy accident? He told me that he had been tempted to join Theatre Workshop, the company run by Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl. At that point they had been considering setting up headquarters in Scotland. When they went back south again, Hamish decided against it. Had he gone he might have become a director, an actor or most likely a playwright.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 09:14 AM

Just caught this article on Ewan in last Sunday's The Observer, a really long piece with interviews with Martin Carthy, Peggy Seeger, Jamie MacColl, Shirley Collins and Rachel Unthank. You can read it on-line by clicking here.

Let's really throw the cat amongst the pigeons by quoting what Shirley Collins says about him in full. I must say that what she says comes as no surprise to me because I have heard this (and worse) from Shirley talking about Ewan in the 40 years that I have known her; most particularly when I was driving her thousands of miles around on the long America Over The Water Tour. She is quoted as saying:-
Ewan had quite a pernicious influence on folk music, I think. People who went to the Critics Group [a study group for singers held at MacColl's home] ended up being moulded by him, sounding the same. Folk music should be about reflecting music from the regions, the different voices, the roots of it. You couldn't differentiate anything with his approach.

I first met him when I was 20 and my antenna went up straightaway. I genuinely don't want to be unpleasant, but he was unpleasant to me, quite sexist, and pretentious and pompous – words that should never be applied to a folk singer. He said to me that I shouldn't wear nail varnish. What a wretched thing to say to a young woman with an interest; what a way of putting someone down.

He was self-invented; there seemed nothing truthful about him, and that's always concerned me greatly. He was an actor, really, even as a singer. The way he'd turn his chair, sit astride it, put his hand to his ear... my heart would sink. I know it's not fair as he's not here to defend himself, but I've had my opinion since I first met him, and I've not seen any reason to change it.

He was a talented man, yes – you can't get away from that – who made some fine pieces of work, but he could never reach me like a traditional singer could, someone like George Maynard or Harry Cox. His influence now? Things have opened up. Nobody has to listen to what other people are saying. People are going their own way. That's the way it should be.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 09:54 AM

Jim,

Re your posting above of Ewan's song attacking agents. If I read it correctly it was Ewan that described it as "Light-Hearted".

Why don't you calm down a bit? Whatever you think you know about E & P and the BBA happenings before 1967 it is second hand. Some people that were actually there are still around.

GUEST John from Elsie's Band above. Re Fitzroy Coleman:
Fitz was a regular at The Princess Louise and he was an amazing musician. I can't recall him playing at other BBA venues but it is possible that he did.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 09:55 AM

Apologies the above posting was me.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 11:43 AM

" Ewan had quite a pernicious influence on folk music, I think. People who went to the Critics Group [a study group for singers held at MacColl's home] ended up being moulded by him, sounding the same. Folk music should be about reflecting music from the regions, the different voices, the roots of it. You couldn't differentiate anything with his approach.

    I first met him when I was 20 and my antenna went up straightaway. I genuinely don't want to be unpleasant, but he was unpleasant to me, quLLLite sexist, and pretentious and pompous – words that should never be applied to a folk singer. He said to me that I shouldn't wear nail varnish. What a wretched thing to say to a young woman with an interest; what a way of putting someone down.

    He was self-invented; there seemed nothing truthful about him, and that's always concerned me greatly. He was an actor, really, even as a singer. The way he'd turn his chair, sit astride it, put his hand to his ear... my heart would sink. I know it's not fair as he's not here to defend himself, but I've had my opinion since I first met him, and I've not seen any reason to change it.

    He was a talented man, yes – you can't get away from that – who made some fine pieces of work, but he could never reach me like a traditional singer could, someone like George Maynard or Harry Cox. His influence now? Things have opened up. Nobody has to listen to what other people are saying. People are going their own way. That's the way it should be."
   in my opinion, Ewan was correct about trying to present his material well, I am not sure it is fair to describe his effect on Folk Music as pernicious, after all his songs and songwriting have added positively to the folk repertoire, even if his attempts to mould and help singers stylistically is open to criticism.
I agree with some of Shirleys other remarks, my first encounter with MacColl was extremely negative in fact how I managed to not punch him in the face, I do not know, but when I met him on later occasions he was pleasant and courteous.
I had a very interesting conversation with Lou Killen about MacColl [and there is a witness to this conversation]
Lou said the first time he saw Ewan perform he was absolutely stunned by Ewans rendition of a song, it made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, so he made a point of seeing him a week later, but this time he was disappointed because his interpretation of the song was EXACTLY THE SAME POINT WAS THAT SINGER SHOULD SING THE SONG DIFFERENTLY EVERY TIME




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 11:55 AM

"Why don't you calm down a bit?"
Perfectly calm Hoot - you seem to be the one losing your rag.
Let's face it, what Ewan's critics seem to be incapable of accepting is that Ewan was as much sinned against as sinning
I have just given you my example of Ewan and Peggy's generosity towards inexperienced singers, dating back to 1964, not 1967 - you chose not to respond.
I've given examples of the behaviour of others towards Ewan - one was from my having viewed Folk Britannia and having a copy of the notes of the album ('Irish Dance Music Willie Clancy and Michael Gorman) whose notes were falsely attributed to either Ewan or Bert.
The John Brune story is openly told against MacColl and we have a recording of the John Snow meeting that was wrecked by Davenport's behaviour - none of this comes 'second hand'
You choose not to respond.
I've associated with friends of Ewan's - some of them going back to his Salford days, to have a pretty convincing picture of the kind of man he was, so if you don't mind, I'd rather make my mind up on than rather than unqualified backbiting gossip that has made the British revival what it is today.   
In the end, it doesn't matter really
I spent a large slice of my life getting pleasure from listening to MacColl and Seeger and those he worked with and enjoying their company.
I still get pleasure from listening to MacColl's and Bert's English and Scottish Ballads (8 volumes) The Long Harvest (10 volumes), Blood and Roses (5 volumes) the numerous 'Muse' albums.... and all the other albums put out by MacColl and his ssociates.
The time we spent in the Critics Group inspired our thirty years of field work and has helped maintain the interest that brought me onto the folk scene over half century ago
Doubt if that could be said of many other people on the scene.
Certainly beats watching a folk superstar chucking up over the front row of the audience, as I once did (luckily from three rows away).
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 12:10 PM

That should read "Lou killens point was singers should vary unconsciously their interpretation every time".
a minor criticism perhaps but still in my opinion an interesting comment
in my opinion it is an over simplification to describe his influence as pernicious because we must take in to account the extremely positive contribution his songs have made to the folk repertoire,
I made a conscious decision to never go near the singers club, instead i chose to listen to a lot of traditional singers and I agree with Shirley that if your interest is in singing traditional songs that you are better off listening to source singers than other revival singers.
I do admire MacColls professional approach to presentation,I see nothing wrong with presenting an act in a professional style, perhaps Ewan was not a very good actor, a good actor can vary their interpretation every time, he was an excellent songwriter, and I think his songs will live on, and his legacy will be the songs he has written.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 12:55 PM

"should vary unconsciously their interpretation every time".
Lou was entitled to his opinion - seems not very sensible to me
There are only a limited number of interpretations you can make of a set text - the shorter the song and the narrower the range of the plot, the less room you have to maneuver - what did he suggest you do with the song when you've tried them all - keep a dustbin for dead songs maybe!!
Not taken you long to join in the general corpse kicking Dick
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 01:33 PM

Jim, you should re read my posts.
n my opinion, Ewan was correct about trying to present his material well, I am not sure it is fair to describe his effect on Folk Music as pernicious, after all his songs and songwriting have added positively to the folk repertoire, even if his attempts to mould and help singers stylistically is open to criticism.
"I do admire MacColls professional approach to presentation,I see nothing wrong with presenting an act in a professional style, perhaps Ewan was not a very good actor, a good actor can vary their interpretation every time, he was an excellent songwriter, and I think his songs will live on, and his legacy will be the songs he has written."
I do not expect of you to understand singing, any more than i would expect lou killen to re wire a house , you were an electrician, that is something i would expect you to know about.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 02:14 PM

are there only a limited number of ways to do a song......i suppose there must be a limit. it must be quite a big limit.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 03:34 PM

Losing my rag Jim ? Not at all in fact I find your postings highly amusing. All I have tried to do is correct a few errors.

I admit I have never really enjoyed Ewan's singing except for one or two songs and didn't really like his general attitude when performing but that doesn't mean that I am jumping on his grave. He wrote some songs and like the other name changing folk related performer that you sometimes mention achieved some success in the pop music world. I never enjoyed much of his material either.

Re Ewan and Peggy's hospitality and the John Snow meeting, you accuse me of not replying to. How can I comment I wasn't there? If I did comment it would be second hand knowledge.

As you quite rightly say "It doesn't really matter". But it does sometimes help to hear both sides of a story.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 04:08 PM

just read the article in the guardian

The Godfather who was feared....!

he never actually ordered any hits on anybody, did he?

perhaps he said Bob Davernport sleeps with the fishes......but he was wrong.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 05:13 PM

the reason that in my opinion MacColl is on a par with Guthrie as a song writer is that they both shared or came into very close contact with the environment that they were writing about.
my old friend Jez Lowe also comes in to this class with some of his songs about Coal Mining,Jez Lowe is from that back ground, his father had first hand experience, His best songs have the ring of authenticity.
Bob Dylan has also written some good songs but unlike the other three afore mentioned] in my opinion they lack authenticity[ with the exception of Masters of War].
The best songs of Guthrie, MacColl and Lowe all come from either first hand experience or from in MacColls case very close contct with his subject matter[ in particular the radio ballads].
Dylan to begin was heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie, but he never shared the environment of his subject matter in the same way as Woody, his song writing is written from a more distanced perspective, which in my opinion makes it remarkable that he managed to write a number of good songs.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 05:36 PM

"All I have tried to do is correct a few errors."
What errors have you "corrected" actually?
I have told you why I believe what I believe about the incidents I have described took place
What exactly have you said about Malcolm Nixon - that I didn't know him seems to be the sum total.
I suggest that you didn't know MacColl that well
Ballads and Blues lasted up to 1965 - four years after MacColl left
The singers Club lasted right up to Ewan's death -0 20 odd-years and left its mark on British folksong by throwing the entire repertoire of traditional song wide open - more than an indication of which policy worked.
"But it does sometimes help to hear both sides of a story"
Yes - it most certainly does - which is why I bother with this garbage.
I've got a little tired of the Urban myths about MacColl - as here, they prevent a half-decent discussion on the importance of the man.
Some of the old guard of the revival strike me as a pretty nasty bunch with little to choose between any of them
I'm quite happy to go by what I know and experienced rather than plouter round what happened in the early sixties
I came on to the scene in 1962 at The Spinners Club - 18 months later I was on my way out, when the Spinners booked MacColl and Seeger, which persuaded me there might be something hanging round for - there was, and they will have my eternal gratitude for being the reason I stayed.
One of the refreshing things about living in Ireland is the many people here respect Ewan for his songs, his singing and his commitment
They don't judge him because he changed his name or didn't fight in the war, or wrote songs about shyster agents (no I didn't know him, but I knew a few people who did)
Well done for turning MacColl's 100th into another shit-mountain
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootennanny
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 06:17 PM

"(no I didn't know him, but I knew a few people who did"

   Jim is that how you judge people that you never met? on hearsay?

"I'm quite happy to go by what I know and experienced rather than plouter round what happened in the early sixties"

   Have you just contradicted yourself?

Yes The Ballads & Blues Club did close in 1965. No doubt you know exactly why. So go ahead and tell us.Give me another laugh.

Best wishes




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 06:26 PM

"The singers Club lasted right up to Ewan's death -0 20 odd-years and left its mark on British folksong by throwing the entire repertoire of traditional song wide open - more than an indication of which policy worked"
An over simplification, I agree that they played a part in getting British singers to search out uk material, but then there were many others that were not connected to the london singers club that did this a couple of examples spring to mind,   Cyril Tawney, Martin Carthy, Harry Boardman.RoyHarris, Nottingham Tradtional Music club
as for policies working, well it would be inaccurate as you seem to be implying, to say that American Folk is not popular in English Folk clubs, I was astonished recently, when I turned up to do a floor spot at Dartford folk club, the attendance was over a 100 people.
The booked guest was an american fiddler and singer OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY all the other floor spots sang American music, I was the only person that sang any British material, this is not meant as a criticism but just a statement of fact, the music was high quality, all the performers were of a professional standard, AND the club was better attended than any others I have seen for years.my only conclusion was that American F




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 06:28 PM

continued from above
americanfolk music is just as popular as english folk music in a lot of uk folk clubs in the year 2015.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 04:04 AM

" Jim is that how you judge people that you never met? on hearsay?
Seems how MacColl was judged my many people
Personally, I don't give a toss one way or the other at a somewhat minor event which occurred in the folk revival half-a-century ago - for those who never met him, Nixon's only claim to fame was the song MacColl wrote about him - certainly didn't leave any footprints in the sand.
The only reference to the event could find was this , from Colin Harper's 'Dazzling Stranger', which more-or-or-less confirms what I have heard about Nixon - it's from the section in which Harper describes MacColl's role in the creation of the folk song revival

"MacColl was never one to shirk from confrontation or compromise his principles. At some point in 1959, seemingly over the summer, he had a row with Malcolm Nixon, the organiser (hire of premises, advertising, and so on) of his club. The reasons are unclear. Some believe it was simply that Nixon wanted to commercialise the operation and/or become a professional agent for folk musicians and/or become MacColl's manager - doubtless hoping to capitalise on the pulling power of an individual now established as the leader of a movement. In the event, Nixon took the name Ballads & Blues while MacColl retreated from view for a while and licked his wounds".

I've no idea why the Ballads and Blues Club died, nor would I dream of "giving anybody a laugh" over its demise, unlike some people heer, necrophobia really isn't my thing
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 07:26 AM

So the answer to my two questions appear to be Yes and Yes, and you are still gong on and on about something about which "you don't give a toss one way or another".

Thanks for making that clear.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 07:55 AM

"So the answer to my two questions appear to be Yes and Yes"
No and no actually
I wasn't around, so I have to rely on those who were, including my wife, who first went into the B&B in the hope of hearing Blues, heard Ewan and stayed with the folk scene- she was a regular.
I knew Bruce Dunnett, who was around at the time and pretty well confirmed MacColl's version of events, and Harper's book indicates that it was a popular belief of what happened (he also suggests that the B&B bombed when Nixon ran off with the takings, but presents no evidence of the truth of that)
I only "go on and on" when aresholes use the events of fifty odd years ago to divert discussion on MacColl and his massive contribution as a creative artist - mentioning no names, of course.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 08:08 AM

Jim,

Whoever suggested that Malcolm Nixon ran off with the takings of the B&B obviously knows absolutely nothing about it.

Yet another posting to bring a smile my face.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 08:10 AM

Smile away - nice to brighten up somebody's day
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Clive Pownceby
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 08:28 AM

Just logged in to this one. Yes, Bob Davenport was there in Russell Square. Jeanie and I went along as we were in town for the Bob Copper event at CS House the previous day.
Refreshments were welcomed!
btw, Phil Colclough whom I hadn't seen in a long while, is the fellow on extreme left wearing the woolly hat, in Vic's link of 26th.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 28 Jan 15 - 05:00 PM

Bob Davenport was there.
Jim please take note.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 01:15 AM

"Jim please take note."
That was acknowledged long ago and aplogised for - please wake up and read what was written - and once more - stick your vendettas
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 15 - 12:31 AM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 04:24 AM

i only knew Ewan very slightly. But I always admired him. Even though I disagreed with him.

I can't help thinking you are perhaps a little too defensive Jim. I meet a fair few folkies who knew him. Many go silent when I speak of my admiration and gratitude for his and Peggy's encouragement.

I get the impression that he pissed off a fair few people - and I'm not sure why. in many ways, his achievements speak for themselves. To see how good the Radio Ballads were you only have to compare the modern homages.

perhaps its time the detractors spoke up. without you jumping down their throat.

what IS their beef?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 06:53 AM

Jim, I rarely get involved in this kind of thread. I have no personal knowledge of EM whatsoever, and very little knowledge of his accomplishments other than what I've read. His music and my music have never coincided. But I do think Al has a fair point about your reaction to mention of him.

You knew Ewan and Peggy as friends and mentors for 20 or more years and found them to be nothing but kind and considerate. Others on this thread attest to that kindness, courtesy, and to their professionalism, as well as Ewan's teaching and analytical skills. I can therefore understand your anger and distress at reading criticism of them on a forum like Mudcat.

However, all of us, from the highest to the lowest, are imperfect, and may show different sides of ourselves to other people - a point which you also acknowledge. It's obvious that EM pissed off some people, for whatever reason - personal and/or professional - during his lifetime, and that memories of him will vary. That's what you get with people of high profile and strong convictions. But it does his memory no service for you to constantly rise in defensive anger every time a negative attitude is displayed. It just provokes even more negativity - forums are like that - and, as Al says, just let his achievements be their own testimony, and ignore those you consider to be nay-sayers. You won't change attitudes.

Let me take, as an example, someone I did know and met with - and played with - on several occasions. Someone who you occasionally mention in a slightly denigrating way: Alex Campbell. Alex was a flawed man. He was a drunk, a brawler, a teller of tall stories, often disreputable, sometimes envious - and, yes, I've also heard the vomiting story, over and over again. But - he was also a great raconteur, a bewitching performer, huge fun and, at his best, kind and supportive. He was very kind to me on more than one occasion. A man of huge contradictions. I suppose I could rise up, in my turn, and become annoyed whenever negative stories of Alex get posted. But I don't, because my own memories of him are fond ones - and, more importantly, I accept that he was man of contradictions, flaws and all.

My take on it all would be, enjoy your memories of EM and accept that, given the way he was, others just may not agree.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 07:07 AM

Often I disagree with what Al says but he makes very good points in the post above this one (29 Jan 15 - 04:24 AM). Two centrally important figures to the development of the folk scene are having their centenary of their births celebrated at the moment - Bob Copper and Ewan MacColl. They shared a lot of qualities. Both have been great influences as singers, both wrote extensively in their different ways, both organised folk clubs. both were quite often feted at their appearances, both were inspirational folk song collectors who were able to build up trust and admiration from their informants.

Where is there discussion about the sort of person Bob Copper was on Mudcat and elsewhere? It does not exist.

Where is there discussion about the sort of person Ewan MacColl was on Mudcat and elsewhere? Well, it is still pretty frequent and ubiquitous.

Why is this? I met and had long conversations with both men, Bob much more frequently than Ewan but enough to know that as well as similarities, they had fundemental differences. Bob had enormous social skills and the ability to mix in any company. He was the publican of a popular social club for the majority of his life and I suppose skills learned professionally added to a naturally friendly disposition. I have been in his company when statements that were made were anathema to his own way of thinking were made and I have seen him smile and bite his lip. but I don't think I ever saw him or those in his company become socially uncomfortable.
Ewan, on the other hand was blunt, sometimes admirably so, sometimes in a way that caused offence. On occasions there could be a sense of tension in his company. He seemed to lack some elements of social awareness. He could seem to be a different person in different circumstances. At a dinner party in Hove, he had dominated the conversation for the 10 or so that were there and seemed unaware of a growing sense of resentment that this was causing until a well-known local character, an aging communist lesbian remarked, "Mr MacColl, do you have any conversation that is not about yourself?" which killed the atmosphere stone dead until it was rescued by Peggy.

With Bob, what you see was what you got; no discussion needed. Ewan was a much more complex character, charming and abrasive, admirable and aloof. Why else would so many written and spoken discussions have taken place trying to arrive at his correct place in folk music history and in the order of things?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 08:31 AM

I saw Alex Campbell at his peak and I saw him give a fabulous nights entertainment at a Folk Club, MacColl was also a very good performer, and Always in my experience presented his material well.he was the personification of professionalism when he was on on stage, off stage he could be boorish rude surly arrogant and also courteous and helpful
   as for your remarks about Alex Campbell, well a well known travelling traditional singer did the same thing on one occasion at a club in london, so this was not anything that was unique to Alex or revival singers.
There is no vendetta, Just a desire to get a fair perspective, I do not agree with Shirleys comment about a pernicious influence on folk music[ his legacy of songs are superb and add immensely to the folk reperetoire] neither am I prepared to accept your opposite picture because I had my own experiences with him which were contradictory [some were bad, some good].




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 08:42 AM

"Where is there discussion about the sort of person Bob Copper"
Bob was a respected figure as a singer and tradition bearer throughout his public life, fully acknowledged as such by every one who ever mentioned his name.
His books are, as far as I am concerned, essential reading for anybody wishing to come to terms with the background of our folk songs
Despite the amount of work MacColl did, not just as a singer, but as a theoretician on singing who devoted a large amount of time and effort developing a comprehensive approach to the theory and practice of traditional singing, even thirty years after his death it is virtually impossible to discuss his work without having first clambering over the shit-mountain carefully erected by mean-minded folkies.
In three threads about MacColl, the highest point reached seems to have been that MacColl once wrote a satirical song (half a century ago) about an entrepreneur of questionable repute who wanted to make the folk song movement part of the pop industry.
Some of the 'tributes' to MacColl to 'celebrate' his hundredth are scattered with small-minded snideswipes such as Ewan and Peggy "crowning themselves king and queen of the folk song movement".
If Robert Zimmermann received a minute fraction of the stick MacColl still receives thirty years after his death for changing his name, Bob Dylan would have been forgotten decades ago.
Small-minded begrudgery has prevented serious discussion on what I believe to be the most important body of work ever to have been carried out on the performance of folk song.
Personally, I have no interest in discussing MacColl as an individual - my memories of him are my memories and nothing is going to alter them very much.
When we conceived 'Freeborn Man' (Lyric FM programmes) we did so in order to discuss MacColl as a creative artist and his work with others - plenty of positive comments in the form of e-mails - harldy anything here.
"Mr MacColl, do you have any conversation that is not about yourself?"
Even Vic, whose contribution to the folk scene I admire, manages to throw in yet another MacColl yarn to prove what an arrogant bastard he was.
One of the points made by programme one was what a private person he was and how difficult it was to get him to talk about himself - Peggy made the point several times (she might be lying, of course).
That was my experience of him - he seldom spoke about himself as an individual.
His ideas on folk song were a different matter altogether, and that is what is missing from all these discussion.
"What did Jimmy Miller do in the war" seems to be the high point of most discussions about MacColl, which I find both sad and extremely frustration, especially considering the state of the revival, with it's Singa-longa Max, it's "near enough for folk" and it crib-sheet set of values.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 10:52 AM

"In three threads about MacColl, the highest point reached seems to have been that MacColl once wrote a satirical song (half a century ago) about an entrepreneur of questionable repute who wanted to make the folk song movement part of the pop industry"
    This Statement is inaccurate, there is plenty of praise for MacColl as a songwriter and as as a performer plus posts mentioning his courtesy
Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Jan 15 - 05:49 PM

In 1972, I met Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in a pub in what I remember to have been in North London (I know that might be vague). They were performing upstairs in an informal setting--really it was a combination performance, singalong, and open mic night (without the mics). They could not have been more gracious. If anyone knows the name of this place I would be grateful.
Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: RTim - PM
Date: 28 Mar 11 - 04:15 PM

Jim - Don't get me wrong, I loved his singing and he was a great influence on me when I started to sing solo, but I wondered about some of his motives over the years?

Tim Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle - PM
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 09:00 AM

Well I've always thought ewan was a brilliant bloke, and you only had to chat to someone like Ian Campbell to gain an idea of the high regard he was held in, by those who knew him well.

I shouldn't worry too much about the negative anecdotes, Jim. His achievements speak for themselves. i can appreciate it might be hurtful - people who barely met him, like myself giving our three pennyworth. But its a bit like having met Elvis - people want to know about the experience. And I suppose some people spice up the stories to give them more impact. ( I mean seriously - a fight between Ewan and Davenport, neither of them looked as though they could make it twice round round the park, without taking a rest.)

I used to do a gig at a pub called The drill Hall Vaults in Salford. I introduced Dirty Old Town - saying it had been written about salford. Several people in the pub were quite surprised to hear that. Further amazement when I said I had met the chap who wrote it.

Thats the nature of fame and recognition - you can't really tell which way the firework will go off. At least Ewan never had one of his songs on a compilation cd called 'Complete Shit of the 80's' - which happened to one of my songs.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 10:54 AM

even thirty years after his death it is virtually impossible to discuss his work without having first clambering over the shit-mountain carefully erected by mean-minded folkies.

What I was trying to do in that post, Jim, and I what I believe others were also doing in theirs was to try to construct a balanced view of the man. The post calls for first-hand anecdotes and the variety of these in this thread are enough to suggest that we are dealing with a complex man. You write, "Personally, I have no interest in discussing MacColl as an individual," but those impressions are all valid in compiling an accurate picture, If we want to talk about a person's legacy than how they related to others is an important part of that.

Nowhere in this thread does anyone suggest that Ewan was anything but a truly creative artist with a wide range of abilities and that he was a remarkable songwriter. He continues to inspire very moving performances of his songs. Just have a look at this BBC video filmed a couple of days ago. Go 4 mins 10 secs into it and hear Norma Waterson singing The Moving On Song accompanied by Eliza and Martin. It is exquisite, a remarkable understated performance.

So there is a wide concurrence of opinion on his abilities as a songwriter but there is much less agreement on the importance of The Critics' Group. Certainly, there has been no attempts to emulate the group in the decades since it broke up though traditional song workshops have proliferated. Vic Gammon wrote "...ultimately the Critics Group became a blind alley." Shirley Collins said "His influence now? Things have opened up. Nobody has to listen to what other people are saying. People are going their own way. That's the way it should be." When I was interviewing a prominent ex-member of the group I started on a question about the group and I was interrupted with "Aaaarrgh! No more gurus!" On the other hand there are those who have found it an enduring life enhancing experience and clearly you are one of those.

This is not creating a shit-mountain, Jim, it is called seeking a rounded view. It is what a gathering of critics might do when discussing the importance of a prominent person but your comments seem to suggest that no balancing negative view is valid.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 11:17 AM

hmm,,,,,,

its funny having your words set down before you, i certainly didn't think they would be preserved for posterity....still.

i will try and explain my thoughts, which = please believe me Jim are not fuelled by malice, just curiosity.

I love attending Alan Bell's seminars on songwriting. i think he's a good songwriter, and you gain from every minute spent in his presence.
At the start of the seminar - we all had to talk about ourselves and our experiences of songwriting.
when it came to my turn , i explained that Ewan and Peggy had been the very first people to validate my ambitions with kindness, encouragement and by publishing one very early effort.

Alan looked at me thoughtfully and said, well if that was your experience of the man - that is how you must tell it...
you just felt he could have said a ton. just a feeling....




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 11:21 AM

No rounded view Vic - unless you can point me to where MacColl's work has been discussed - here or anywhere
Plenty of lip service and even more spiteful stories, to which you have just added
One of the last things that MacColl or the Critics group ever advocated was "emulation" - far too much of that already with the Carthy clones and the Joanie soundalikes
Goes to show just how much MaColl's ideas have been considered that you can suggest that this was one of his intentions.
"No more Gurus"
The Critics Group broke up somewhat acrimoniously and many (not all) of the views expressed after the break-up reflect that acrimony
Very different from the attitude of the members right up to the break-up as can be heard on the recordings of the meeting
There were no bars on the windows of 35 Stanley Avenue so they could have left at any time - I seem to remember that the member you quoted was one of the first to join and the last to leave.
Shit mountain it is, as far as I'm concerned, as sadly, you've just added another strata.
Can't respond to your clip - the Beeb doesn't allow us to listen to their output over here.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 12:05 PM

Warning. Jim do not read this it is in response to Good Soldier Schweik.

Dick I don't know when you first met Ewan but he seemed to be quite fit and able to me back around 1960. I once saw Ewan and Dominic Behan get into during a club session at the Ballads and Blues Club at the Horse Shoes in Tottenham Court Road. Dominic had cast aspersions at Alan Lomax's collecting methods in Ireland and Ewan didn't like that. They had to be seperated by club organiser Malcolm Nixon. So the story which you find hard to believe could well be true.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 12:09 PM

"No rounded view Vic - unless you can point me to where MacColl's work has been discussed - here or anywhere"
it has been discussed on this thread, go back and read. I discussed his song writing comparing him to Guthrie, MENTIONING HIS FINE WORK ON THE RADIO BALLADS.for god sake get rid of the chip on your shoulder.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 01:01 PM

"Warning. Jim do not read this it is in response to Good Soldier Schweik."
Why on earth should I not read it - I'm quite aware of the story?
I'm also ware of the story of Bob Davenport wrecking Ewan and Bert's attempts to bring some sort of Unity to the revival, which you chose ot to respond to.
Mind you - I do tend to give anything to do with Dick as wide a berth as possible of late - perhaps that's what you meant?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 01:30 PM

Hooteannany, I do not know what you are taking about, when have i made a comment about finding a a story hard to be true, i think you are confusing me with someone else.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Jerome Clark
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 01:47 PM

As one who has no skin in this game, I've followed this sometimes overheated thread with interest. As an American I know of MacColl only from reading about him and listening his songs over the years. Many of those songs are, as nearly everybody would agree, brilliantly constructed and profoundly moving, though I hope never to hear "The Ballad of Joe Stalin."

Clearly, as is the case with those possessed of strong personalities, experiences with such individuals may differ radically from one encounterer to the next. From one perspective the personalities of artists are worth discussing because those personalities are integral to who they were as artists. That's why biographies, intended for those who care more than passingly, are as much about the person as the art he or she created.

In that regard some of the private sins of Woody Guthrie, as documented in Ed Cray's 2004 biography, are surely graver than MacColl's personal idiosyncrasies. It's true that a hideous disease was eating at Guthrie's brain, affecting his behavior in occasionally appalling fashion. Even so, I recall putting down Cray's book with a feeling of great disquiet which it took me awhile to sort out. For a while I wondered if I'd be able to listen to Guthrie again.

Then finally, the obvious -- always slow to work its way through my cognitive faculties -- occurred to me: in the end it has to be about the songs. The rest is detail, however fascinating or illuminating or disturbing it may be to those who concerned about it. You don't have to know how a song could have come into the world in order to recognize its greatness. It doesn't please me to know that MacColl admired a monster, but that doesn't affect the awe I feel every time I hear "Shoals of Herring" or "The Terror Time" or any number of other MacColl creations.

Anyway, my view, worth exactly what you paid for it.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 29 Jan 15 - 02:04 PM

Jerome, exactly the point i made in an earlier post and i quotefrom my own earlier post, and i am still confused whyJim has to take exception to everything i say, here was the post one of several that praise Ewan
Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dick Miles - PM
Date: 27 Jan 15 - 01:33 PM

Jim, you should re read my posts.
n my opinion, Ewan was correct about trying to present his material well, I am not sure it is fair to describe his effect on Folk Music as pernicious, after all his songs and songwriting have added positively to the folk repertoire, even if his attempts to mould and help singers stylistically is open to criticism.
"I do admire MacColls professional approach to presentation,I see nothing wrong with presenting an act in a professional style, perhaps Ewan was not a very good actor, a good actor can vary their interpretation every time, he was an excellent songwriter, and I think his songs will live on, and his legacy will be the songs he has written."




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 31 Jan 15 - 01:31 PM

I am sure Ewan had the best of intentions when he was trying to help singers improve, and on the technical side and as regards improving technique I think he achieved this, so there were positives as well as negatives as regards the mettings of the Critics group.
I am guessing it was Ewan and Peggys influence that guided Luke Kelly towards certain repertoire, and in my opinion Luke Kelly was the quality singer with the Dubliners and introduced the most interesting songs to the Dubliners repertoire., maybe a spin off of Ewan and Peggys influence.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 31 Jan 15 - 04:24 PM

To GSS

Dick my apologies, looking at your posting again I see that you were probably quoting somebody else?

Anyway whoever it was I just wanted to point out that Ewan didn't appear to be incapable of getting it on when he felt like it.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 31 Jan 15 - 08:54 PM

yes, when he felt like it.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: C Stuart Cook
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 12:47 AM

I've posted on parts of the information contained in this article before. The little Hamlet on the top of Werneth Low, Hyde is country living far removed from the sort of life most would associate with Ewan. Itakes reference to why he adopted his Scots name and his discharge from the Army.

By Derek Pattison

Salford born folk singer and song- writer Ewan MacColl is remembered today more for his music than his agit-prop plays. But it was his political activities before the last war and his membership of the Communist Party that led to MI5 opening a file on him in the 1930s and why they kept him, and his friends, under close surveillance.

Secret service papers released by the national archives, now in Ashton-under-Lyne central library, offer a clue into how British intelligence (MI5) spied on working-class folk singer Ewan MacColl and his wife playwright, Joan Littlewood, who lived at Oak Cottage on Higham Lane, Hyde, Cheshire, during World War II.

MI5 opened a file on James Henry Miller (MacColl's real name) in the early 1930s when he was living in Salford. As an active Communist Party member, he had been involved in the unemployed workers' campaigns and in the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. Before enlisting in the army in July 1940, he had written for the radio programme Children's Hour.

In Joan Littlewood's autobiography, she writes: "Jimmie was registered at the Labour Exchange as a motor mechanic, but he did better busking, singing Hebridean songs to cinema queues. Someone drew Archie Harding's attention to him and from that time on he appeared in the North Region's features (BBC) whenever a 'proletarian' voice was needed."

As a BBC presenter for Children's Hour and Communist Party member, Littlewood also came under the watch of MI5. A letter in the file, marked 'SECRET' (dated March 1939) and sent to W.H. Smith Esq., the Chief Constable for Hyde, tells him that Miller – known to the writer to be a Communist Party member – had taken a house in Hyde. The letter informs him that Miller works for the BBC in Manchester and that his wife, Joan Miller – another communist – broadcasts under the name 'Joan Littlewood' and is "said to be 'Aunty Muriel' of Children's Hour." The writer Sir Vernon Kell ended by asking the Chief Constable for Miller's address and asked if Miller followed any other profession other than broadcasting.

Colonel Sir Vernon Kell, also known as 'K', was the head of MI5. An officer of the old school, Kell had served in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and was appointed first director of MI5 in 1909.

'Communist looking Jews'

Writing about the spy Kim Philby, Seale & McConville say that Kell was the 'antithesis of the terror-wielding secret police chief of public imagination'. As a public servant, he was renowned for his sense of duty, tact and discretion and 'used his wide powers with notable restraint.' By all accounts, MI5 in 1940 was an antiquated organisation led by middle-aged men who, while adept at keeping so-called subversives under surveillance, had little understanding of the ideas that motivated communists of Philby's generation.

At the outbreak of World War II, it seems that under Kell's leadership, MI5 was unable to cope with the mass of information about German agents in Britain and the 'spy-mania' that was a feature of British life at the time. Consequently, Kell was retired by Winston Churchill in 1941.

A letter in the file concerning Joan Littlewood is signed Major Maxwell Knight. Charles Maxwell Knight held right-wing views and after his Royal Navy service he worked for the Economic League. In 1924, he joined the British Fascisti, an organisation set up to counter the power of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions. This body put him in charge of compiling dossiers on 'political subversives', counter espionage, and establishing fascist cells in the trade union movement. In 1925, Kell recruited Knight to work for MI5.

A report in the file by Inspector J.E. Robinson, also marked 'SECRET' and dated April 1939' tells the Chief Constable of Hyde that Miller lives with his parents and wife at Oak Cottage. Explaining that the BBC does not permanently employ Miller, the Inspector adds:

"He (Miller) does not appear to follow any fixed occupation beyond writing articles for such periodicals as may care to publish them. I understand that such publications are rare."

He concludes by saying Miller and Littlewood seem to have no known association with communists in Hyde, but "at weekends, and more particularly when Miller's parents are away from home, a number of young men who have the appearance of communist Jews are known to visit Oak Cottage. It is thought they come from Manchester.

In September 1939 there is more correspondence between Kell and the Chief Constables of Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne and Cheshire. It seems Miller and other communist suspects had got work at Messrs Kenyon Ltd in Dukinfield.

Writing to the Hyde Chief Constable, Kell asks about William Redmond Morres Belcher – a worker at Kenyon's – who, he says, has fought in Spain in the International Brigades. Admitting that he has no proof that Belcher is a Communist Party member, he adds: "his sympathies are very much to the left." Naming three more workers at Kenyon's: W.Sharples, R.C.Dyson and Miss B. Nash, he again admits he has no proof they are communists, but "Sharples may be identical with a man of that name who visited the USSR in August 1932." The Chief Constable is asked to "make some inquiries…and let me know what you discover."

The employment of Miller and his associates at Kenyon's in Dukinfield did cause MI5 some anxiety as the firm had government contracts. It was feared the group might foment industrial unrest and in a letter dated September 1939, to Major J. Becke, Chief Constable of Cheshire, Colonel Kell wrote:

"I agree with you that the employment of these men at Messrs Kenyon's appears to be most unusual and would be grateful if you would let me have any further information which may come to your knowledge."

Special Branch Surveillance

Belcher, a mechanical engineer, had been employed to fit blinds to comply with government lighting restrictions. He then used his influence to get jobs for his friends without consulting the Directors. A memo dated September 1939, says:

"Messrs Kenyon's are anxious as to whether Belcher and his associates have any connection with the IRA. I told him (Percy Kenyon), I was unable to give him any information as regards that."

A Special Branch agent report, dated October 1939, to the Hyde Chief Constable, says that Belcher, his wife Aileen, Robert Dyson, William Sharples and Miss Beryl Nash, had all been resident at Oak Cottage while that house was under surveillance.

This report says they were all active Communist Party members and members of the 'Theatre Union, an agitprop drama group that toured industrial areas of Britain'. This agent says:

"I have been able to listen to their conversations during the evening at Oak Cottage but I have not heard anything regarding communism or other political views."

He informs the Chief Constable that Miller is a communist "with very extreme views and I think that special attention should be given to him."

Apart from surveillance of this kind by Special Branch agents, the file has details of telephone taps and of intercepted letters. A memo, dated September 1943, to Colonel Allan of the GPO states: "Would you kindly let me have a return of correspondence for the next two weeks on the following address – Oak Cottage, Higham Lane, Hyde, Cheshire."

Other memos show that bodies such as the Central National Registration Office and Passport Office were supplying information to MI5. Frequently, people who knew Miller and Littlewood, were contacted directly by the police or vice versa.

Alison Bayley, who'd been at RADA (drama school) with Littlewood, stopped Littlewood in the street one day and asked her if she'd time for a coffee. Littlewood describes this meeting in her autobiography: "I hadn't seen her since joining 'Theatre of Action'. 'Old times Chat?' I asked." Alison Bayley then told Littlewood: "I've denounced you to the Police. About you being a communist." Though Littlewood assured her that the police already knew she was a Communist Party member, Bayley told her: "I felt I had to tell them, Littlewood."

Blacklisted by the BBC

One irate middle-class father from Withington wrote to the police in May 1940, demanding that the Millers be sacked from the BBC and interned. His 18-year-old son (Graham Banks) a "fine specimen of English boyhood with good morals and ideals and a brilliant future" had, he explained, fallen into the clutches of the Millers who had induced him to leave home. Mr Banks added: "His poor mother is frantic with grief and if it should be within your province to either return him to us or else to intern him along with the others taking part in these pernicious plays, I hope you will do so."

MI5 intervention led to the BBC blacklisting Miller and Littlewood. Littlewood had already been banned from working in Sheffield because she'd broadcast criticism of local housing conditions. Other memos reveal links between MI5 agents and BBC staff. In a memo, dated October 1939, a MI5 officer says: "I do not understand why the BBC continues to use them. Could they be warned to drop them if other people are available?"

Another memo states: "We asked the BBC to hold them (the programme) up while we obtained this file and unfortunately their (the Millers') programme for the 11th October 1939 was about to be cancelled. Mr. Nicholls (Controller of Programmes), informed me that there was a possibility that the Manchester Guardian would publicise the matter and questions would be asked in the House of Commons. I said I would raise no objections to the broadcast of 11/10/39 but would get in touch with the BBC again."

Though the BBC had announced in March 1941 that persons who had taken part in public agitation against the war effort would not be allowed access to the microphone, the BBC stated:"Beyond this one limit the Corporation is jealous to preserve British broadcasting as an instrument of freedom and democracy."

The real reason for the ban on Miller and Littlewood is made clear in a memo dated April 1941 from Mr. Coatman, North Regional Director for the BBC. He points out that Mrs. Miller (Littlewood) and her husband were not only well known communists but were active communists. Mr. Coatman says:

"It must be remembered that Miss Littlewood and her husband were concerned chiefly with programmes in which they were brought into continuous and intimate contact with large numbers of working class people all over the North Region. Clearly I could not allow people like this to have use of the microphone or be prominently identified with the BBC. I therefore urge that the ban on Miss Littlewood as a broadcaster be allowed to stand."

In her autobiography, Joan Littlewood says that following the BBC ban, Miller and herself wrote to L.C. Knight of the National Council of Civil Liberties who promised to investigate but never contacted them again. She writes: "We offered our story to the newspapers they didn't publish it, not even the Daily Worker."

After being called up in July 1940, Private James H. Miller was placed on the 'Special Observation List' "to see whether he is trying to carry on propaganda." He was declared a deserter on 18th December 1940 and remained AWOL for the rest of the war. In this period he changed his name to Ewan MacColl. Military reports suggest he was popular with his fellow soldiers and exerted influence over them owing to his greater intelligence. He was a member of the Regimental Concert Party and produced 'several songs and skits'. One of his songs was a particular favourite with the men:

"The medical inspection boy's is just a bleedin' farce. He gropes around your penis and noses up your arse. For even a Private's privates, enjoy no privacy, you sacrifice all that to save democracy. Oh, I was browned off, browned off, as could be."

While the song was popular with the ordinary soldiers it seems the military top brass had their suspicions. A note in the file says the song was of the normal barrack room type and didn't appear to his CO to be subversive but "he is now inclined to think that it was rather subtle propaganda, the theme being generally disparaging to life as a private soldier and enlarging upon the fact that the discipline and alleged discomforts, to which he is subjected, although nominally in the cause of democracy, were really for the benefit of some supposedly superior class."

MI5 and Censorship

After the war, Miller was arrested for desertion. He spent the first night of his captivity in Middlesbrough police station and was then taken to an army detention barracks at Northallerton. Later he was transferred to the Northfield Military Hospital in Birmingham where he was diagnosed as suffering from epilepsy. A psychiatrist diagnosed him to have a 'paranoid personality with strong oedipal tendencies.' The result of his psychiatric report led to the cancellation of his court martial on medical grounds and he was discharged from the army.

In her autobiography 'Joan's Book', Littlewood speaks openly about being blacklisted by the BBC and about MacColl's (Miller's) desertion. She says he changed his name to MacColl 'as a precaution' while on the run as a deserter. However, none of this is mentioned in MacColl's autobiography (Journeyman), which contains many gaps and omissions about his life.

Both Littlewood and MacColl played a cat and mouse game with the authorities. They were certainly aware the police were reading their letters: "Jimmie wrote to me every day, mostly jokes and nostalgia. So were mine to him. It must have been disappointing for the police who were opening them all." They knew the police were keeping tabs on them, because so many of their friends and acquaintances were approached by the police.

Nothing can be found in the MI5 file to suggest Littlewood and MacColl were in the pay of Moscow (Nazi Germany and the USSR were allies from 1939 to June 1941). Yet a memo, dated April 1942, shows Littlewood had contact with Emile Burns, who was boss of propaganda at the Communist Party Headquarters in London.

Clearly, MI5 monitored their theatrical work and activities because they feared that as proselytising communists, their work could influence and politicise the working-classes. One of their plays, 'Last Edition', performed by the Theatre Union, was described as 'thinly veiled' communist propaganda' and MI5 boss Colonel Kell used his influence to urge local councils to refuse them performance licenses in the same way as MI5 prevented them working for the BBC.

Joan Littlewood died in September 2002, aged 87. She has been described as a 'subversive genius' who broke the mould of British drama. She was best known for her work 'Oh What a Lovely War' and for establishing, with others, the Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal in East London. Ewan MacColl died in 1989 aged 74. He is now remembered more as a songwriter than an agit-prop playwright. His songs include 'Dirty Old Town', the 'Manchester Rambler' and 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' made famous by the singer Roberta Flack in the 1970s.

This article was originally published in Northern Voices issue 7, 2007


Related
Fascism and anti-fascism in 1930s Manchester
In "Anti-Fascism"
Ruth & Eddie Frow and the Working Class Movement Library
In "Communism"
Mary and Percy Higgins: Communists in Tameside
In "Anti-Nuclear"




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 01:20 AM

Thanks for that Stuart - fascinating reading
My father got one of tse when he came back from Spain (wounded) and was blacklisted from work as a 'premature anti-fascist.

"Ewan didn't appear to be incapable of getting it on when he felt like it." "yes, when he felt like it."
As did people like Bob Davenport when he wrecked MacColl and Lloyd's attempts to persuade the British folk clubs to work together, and John Brune, when he tried to wreck the first radio programme to ever give the Travellers a public voice, but we don't talk about those, do we?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 05:03 AM

well to be fair Jim, Ewan is a lot bigger name. people want to know about artists - particularly young people who are finding their own way as artists and need to know about their role models.

certainly i wish i'd known more about my heroes and the prices they paid for their achievements.

i think i should have thought more carefully.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 06:13 AM

Jim Carroll on Stuart Cook's post
"Thanks for that Stuart - fascinating reading."

I'd like to second that but add 'very frightening' to the 'fascinating'. One sentence did give me a good laugh though:-

A psychiatrist diagnosed him to have a 'paranoid personality with strong oedipal tendencies.'

The shrink must either have been looking for a way of getting MacColl out of a very difficult situation or have been suffering from a serious personality disorder himself.

.... and why frightening? Well how about Littlewood had already been banned from working in Sheffield because she'd broadcast criticism of local housing conditions. for starters.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 06:45 AM

Jim,
"but we don't talk about those do we". The subject of the original post was Ewan MacColl. First hand trivial anecdotes.

I didn't know John Brune. I have seen Bob Davenport several times over many years and usually enjoyed his singing. I don't have any trivial anecdotes about them that would be relevant to a thread on Ewan.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 07:12 AM

Vic. Frightening because the Northern Voices piece piece shows just how little the security authorities understand the people they are supposed to be surveilling. I won't go into the details here, but I too have been the victim of the same kind of Policeman Plod thinking.

BTW, I was tickled by the piece about "One irate middle-class father from Withington wrote to the police in May 1940, demanding that the Millers be sacked from the BBC". It's not of the same order by any means, but I once worked as a butcher's delivery boy, and one of the houses I used to deliver to belonged to a frightful old harridan from the days when the lower orders were expected to know their places in life and where their forelocks were.

The first time I called she kicked up an unbelievable fuss about the fact that I had knocked at the front door, rather than using the tradesman's entrance. "Go round the back in future."

The following week I delivered a parcel of offal for her dog and, being me, deliberately 'forgot' to use the tradesman's entrance. That set her off again, but not as much as the fact that I'd delivered the parcel of offal she'd ordered. "I don't want them. I've been told that they're bad for dogs, so you can just take them back."

She came into the shop a few days later, complaining to the manager. "That new delivery boy you've got. I want him sacked." When the manager asked why she replied, "He's surly."

Hey ho. No wonder I love the radio ballads.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 01 Feb 15 - 08:43 AM

well. yes, you do talk about John Brune , jim and YOU regularly mention bob davenport, on several occasions on this forum I have been trying to be positive about Ewan and mention HIS GOOD POINTS AND HIS TALENTS, you dredge up stuff about Davenport or Brune.
THIS STUFF IS OFTEN IRRELEVANT THEN YOU WHINGE ON ABOUT SHIT MOUNTAINS.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,vectis sans cookie
Date: 02 Feb 15 - 05:51 PM

There was a tribute to Ewan at Auckland Folk Festival at the end of January. They sang the songs he wrote extremely well but, strangely, none of them had ever met the man.

I went to the Singers Club a few times between '72 and '75 but can't remember the venue, an upstairs room as I recall. The only songs I knew from my home county were contemporary so I sang them. One of them was 'The Breathalyser' by Laurie Say. Ewan asked for the song at the break and I said no, 'because that is my tradition not yours'. He took it with a bark of laughter and a 'well said'. Peggy reckoned not many refused him.

About 1974/5 A motorcycling friend invited me to go to a party with her as she thought it would be my cup of tea. She picked me up and we went in her Mum's car to ha suburban house. I was gobsmacked when I met my host and hostess for the evening, Ewan and Peggy, who remembered me from the club. A great evening of chat, argument and a few songs. I went back a few times and , coming from a staunch Tory county, I can honestly claim that Ewan subverted and tried to radicalise me to the far left; I met him somewhere left of centre in the end.

He did say that when he met Peggy the first thing he noticed was that her neck needed a wash 'typical student'.

They were both unfailingly polite, helpful and very encouraging to an extremely shy and gauche young student who had just started singing out and had moved from the country to South London.

As a young teacher I phoned Peggy one evening to ask for some lyrics as I wanted a song for an assembly. She asked me if the hall had a record player, it had, and two days later a vinyl LP arrived with the song on it. I still have the record and it is cherished.

I met Peggy a few years ago at Whitby and she still remembered me almost 40 years later. I was so chuffed.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 02 Feb 15 - 09:03 PM

Vectis, that sounds about right.I know other people who found them very helpful




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe_F
Date: 02 Feb 15 - 09:22 PM

In 1958-9 I was in Scotland on a Fulbright, and on vacation in London I went to a meeting of the Ballads & Blues Society, at which somebody who must have been Ewan MacColl (I didn't know him from Adam at the time) sang, and the audience clamored for The Second Front Song, and he sang that. I wanted to learn it, but that was not so easy then as it is now, and it was several years before I managed to record the song off the radio in California. Later on in the '60s I accumulated some LPs, and in 1983, when he, Peggy, & Calum performed in Cambridge, MA, I bought everything on the table. When, in 1993, I encountered the estimable Abby Sale on rec.music.folk, we turned out to have extensive but disjoint collection, and we furiously exchanged tapes.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 03 Feb 15 - 05:57 AM

Hootenanny -
" I have seen Bob Davenport several times over many years and usually enjoyed his singing."
Well, substitute many for several and that could be me speaking. I also find the man's company very pleasant and have always regarded him as a charming bloke - strong opinions, but then that could be said of many of us. However, I am prepared to listen to the opinion of others that at times he could be awkward, argumentative and truculent. Bob is a human being and therefore not perfect.
I do find it strange that if any form of criticism or negative statement about the central figure of this thread is made, an opinion from a certain quarter says that these people are contributing to a huge structure of ordure whilst from the same source we get statements about Bob Davenport that are derogatory. For example, he is accused that he wrecked MacColl and Lloyd's attempts to persuade the British folk clubs to work together. At the very least this statement is questionable and hardly logical. One man opposed the formation of a federation and therefore it did not happen?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 03 Feb 15 - 06:43 AM

you see what i mean Jim. all this stuff about being delightful company......

hmmm....makes him sound like John Major.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 03 Feb 15 - 06:49 AM

John Major was a cricket nerd and a serial philanderer, not one of Ewans faults




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 03 Feb 15 - 06:50 AM

major bowled at least one maiden over namely edwina currie




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 03 Feb 15 - 07:28 AM

Edwina Currie wasn't a maiden. Not much of a lady either.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 04:27 AM

"At the very least this statement is questionable and hardly logical."
And on record
We have a recrdijg of The John Snow meeting i which Davenport shouted down all the speakers from the floor plus Lloyd ad MacColl, who had organised the meeting to attempt to bring some semblance of agreement to the folk scene
The meeting broke up in chaos when Davenport said, in reply to a speaker from the floor, that Jeannie Robertson was a terrible singer.
Only "questionable" to the apologists who wish to ignore or excuse that sort of behaviour - or call my a liar, of course - everything's possible in today's revival, it would appear
Our last experience of Bob was at The Musical Traditions club in London
The guests for the night wee Roisín White and a fine, highly skilled singer from The Aran Islands, Theresé Mullane
Theresé sang all her songs in Irish, and was thoughtful enough to give a short and helpful explanation of each one.
We were unfortunate enough to be sitting in the row in front of 'good ol' Bob', who, during the introductions, spoke loudly and pointedly over each one.
After the third time of it happening, Pat, somewhat pissed off, turned around and asked him to be quiet.
The reply was, "I came hear to listen to singing, not ****** talking - I thought we'd left this shit behind back in the 1960s"
She was later thanked by several people in the audience for having managed to shut him up.
In all the twenty years I knew MacColl. I never once saw him behave with such contempt towards either fellow-performers or audience - but that's me.
Would welcome comments on that sort of behaviour rather than urban legends, Chinese whispers and speculation of why a psychiatrist should collude to keep MacColl out of the Army in order to defame somebody on his 100th birthday, who, as Peggy once wrote in The Living Tradition, "Isn't around to defend himself any more"




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 05:03 AM

"In all the twenty years I knew MacColl. I never once saw him behave with such contempt towards either fellow-performers or audience"   Correct, MacColl had faults , but when he was on stage he was always professional, in fact as performer and presenter he was a good role model, I have in the past mentioned criticism from Lou Killen of MacColl, but that criticism in my opinion was not intended to mean he was not a good singer,he was , but that he lacked spontanaeity in interpretation, in my opinion a valid point.and in my opinion meant as a minor criticism
but since you have called me a talentless moron, I doubt if you will take it on board.
off stage, he could be rather like you, Here is an example.
IN 1969 OR 1970,I went to Farningham folk club to hear MacColl and Seeger,I paid to get in and listened to the first half, at the break they had a table selling their recordings etc. I approached MacColl as a customer and attempted to buy a recording of Mike and Peggy Seeger. he said to me, oh you like that kind of stuff do you? his manner was boorish and sarcastic and patronising, my reaction was to think who is this pompous ill mannered, old fart, I left their gig and made a mental note to avoid ever going to the singers club. I went back to Farningham many times first as a floor singer and then later as a booked performer, the atmosphere was friendly and the standard of resident singers was high.
By contrast, ALTHOUGH I hve only met him a few times I have always found Bob Davenport polite.they are two very different types of performers but each in their own way good.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 05:44 AM

Sounds very "boorish and sarcastic" Dick - sounds more like one of Ewan's attempts at humour to me - obviously totally wasted on soemoene with such a keen sense-of-huumour as yours.
Do you honestly expect anybody to believe that he would seriously publicly make a detrimental comment on his wife's and his brother-in-law's singing - apart from your good self, that is?
Thanks for giving us a representative sample of the level of personal attack on MacColl some thirty years after his death - must have been a really awesome individual to make them still necessary!!
No comment of Davenport's behaviour then - of cousre not p- why would I expect one?
"but each in their own way good."
Praise from a master of the craft!!
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 06:31 AM

MacColls performances in my opinion was an act, well presented and well prepared.
MacColl was making an attack on the fact that I preferred an LP of American Folk Music to uk trad music or any of his own material that he was singing that particular night.
When Shirley Collins described a similiar exchange that she had, it was quite similiar to my conversation wth MacColl.
I am not a liar and neither is Shirley Collins.
you on the other hand have called me a talentless moron and now are suggesting that i am a liar, you appear to have got some religious fervour about MacColl., which appears to blind you anybody else making a reasoned critique.
I on the other hand am prepared to say what a good songwriter, how well presented and professional were his performances but that like most of us he had faults, anyone can see which is the most believable portrayal.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 06:48 AM

"MacColl was making an attack on the fact that I preferred an LP of American Folk Music"
No it wasn't - Ewan spent his life working alongside a singer of American folksongs and of all Peggy's family, he had an enoromous respect for Mike, who was a guest of The Singer's Club several times.
When we joined the Critics Group we were given a list of source singers to listen to - high on that list were Sara Ogan Gunning, Dillard Chandler, and Texas Gladden - among the best examples of traditional singers as there are available.
Your claim is little more than a spiteful summing up of a joke - typical of the snide attacks of MacColl
I don't claim you to be a liar - you say little worth such a response - your being a talentless moron is self-evident when you descend to the level you often do with your smears and your threats of violence
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 06:59 AM

Why would i comment on Davenports behaviour, this thread "is any first hand anecdotes about MacColl", I have given a first hand anecdote, you dont like it and start throwing your toys out of the pram., whats new.
I   was not present on the occasions and take no notice of irrelevant gossip by others you or otherwise, this thread is about MacColl not about Nixon or Davenport or alex campbell., YOUR ATTEMPTS TO DRAG THEM INTO THIS THREAD ARE TRANSPARENT THEY ARE ATTEMPTS TO DIVErT THE CONVERSATION AWAY FROM MacColl,blatant re herrings and attempts to muddy the waters.
I do believe Shirley Collins, I have met her and got the impression she was honest.
I am not in the habit of telling lies or making up anecdotes.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 07:06 AM

"Your claim is little more than a spiteful summing up of a joke - typical of the snide attacks of MacColl"
you were not there, were you? your interpretation it was a a joke. well you would say that wouldnt you?
I am not spiteful about MacColl,I am being truthful, I related a fist hand anecdote
I have repeatedly pointed out what a good songwriter he was and how professional he was as a performer.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 07:08 AM

I realise that this is rather pointless, that it is foolish to argue with a person whose dogmatic views are impossible to shift, but for the sake of honesty and obtaining an objective view, may I point out that the views expressed at 06 Feb 15 - 04:27 AM are just one interpretation of the meeting and that a contemporary report of that meeting was posted on this thread as long ago (God help us!) as 06 Feb 11 - 08:54 AM under the title Time For A Truce Ha! Some Hope!

Two important quotations from that article:-
The real point about MacColl and Davenport is that they are not contradictory, they are complementary.

and

But the time has come for calling a truce.   What unites us is more important than what divides us.   What we can learn from you, whoever you are, is probably greater than what you can learn from us.   The real enemy is the mass media, which will try to kill folk and popular culture, and if they cannot kill it they will emasculate it, and if they cannot emasculate it, they will pervert it,   and if they cannot pervert it they will feed on it.


The appeal from the unknown reviewer is heartfelt. `He/She would like to see these two important figures combining their talents for the benefit of traditional song. This did not happen. In the end the approach typified by both Bob & Ewan seemed to be incompatible and both are to blame for the negative effect that this had on the development of the folk scene. Both share the blame for being intransigent and unbending. What we are seeing here is an attempt to re-write history and to say that all the blame lies on one side.

Lastly, I hope, I posed the question One man opposed the formation of a federation and therefore it did not happen? was not met with an attempt to answer the question but with a repetition, heard before on Mudcat, of a one sided account of Bob's misbehaviour. I have to ask, 'Was that enough to stop MacColl & Lloyd forming a federation without Davenport?'
As it happened, within two years of the meeting under discussion the British Federation of Folk Clubs - BFFC was founded and I was an early member. The first chairman was Dave Campbell, Ian Campbell's father. The agenda for their meetings did not have political or socio-political overtones, they were concerned with practical matters, with clubs sharing information, how to publicise events, organise local tours that would work. I got some very good ideas and a feeling of common good and support from them. Neither MacColl nor Davenport's ideas were prominent at the meetings.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 15 - 12:33 AM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 08:53 AM

"foolish to argue with a person whose dogmatic views are impossible to shift, "
My views are based on twenty years of working with MacColl and many more examining and putting into practice his ideas on singing - not in passing on second and third hand gossip Vic
I've spent the last year digitising, and indexing the 200-odd tapes of The Critics Group meetings, which show MacColl's developing ideas on folk song over a period of nearly 20 years - we used them in the two, hour-long programmes on his work in the hope somebody would respond to them - if only to disprove them - plenty of response from Ireland - nothing from the U.K. to date.
According to what was said at the John Snow meetings there was no basis for agreement between Davenport and MacColl nearly fifty years ago - Ewan was claiming folk song to be an art needing to be taken seriously - Davenport dismissed the idea as bourgeois nonsense, art being only for the educated classes.
The John Snow meeting was (deliberately, I believe) sabotaged by Davenport before it could reach any conclusion, let alone a plan of action.
Of the speakers at that meeting, Bert buried himself in his own performance work and his broadcasting, Campbell - well - Campbell continued to do what he did, and Davenport was still shouting those who didn't agree with him down thirty-odd years later.
MacColl went on to produce an unsurpassed body of work with newer singers - thirty years after his death that work remains undicussable because of the amount of trivial garbage surrounding it (which you have added to - well done!)
I was an admirer of Fred Dallas - still have all his magazines (now digitised) when we was making sense.
Up to around ten years ago we had a falling out over an article he wrote in The Living Tradition, where he was still ploutering around at the "Jimmy Miller" level of discussion - he had the grace to admit that MacColl's name change was as of littler significance as his own change from Fed Dallas to Karl - still an issue with you lot, it would appear.
Earlier in one of these discussions, Derek Schofield suggested that MacColl's work would find a welcome home at Cecil Sharp House
I thought - what a good idea, until I remembered who the President of EFDSS was (remind me of how Shirley Collins worded her summing up of Ewan's contribution to folk song in her 'tribute' to his 100th!!) - so I came to the conclusion 'why bother?'
We have had an unprecedentedly positive response to our two programmes here in Ireland - hopefully it will be more use here than over on your side.
If you wish to call me dogmatic, feel free - at least I am what I am on the basis of up-close experience and not on the stuff fit only for prurient gossip-columns
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 09:26 AM

I looked at the Mudcat site the other day & could find no trace of anything to do with EM. I have looked from time to time over the past (anniversary) period & quite frankly was delighted that it seemed hostilities had ceased.
Some hopes- I looked today and the acrimony and hostility is worse than ever.
Like Dick, I respect EM for the songs and for recognising so early the value of the tradition of these islands, and doing something about it.
I did meet EM a few times & attended a few of his singing workshops. I remember one in particular somewhere in Goodge Street. Anyway I never enjoyed the 'Singers' Club,' nor his singing nor particulaly his attitude to ordinary people- THIS IRONIC CONSIDERING HIS POLITICAL VIEWS! Most of his listeners in the 60s were desperate to learn from an alleged authority on the tradition, but many like me were bitterly disappointed. I won't expand on that as I have no intention of adding fuel to the flames.
However, I have known Bob Davenport for about 50 years now, and while I know as well as anyone that Bob has been hard work at times, his contribution to a totally different perception of the 'tradition' has been huge, and I bow to no-one in respect for the man.
I have been told that as a musician, I have an ability to 'get through' to a difficult audience, even of non-folkies- this stood me in good stead while playing in BARS (not folk clubs!) in West Cork for several years.
If that is so, I take it as a huge compliment, but I got SO much from Bob in that respect, as have so many others, that I cannot but take exception to the inherent acrimony in Mr Carroll's posts.
I think Vic Smith and Dick have made some very sensible and objective comments about all this- it's interesting to hear the historical stuff from the 50s and early 60s from folk older than me (there aren't many of them!) but surely it can be recognised that EM and BD are two major figures in the revival and leave it at that?
There is certainly no justification for the kind of scurrilous raking up of the past practised by Mr Carroll, who I believe is an intelligent man, and unless he really means to cause offence (?) it's time it all came to an end, it's not a war, we have enough of those. Just have a discussion if that's what you want, but spare us the rancour, please...
A good rule has always been that if you can't say something sensible, don't say anything at all, and if you can't do it without insulting people, the same rule applies to the Nth degree.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 09:48 AM

on weds 11 november 1987, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger did a concert at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester, admission 4 00 sterling, I did the support act for them.
after and between breaks of the concert we chatted for some considerable time back stage, the conversation was very interesting, I remember Peggy saying to me, how they went to the states and there were lots of song being written, but she was not aware of much in the ways of songs being written in the UK, I was astonished and mentioned Peter Bond and Bill Caddick JezLowe, she appeared to have never heard of Peter Bond or Bill Caddick or Jez.
they seemed to me out of touch with the uk folk scene, I realised why this was afterwards, they were busy doing gigs [generally without a support] and busy running the singers club, they did not appear to attend many folk festivals in the uk or go to many other clubs other than their own, i think they had unintentionally isolated themselves.   
Ewan was polite and complimented me on my singing, and he said to me that he could not do what I did, he would find it too lonely, being on the road on his own,He said that he did a bit in the early days before he was with Peggy, but generally he would be in the company of Bert Lloyd . They gave an excellent evenings entertainment,I remember someone from the audience requested Englands Motorways and as far as I recollect Ewan obliged.
Everything that I have said on this thread and in this post is the truth, I have the poster to prove it,[ in case Jim does not believe me again] I am not a liar.I have said many times on this forum, that i thought MacColl was a good songwriter and performer,
I have said that I think his legacy will be his songs, and that to say his influence is pernicious was incorrect, because his songs have been a wonderful addition to the folk repertoire, I do understand What Shirley was driving at which I think was a reference to his leadership of the critics group[ yes he was the leader, Jim]but even that had its good points, in my opinion mainly the improvement of singing technique., breathing exercises and the importance of presentation.
I do not think he sounded like a traditional singer, his singing was good but in my opinion it had little continuity to singers like Harry Cox




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 10:04 AM

"There is certainly no justification for the kind of scurrilous raking up of the past practised by Mr Carroll,"
For crying out loud Jim
Muckraking on MacColl dates back over half a century and continues thirty years after his death - how about a word on that?
I gave a description of good 'ol Bob's behaviour a few years ago, in this case towards a woman fellow performer - not a peep of protest - probably because she sn't a big enough superstar.
Personally I don't care who liked or disliked MacColl's singing, particularly from those who find behaviour like Bob's acceptable, or at the very least - unworthy of comment except to say that commenting on there is no justification in drawing attention to such behaviour - now, if it were MacColl, that would be a different matter altogether!!
You want to mend some fences - stop mud-snorkling i the middle of the twentieth.
JIm Carroll

   
]




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 10:05 AM

Whoops
Should read - twentieth century.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 10:42 AM

i shouldn't worry about Jim calling you a talentless moron. he's not a good judge of these things.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 11:09 AM

I gave a description of good 'ol Bob's behaviour a few years ago, in this case towards a woman fellow performer - not a peep of protest - probably because she sn't a big enough superstar"
no comment from me, because its not bloody relevant to the thread, this thread is about Ewan, it is not about Alex Campbell, Nixon, or Bob Davenport or John Brune.
I was not present at these events[thank god].
I am not commenting on anything that is not first hand, I have given 2 first hand anecdotes.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 11:32 AM

" because its not bloody relevant to the thread, this thread is about Ewan"
Yes it bloody well is when it comes to discussing Maccoll's contribution to the revival and the five decades of abuse he has received from people like Davenport.
You are quick enough to invent a scenario for MacColl having made a flippant remark on the singing of his artistic partner and her brother, yet you can't bring yourself around to even commenting on the behaviour of one of MacColl's most spiteful critics
The behaviour of all the others you listed also impinge on the part MacColl played in the revival - you have had their behaviour described and your onl;ly response to most of them is to leap on your chair and scream in outrage that anybody should criticise them.
You - like most others here, are suffering from a nasty dose of the double standards.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 03:29 PM

I have not invented any scenario,
you are the one who invented the scenario here and I quote from your post "Your claim is little more than a spiteful summing up of a joke - typical of the snide attacks of MacColl"
you have just invented a scenario.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:04 AM

"Your claim is little more than a spiteful summing up of a joke"
Is exactly what it it
I've given you MacColl's attitude to American singing
I've pointed out that he wold never attack the work of his wife and brother-in-law to a stranger in public
Of all prominent singers, MacColl hs done more to display the link between American and British songs and ballads (see 'The Long Harvest', 'Blood and Roses', 'Two Way Trip'......)
You chose to describe what was most certainly a joke on his part as being ", my reaction was to think who is a pompous, boorish, patronising ill mannered, old fart"   
That. as far as I am concerned, is as spiteful as it gets (though maybe not, considering the amount of grave-dancing that has gone on recently to celebrate is hundredth)
Yours is little more than run-of-the-mill spitefulness - fairly typical.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 05:35 AM

Jim, on occasions he was boorish pompous and patronising, that was my first hand experience, Shirley Collins also confirmed that, two people have had the same experience.
that does not alter the fact that he wrote some excellent songs and was a very professional performer., his contribution to the radio ballads was of the highest quality.
you continue to invent scenarios, his conversation with me was not meant as a joke, I was there you were not,I remember clearly how he talked, first hand experience Jim ,not one of your hero worshipping MacColl fantasies
at the time I knew nothing about the singers club and their policies, but his boorish remarks adressed to a 19 year old teenager, are bang in line with some of his other behaviour that has been confirmed by Shirley Collins, Peggys behaviour in the LongJohn Baldry incident is another one, which she now has the grace to admit was rude and ill mannered.
first hand anecdotes, of which I have related 2 ,one favourable to MacColl the other not, get over it Jim




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 07:14 AM

"Jim, on occasions he was boorish pompous and patronising,"
I never found him any of those things in all the time I knew him
You seem to speak with some authority on the subject - you once said way back that you met him once - it seems top have swelled a bit since then.
The conclusion of your nasty story is exactly, what .... that he did n't like American singing, that he didn't like Peggy or Mike's singing.... what's the point of it?
I really have no interest i your lip service to his abilities as either a singer or a songwriter, they are all accepted facts by enough people to be superfluous here - just lip-service.
My interest in MacColl is in the unique work he did with other singer, both in scope and in opening up new ideas of approach.
He spent ten years developing those ideas with less experienced singers while those who were telling nasty stories like yours were getting on with their careers - thirty years after his death, those same people are still telling those nasty stories, and still getting on with their careers it is that fact I find fascinating
Earlier on, I was linked to three British folk superstars singing a tribute to MacColl - a piece of schmaltz on par with that dreadful rendition of Eric Bogle's anti-war song in tribute to those who died in World War One, at the Albert Hall.... only this time, read from a crib-sheet - the tribute was so sincere that the singers hadn't even bothered to learn the song.
If this is representative of the singing of folk-song is in Britain today, a new approach such as that of MacColl's is very much needed yet, despite this, it is still necessary to clamber over a shit-mountain to discuss new ideas.
You want to discuss MacColl as an individual - fine, discuss him in context of the individuals he was surrounded by - Bob Davenport and his meeting-wrecking behaviour, John Brune's efforts to wreck a programme which helped change the laws concerning the living conditions of Britain's Travelling people.... and all those clever-clever stories, such as the folkie boast about managing to get slugs posted through the MacColl household's letter-box... all mind-stretching stuff and all here in one form or another, wheeled out for this 100th.
The man has been dead for three decades, yet his presence is still being felt - through people who listened to what he had to say and set up classes of their own, or though the albums of his singing still being issued, in some cases, half a century after they were recorded (a box set of four due out shortly)
If any of MacColl's snideswipers can come up with anything approaching a legacy of that sort, maybe their nasty stories and spurious claims might carry some weight - though even then, I doubt it).
These arguments are only of value as a reminder of what a somewhat unpleasant snake-pit some partsA of the British revival once was, and, in some cases, still is.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 07:40 AM

Jim you only succeed in digging yourself further into a big hole.
this thread is first hand anecdotes about MacColl, stick to the topic, it is not about alex campbell, nixon, davenport, brune, if you cant do that, do us a favour., and start a different thread call it scurrilous gossip about anyone who begged to differ with MacColl.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 07:45 AM

Alternatively a title that might please you, "only pleasant first hand anecdotes about my old friend MacColl"




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 07:56 AM

"only pleasant first hand anecdotes about my old friend MacColl"
Some would certainly be welcome, but I would settle for verified ones in context to the rest of the shit that was, and still is flying about Campbell, Nixon, Brune were all part of that shit-slinging.
THis thread is about MacColl - you are happy to join in the kicking match until you are pinned down to actually justifying your grave-dancing, at which point yopu squeal "thread-drift"
I askk again (but don' expect an answer)
"The conclusion of your nasty story is exactly, what .... that he didn't like American singing, that he didn't like Peggy or Mike's singing.... what's the point of it?"
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 10:47 AM

i'm very sorry to see two people who care about folk music scrapping like this. there should be a bond between you.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 10:56 AM

"there should be a bond between you."
Not without my going out to get myself a bulletproof vest Al - don't take well to threats of violence.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 11:11 AM

Dick wouldn't threaten you with violence. a misunderstanding surely.

you haven't threatened him, have you Dick?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 12:11 PM

For crying out loud! Can somebody stop all the pushing and shoving out there?

Yes, I daresay MacColl had his faults. I didn't know him that well, and I suspect that if I'd known him any better we wouldn't have got on. On the other hand, what creative genius didn't leave a whole pile of upset acolytes behind them? EG., Woody Guthrie, an alcoholic who stank to high heaven because he never washed, who ignored his wives and kids, and made life hell for all the other Almanacs because of his continual bickering and arguing. Does any of that detract from the brilliance of his song writing? Does it heck as like.

However, what I came here to say was this. MacColl was a pathfinder and a trailblazer. He didn't get everything right, in fact I can't think of a single aspect of his thinking that I don't disagree with to some greater or lesser extent - usually greater.

Nevertheless, it is the prerogative of great pioneers to get things wrong. That is because they gave us an intellectual base from which to move things along.

In MacColl's case, his theories can be summed up as consisting of two elements:-

1.       Modern society has deprived ordinary people of the means of artistic expression. In particular, in place of the folksongs, which our forebears sang, we are served up with a tissue of tin pan alley fluff, which effectively keeps the workers subdued and subservient.
2.       A reawakening of lower class musical tradition is essential to the formation of working class consciousness and identity, and therefore to the realisation of the socialist revolution.

A stark evocation like might to some people make MacColl sound like a bit of a crank, especially if they're unacquainted with Marxist theory. MacColl was anything but a crank and, for anyone interested in exploring further, they can check an article of mine at http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/heaney.htm#intro . It is completely non-critical, and was written to explain one small facet of MacColl's work. Nevertheless, there is little else that I can recommend and, if you read it you'll be at least as wise as I am.

To continue. I contend that, far from either of MacColl's ambitions being realised, we are now living in a world where the vast majority of mass media entertainment is dismissable as puerile pap; where working class consciousness is at an all time low ebb; where the banking crisis and other attendant ills of capitalism have knocked the stuffing out of everyone except the mega-super-stinking rich; where fascism and Islamophobia now stalk the length and breadth of Europe and where one fifth of the world's children will not live to see the age of five because of the greed of capitalism.

Meanwhile, instead of trying to apply the lessons of MacColl, we spend acres of cyberspace arguing over whether he was rude or arrogant or egotistical or pompous or patronising, or whether he changed his name from Thingybob to Somebody Else.

You know what? I don't give a flunkey's muck. Remind me that Tchaikovsky was a closet homosexual, who used to cruise rent boys around the streets of Moscow, and I'll remind you of the beauty and passion which permeates his music.

What does concern me is that, in trying to breach the cultural and sociological impasse in which we now find ourselves, might there be some little spark or sparks of wisdom in MacColl's thinking that we could learn from and which we could use to fight the very dilemmas which he himself tried to fight?

I believe those sparks are still there, and I believe that only by reasoned discussion and analysis can we hope to apply the lessons, which he sought to teach, to the present situation.

Anybody up for a reasoned discussion?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:17 PM

"you haven't threatened him, have you Dick?"
Yup - certainly did - warned more what would happen if I ever came to his side of the country.
"What does concern me is that it seems to be considered fair play by the pro-Ewan lobby to disparage those with whom he fell out in his lifetime, some of whom I do know."
Sorry Bryan - missed this earlier - was away in Dublin listening to excellent singing at a club run by excellent young singers all between the ages of 20 to thirty, most singing like old-masters; best night I've spent in a club for many, many years - all very heartening.
I really have no intention of 'disparaging' anybody who fell out with MacColl - so far, the flak has all been coming from the other direction - as ever.
Personally, I'm rather tired of the same old, same old stories, most of them unsubstantiated and virtually of them dating back several decades prior to Ewan's death thirty years ago.
I have pointed out the situation that has existed on the club scene from the very beginning by drawing attention to some of attitudes and actions of people I believe should have known better, and as far as I'm concerned, still should - I honestly believe the scene would have been far healthier than it now is had a degree of co-operation taken place between those in the position to make things happen, rather than the snide and backbiting which has become commonplace.
All water under the bridge now - I've never been interested in fighting battles on behalf of somebody who has been dead for thirty odd years - much more interested in finding out if the work we did in the Critics Group can be of use elsewhere
We have been left with a large number of recorded examples of unique work carried out on singing which, I believe, could be of value to people still interested in singing folk songs well.
The magnificent response we have had to the two programmes on MacColl, largely covering his philosophy and practical ideas on singing folk songs, has indicated that there is probably an interest in Ireland and virtually none in the U.K.
If that is the true situation, a pity, but fine by me.
Our West Clare collection of 400 + songs goes up on the Clare County Library website at the end of next month.
If they are interested and if nobody else is, we will ask them to take our entire rather large collection of field recordings of singing, storytelling and interviews, along with the lectures and radio programmes, etc we have amassed, and help us find a home for it, maybe by assisting in setting up a traditional song and story study centre - we will also bequeath them our also rather large library of song, lore and social history.
Traditional music is thriving here at the present time, with thousands of youngsters taking it up and playing it, from well to magnificent, without being forced to compromise what they are playing to please the music or tourist industries - it seems that hardly a night passes without our being able to turn the television or radio on and find both entertaining and thoughtful programmes on the traditional arts - up to now, song has lagging edgetting improving (certainly, if last Sunday and Tuesday night is anything to go by).
Our County Library is playing a major part in the popularisation of traditional music' - MUSIC OF CLARE who knows, maybe they'll help with the song/story side of things
It seems odd that Ewan and Walter and Duncan Williamson.... and all the other singers and musicians we've spent much of our lives recording in the U.K. should have to end up in the West of Ireland because there is no interest back home, but there you go
I really can't be arsed fighting The Wars of the Roses (some of this unpleasantness seems to go back that far) every time Ewan's name is mentioned or each time somebody asks what a folk song is and where they can find one.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:21 PM

Thank you Fred - most articulate statement so far
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:27 PM

Fred, as you are undoubtedly aware, Ihave priased MacColl as a songwriter and performer, I have related two first hand anecdotes which are both positive and negative., which provide a banced view
I am not going to waste any more time on Jim Carrolls nonsense, quite frankly i do not know what hes talking bout, as for violence i have better things to do than embark on a journey of 150 miles to talk to a brick wall, there are seven pubs in Ballydehob, you are welcome Jim any time, come down and smoke the pipe of peace, Jim.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:45 PM

Thanks Jim. I've just realised that I forgot to mention Freeborn Man. I still haven't found the time to listen completely to either programme. However, what I've heard so far seems to centre around the psychology of MacColl and his ideas on the performance of folksong. If so, and I stress my current ignorance, then the programmes only go a certain part of the way to solving the impasse I was talking about.

Whatever, they are obviously light years ahead of the "Oh-God-
-what-a-terrible-man-that-Ewan-MacColl-was. Him-trying-to-lay-down-the- law-about-how-we-should-sing-and-all." approach which seems to get worse as the years go by.

Schweik. The question I posed is not whether your view, or anyone else's is positive or negative. It is what can we learn from MacColl that is applicable to the present?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:49 PM

here is the original post
Subject: E. MacColl - first-hand trivial anecdotes?
From: GUEST,redmax - PM
Date: 10 Oct 07 - 05:39 AM

It seems a shame to me that a lot of MacColl threads tend to get so heated, and that a lot of assertions are made about him (as opposed to his legacy) by people who never met him. I was struck by a posting in a recent thread where someone mentioned the kind of beer he drank. Utterly trivial, I know, but it struck me that it might be diverting to start a thread which doesn't go down the well-trodden path of his name changes, his deserting during the war, etc.

Can anyone who met the man share any recollection they have of him. Did he stand on your foot? If so, did he apologise? Did you find yourself standing at the next urinal to him? Did he talk to you about the weather, the price of fish, the FA cup?

Come on, let's have a nice, fluffy, pointless thread"
ok, that is precisely what i have done, given two contrasting first hand anecdotes, if either jim carroll or anyone else do not like it, go and start your own thread, by all means, start, a thread., that is entirely praise worthy.
BUT that is not what was asked for if you do not like the truth, tough.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:53 PM

Schweik. The question I posed is not whether your view, or anyone else's is positive or negative. It is what can we learn from MacColl that is applicable to the present?
start a new thread, Fred, and I will give you an answer.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 01:58 PM

Thank you, Fred, for your clarity in trying to point us to a future accommodation between personal spats and visionary, future possibilities.

I first met Ewan in Glasgow in 1962 when I was a naive 18 year-old (although I knew of him and his work prior to that, thanks to the Ballads Club at Rutherglen Academy, led by my teacher -- the late Norman Buchan). At that point in my life I found him somewhat intimidating, compared to the supportive approach which had resonated with me for the previous 5 years.

But, with hindsight, that was probably more to do with my own personal insecurities and lack of political nous -- coming from a non-political family, and only very recently energised by the Anti-Polaris protests.

For what it's worth, I've become increasingly aware of the value of Ewan MacColl's contribution and importance over these intervening years -- his ability to find the exact focal point for a protest song. (I heard 'Legal/Illegal' sung within the past two weeks and was struck by how relevant it still was -- as well as how clever!): his extraordinary talent for melding words and tune to force real response/emotion from an audience. (I have been present several times when my good friend the late Sheila Stewart silenced the listeners with her heartfelt rendition of 'The Moving-on Song'): and his determination to promote the songs of tradition bearers through his many recordings of their songs.

Point is that I was too immature to have benefited from formats such as The Critics Group, so maybe that's the dividing line?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 02:33 PM

"Point is that I was too immature to have benefited from formats such as The Critics Group, so maybe that's the dividing line?"
no, its not as simple as that, it is a two way process, the person running the group, needs to be diplomatic and observant, if someone is immature that can be handled in a certain way, people need to be welcomed and encouraged, the blame is not entirely one way.MacOLL was a fine songwriter and a good performer and he was doing his best to help others, but to be fair to him he had no previous experience of how to run a group and quite understandably as can be seen from the acrimonoius break up of the group he made mistakes.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 02:48 PM

Jim
From one of your posts earlier today
"Campbell, Nixon, Brune were all part of that shit-slinging".

You wrote in an earlier post that you never met Malcolm Nixon but you know some people who did. You also referred to an article which suggested that he absconded with the funds of the BBA but said there was nothing to support it. It would appear to me that you are doing exactly the thing that you accuse others of. YOU WERE NOT THERE, YOU DO NOT KNOW.

Re the fact that stories about Ewan go back thirty years that's probably because he hasn't been around lately.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 02:56 PM

GSS -- yes, it could be a two-way process, but given the heated political circumstances of the time, I'm happy to acknowledge that I wasn't ready for the process.

Which doesn't mean that Ewan was essentially wrong, but if you would acknowledge that he had a necessary 'bottom line' for those who would be open-minded enough to work with him, then perhaps we could find an acceptance of his eventual impact for everyone else.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 04:00 PM

"At that point in my life I found him somewhat intimidating,"
Hi Annie
Peggy found him intimidating - she said in our interview with her that she was terrified of him when she first met him (Paula included that in programme one of 'Freeborn Man')
"I was too immature to have benefited from formats such as The Critics Group,"
I doubt it somehow- it really did accommodate for all ages and abilities
Not long after its formation, one of the more experienced members complained that too much time was being taken up by inexperienced singers - Ewan nipped that in the bud fairly sharpish.
By the time I joined, I had several of those 'less experienced' members banging on the door of my bed-sit in Camden Town with offers to help me catch up with the Group work - still brings a lump to the throat.
It sounds like you are flying the 'pass it on' flag in Glasgow from what I have heard of your own workshops.
Just prior to our getting down to work with the producer of Freeborn Man, Paula Carroll, she returned from speaking at a singers weekend somewhere in Scotland (Aberdeen?) - what she heard there set her up as a ballad fanatic for the rest of her life, she claims.
"then the programmes only go a certain part of the way to solving the impasse""
Not really Fred, programme two starts with a discussion with Luke Kelly on his performance (largely technical) and goes on to deal with the technique of voice production, voice and singing exercises, relaxation - you will be fully aware of that side of the work through your Singers Workshop days.
It gets a little more complex with working on Gordon McCulloch, but is still rooted in the need to be able to control your vocal mechanism.
The best of the 'philosophy of singing' work was represented by his analysis of 'Clyde's Water' - the finest I've ever heard.
One of the most important statements was made by piper, Terry Moylan, who compared the attitude towards singing with that towards the bodhran - "everybody thinks they can do it without having to work at it".
Even with two, hour-long programmes, we had to leave out a load of aspects of MacColl's work - no Radio Ballads, none of the work he did with Irish building and road workers (intended to be a major feature for an Irish radio production), no discussion on his albums, nothing on his collecting - not enough time
"YOU WERE NOT THERE, YOU DO NOT KNOW."
Been there - done that Hoot, virtually all those who shit sling at MacColl were not there, so it doesn't seem to be a factor in drawing conclusions about people anyway.
I gave the author and title of the book that commented on Nixon (not an article), I knew Bruce Dunnett quite well, and my wife, (who started her folk life at the Ballad and Blues) tend to talk to each other often and she confirms some of the claims   
"fact that stories about Ewan go back thirty years"
The stories about him go back thirty years prior to his death
"start a new thread, Fred, and I will give you an answer."
Why should anybody wish to do that, for all sorts of reasons - the main one being that you can't stop anybody talking about any aspect of the subject they wish just because it makes you uncomfortable - please stop attempting to manipulate this discussion now it has risen above the 'Jimmy Miller' level.
"but to be fair to him he had no previous experience of how to run a group"
Your display of knowledge of this subject is breathtaking - MacColl helped set up and run similar groups in Theatre Workshop - much of the Critics group work was adapted from his work there.
For all his "inexperience" MacColl's work with the Critics created some of the most important innovative work on singing the revival ever produced - feature evenings, historical feature albums, about twenty albums combining poetry and songs, two glorious albums of London songs, one on the period around the rise of Chartism, two great sea albums and six major theatre productions, each with two-week long runs..... all from a bunch of amateurs, most of whom had never trodden a stage before, let alone acted on one.   
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 04:17 PM

This often happens to me.... I am looking up something that I am researching and I come across something that diverts my attention. This evening I was checking up on something that I had read for an article that I am writing in Bert: The Life and Times of of A.L. Lloyd (Pluto Press 2012 EBN 978-0-7453-3252-9) by Dave Arthur and I came across this - It is another account of that meeting.... It is well worth reading because it gives a well researched account of the meeting culled from people who were there and whose reports have not been heard in this this thread; perhaps contributing to a form of 'historical triangulation' it will help us arrive at a more balanced account than we have heard so far in this thread and it is worth noting that there is no mention of BD setting out to destroy the meeting. It is also useful in that it gives the different approach from MacColl's favoured by Davenport/Reg Hall which has not been given in this thread, but which many people feel has much wider application and usefulness than a narrow, top-down approach which it sought to oppose.
On pages 273 to 275 Dave writes:-

The discussion, or 'The Great Debate' as it is titled in the MacColl/Seeger archive, on the state of the folk revival and where it was going took place at the John Snow public house in Broadwick Street, Soho, another early venue of the Singers' Club. Bert kept away from the potential 'action' on stage (MacColl had been known to threaten to 'bottle' someone at a folk concert) by sitting amongst the audience, from where he made some perceptive contributions. Julie Felix, presumably selected as a prime example of the commercialisation of folk music, had been invited to attend but couldn't (or wisely chose not to) make it. MacColl, who chaired the debate, was deflated when a young woman in the audience told him he was out of order when he got up and started to present his case. She pointed out that, as the Chair, his role was merely to sum up the various points made by the panel.
Alex Campbell, one-time 'husband of convenience' to Peggy Seeger (to get her legally into the country), was the antithesis of MacColl, and represented the Glasgow cowboys, and Jack Elliott and Derroll Adams acolytes. He was once, perhaps generously, described by the singer Allan Taylor as: 'The most important and influential folksinger of the folk song revival in Europe. Admired, respected and loved by his fellow performers and his audiences. An outrageous, hard drinking, hard travelling, hard living man.'
He was from the entertainer end of the folk music spectrum, in MacColl's eyes the shallow end of the folk gene pool, and had a tendency to become maudlin when drunk. He broke down in tears at the meeting and begged forgiveness for his apostasy from the true path, as signposted by MacColl and Bert, and about which MacColl had written in Dallas's magazine Folk Music in November 1963:
The folk song entertainer generally tries to achieve the same sort of audience relationship as the variety and cabaret artist. He tries to maintain an atmosphere of gaiety, he strives to be witty, casual, and, at the right moment, introduces a touch of soulful sadness ... . By applying the performance techniques of the cabaret and variety stages, the singer of folk songs robs his material of much of its vitality, transforms and, more often than not, reduces its special characteristics. The entertainer is required to put himself, or herself, over to the audience; the traditional singer is concerned with putting the songs over.

The entertainer was lumped in with a whole gallery of other figures on whom MacColl, never one to sit on the fence, poured scorn: 'The winsome little cuddly things, the tit-hawkers, the krazy-kollege-kids, the fake hoboes who wear funny hats and cultivate inarticulateness ... and all the rest of the riff-raff that swarm over the body of our folk music.'
Bob Davenport was dismayed at the Scotsman's collapse, having expected in Campbell an ally in the battle against the intellectual appropriation and, as Davenport believed, the misunderstanding of, or ignorance of, the true nature of traditional music, promulgated by MacColl and, perhaps, to a lesser extent by Bert. Davenport saw them as intellectual mediators and arbiters of the communist gospel. An inveterate iconoclast, he believed the music should speak for itself. It should be imbibed, if not with mothers' breast milk, at least in a relaxed, convivial setting, with no lecturing or pontificating to create an artificial barrier between performer and imbiber. Davenport, along with Reg Hall and the Rakes, followed his grandfather's advice on running a social event, and 'kept the kettle boiling' with songs and music. An evening at their Thursday club, the Fox at Islington, was a social event, not a Singers' Club classroom lecture. In 1965 it was described by Stephen Sedley as 'probably the best club in London'.
As we can see and hear from the early photos and recordings of the Eel's Foot sessions, where the MC knew everybody and where to place them, the 'them and us' (performer/audience) demarcation is an artificial concept that frequently didn't exist when these songs were performed in their natural habitat with shared accents, interests and vocabulary. The songs belonged as much to the group as to the individual singer, and all were potentially performers and receivers. Bert and MacColl well understood this, as MacColl said in the Folk Music article: 'The modern urban folksinger is rarely a member of the community in that sense. His audience is made up of strangers or of casual acquaintances about whom he knows little or nothing and whose experiences, accent and social outlook may be very different from his own.'
It was this central question of how to present folk song in this new, artificial situation that was at the root of much of the squabbling within the folk movement. The main difference between the Fox and the Singers' Club was that, at the Singers' Club, the general feeling was that the Tradition was moribund ('debris' as Bert described it) and needed reviving. At the Fox, where traditional singers, musicians and dancers such as Bampton Morris were regularly invited and encouraged to do whatever pleased them, with no rules or regulations on repertory or style, tradition was very much alive and was being encouraged to continue and thrive.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Anne Neilson
Date: 07 Feb 15 - 09:22 PM

Bottom line is that we should all be grateful for MacColl's hard work in promoting and publishing repertoire that would otherwise have been unavailable.

I know of many local (Glaswegian) singers who extended their repertoire in the '60s, thanks to his publication of (such as) 'Personal Choice'. (And I remember a time when every folk evening included someone thrashing the hell out of 'Auchendoun' --possibly because we lacked the opportunity of understanding its background?)

It would be lovely to find ourselves in a place where everyone could accept that certain people are entirely significant to ongoing song performance -- both traditional and current!

Having down-played MacColl's importance in the past --in private conversations with close friends --I'm now happy to acknowledge his real and significant contribution to current repertoire (both traditional and contemporary).




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 02:57 AM

well yes....I think it does matter. Have you threatened Jim with violence or not?

If you have. I think, at very least you owe Jim a proper apology.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 04:23 AM

'The Great Debate'
Bit of a travesty of what really happened there Vic, bearing little resemblance to the recording of the events.
MacColl opened the meeting from the platform by introducing the speakers - little more than that.
"Bert kept away from the potential 'action' on stage"
Bert made the opening statement, speaking for about ten minutes on the song tradition and how he felt it should relate to what was happening in the revival.
Alex Campbell, somewhat drunk, made a rambling contribution telling the audience somewhat partonisingly how he "loved the auld folk" and went on to complain bitterly how newcomers on the scene (this would include The Watersons, and all the others who were springing into prominence at the time) were being paid the same fees as he, as a seasoned performer, was getting.
Davenport went on at length about the difference between Art with a capital "A" and art with a small "a", how it had little to do with the working classes and the bourgeois nature of the folk scene.
MacColl, as chairman, far from sitting at the sidelines threatening to "bottle people", threw the discussion open to the floor; it is somewhat difficult to follow some of the contributions, because of where the recordist was sitting presumably, but mainly because they were all interrupted by Davenport's loudly aggressive interventions - he constantly ignored the other participant's requests to let others have their say.   
When MacColl, who had not made a statement, attempted to sum up the proceedings, he was constantly interrupted and at one point, shouted down by Davenport (not "a young woman from the audience").
At one point someone mentioned Jeannie Robertson's contribution to the revival and Bob said something like, "Jeannie's a terrible singer" - sounds of shouts and chairs falling over - and, in the words of the Bard, "the rest is silence"   
I've no idea where Dave Arthur's description of the meeting came from, but it certainly appeared not to come from someone with a desire to paint an accurate picture of the events; "such stuff as dreams are made on", as the Bard also said.
I'm archiving all of our MacColl information at present and passing it on to Neill MacColl in the hope he can make it available on their new website - 'The Great Debate' will be included, an interesting piece of revival history that cuts across many of the myths and legends.
In August, 1961, in Sing' magazine MacColl announced that he was starting a new club due to the commercial pressure being put on the folk scene - editor, Karl Dallas, cites MacColl's break with Ballads and Blues as down to a "disagreement over artistic policy".   
MacColl finishes his announcement with the following:
"5. Finally, we need standards. Already the race for the quick pound note is on in the folk song world. "Quaint" songs, risque songs, poor instrumentation and no - better - than - average voices; coupled with a lack of respect for the material: against these we will fight."
"If you have. I think, at very least you owe Jim a proper apology."
Leave it Al - it's a Mudcat archived matter of record, diggable out for anybody of the mind to do so - no longer an issue unless it is repeated and certainly not worth wrecking a half-decent discussion for.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 05:07 AM

in Sing' magazine MacColl announced that he was starting a new club due to the commercial pressure being put on the folk scene - editor, Karl Dallas, cites MacColl's break with Ballads and Blues as down to a "disagreement over artistic policy"
.,,.

A bit of confusion in above from Jim, perhaps -- or maybe I misread that bit -- but the editor of 'Sing' was Eric Winter, not Karl Dallas. Karl did indeed edit more than one journal in his time, but never 'Sing', I am confident. If he did engage there with MacColl, it would have been as fellow-contributor, not in any editorial capacity.

≈M≈




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 05:16 AM

i wouldn't mind a quick pound note or two




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 06:05 AM

I have much better things to do than waste my time being violent towards Jim Carroll, Quite frankly I have no idea what he is on about.
of course Jim is absolutely right Ewan was always the most wonderful humourous polite person, when he condemned a song about vietnam in a critics group meeting he was just having a little humourous MacColl joke, when members of the critics group said that the group fell apart because the parents went away and let the children play unattended, there was no acrimony, everyone thought everything was rosy in the garden and they all lived happily ever after.
what a lovely fairy story.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 06:06 AM

"but the editor of 'Sing' "
Sorry Mike - pretty certain it was Dallas's magazine - still have it here somewhere though I may have the name wrong - will dig it out later
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 06:53 AM

"MacColl finishes his announcement with the following:
"5. Finally, we need standards. Already the race for the quick pound note is on in the folk song world. "Quaint" songs, risque songs, poor instrumentation and no - better - than - average voices; coupled with a lack of respect for the material: against these we will fight."
the quote sounds like a quote from Chairman Mao and his little red book, it absolutely typifies the style of MacColl.
most of us would agree with the idea of standards, but what is wrong with risque songs occasionally? who is he to define poor instrumentation when he was not noted for having any competence on any instrument,he mentions an average voice, without qualifying, does he mean the inabilty to hold a tune,bad breath control or just the fact it is not his personal taste.
The impression i get from this statement is one of a person who is self important and pompous who likes the sound of his own voice, who the feck was he to talk about poor instrumentation , when his own playing was basic and mediocre, he was just out of his depth and unqualified on that point.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 07:03 AM

MacColls strengths were his song writing and his professional presentation, his singing technique was also very good, to my ears his singing has no continuity with scottish tradtional singsers like jeannie robertson, or jimmy mcbeath. or the stewarts of blair
on the occasions i saw him perform he gave a very good night.
if he had stuck to talking about that which he did well it would have been more useful.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 07:55 AM

"the quote sounds like a quote from Chairman Mao and his little red book, it absolutely typifies the style of MacColl."
Didn't know The Chairman was into folksong -though I quite understand your objection to someone demanding respect for and applying standards to the singing of folksongs
Thanks to the intervention of people like yourself, it's extremely difficult to know exactly what he said about the singing of fol;k songs
I don't know anybody who can claim to be a continuity with those you mentioned, certainly nowadays, when their styles have been completely rejected by most singers on the scene, as have, in many cases, the songs they sang as being out of date or "tit-trousers"
Jeannie would be booed off the stage for singing "long, boring ballads" by today's values (as was Joe Heaney some fifty years ago).
MacColl and others introduced ballads like hers onto the scene - MacColl breathed life into 137 Child ballads and at no time did he compromise them with Mickey-Mouse groups turning them into electric soups, or long, intrusive guitar runs, or the peculiar hiccuppy phrasing which some of the superstars indulge in along with those desperately trying to sound like them.
Bronson described Bert's and Ewan's Riverside series of ballads as groundbreaking in the field of ballad understanding
There has been no other artist on the folk scene who has done as much to preserve ballads like those Jeannie sang - at leas forty albums of them - all sung with the competence, understanding and the respect that he believed these "pieces of high art" are.
At least half a dozen people over the last few days have commented on MacColl's brilliant analysis of 'Clyde Water' and the way Ewan's singing of it it was edited by Paula.
"if he had stuck to talking about that which he did well it would have been more useful"
We have amassed something like 200 to 300 tapes of Ewan working with and passing on his ideas to younger singers - if it wasn't for continuing backbiting snidery and irrelevant inanities such as these, we might be allowed to discuss them   
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 10:45 AM

Jeannie would be booed off the stage for singing "long, boring ballads" by today's values
Well, that would very much depend on where she was singing. Personally, I have never seen anyone booed off the stage in a folk music setting in over 50 years of attending them so I would very much doubt it. (Not that there have not been numerous occasions when I would have felt compelled to join in had booing started but folkies, in my experience, sometimes err on the side of politeness....) but as Jeannie's name has been raised again in this thread:-

Jeannie Robertson
Perhaps the most emotionally moving of all the traditional singers that I ever heard. I feel very privileged to have heard her on quite a number of occasions during the last seven years of her life. I remember each of them vividly. When her daughter, Lizzie Higgins, phoned up to tell us of her mother's death, she told us that the last meal that Jeannie cooked was for Tina and I on our last visit to her small council flat in Aberdeen where she lived with her brother-in-law, Isaac – or 'Seely' to give him his travellers' by-name. Somehow, I have always felt that this 'last meal' was a great honour.
I loved hearing Jeannie sing and I loved her recordings. Jeannie died in 1975 but it was not until 1998 that the album Queen Among The Heather was released by Rounder in the Alan Lomax Collection: Portrait series. The main date of these recordings was 1953. To say that I was gob-smacked by them is an understatement. It was clearly the same exquisite voice but everything – repertoire, pace, timing, approach was different. After a few listenings, I came to prefer the earlier recordings that Lomax had made to what my memory told me of Jeannie's singing.
What caused the great difference? There is little doubt in my mind that head of this straightforward Aberdeenshire traveller was turned by the huge heaps of praise that senior academics, ethnomusicologists, ballad scholars etc. were forming queues to bestow on her.* Her singing changed in the years of her public acclaim. She slowed down her singing to give enhancement to the beauty of her wonderful voice. Her repertoire narrowed with the likes of Handsome Cabin Boy and Never Wed An Auld Man neglected and she concentrated on the big ballads which she sang slowly and very beautifully – but sometimes too slowly so that the story suffered.
OK. Now the relevance of the above to this thread and now I am addressing Jim Carroll.
Jim. You obviously consider the fact that Bob Davenport said that he thought that Jeannie was a terrible singer to be very important since you have already mentioned it four times in this thread – [ 04 Feb 11 - 04:02 AM, 26 Jan 15 - 11:04 AM, 06 Feb 15 - 04:27 AM, 08 Feb 15 - 04:23 AM ] – but the fact is that Bob didn't always hate Jeannie's singing; he hated the singer that she had become. Bob does not need me to speak for him, but the folk song diva that she was in her later years and the reasons for it, the intervention of fawning praise of the folk song intelligentia were anathema to the approach that Bob favoured.
You wrote 'all sung with the competence, understanding and the respect that he believed these "pieces of high art" are.' but as we know or as we can deduce from the excellent way that Dave Arthur distinguishes the Fox/Singers Club difference in my quotation above, "high art" was exactly the problem for BD.
* See page 3 of "Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice" (James Porter & Herschel Gower. University of Tennessee Press 1995) ISBN 1 898410 84 4


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Feb 15 - 12:37 AM

Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 11:57 AM

"Jim. You obviously consider the fact that Bob Davenport said that he thought that Jeannie was a terrible singer to be very important"
Not necessarily
Bob is entitled to his opinion to any singer, though, as far as I am concerned, I make it a point not to involve any traditional singer in revival squabbling - that is not what they signed up for - I remember mentioning it to Nibs Matthews once - he also considered it bad form.
I raise it because it was the climax to Bob's wrecking a meeting which I consider to have been worthwhile - I really have no problem with Bob's not liking Jeannie's singing, 'chacun à son goût' as they say, just his loutish behaviour, which was still apparent when he was wrecking a singer's introductions at the Musical traditions club a few years ago.
When the MacColl corpse-kickers start up about his behaviour, Bob's contempt for his fellow-performers always comes to mind - never saw, or even heard of MacColl behaving that way.
The suggestion that Jeannie would have been booed off stage was not a serious one, though I have noted the hostility to long ballads throughout my time on Mudcat - usually goes along with "finger-in-ear", "boring", "out-of-date", "purist" - and the rest of the crap.
Pat used to do the mini-tours for Walter Pardon, whenever he came to London.
The last time, she was phoning round looking for a booking for him in clubs we thought we know, and the lady she spoke to asked what Walter did.
When she described Walter's performance, she was told "Oh no, we only book folk singers".
I went to the Fox a number of times when I first went to London - fine for Irish music (when it wasn't being drowned out by heavy-handed piano accompaniment), but apart from that, I much preferred he serious approach and the skill dedication of what went on at 'The Singers Club' - any day.....
It was there I got my love of ballads
I don't find Dave's comparison between the two particularly excellent.
I heard some of the best of our field singers and musicians there down the years, including Harry Cox, Walter Pardon, The Stewarts, Paddy Tunney, Seamus Ennis, Willie Scott, Willie McPhee, Duncan Williamson.....
The Singers provided a platform for some of out best Traveller singers when we were working with them in London.
I totally agree with the "moribund" description of the Tradition.
Throughout the thirty odd years of field-work we did, we were working with singers who were remembering, or more often than not, remembering being told of a living tradition
The only exception to this was the Travellers, who had a creative song tradition right up to the point when they all went into Woolworths and bought portable televisions (some time between summer 1973 and Easter 1975 - we were able to pinpoint it as accurately as that).
One Traveller woman summed up the situation perfectly at the end of the 70s "We don't sing those old songs anymore - we've been modernised".      
Walter Pardon had the songs he did because he remembered them being sung at home by his uncle prior to the outbreak of W.W.2. - he said the real singing had died out with the harvest suppers when he was a child - he barely remembered them and had never himself sung, apart from at Christmas parties at home.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 12:39 PM

I don't find Dave's comparison between the two particularly excellent.

Well, OK, but it is a useful way of describing the different structure and style characterised by the two approaches which for some years was divisive to the traditional side of the folk scene in England. Cut down to its bare bones, Dave's essential division was between An evening at their Thursday club, the Fox at Islington, was a social event, not a Singers' Club classroom lecture. Now you are almost bound to find that description pejorative, Jim, but if you allow yourself to stick with it for the purpose of this debate, one has the residents sitting at the front and allowing themselves the right to comment, to approve or otherwise, to augment what has been said, to provide useful comment. The other is a sort of musical get together with friends or at least like-minded people with no discernible centrally important figure.
Let's look at the 30 years or so since Ewan died and how things have changed and developed. During that time the long-term decline of the weekly folk club has continued. There are far fewer clubs and the ones that are still there are not so well attended by their aging audiences as they were at one time, nor do they book high quality guests from outside their area as regularly as they did at one time. I find this very sad because very little can match an evening in s good well-run folk club, but sadly I believe my assessment to be an accurate one. I am delighted that Folk 21 is there and showing great enthusiasm for the club format, but it is too early to assess their impact or their lack of it. As well as folk clubs not attracting a younger audience, the younger talented perfomers seem to prefer the concert format that has, to an extent, replaced folk clubs,
Meanwhile, the tune session, the regular singaround and the mixed song and tune sessions have proliferated, I could go to one every night within a ten mile radius of where I live. Some are excellent, some are variable, some are so-so and some are dire, but probably because they don't look to charge admission price, they are more sustainable than the traditional folk club.
In trying to work out the legacy from the Fox/Singers' Club days let's ask ourselves these questions:-
* How many folk music ventures in the UK are today run on Singer's Club lines?
* How many folk music ventures in the UK are today run on the social-gathering-with-music lines (and I think that we would have to include singarounds/sessions in this category) ?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 01:09 PM

"was a social event, not a Singers' Club classroom lecture" is a spiteful misrepresentation of what went on there Vic - that wan never the case - certainly not in my time anyway.
It is one of these arguments loaded with the philosophy that enjoyment and knowledge are contradictory - which typifies much of the revival.
"How many folk music ventures in the UK are today run on Singer's Club lines?"
A point I have been making for a long time, along with "how many clubs can I go to and expect to hear folk songs.
I have been told by your townsman that I am not allowed to ask such a question as I don't frequent that many clubs any more - I actually cut my club intake down to about half dozen when I found myself coming away without hearing one
I have been convinced on this forum that this is now the norm.
The clubs, for me, were a venue to listen to good songs well sung, when that stopped, I stopped going
You say "developed" I say "deteriorated" - "lets call the whole thing off" (can't do a musical notation symbol - sorry)
We went to a club in Dublin last Sunday night run by and largely performed at, young singers, between the ages of 20 and 30, nearly all singing superbly - not a 'glugger' among them in three hours.
The songs that weren't traditional, were new songs using traditional formats.
We had to get there half an hour before it started to get a seat.
On Tuesday, we went to the same venue for a 'recital' - a fiddler, a piper, a harpist and an Irish language singer aged somewhere in her late 20s, (the other three were younger)fully capable of raising the hairs on the back of your neck with her singing.
Call be old fashioned, but that's what I call a good, enjoyable night out.
I sincerely hope there is enough interest in MacColl's ideas here in Clare to get something moving in this County, which has a fine history of singing - all I'm getting from your side of the Irish Sea is backbiting, snide and begrudgery
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 01:24 PM

MacColl left this world before I was even thought of, let alone playing music, so I never met him. I've just heard his recordings and his songs. I like his music.

I did meet Peggy Seeger very briefly during the interval at her concert. It was at the West Virginia culture center and sponsored by the Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance. I think I was a high school sophomore at the time. She had just sang the best version of "Sweet William's Ghost" I've ever heard. I told her how much I appreciated her singing traditional material, that most of the folk singers I knew hardly ever sang any. She said, "That's true. Why don't you do something about that?" I'll never forget it.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 01:25 PM

Also I forgot to mention she said onstage that it was the anniversary of the day she met MacColl. Then she sang "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Feb 15 - 02:49 PM

"MacColl left this world before I was even thought of, let alone playing music"
Nice story, and very typical of Peggy
We hadn't seen her for quite a long time, until a few years ago when she rang us up and said the wold be appearing at a venue at Sixmilebridge, about thirty-odd mile from here.
We turned up to find an audience of people about your age, who had never seen Peggy live and had only heard her through her more popular songs (First Time Ever being high on the list)
We asked her would she do a couple of ballads, so se asked the crowd would that be ok as "we have a couple of old ballad-buffs in the audience"
We got a little short of ten, which they lapped up - you could have walked on the atmosphere that night.
Our radio-producer friend was in the audience, and she was totally smitten.
When we got down to putting together the two programmes, we gave her masses of (far too much) recorded material to work with, including our interview of Ewan talking about Clyde's Water and one of the finest nights of singing we ever recorded at the Singers, a Ballad feature evening entitled 'Blood and Roses'.
We left all the choices of recordings to Paula - she went overboard on Ewan singing and talking about 'Clydes Water' and included a short part of the longest introductions I ever heard him do on a ballad
He had started with a factual introduction to 'The Keach in the Creel' which he then rounded off with telling a seventeenth century fableux covering the same story, but this time about the apprentice of a renaissance painter trying to get it off with his master's daughter - so much for the "Singers' Club classroom lecture".
When will they ever learn?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 07:05 AM

Vic, re your question above:

"How many folk music ventures in the UK are today run on Singer's Club lines?"

Can I ask the same question about the 1960's? and hope for honest answers?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 07:22 AM

Up to the 80s Britain was full of clubs that weren't singaround clubs and expected singers who came along to remember words, sing in tune and show a degree of commitment and respect towards the songs that were being sung.
People who came along to hear folk songs heard them without being told "folksong means something else now"
There were numerous regular workshops attached to clubs based on the Critics Group model being given assistance from The Singers, and clubs like it.
That was what The Singers Club was about
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Eddie1 (Cookie lost forever)
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 09:45 AM

I remember a folk club back in the late 60s ( I won't mention names!) which decided to have a Critics panel. I had been accompanying a girl singing "Plasir dAmour" with lots of barre chords. I was told off for "Playing the same chord, just moving it up and down a bit!"

Eddie




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 11:13 AM

Up to the 80s Britain was full of clubs that weren't singaround clubs and expected singers who came along to remember words, sing in tune and show a degree of commitment and respect towards the songs that were being sung.
People who came along to hear folk songs heard them without being told "folksong means something else now"
There were numerous regular workshops attached to clubs based on the Critics Group model being given assistance from The Singers, and clubs like it.
That was what The Singers Club was about

I try to stop posting in this thread but it is the sustained efforts to rewrite history that draws me back. So let me make a couple of comments here.
* The influence of the Singers' Club/Critics Group was much less widespread during the years of its existence than has been claimed. Yes, their thrust was to influence standards and make them higher but they were far from being the only ones who did so. Hootenannay asks how many clubs were run on the Singers' Club lines and the answer is that there were very few. The question about standards was with us all the time throughout the fifty years that I was running folk clubs and it was not MacColl and his followers that had a monopoly of methods on raising those standards. Nobody questions their motivation for the good, it is their methods that have been widely criticised.
* The assumption that all standards have fallen in all clubs needs to be challenged. Many of the guests that I booked in my last ten years of running clubs were graduates of the traditional music degree courses of which we now have three in the UK. The standard of singing and musicianship is incomparably higher than that of the entry-level professionals in the days of the Critics Group/Singers Club. These youngsters have recently come from four years of honing their performance skills full time; it bloody well ought to be higher. There must be few people contributing here who have been to as many folk clubs as I have been doing regularly every week since I was at school. I am not speaking from a perspective of someone who has withdrawn from British clubs but still feels the right to criticise.
* Look through this thread. Count up the number of times that MacColl has been praised as performer, inspiration, songwriter, mover and shaker. Sometimes contributors have felt the need to balance their comments with comments that are critical of the man's action or methods; count them as well. Finally, count the number of times, the number of ways in which any critical comments have been jumped on - some of these - "spiteful misrepresentation" - would be considered a valid opinion in a reasoned discussion, others - "shit-mountain" - we could clearly do without. Unless MacColl was a Stakhanovite folklorist or a Christian saint performer, surely contributors should be allowed to seek a balanced view?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 11:28 AM

Have just been told that an American singer and musician, now living in the UK, recently said that Ewan MacColl had fought in the Spanish Civil War. I suppose that this shows how the truth can change as time passes. The story is, of course, untrue. (Mind you, had MacColl indeed been in Spain during the War he would probably have spent his time sitting in a Madrid garden reading Lorca!)




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 11:29 AM

"Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll - PM
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 07:22 AM

Up to the 80s Britain was full of clubs that weren't singaround clubs and expected singers who came along to remember words, sing in tune and show a degree of commitment and respect towards the songs that were being sung.
People who came along to hear folk songs heard them without being told "folksong means something else now"
There were numerous regular workshops attached to clubs based on the Critics Group model being given assistance from The Singers, and clubs like it.
That was what The Singers Club was about
Jim Carroll"
ah but it was not entirely what it was about, you are being econmical with the truth, they had a singing policy which applied to their club, and that policy was that singers had to sing songs in the club from their geographical back ground, so it was ok for tom paley and peggy seeger to sing american songs, but not for lisa turner[ who was not american] .
is that not the case Jim, please let us have the whole truth.
it is also the case that Lisa Turner was stopped by MacColl whilst singing single boy and reminded of the rule.

was peggy allowed to sing english or scottish songs at the singers club?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 11:44 AM

Fopr about the thitrettenth time i will reiterate, MacColl was a fine songwriter, he was professional in his presentation his singing technique was very good, both he and Peggy on the occasions that i saw them gave a very high standard of performance.
I found Ewan to be both polite and rude and morose on two different occasions, that is called a balanced comment, it is not a spiteful mis representation.
Ido not think his influence on the uk folk revival was pernicious, although I disagree with some of his ideas and some of his style of doing things, I think he genuinely wanted to help people but on occasions[ his condemnation of a song about vietnam for example] could give the impression of being pompous and overbearing.
he never struck me as being fun, in fact a bit like jim carroll[rather serious and pedantic[ in the schoolmasterly sense], but no one can discount his dedication and meticulous attention to detail when it came to performance or song writing.
that is not a shit mountain but one persons balanced view, if you have a problem with that jim . well tough.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 12:15 PM

"The influence of the Singers' Club/Critics Group was much less widespread during the years of its existence than has been claimed. "
Who claimed it was influential?
MacColl certainly was influential as a performer, as a songwriter, as someone who introduced many hundreds of songs into the repertoire, and, to those prepared to listen (sadly absent from this discussion), someone who spent decades developing and passing on an understanding of the importance of folksong and a technique for assisting singers to develop their abilities and understanding - I don't know of another single individual or organisation who did that (all too busy pursuing their own careers) or organisation.
The Critics Group as a working body jointly participated in the planning and recording of around thirty albums, opened up the London repertiore and put on six professional quality shows, each ovr two hours long and running for two weeks in the years they took place - at the time they were hailed as among the best in the field.
When I was asked to sum up the work of the Critics at MacColl's 70th birthday symposium, my main criticism was that the Group did not attempt to spread its influence wide enough- that remains my opinion today.
Whatever MacColl's failings, thirty years after his death death it is still impossible to discuss the work he did or the ideas he put forward without shit dating back to the 1950s, largely unsubstantiated.
If people had shown any interest in discussing and rejecting those ideas - fine - it's certainly not happening here.
I find the ignorance of what MacColl and the Critics Group was about mindboggling (if anybody in the Group #had attempted to "emulate" MacColl's singing, they would have been told about it sharply - the idea that The Critics all sounded like Ewan or Peggy if ****** nonsense, and somewhat ludicrous coming from a revival that was swamped with Carthy clones, or Waterson wailers)
I find the smugness of someone gloating that the work the Critics Group wasn't influential somewhat sickening when it coms from someone who has done his best to make sure that their work isn't discussed here.
You want to pull down the work of the Group, do it on the basis of what it was.
If you want to take it down, do so by allowing a discussion on it, not throwing stones at it from a distance.
There's no attempt to seek a "balanced view" here Vic - just a battle to maintain the status quo.
From personal experience - if I had to choose, I'd take the Singers Club, where I could go and listen to good songs well sung, nd be asked to think about what I was listening to, rather that the prevailing situation, where I have to research beforehand to see if I'm going to hear a folk song if I go to a folk club.
MacColl told us when we interviewed him that the club scene would implode on itself if it ever fell into the hands of people who didn't like folk songs enough to work at them - seems he was right
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 12:33 PM

Meant to add
I've already said to your fellow knocker, Dick Miles, I'm not interested in discussing MacColl as an individual, I knew him too long for that to be necessary, nor do I need the lip-service about his abilities as a singer or songwriter - that's too well established a fact - it would be nice to put some of the ideas to the test though
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 01:17 PM

"I find the ignorance of what MacColl and the Critics Group was about mindboggling (if anybody in the Group #had attempted to "emulate" MacColl's singing, they would have been told about it sharply - the idea that The Critics all sounded like Ewan or Peggy if ****** nonsense, and somewhat ludicrous coming from a revival that was swamped with Carthy clones, or Waterson wailers)"
This statement is PECULIAR BUT NOT FUNNY.
i have yet to hear any group that attempted to imitate the Watersons, this statement illustrates the appalling ignorance of the poster.
The Watersons have never been imitated by anyone, they were unique mainly because of Mike Watersons style which was not conventional, absoulutely ridiculous Carroll nonsense., PLEASE GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF ONE SUCH GROUP, if you cant for god sake stop pontificating
it is quite true there were guitar imitators of Carthy and Jones.
"When I was asked to sum up the work of the Critics at MacColl's 70th birthday symposium, my main criticism was that the Group did not attempt to spread its influence wide enough- that remains my opinion today."
to quote Mandy Rice Davies, you would say that wouldnt you,being a MacColl disciple an all.
Jim you talk the biggest amount of unsubstantiated hot air ,please give examples of Waterson imitators or as you so rudely[ another trait you seem to have in common with your idol]call them the waterson wailers. Jim i will be polite fuck off




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 01:23 PM

"i will be polite fuck off"
Still the feller who whines about people being rude to him, threatens them with violence and gets himelf thrown off discussion forums
Wonder why?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 01:29 PM

If you ever threaten me with violence again, attempt to manipulate a thread I'm on, as you have this one, or attempt in any way from saying what I have to say, I'll do my level best to have you removed from this one, you've only just come out of hiding when you were forced to post incognito - get a grip
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 02:28 PM

Jim, you are talking rubbish, i have never been forced to do anything. now, you referred in your usual polite way to waterson wailers, who were these clones of the watersons substantiate your statement or stop talking nonsense ,nobody hase ever recreated the sound of the watersons, neither have their been waterson clones.
I have stated that I would not waste my energy being violennt to you already, Ihave better things to do.
now, answer the question who were these waterson clones? Iam not attemtping to stop you speaking to the contrary ,I want you to substantiate your wild statement about waterson wailer clones.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 02:57 PM

"Jim, you are talking rubbish"
If you ever tell me to "fuck off" again, threaten me in any way, or try to mnipulate threads by telling me what this subject is. I'll do my best to see that your feet don't touch on this forum.
If The Sessions Forum doesn't have to put up with your cretinous behavior, there is no reason on earth why Mudcat should - take your creepy stalking somewhere else if you can't control yourself
Do you get my message?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 03:48 PM

You have insulted The Watersons by calling them the Waterson Wailers,and I am still waiting for you to answer the question who are these Waterson clones.,
I
I have   made it clear that I have no intention of being violent towards you, I cannot be bothered to waste any energy with crap like that I am not a violent person, do you understand.
the only message I get from you, is that you cannot answer the question, who were these so called Waterson Clones?, no one has ever copied the Watersons and you know it.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 04:37 PM

you, say you will have me removed, where to the gulag archipelago, thats what really gets me, you have this Stalinist attitude, same as your idol, have the fellow removed make him into a non person, liquidate him he is a deviationist, not following the correct Carroll/Stalin line breaking the rules, a Davenport devationist, send him to a folk club in outer siberia




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 06:27 PM

as Captain Mainwaring said, i think we;re getting into the realms of fantasy....somwhere along the line...




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 08:09 AM

Someone close this thread down for goodness sake.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 08:10 AM

As usual, once a thread has descended to insult, invective and threat, I no longer wish to contribute. This has become the character of this thread in all the posts between those of Mike Yates and Al Whittle - so I am off.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 09:25 AM

" This has become the character of this thread in all the posts between those of Mike Yates and Al Whittle"
I have posted twice in that period and have not insulted anybody, other thna to respond to Dick's ongoing foul-mouthed abuse(I am not the only one he has aided it at) and I resent being accused of having done so.
Dick has been removed from one forum for his behaviour; I see little reason why it should be tolerated here.
I am appalled, but not really surprised, that once again it is impossible to discuss MacColl's work on singing because of the old usual character assassination and personal attacks, rather than his artistry - sort of like refusing to discuss The Theory of Relativity because somebody claimed that Einstein picked his nose.
I'll leave you to your ritual corpse-kicking.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 09:44 AM

you have insulted the watersons, you called them the waterson wailers, who are these waterson clones?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 10:25 AM

I have not insulted the Watersons - not that they are particular favourites, mind you.
Wwatersons waialers" refered to the many dozens of Waterson Wannabe's who hauted the London clubs throughout the 70s and 80s, alaong with the many dozens of "Carthy copiers" - please don't tell me they didn't exist, unless you want to add "liar" to your list of insults.
If I had chosen to comment on the Waterson's singing style - it has nothing whatever to do with you - you peole have no compunction in insulting a performer 1,000 times mor skilful, dedicated and knowledgeable than you could ever hope to be - who has been dead for three decades - (I believe it was you who told me it was bad form to make adverse comments on Alex Campbell because he was dead).   
THis mindnumbing discussin is now over - get off my back
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 11:06 AM

so who were these waterson clones? answer for once
you cannot name any because they never existed no one could sound like the watersons., they had a very distinctive individual style.
I have praised maccoll as a song writer and performer. I can post wherever i like, you are misinformed, you have had differences with musical traditions, and i understand you are barred from certain places. stop trying to bully me and threatening me with removal ,you are not joe stalin, although you seem to have the same control freak traits.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 12:05 PM

MacColl's praise for Stalin was not a solo act. He was often referred to as |Uncle Joe in wartime broadcasts when he was our ally against Hitler.

Also i think the Soviets financed left wing movements and literature in the 1930's in England - this at a time when the working classes had few allies.

personally i love that left wing thread of English literature - Auden and Spender - Edward Upward and of course pre Spain Orwell.

its not really fair to sneer at Ewan about being taken in by Stalin - it was something he shared with many intellectuals of the period - George Bernard Shaw, and the entire English Secret Service!

lets stop arguing and talk about this fascinatimg subject.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 12:35 PM

"MacColl's praise for Stalin was not a solo act."
Of course it wasn't - the whole of the Left regarded The Soviet Union as the first Worker's State and believed the stories coming out of Russia to be propaganda - it wasn't till Krushchev's speech at the 1956 National Congress, that (only some of)the revelations filtered out (The Ballad of Stalin was written and issued by The Worker's Music Association in 1952).
The "Stalinist" gulags dated back to the middle of the 19th century and were set up by the Tsarist regime - ironically, both Lenin and Stalin were incarcerated there.
Some of the left-wing members of my family wept openly at the announcement of Stalin' death.
I've always found it odd (not really) that nobody ever mentions the fact that Bert Lloyd, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger......and many other early folkies were almost certainly 'Stalinists', not forgetting some fine British and American literary figures - one of John Steinbeck's great novels, tells of the trials and tribulations of a "party" member organising fruit picker - wonderful book - and I have never been a lover of Stalin
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Gealt
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 12:40 PM





Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 01:16 PM

I am responding to Carrolls threats towards me about being removed.
Assassination of Trotsky


Stalin assigned the organisation and execution of a plan to assassinate Trotsky[citation needed] to Nahum Eitingon who recruited Ramón Mercader during the Spanish Civil War.

On 24 May 1940, Trotsky survived a raid on his home[113] by armed Stalinist assassins led by GPU agent Iosif Grigulevich, Mexican painter and Stalinist David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Vittorio Vidale.[citation needed] Trotsky's young grandson, Vsievolod Platonovich "Esteban" Volkov (born 1926), was shot in the foot and a young assistant and bodyguard of Trotsky, Robert Sheldon Harte, was abducted and later murdered, but other guards defeated the attack.[114]

On 20 August 1940, Trotsky was attacked in his home in Mexico with a mountaineers' ice axe by undercover NKVD agent Ramón Mercader.[115] The blow to Trotsky's head was poorly delivered and failed to kill Trotsky instantly, as Mercader had intended. Witnesses stated that Trotsky spat on Mercader and began struggling fiercely with him. Hearing the commotion, Trotsky's bodyguards burst into the room and nearly killed Mercader, but Trotsky stopped them, laboriously stating that the assassin should be made to answer questions.[116] Trotsky was taken to a hospital, operated on, and survived for more than a day, dying at the age of 60 on 21 August 1940 as a result of loss of blood and shock.[117][118] Mercader later testified at his trial:

    I laid my raincoat on the table in such a way as to be able to remove the ice axe which was in the pocket. I decided not to miss the wonderful opportunity that presented itself. The moment Trotsky began reading the article, he gave me my chance; I took out the ice axe from the raincoat, gripped it in my hand and, with my eyes closed, dealt him a terrible blow on the head.[116]

According to James P. Cannon, the secretary of the Socialist Workers Party (USA), Trotsky's last words were "I will not survive this attack. Stalin has finally accomplished the task he attempted unsuccessfully before."[119]
Leon Trotsky's grave in Coyoacán, where his ashes are buried
Epilogue

Trotsky's house in Coyoacán was preserved in much the same condition as it was on the day of the assassination and is now a museum run by a board which includes his grandson Esteban Volkov. The current director of the museum is Carlos Ramirez Sandoval. Trotsky's grave is located on its grounds. A new foundation (International Friends of the Leon Trotsky Museum) has been organized to raise funds to further improve the Museum.

Trotsky was never formally rehabilitated during the rule of the Soviet government, despite the Glasnost-era rehabilitation of most other Old Bolsheviks killed during the Great Purges. His son, Sergei Sedov, killed in 1937, was rehabilitated in 1988, as was Nikolai Bukharin. Above all, beginning in 1989, Trotsky's books, forbidden until 1987, were finally published in the Soviet Union.

Trotsky was finally rehabilitated on 16 June 2001 by the decision of the General Prosecutor's Office (Certificates of Rehabilitation № 13/2182-90, № 13-2200-99 in Archives Research Center "Memorial")




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 02:14 PM

my dad wasn't a communist. he didn't like the Russian soldiers he met during the war.

i don't think he would have wept at the death of any politician - he wasn't that sort of bloke.

however he found the volte face at the end of the war very hard to stomach. the idea that we would go within a few weeks from Russians being our staunchest allies, to the point where we were considering doing to Moscow what we had done to Hiroshima.

not sure what the death of trotsky has to do with what we're discussing. still perhaps i missed something.

i think maybe Ewan was an idealist and poet - not perhaps the shrewdest judges of a complete bastard like Stalin. lets face it many of the poets who went away to fight in Spain - when they were confronted by the brutality of communism found it a bit of a shock - the bombs and the firing squads etc. Ewan probably loved the idea and poetry of the communist manifesto - but knew that he wasn't the remorseless killing machine that armies need to function.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 03:28 PM

Trotsky was removed he was a perceived threat to stalin. Stalin like Mao did not tolerate anyone who threatened his position or disagreed with him. Jim Carroll cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with his perception of MacColl, he has threatened to have me removed from the forum.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Folkcures
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 03:32 PM

Have they finally found a cure for MacColl syndrome?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 03:47 PM

"Jim Carroll cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with his perception of MacColl, he has threatened to have me removed from the forum".
Well, if that were true, he wouldn't be the only one, would he ?
He does not have the power to have you removed from this forum, but in that I wish him the best of luck.
Why is it that this forum tolerates one member telling another to "fuck off" and no sanction is taken against the offending party ?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 05:03 PM

for gawdsake!

MacColl was a nice but rather irascible old man. he was a creative. a gig on saturday night with a gang of pissed up Irishmen who fancied rebel songs and Johnny Cash would have given him the vapours. Jim Carroll is the friend of this old geezer.

Stalin was a mass murderer, who enslaved half of Europe.

get a grip Dick!




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 06:16 PM

Trotsky was removed he was a perceived threat to stalin. Stalin like Mao did not tolerate anyone who threatened his position or disagreed with him. Jim Carroll cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with his perception of MacColl, he has threatened to have me removed from the forum.

Been lurking on this thread as I'm interested but basically know nothing.

But.

Fer chrissake, Dick, will you please stop being so bloody stupid.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Kit Wells
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 04:15 AM

I was at St Martin's School of Art in 1959 and was introduced by a banjo player/ animation artist called David Elvin (now sadly deceased) to Bob Davenport. Some time later Bob took me along to a pub at Cambridge Circus (The Moon, I think) to meet with Ewan McColl. For what it is worth to this fascinating thread, I thought he was a singularly miserable old bugger but I was young and full of the joys of that happy state. Bob, if you are around still, it would be nice to have a chat. I live in South West France but sometimes make the trip back to London. kitwells@orange.fr




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 05:02 AM

Maybe it's worth giving some of MacColl's ideas a try rather than bickering over what kind of individual he was.
About a dozen years ago, a dear friend, Terry Whelan, organised a week-end at Salford University to discuss his work - Pat and I were honoured to be asked to speak about his work with The Critics Group.
This is the opening of what we had to say:
Jim Carroll

"J.C. When Pat Mackenzie and I were asked to come and talk about Ewan and his work we thought that, in the time we have at our disposal, rather than our give a talk, it would be far more effective to let Ewan speak for himself.
Despite the huge amount of work carried out by Ewan on the theory and practice of singing, he wrote very little on the subject. This has left the field open for people to make some of the most outragous misrepresentations and inaccurate interpretations of his ideas, still finding their way into print over a decade after his death.
For the serious researcher whose main pre-occupation isn't axe-grinding, Ewan left behind a large amount of material in recorded form on his work and ideas. Contrary to another gem of misrepresentation in Dave Harker's "One For The Money", where he manages to make The Critics Group sound like the Beckenham branch of The Cosa Nostra, most of the group meetings were openly recorded and are now housed in The Charles Parker Archive in Birmingham. The National Sound Archive, London and Ruskin College, Oxford also have some of these and hopefully they will all become fully accessible in the not-to-distant future.
My own contact with Ewan stretches over 20 odd years and when Pat and I began to record traditional singers, the time we had spent in The Critics Group was of enormous help. Many of the ideas Ewan was putting forward, on the traditional singer as a conscious, creative artist were borne out in full by our work with singers such as Walter Pardon of Norfolk and Tom Lenihan of West Clare.
We have chosen a number of recordings for you to listen to, mainly from an extended interview we did with Ewan between August 1978 and February 1979, with a couple of items taken from The Critics Group tapes.
Ewan was very much opposed to the popular idea that the act of traditional singing was a "natural" one and that the singer really did not have to think about what he or she was doing.
EXAMPLE 1.   
"I believe that this notion comes from, it really begins in the Romantic Movement.   It begins with that notion of the rude, unlettered hind with a heart of gold and all the rest of it, you know. Basically today I see it as a very reactionary and very bourgeois point of view. I think it stems from a belief that the working class are incapable of doing anything which demands a high level of expertise and a high level of skill, particularly in the creative field.   
And how is it possible then that this body of music that we call folk song and folk music, traditional song, traditional music, whatever you like to call it, how is it possible that this, which has been made by labourers, seamen and all the rest of it, should have, should demand this level of expertise, should demand this high level of craftsmanship on the part of its performers.   "No", they say, "the songs are simple", and all the rest of it.   And that is nonsense, that is utter nonsense.   
To some extent it's the same idea that the nineteenth century English folk song collectors had about the music itself.   "It's embryonic music", they said, and when they didn't actually describe it as embryonic, that is what they meant when they talked about it being simple, "the simple music of unlettered people".   But unlettered there is used as a pejorative term, as though the ability to read and write is all important. The implication being that if you can read and write, then you are going to be a better singer than if you can't read or write, and we know that's nonsense.""
It's this snob thing and it's the snob thing which makes them say "you don't need to work at it, you don't need a high level of craftsmanship to perform this.   
The best of folk music in the world, wherever it comes from, whether it's a Joe Heaney or whether it's that young man singing those Azerbaijani songs, is full of the most extraordinary expertise, full of the most extraordinary physical ideas, vocal ideas I mean, I mean physical in the vocal sense.
"




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 05:31 AM

are you sure its not you that's not the snob.

i have never begrudged traditional singers their skill or talent.

however turning up at a non folk venue; knowing the technical side of playing the right material at the right volume.....well whatever Simon Cowell has told you to the contrary.....you don't 'nail it' as a fourteen year old lisping into microphone. it is not without its skills.

moreover....more than few folk performers could benefit from learning those techniques.

is it not in fact you who thinks the working class and jobbing musicians have nothing to teach you. building a bridge with an audience is something that has to be learned - and you won't learn it in places where the audiences just sit there in silence.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 05:52 AM

"are you sure its not you that's not the snob."
Why?
You wouldn't turn up with an instrument without having worked at it - why is it snobbish to suggest that the same applies to singing?
Don't reckon "lisping into a microphone" is a necessary skill for folk song at all - at all, not in my world
Building a bridge with the audience has to be through the song - not the microphone
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 09:15 AM

Is this thread just an excuse for gratuitous insults? It's quite an interesting topic really, but is there an ulterior motive? The lack of contributors is surely an indication of the lack of interest in the details of what may or may not have happened 50 years ago? I suppose Jim C has provoked people into revealing previously unheard anecdotes in the subject title- I have a few which I won't relate, as it would just confirm his persecution complex!
Maybe he could condense them into a publication of some kind, and stop insulting contributors, revival stalwarts and innocent bystanders a well as repeating his pro- MacColl mantra ad nauseam.
Maybe it's all justified for historical research, but having skimmed through the few days since my last post, the vitriol still continues. I'm with Vic- life's too short for this- time to get the tatties chitting.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 10:40 AM

Should that not read "hysterical research"???




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 10:59 AM

As an outside observer who occasionally has a look at this site, can I just say this thread totally sums up mudcat at its worst.

Many of the contributors are obviously very knowledgeable and intelligent, yet seem incapable of "agreeing to disagree", or debating without descending into personal insults.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 11:28 AM

"I suppose Jim C has provoked people into revealing previously unheard anecdotes"
Heard every one of them before - interminably.
The people who revel in these anecdotes need no provocation - they succeed to drown thread after thread n them.
It was, and remains my intention to have MacColl's ideas discussed - not his personality - the fact that this has proved virtually impossible is a poor reflection on the folk scene.
You, among others, are happy to see MacColl criticised, yet are apparently prepared to ignore bad behaviour in others - that's not particularly impressive either
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 12:39 PM

ok let us discuss two of his ideas.
1.
the use of stanislowskis ideas for the radio ballads.
2 The singers club policies[ not entirely his idea, but one he played a major part in.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 12:46 PM

Singing with a microphone is a skill, as is singing without one,so is communicating with an audience both with a mic and without
learning to deal with different types of audiences, let us say from pub singarounds to concert situations require different skills.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 12:56 PM

Jim it is really simple it is like this if you called me a talentless moron to my face,i would tell you to fuck off, you have called me a talentless moron on this forum therefore i feel perfectly justified in telling you to fuck off as i would if you said it to me to my face.
it is simple treat me with good manners and i will respond in a similiar way.
now let us discuss MacColls use of stanislowskis ideas ,Iwould appreciate that.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 01:11 PM

Unmissable for folk music enthusiasts.....
Midsomer Murders


8:00pm, Wednesday 11 February 2015
Duration: 2 hours
Series 17
• Episode 3
The organiser of a folk festival is found murdered, a crime that appears to have been inspired by a ballad made famous by a late and lamented singer. Detectives scour current threads in The Mudcat Cafe for signs of of any heated discussion about a famous deceased singer that that show any rancour to see if there are any clues that could lead to..... aargh...... a knife......my back.....can my last action be a link.....click here.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 01:27 PM

I'm sure you find that both funny and relevant - why shouldn't you
Can I remind you that you, who has complained of the insults here, opened up by saying you were not going to send me a copy of your review because you believed I would on;ly concentrate on the negative things you had to say.
Any respect I ever had for you was flushed down the toilet about then.
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 02:33 PM

Well, the really funny thing is that I did not make it up! I cut and paste it from the ITV website.... well, I did add a few words at the end, but I would like to apologise for having a sense of humour.

Any respect I ever had for you was flushed down the toilet about then.
Jim, Jim, Have you ever thought of trying to lighten up - just a little bit? A 100% combative attitude can't be good for your stress levels. I will always make jokes when I see bad feelings rising and anger developing; it is the sort of person that I am.
And since you are sharing information from PMs from me (re. reviews) allow me to quote from one of your PMs to me:-
I have to admit I'm feeling a bit shell-shocked at the moment....
Thanks for the heads up - will try not to let it happen again.
Sadly, I think you are. Now try and post an amicable response to calm things down




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 02:43 PM

jim you either want to discuss macColls ideas or you do not, how about Stanislavski and how he influenced MacColl




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 02:49 PM

"I did add a few words at the end, but I would like to apologise for having a sense of humour."
Don't apologise Vic - you might apologise for using your "sense of humour" as a spoiler to prevent a discussion on MacColl as an artist, but I doubt if you will - much funnier to stay with the character assassinations and smears.
Too old and to set on trying to come to terms with the importance of folk song.
I really would much prefer to discuss MacColl's work than the Chinese whispers, if that's OK with you.
I've attempted to respond to every single point you have made - you have responded to none of mine, in the interest of "balance" no doubt.
Just got word that our Clare collection of 450 songs is to be used in Clare schools in order to put Clare kids in touch with their song tradition, so you've caught me at a good moment - who needs to lighten up?
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 02:49 PM

or his use of what he called recitatives in the song writing of the radio ballads? or his prefernce for the dorian mode in his songs etc, or his use of very similiar tunes fopr shoals of herring schooldays over




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 03:26 PM

Sorry to create another bit of thread drift but -

Just got word that our Clare collection of 450 songs is to be used in Clare schools in order to put Clare kids in touch with their song tradition
.....also available in The Irish Traditional Music Archive




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 06:16 PM

one of MacColl s ideas as I understand it, is sometimes called the idea of if, that is you cannot truly convince when singing a song unless you can work yourself into it.
that is one of his ideas that might be discussing, I think it is a good idea. Jim do you want to discuss his ideas or not?




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 12 Feb 15 - 02:50 AM

"Jim do you want to discuss his ideas or not?"
Course I do Dick, but not with you - that way be dragons.
Thanks for that link Vic
Jim Carroll




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 12 Feb 15 - 04:31 AM

"Is this thread just an excuse for gratuitous insults?"

I'm assuming it's based on the Monty Python sketch...

"Contradiction isn't an argument"
"Oh yes it is"
"Oh no it isn't"
etc...




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 12 Feb 15 - 05:15 AM

I am happy to discuss his ideas with you or anyone providing they do not start insulting me with "talentless moron".
Jim action provokes reaction, if you insult me you must expect a certain kind of reaction.
MacCOLL helped a member of the crtics group who was struggling with the song gypsy laddie , he said to the person if you were that girl how would you sing the song,apparantly the effect on the singer and her singing was amazing. he then described the girl in the song diiferently this time as being rich disillusioned and plain, the singer then sang the song completely differently.
very good advice for any singer, and an idea that I would have difficulty finding fault with.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 12 Feb 15 - 06:07 AM

I've just had a déjà vu.




Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl - any first-hand anecdotes?
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 12 Feb 15 - 10:46 AM

I've heard that Pentland Dell are pretty good tatties


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