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Bertsongs? (songs of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd)

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Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 07:47 AM
Brian Peters 22 Apr 08 - 08:41 AM
Dave Sutherland 22 Apr 08 - 08:48 AM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Phil in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 09:00 AM
Santa 22 Apr 08 - 09:12 AM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 09:30 AM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,Phil in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 09:35 AM
GUEST,Phil in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 09:36 AM
Big Al Whittle 22 Apr 08 - 09:53 AM
Dave Sutherland 22 Apr 08 - 09:53 AM
mark gregory 22 Apr 08 - 10:17 AM
Brian Peters 22 Apr 08 - 10:43 AM
pavane 22 Apr 08 - 11:13 AM
Ruth Archer 22 Apr 08 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Lighter 22 Apr 08 - 12:00 PM
Ruth Archer 22 Apr 08 - 12:07 PM
MartinRyan 22 Apr 08 - 12:11 PM
Ruth Archer 22 Apr 08 - 12:11 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 12:13 PM
Brian Peters 22 Apr 08 - 12:49 PM
The Sandman 22 Apr 08 - 01:08 PM
Ruth Archer 22 Apr 08 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 22 Apr 08 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,Lighter 22 Apr 08 - 01:17 PM
Phil Edwards 22 Apr 08 - 01:18 PM
JeffB 22 Apr 08 - 01:39 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 01:56 PM
GUEST,Lighter 22 Apr 08 - 01:58 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice 22 Apr 08 - 02:05 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 02:45 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice 22 Apr 08 - 02:52 PM
Brian Peters 22 Apr 08 - 02:59 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 03:08 PM
Phil Edwards 22 Apr 08 - 03:33 PM
Malcolm Douglas 22 Apr 08 - 03:49 PM
GUEST,meself 22 Apr 08 - 04:11 PM
nutty 22 Apr 08 - 04:17 PM
John Routledge 22 Apr 08 - 04:47 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice 22 Apr 08 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Volgadon 22 Apr 08 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Steve Gardham 22 Apr 08 - 05:30 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 05:42 PM
BB 22 Apr 08 - 05:58 PM
The Sandman 22 Apr 08 - 06:26 PM
The Sandman 22 Apr 08 - 06:33 PM
The Sandman 22 Apr 08 - 06:34 PM
Les in Chorlton 22 Apr 08 - 06:44 PM
Rowan 22 Apr 08 - 07:04 PM
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Subject: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 07:47 AM

Just trying to pull together discussions going on on the other Bert threads. Their is clearly are growing number of songs that owe much more to Bert Lloyd than to the people he claimed to collect them from.

The Blackleg Miner, Do me Ama, The Recruited Collier, Reynadyne, Tam Lyn, Byker Hill in 9/8, The Four Loom Weaver, The Handloom Weaver and the Factory Maid are songs that various people feel are a lot of Bert.

I trust Ruth Archer wont object to quoting her from the "Do me Ama" thread:

"I agree that one of the problems about the "remade" songs is that they are often made in the image of Lloyd's personal politics. It's about as academically dodgy as it's possible to be: start with a thesis, and find sources that back up your thesis. And if the sources don't quite support your thesis, change them. Or just make them up. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time..."

And similarly Brian Peters from the Source Singers thread:

"Two of the best-known songs of that genre - both of which I've been known to sing - are "The Four Loom Weaver" and "The Handweaver and the Factory Maid". I can't understand why anyone would choose to sing those songs without being at least mildly curious about where they came from, who composed them, who actually sang them a century or more ago. In both cases it turns out that their provenance is murky, with probable or definite editorial intervention by Ewan MacColl and Bert Lloyd respectively. That doesn't mean that they're not worth singing, but it does mean that I would feel the need to be careful about introducing either song to an audience with words like "Here's an old song that Lancashire cotton mill workers used to sing."

Two questions:

1. How long is the Bertsong list
2. How much does it matter?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 08:41 AM

'Bold Lovell', which I learned from Roy Harris's singing on the great LP, 'Champions of Folly' is acknowledged on the sleeve notes (which Bert Lloyd wrote) as having been 'adapted a bit' by Lloyd himself from 'The New Green Mountain Songster', a collection of songs made by Helen Hartness Flanders in Vermont. If you look up the original you can find any number of textual changes, in particular the substitution of a new chorus: 'The Devil's in the women, so they say....' for the original 'Dol-de-dol-der-it....'. This may be based on a line from 'Whisky in the Jar', which has a similar storyline.

Most of the other changes are cosmetic, although it's interesting that the 'Irish cap and feather' in the original has been altered to 'highway cap and feather', and a spurious reference to Chatham inserted, allowing me to believe for many years that the song was possibly English in origin.

Having discovered the truth about the song, I carried on singing it regardless, and still enjoy doing so.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 08:48 AM

To repeat what I have said on previous Bert Lloyd threads that there are countless people singing "Jack Orion", "Sovay" and "The Demon Lover" who have never even heard of A.L.Lloyd. So was he doing such a bad thing?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 08:56 AM

Much more has been said and written than sung.

Does ot matter?

Brian makes the point - "I would feel the need to be careful about introducing either song to an audience with words like "Here's an old song that Lancashire cotton mill workers used to sing."


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Phil in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:00 AM

When I first heard Anne Briggs (on CD!), her singing turned my head around - hearing those words, sung in that way, I felt that this was the oral tradition.

Then I found out about "The recruited collier" and "Reynardine". TRC in particular is a lovely little song (Reynardine's a bit of a mess to my mind), but the oral tradition they ain't. It really shook the foundations, for me. I'd much rather get this stuff out in the open - it's not as if there won't be plenty of ballads left.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Santa
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:12 AM

So tell me which songs from the collected tradition had not been rewritten by some person or persons before the version that was sung to the collector?

You can't tell me, because it is unknowable. There is no unspoilt well, from which pure traditional folk songs can be obtained, clean of any human intervention/alteration/polishing.

In this case we have songs where the source turns out to be a known person, in which case the record should be annotated as such for specialists and archivists, and the rest of us can go on singing them or not, as the fancy takes us.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:30 AM

All true Santa. A rich and varied living tradition that in some ways rolls on.

Why didn't Bert say what he was doing? Why did he leave people with the idea that these were songs that he or unknown others had collected?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:33 AM

Martin Carthy, amongst others, has re-created songs from fragments and good songs they are too. But Martin has always been completely open about this process.

Why didn't Bert say what he was doing?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Phil in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:35 AM

I think you're running together two or three different questions. Can we identify any songs which have irrefutably been passed down from voice to voice since the year dot, without ever being written out and tidied up? No, of course not. Can we identify some songs as being more 'written' than others? Yes, clearly - some 'traditional' songs seem to have originated as broadsides, others were essentially music hall numbers, and quite a number seem to have been written by a certain B. Dylan. I'm quite happy to sing a song by Bert Lloyd, but I'd rather not announce it as something it's not. The charge against Lloyd isn't that he wrote songs but that he denied doing it.

If you're asking whether any of this matters, the answer is that it matters to those it matters to. At the end of the day the songs are out there, and long may they be sung.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Phil in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:36 AM

Oops - 'you' in my last was Santa, not Les (hi Les!).


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:53 AM

Surely the point is that Martin Carthy, Ewan MacColl, Bert lloyd, and by the same token Joan Baez - were artists. They did (do) with the songs what is necessary to make them live - given the audience they have.

The hand weaver and the factory maid is not about lancashire specifically but about social divisions. Like people who buy t-shirts from from Next and Marks, and those who buy from Fosters.

that line, 'nowt lies there but a fact'ry maid'. Didn't you ever take a girlfriend home that your parents didn't approve of?

if we've got down to the point where this music and these songs, are just about history and who said what to whom and with exactly what words, the folkscene is really up shit creek.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 09:53 AM

In several of the sleeve notes to various albums, even ones that he did not feature upon, Lloyd admitted that he "devised","cobbled"or set words to a tune of his own fancy. So he wasn't entirely hiding everything.
Anyway there has always been plenty of speculation over many of Bert's songs. I have heard several recordings of "When A Man's in Love" but only Bert seems to have his particular vesion which is remarkably different to the others.
In one of the last conversations that I had with the late Pete Elliott of Birtley, who would have gone to the wall for Bert, over his version of "Celebrated Working Man" which appears on "The Iron Muse" and is so different to the form that Jack Elliott sang, Pete smiled and offered the opinion that on that occasion he suspected Bert of "wangling"


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: mark gregory
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 10:17 AM

I like to think there was Bert the singer and storyteller with an incredible knowledge of tunes and lyrical material, and there was also Bert (or A.L.Lloyd) the folklorist with a very broad interest in folk song and a writer about such songs from many places around the world. His broad knowledge and interest meant that he was very good at making suggestions about connections about the spread of songs from one place to another.

His published collections of songs were important not for his own field work but for the the material he gathered together ath others were less interested in, that's particularly the case with his Come All Ye Bold Miners. Who else would had pulled it all together in such an interesting way, a way that miners would treasure? What pleased him most was that once the original (1952) collection was published it had a kind of snowball effect and the second edition in 1979 was much larger as a result.

I also see dramatic evolution of Bert's ideas about how to define folk song if you take his writing from 1944 to 1979. In 1944 he knew very little about what later became known as Industrial Folk Song, in later discussion about folk song he makes space for this relatively new material where the author is often known and where the transmission is via the printed page.

As a singer he often admitted that he had tinkered with songs or joined a particular set of lyrics to a particular tune. As a singer he recorded some 200 songs over a 30 year period on over a hundred recordings. Some never liked the way he sang, but I always found him a most interesting and entertaining singer and one who liked to 'release a song from it's hobbles' as he put it. I believe he encouraged many others to do likewise. Recently the Illawara Folk Club in NSW put on a Bert Lloyd Centenary concert in his honour and chose a number of Australian Songs Bert had recorded for a variety of singers and bands to interpret. It was a most interesting night!

See more about the Bert Lloyd Centenary at http://folkstream.com/reviews/lloyd/centenary.html


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 10:43 AM

"The hand weaver and the factory maid is not about lancashire specifically but about social divisions.... that line, 'nowt lies there but a fact'ry maid'. Didn't you ever take a girlfriend home that your parents didn't approve of?"

I don't have all the paperwork to hand, but a publication by Roy Palmer gave several quite distinct songs (not all of which are about factory work at all) that seem to have formed the basis of Lloyd's version. These contain lines like:

"At weaver lads she looked in scorn
I wish that a weaver I'd ne'er been born"

and:

"The factory maid is like a queen
With handloom weavers she'll not be seen."

... which never made the final cut.

So it seems that Lloyd inverted the snobbery in the old versions of the song, in order to suggest that the factory worker was at the bottom of the heap. A feeling of empathy with the fellow whose parents didn't approve of a girlfriend is one reason I learned the song in the first place, but if we're going to use old songs to say to people, "There you are, THAT'S what it was like back then" (which is precisely what just about every modern singer of an industrial folksong IS saying), then surely we need to know what is old and what is made up?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: pavane
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 11:13 AM

To the academic world, falsifying your evidence is the most serious of crimes - many careers have been ended by this. It can send other researchers on all kinds of wild goose chases, as we have seen, wasting time.

To the audience in a folk club, it doesn't matter as long as the performance is good.

As said above, the serious crime was to invent a false history of the song, trying to rewrite history.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 11:52 AM

That's interesting, Brian: in A Touch on the Times (1974) Roy Palmer gives the Lloyd version, more or less, and reports that it was collected by Lloyd in Widnes as late as 1951. It doesn't make reference to the verses

"At weaver lads she looked in scorn
I wish that a weaver I'd ne'er been born"

or

"The factory maid is like a queen
With handloom weavers she'll not be seen."

Or to other versions at all. Presumably it was later that he decided that Lloyd had cobbled the song from multiple sources.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:00 PM

Phil in Chorlton has it exactly right:

"If you're asking whether any of this matters, the answer is that it matters to those it matters to. At the end of the day the songs are out there, and long may they be sung."

My experience may have been like Phil's. When I compared the first-rate lyrics that singers were recording with the second- and third-rate quality of most field-collected lyrics, I was surprised and disappointed. When it became clear just how far some had taken their revisions, which they then implied were the product of something slightly mystical called the "folk process," I felt I'd been had. Part of the appeal of "folksong" is that it supposedly gives you the very words of long-gone, anonymous people who weren't in it for the money and didn't need to pander to corporate patrons and jaded audiences. That's an important way folksong differs from pop music.

If you don't feel that particular esthetic tug, and you experience the songs without a sense of history (and that's cool too), then there's no problem. But traditional songs are supposed to be "about" history.

Unlike Bishop Percy, Baring-Gould, and the pop rewriters of the early '60s, Lloyd was an inspired song-tinkerer who really did improve what he put his pen to. The problem is that his artistic sense and immersion in the subject subverted his scholarly ethics. Nobody enjoys being fooled, and genuine scholars take pains not to fool them.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:07 PM

"The problem is that his artistic sense and immersion in the subject subverted his scholarly ethics. Nobody enjoys being fooled, and genuine scholars take pains not to fool them. "

Lighter, i agree up to a point. The thing that concerns me - and I speak as someone whose politics are very left of centre - is that Lloyd was coming from a particular political perspective, and the re-writes were sometimes done specifically to support his polemic. That's where, for me, the dishonesty really becomes an issue.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:11 PM

Folksong as propaganda? So what's new?

Regards


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:11 PM

Sorry - that didn't make much sense. What I meant by quoting Lighter is that I think this is the point where it stops being about "artistic sense" and perhaps a touch of over-enthusiasm, and becomes deliberately manipulative.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:13 PM

Me too Ruth


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 12:49 PM

"That's interesting, Brian: in A Touch on the Times (1974) Roy Palmer gives the Lloyd version, more or less, and reports that it was collected by Lloyd in Widnes as late as 1951."

Unfortunately, Ruth, when I came across the paper in the VWML I only photocopied a couple of pages' worth of song texts, not the whole article. However, I've just checked Dave Atkinson's English Folk Song Bibliography and the paper in question is listed as:

376. Palmer, Roy. 'The Weaver in Love'. FMJ 3 (1977): 261-274.
Studies variations in the song 'The Weaver and the Factory Maid' in relation to changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

A version called 'T'Owd Weaver' seems to be the source of the 5/4 melody we all know from our Steeleye Span recordings, but it's set in Yorkshire ("The finest lass in Morley Town, she always walks out in a fine silk gown"), and is the source for the first couplet I quoted.

Another one called 'The Weaver and the Factory Maid' (sorry, I didn't copy the pages giving the singers' names or dates so I don't know whether any is from Widnes) is the source for the "factory maid is like a queen" line, and also includes verses more familiar from the Lloyd version.

Yet another version contains the familiar verse "I went unto my love's chamber door", and then goes on to some rather rude stuff: "I put my shuttle into her hand, and bid her use it at her command...."

If you want more you'll have to look up RP's paper. Maybe the fragment I've got in front of me misses out another killer version where the factory maid is the victim of snobbery after all. Maybe not.

I've got no axe to grind against Lloyd - who contributed so much that was admirable, and was by all accounts a charming and inspiring man - nor do I disapprove of his politics. 'Folksong in England' was my Bible for many years. But like Ruth, I'm disturbed by evidence that his agenda may have swayed his scholarship, particularly in view of the influence he wielded over, and material he contributed to, the nascent folk revival.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:08 PM

I've got no axe to grind against Lloyd - who contributed so much that was admirable, and was by all accounts a charming and inspiring man - nor do I disapprove of his politics. 'Folksong in England' was my Bible for many years. But like Ruth, I'm disturbed by evidence that his agenda may have swayed his scholarship, particularly in view of the influence he wielded over, and material he contributed to, the nascent folk revival.[quote from Brian Peters post]
I am not dismayed at all,I fully agree with LLoyds politics,and agree with what he was trying to do and consider that more important than scholarship.
Most people who are driven by a desire to change the world,be they Muslim fundamentalists ,Fascists,communists, socialists,are prepared to try and camouflage scholarship,to further their own beliefs.
this very day Muslims have managed to get the holocaust removed from the english school curriculum[so I have been informed by email].


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Ruth Archer
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:09 PM

Brian, it looks like Roy Palmer may have done some more research into the song after the publication of A Touch on the Times - the publication dates would suggest this.

No axes here, either - I still think his contribution was huge and look forward to the Centenary Concert at Cecil Sharp House in November.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:13 PM

I agree with those who are a bit impatient with Bert's legacy. He wasn't very forthcoming about his sources and this is at odds with his reputation as a scholar.

Nevertheless, here's a slightly different perspective on Bert as an artist. Some 40 years ago I heard him sing at my local folk club in my home town. I have this vision in my head of this quite ordinary looking, somewhat portly little man getting off the London train, one Sunday evening, and walking through deserted streets to the pub where the club was held. He carried no instruments or equipment, just the songs in his head.

Amazingly a tape of that evening survives and I got to hear it recently. As well as the songs he sang, Bert told one of his incredible 'shaggy dog' stories. In the story a mysterious stranger turns up at an outback sheep station in Australia. He performs numerous 'miracles' and by the end of the story gets to 'roger' everyone on the station - including the owner! Now, as far as I know (and what do I know?) Bert didn't get to 'roger' anyone that night, but I couldn't help but draw parallels between him and the mysterious magician in his story. Bert Lloyd evenings in a folk club were magical and perhaps, like all good magicians, he didn't want his audiences to know how the tricks were done (?)


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:17 PM

Ruth, as one whose politics are dead center (no pun intended) I never got a sense from the songs themselves that I was being manipulated - though I admit I haven't listened much to Lloyd's industrial songs, "Blackleg Miner" being the most obvious exception.
Songs like "Do Me Ama" and "Reynardine" and even "The Weaver and the Factory Maid" come off as humanistic rather than propagandist documents.

Lloyd's unacknowledged manipulation of his material is ridiculously low on the scale of human wrongdoing. The truth remains that he often misrepresented facts of tradition when he knew better.

Which has costs for folksong scholarship.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:18 PM

Most people who are driven by a desire to change the world,be they Muslim fundamentalists ,Fascists,communists, socialists,are prepared to try and camouflage scholarship,to further their own beliefs.

I don't think that will work. Les, Ruth and I are (by our own admission) pinkoes of the deepest dye, who might be supposed to sympathise with the kind of line Lloyd was trying to get across. But we've all expressed concern about scholarship being 'camouflaged' (or rather distorted).

this very day Muslims have managed to get the holocaust removed from the english school curriculum[so I have been informed by email].

I think your source is probably mistaken - more on this well-circulated story here. (But let's minimise follow-ups on this non-musical but highly contentious topic.)


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: JeffB
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:39 PM

Lighter says that "traditional songs are supposed to be 'about' history". I would put a slightly different emphasis on what sons means to me and say they are about people - for the much greater part, about ordinary people who had to work with their hands to earn a living. From this point of view, there is no false propaganda in writing a song about the very hard times working people had in the 19th C (as Bert Lloyd seems to be accused of). Is anyone going to claim that 19th C labourers did not have a hard time? In some cases an atrocious time. Was Lloyd being factually inaccurate in his versions? He certainly would have been if he had written about how happy factory weavers were intheir work, with their generous wages and conditions.

It is all very well saying that we would like to sing (or even should only sing) the exact words as sung by singers from the past, and along with many another I appreciate the kind of continuity and contact over time that this experience can give. But singing is not an exercise in historical re-enactment. Singers chose the versions they like, from wherever they get them, because the song affects them and they want to communicate that same affect to their audience. From a singer's point of view, it might be interesting to know that, for instance, Lloyd or some other changed the verses of a particular song in various ways, but that is not of first importance. Singers are not always the genuine scholars of Ruth's comment, but it is the singers and not the scholars who keep the tradition (however you choose to define it) going.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:56 PM

Did he invent a bit or a lot?

Currently we don't know and so we don't really know the scale of the deception.

For what it's worth I saw him a couple of times and thought he was brilliant but that means nothing in this context, as most of us who saw him think so as well.

What we want is the truth about which songs were mostly his passed of as something else.

We are talking about folk song and folk culture. This is an aspect of our culture in which people have a habit of saying all sorts of things with out much evidence!


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 01:58 PM

The "Do Me Ama" thread contains my final rant of the day about the point of all this. Lloyd's importance is only underscored by our concern with his reliability as a teacher and our disappointment when he, er, disappoints.

Wish I'd met him and heard him tell that story.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 02:05 PM

"Did he invent a bit or a lot?

Currently we don't know and so we don't really know the scale of the deception"

I thought quite a bit about this, overnight, and re-read some passages from Folk Song in England, and I really don't think we'll ever know the full scale, and in the end, I wonder if it really matters. I will still sing the songs, indeed , this Friday I'll sing The Black Leg Miner (see the eponymous thread) after listening the driving version by Steeleye Span.

Charlotte R


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 02:45 PM

Fair enough Charlotte, people should sing what they like and so they will. Will you talk about the origin of the song? I don't know what it is anymore and I don't like the feel of that.

People singing in clubs often say a bit about the songs.In Manchester, the first Industrial City, we have a wealth of songs from broadsides that record something or other that happened to Mancunians 1 to 200 years ago.

Ewan collected To the Begging I will go from Beckett Whitehead in the 1950s or did he? Ewan and maybe Bert collected a very odd version of Working on the Railway from an UNNMADE railwayman in Newton Heath Manchester, or did they.

Honesty?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 02:52 PM

'Will you talk about the origin of the song? '

ummmmm...how does this sound?

'This is a very powerful song of the coal miners I learned from Steeleye Span, the background and origin of the song are currently the subject of much debate at this time' (do I get off the hook? *LOL*)

Charlotte R


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 02:59 PM

"...there is no false propaganda in writing a song about the very hard times working people had in the 19th C (as Bert Lloyd seems to be accused of). Is anyone going to claim that 19th C labourers did not have a hard time?"

No, I'm not - I've read my Engels as well. If Bert Lloyd or anyone else had written original songs about those hard times, no one would be objecting.

The problem is that, for many of us who love traditional songs and choose to sing them, the fact that they are "The Voice of the People" (not for nothing did Topic use this title for their traditional song boxed set) is a part of their appeal. We like to feel, realistically or otherwise, that they may offer some kind of insight as to what life was really like, as seen not by historians but by ordinary folk. When intellectuals start meddling with them at a hundred and fifty years' remove - and particularly when the meddling is with the substance rather than the detail - they lose that claim to authenticity. When we don't know how much meddling has gone on, it's easy to lose faith with the whole canon.

I perform from time to time for local schoolchildren a repertoire designed to tell them something about the history behind those great cotton mills that still cast their shadow over this town. I show them old photographs and explain to them how children of their age would have been crawling underneath working machinery (with no safety guards) at severe risk to life and limb, and trudging off to work before the break of dawn. Perhaps one or two of them may be a fraction less likely to turn into Tory voters as a result (or perhaps I flatter myself). But I would like to feel that the songs I use to help tell the story do actually represent the people who worked those mills. Unlike Dick [above] I think it's better to try to stick to the truth in trying to change the world.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 03:08 PM

I feel sure that is an excellent summary of where we have got to with respect to Bert's honesty and where it leaves us.

For those who don't know Brian is a good as it gets when we talk about English songs, their performance and the background that those songs spring from.

I would ask people to stop re-stating how good and how important Bert was. I think we all agree on that.

I would like to know which songs were his and which were traditional.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 03:33 PM

This is a very powerful song of the coal miners I learned from Steeleye Span

Like it. Crossing over with another thread ('Source singers'), when I started performing I was utterly convinced that everyone else had learnt their repertoire from a passing ploughman, or failing that from Bert Lloyd in person, or at the very least from another folkie who'd learnt it from another folkie who'd learnt it from... To put it another way, I was convinced I was the only person there who'd picked up songs from (gasp!) records. I was eventually disabused of that notion.

Getting back to the topic, Steve Winick's article seems to suggest that Folk Song in England is basically pukka with regard to this one - if Lloyd says in FSIE that a song's traditional, then it probably is. (And if not, quite possibly not.) I haven't got FSIE myself - do other people think it might be a good place to draw a vague and fuzzy line?


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 03:49 PM

To return for a moment to weavers and factory maids:

Palmer (FMJ, 1977, reference above) quotes a text 'Kindly communicated by A L Lloyd; collected by him from William Oliver of Widnes, September, 1951. "Mr Oliver's recollection was that the song was on a broadside printed in Oldham and formerly in his family's possession" (A L Lloyd, private communication).' Palmer goes on to say that he has not succeeded in locating an example of this broadside, adding that the 6/8 tune (which, for the article, was transcribed 'as sung by A L Lloyd', though the text was that provided by Lloyd as from his informant, thus:

I am a hand weaver to my trade.
I fell in love with a factory maid,
And if I could but her favor gain
I'd stand beside her and weave by steam.

The factory maid she is like a queen,
With handloom weavers she'll not be seen.
[two lines missing]

[two lines missing]
When you could have girls fine and gay
And dressed up like to the Queen of May.

For all her finery I don't care (or: For the fine girls...)
Could but enjoy me dear
I'd stand in the factory all the day
And she and I'd keep our shuttles in play.

How can you say it's a pleasant bed,
When nought lies there but a factory maid?
A factory maid what though she be,
Blest is the man that enjoys she.

[line missing]
And makes me wish I'd never been born,
I sit and grieve at my loom all day
For the lass that stole my heart away.

Now where are the girls? I'll tell you plain,
The girls have gone to weave by steam.
And if you'd find 'em you must rise at dawn
And trudge to the factory in the early morn.

At no point does Palmer question the authenticity of Lloyd's text as printed (though he does provide a caveat where Frank Kidson's, with 5/4 tune, is concerned; however, no part of that text was used in the song as Lloyd sang it); the short article is simply an investigation of the song and its broadside antecedents. It is only in Lloyd's text that the girl is 'a factory maid': in earlier forms she is a servant, and it is from one or more of those that the missing lines were adapted, and additional verses inserted, by Lloyd for performance.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 04:11 PM

Dick says: "I am not dismayed at all,I fully agree with LLoyds politics,and agree with what he was trying to do and consider that more important than scholarship.
Most people who are driven by a desire to change the world,be they Muslim fundamentalists ,Fascists,communists, socialists,are prepared to try and camouflage scholarship,to further their own beliefs."

This is why I do not trust ideologues and fanatics of any stripe.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: nutty
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 04:17 PM

can i suggest that this article may shed some light on Lloyds intentions
A. L. Lloyd and the Search for a New Folk Music, 1945-49


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: John Routledge
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 04:47 PM

Many thanks for this informative link Nutty

It confirms that Bert was helped in his mining song collecting by The National Coal Board around 1950. In practical terms songs were "sent" to Bert by working miners.

Two of these songs Blackleg Miner and Banks of the Dee were among the first half dozen songs that I learned around 1963-4.The more I sing them the more that I am convinced that they were not conceived much before 1950

In a similar vein Gresford Disaster was "collected" in Sheffield and again repeated singing since 1966 confirms my gut reaction as to the origin of the song.

They are still wonderful songs and none the less worthy of being sung!!


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 05:10 PM

The Gresford Disaster.

John Tams, formly of The Albion Band, did the research into the song, and found that it had been written in the form of the great, black-lettered, broadside ballads to raise funds for those who had been
widowed and orphaned by the accident He also discovered that the colliery band was at the pithead as the bodies were being brought out, playing to try and raise the spirits
of the wives, children and friends who were waiting. One tune the colliery band is known to have played, according to Tams, was How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds (in a believer's ear)

I've no reason to believe that John Tams is in anyway mistaken.

Charlotte R


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Volgadon
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 05:23 PM

Could it be that he didn't always remember fiddling? Woody Guthrie forgot that Gypsy Davey was around way before him.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: GUEST,Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 05:30 PM

This is a very frustrating but interesting thread. People keep repeating over and over two facts which are not really connected. What Bert did as a performer surely we can't question, he altered/improved songs which we all do. If we don't we're simply walking museums.
A totally separate issue is his behaviour as a scholar and writer. Here he followed the very ancient tradition of fabricating songs from oral tradition....Percy, Scott, Ford, Cunningham, Buchan, Baring Gould, Tongue, Niles, MacColl.....He was equally naughty.

Someone asked for more examples.
I'm from Hull.
Bert went out on a whaler from Hull and claimed to have learnt a version of the shanty 'Heave away my Johnny' from a seaman off Stoneferry in Hull.

One verse runs 'Fare ye well, ye Kingston girls, farewell St Andrews Dock'. Nobody from Hull (With the sole exception of one Mike Ramsden)would ever call anybody from Hull 'Kingston'. The only things called Kingston are the stadium, a few local firms and a rugby team, but even they're either Rovers or KR. Kingston stadium is KC. Most people from Hull can't stand the bloody name Kingston. St Andrews dock is a relatively new dock and would only have been built a few years before Bert was sailing out of her on his one trip whaling on a very modern boat. It was the fish dock, now filled in.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 05:42 PM

Steve,

you are beyond the pail.

Bert played games. This is not honest


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: BB
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 05:58 PM

"if we've got down to the point where this music and these songs, are just about history and who said what to whom and with exactly what words, the folkscene is really up shit creek."

Ah, but it isn't *just* about history, etc., as many of the posters above have indicated.

I'm somewhat puzzled, wld, as to why you read or post to these threads about the more academic matters and about the tradition if you don't really care about such things. If all you're concerned with is the folk scene, why don't you restrict yourself just to discussion on that, and let those who are interested in such things get on with it? You wouldn't get so frustrated then.

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 06:26 PM

Traditional songs, are all songs that were written by somebody,many have been altered and added to,by the singers.
modern songs may possibly be sung in 200 years time,they may also get changed,and it is possible that some may get mistaken for traditional.
if Bob Roberts altered Gamekeepers lie sleeping,or A. L.Lloyd altered a song,or even wrote a song and passed it off as traditional,if it was a good song,I am sure none of the singers on this forum,would not sing it because it was not traditional.
most people sing songs because they like the song.
as a singer ,that is the only thing that concerns me.IF a song is a modern composition the only reason, I need to know is to ensure the author gets credited with his/ her royalties.
if Bert lloyds composotions were so authentic that every one was fooled,Then they must be good songs.
Scholars only need to know because they have a different criteria from singers like myself,or from past traditional singers[all of whom sang a song because they liked it],they[trad singers] did not refuse to sing a composed music hall song,a few like Walter Pardon had great knowledge about their songs,but most did not,their criteria was, it did something for them.

   Brian says he believes in trying to stick to the truth while changing the world,well the Establishment/multinational capatalists do not believe in sticking to the truth.,they use every means at their disposal to maintain their position.
I do not need to know which were Berts songs ,because he never claimed them to be his own,obviously he didnt want the royalties.
Finally we are talking about two very different times. lloyds world,the1950s folk revival, and the world of the 1950s was very different,to our own 21 century computer world.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 06:33 PM

BB where does Wee Little Drummer come into this.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 06:34 PM

ah yes Ihave found him ,sorry.


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 06:44 PM

"if Bert lloyds composotions were so authentic that every one was fooled,Then they must be good songs."

Because, quite simply, we have been lied to by many, and we thought Bert would tell the truth

Ah well ...........................................


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Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
From: Rowan
Date: 22 Apr 08 - 07:04 PM

It's always disappointng to find your idol has feet of clay, even if the clay only affects the toes; the rest of us (not being idols) can have as much clay as we like in our constitution and nobody fusses.

I've always liked Bert's singing and value the songs he (and others, since) have made important, but it's the possible taint of false scholarship that bothers me. That may well be just my problem but I come from and operate in a tradition where respectable scholarship is valued.

Without going into the veracity of Steve's Bert went out on a whaler from Hull and claimed to have learnt a version of the shanty 'Heave away my Johnny' from a seaman off Stoneferry in Hull it reminded me of Brian Peters' situation I perform from time to time for local schoolchildren a repertoire designed to tell them something about the history....

I've done similar classes myself and there are people who've made successful careers, in and beyond the folkscene, out of their ability to imitate Bert's apparent authenticity (even when their depth of scholarship extends no further than LP covers), while not similarly imitating his politics.

I suspect most of us would love to exercise the same magic as Bert's and would feel happy to be cast a bit in Bert's mould and that's where the possible taint of dodgy scholarship bites those of us who value that aspect.

Cheers, Rowan


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