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Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)

matt milton 05 May 09 - 09:23 AM
matt milton 05 May 09 - 09:41 AM
Desert Dancer 05 May 09 - 10:46 AM
Art Thieme 05 May 09 - 11:22 AM
matt milton 05 May 09 - 11:53 AM
matt milton 05 May 09 - 11:54 AM
Reinhard 05 May 09 - 02:21 PM
matt milton 06 May 09 - 05:50 AM
Charley Noble 06 May 09 - 09:09 AM
The Sandman 06 May 09 - 10:47 AM
matt milton 06 May 09 - 11:14 AM
Reinhard 06 May 09 - 01:22 PM
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Subject: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: matt milton
Date: 05 May 09 - 09:23 AM

Just heard a song called "Desolation", sung by Ewan MacColl on an album called "Whaler out of New Bedord, and other songs of the Whaling Tradition", with Peggy Seeger and Bert Lloyd.

Can anyone tell me anything about this song?

MacColl sings it in a bizarre voice and accent: a tinge of American or Australian - I can't really tell which. The song has a reference to Cape Cod, so I assume it's American.

Can anyone supply lyrics?

thanks!


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Subject: Lyr Add: DESOLATION (from Gale Huntington)
From: matt milton
Date: 05 May 09 - 09:41 AM

am able to answer my own query, as some googling has just revealed this:
^^^
DESOLATION

I will sing a little rhyme as I have a little time
About the meanest ship afloat in creation,
Her name it is the Mitchell from E town did sail (Edgartown)
And they fitted her out to go to Desolation.

Her officers are natives of old Cape Cod
The place where there is nothing to eat on,
But the product of their land is mackerel bones and sand
So they had to starve or go to Desolation.

On board of some ships they have plenty to eat
But it is here they put a stop on our ration;
It is work for nothing and find your own grub
And starve yourself to death on Desolation.

The meat on this ship once belonged to a horse
Or some of his damned near relation,
They put us on an allowance of a quarter of a pound
They could afford no more on desolation.

For fear the flour would not last for bread three times a day,
And mince pies to feed the after guard on,
They cut us short one half and says with a laugh
It's good enough for Jack on Desolation.

The captains of whalers are abolitionists
They go in for amalgamation;
A nigger or a Portuguese is treated like a man
But Americans are dogs on Desolation.

These cowards and villains, for they are such a race
They are a disgrace to all civilization.
Are our worthy friends who call themselves men
And command these prison hulks on Desolation.

For toward the end of the voyage they treat you mighty rough
They cause you trials and tribulations
For if you have any pay they would have you run away
And pocket all your earnings on Desolation.


From Gale Huntington's book- Songs the Whalemen Sang. Collected
from logbook of Bark Ocean Rover, 1859.
No tune given: could be fit to The Campanero RG

[Google took you to the DT for the words - S of DT]


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 May 09 - 10:46 AM

Wow. That's intense.

Kerguelen_Islands

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: Art Thieme
Date: 05 May 09 - 11:22 AM

I have a photo of Gale Huntington that I took at a festival run by sometime Mudcatter Lisa Null in Middletown, Connecticut--circa 1970s. Mr. Huntington was a grand purveyor of traditional lore and songs of the seas. The photo is part of my slide collection which is now at the Smithsonian's Museum Of American History in Wash. D.C.-- and also on line at http://rudegnu.com/art_thieme.html

Art


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: matt milton
Date: 05 May 09 - 11:53 AM

Is anyone aware of any other recordings of this song?

On the recording I've heard by MacColl he's accompanied by solo fiddle. I was listening on Spotify, so I don't have any liner notes to tell me any more about it (ie what the tune is, or who the fiddler is).

Does anyone know of any other recordings of this song? I'd be interested to know if the same tune is used.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: matt milton
Date: 05 May 09 - 11:54 AM

(oh, typo correction - obviously I meant to write "Whaler out of New Bedford" in the original post)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: Reinhard
Date: 05 May 09 - 02:21 PM

The original liner notes of "Whaler out of New Bedford" can be found as a PDF file at Smithsonian Folkways (and you can buy this fantastic album!) The text of Desolation as printed there is slightly different from the one posted above. There is also the comment:

"communicated to A.L. Lloyd by E.G. Huntington, of The Vineyard, Mass., 1960

Desolation Island is on the Strait of Magellan in South Chile. The right-whale grounds around Desolation gave rise to many songs, including the impressive Wings of s Goney. Nearly all of the Desolation songs are protest-songs."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: matt milton
Date: 06 May 09 - 05:50 AM

So I take it E.G. Huntington is Gale Huntington?

I've also noticed that Gale Huntington's book called "Songs the Whale Men Sang" is back in print and available on Amazon.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 May 09 - 09:09 AM

"Songs the Whale Men Sang" was recently re-released by the Mystic Seaport Museum.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 May 09 - 10:47 AM

could the fiddle player be Dave Swarbrick


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: matt milton
Date: 06 May 09 - 11:14 AM

yes, turns out fiddle player is indeed Swarb, as revealed by Peggy Seeger's website.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Desolation (as sung by Ewan MacColl)
From: Reinhard
Date: 06 May 09 - 01:22 PM

Strange: yesterday when I posted the Smithsonian Folkways link above
I could use it, but now I am requested to authenticate with a username I do not have.

Anyway, then you can browse for details about Whaler Out of New Bedford at my website.


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