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What did you do in the war, Ewan?

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Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 05:15 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 05:22 AM
MGM·Lion 26 Aug 09 - 05:25 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 06:12 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 06:18 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 06:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 06:25 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 06:30 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 06:32 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 06:47 AM
Dave Hanson 26 Aug 09 - 07:28 AM
The Sandman 26 Aug 09 - 07:55 AM
Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 08:13 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 08:37 AM
Santa 26 Aug 09 - 08:43 AM
Fred McCormick 26 Aug 09 - 08:45 AM
Sailor Ron 26 Aug 09 - 08:46 AM
Fred McCormick 26 Aug 09 - 08:54 AM
Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 09:08 AM
MGM·Lion 26 Aug 09 - 09:17 AM
Les in Chorlton 26 Aug 09 - 09:18 AM
GUEST,Seamus Mòr 26 Aug 09 - 09:21 AM
curmudgeon 26 Aug 09 - 09:25 AM
Dave Hanson 26 Aug 09 - 09:29 AM
Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 09:56 AM
Jamming With Ollie Beak (inactive) 26 Aug 09 - 10:09 AM
Bryn Pugh 26 Aug 09 - 11:25 AM
Dave Sutherland 26 Aug 09 - 11:33 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 11:35 AM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 12:09 PM
The Sandman 26 Aug 09 - 12:19 PM
Jack Blandiver 26 Aug 09 - 12:30 PM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Winger 26 Aug 09 - 04:53 PM
Jim Carroll 26 Aug 09 - 07:57 PM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 12:37 AM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 01:59 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Aug 09 - 03:56 AM
Jim McLean 30 Aug 09 - 04:52 AM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 06:19 AM
Jim McLean 30 Aug 09 - 06:26 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Aug 09 - 10:59 AM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 12:23 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Aug 09 - 01:21 PM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 01:44 PM
MGM·Lion 30 Aug 09 - 02:31 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Aug 09 - 03:06 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Aug 09 - 06:39 PM
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GUEST,Gerry 30 Aug 09 - 11:39 PM
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Subject: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 05:15 AM

Filtering though the gossiping Folk Grapevine we often hear of the celebrated gap in Ewan McColl's biography covering the period 1939-45. Rumours, it would seem, abound. One of the best would have him going in bearded disguise, wearing calipers, so as to avoid both conscription and facing the indignities suffered by more genuine COs.

Just rumours though, as I say...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 05:22 AM

Oh dear - another session of corpse kicking I fear.
Read the book if you genuinely don't know.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 05:25 AM

The story of Ewan's desertion, living in hiding, imprisonment on remand after the war, subsequent avoidance of trial on psychiatric grounds, can be pieced together from Ben Harker's biog 'Class Act' and Peter Cox's 'Set Into Song ... the Radio Ballads'. Both well-worth-reading books indeed. I of course cannot vouch for their absolute accuracy & truth with regard to this particular part of EMacC's life; but they both have the ring of carefully researched books of the sort not about to make rash allegations without proper checking.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:12 AM

Perhaps "The digging up of Ewan's Corpse" could become a traditional, or would it be a revivalist, event?

I guess it would break up into rival factions for and against.

He did some strange things in his life like creating a whole genre of recorded words and song The Radio Ballads and with Peggy wrote lots of great songs.

Like most of us he did some strange things of which various people disapprove.

Much evidence can be considered in the 2 books mentioned above but I guess most of the people who post on here won't bother reading them.

Best wishes

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:18 AM

Perhps we should start a thread on why Dylan refused to perticipate in the Civil Rights marches until embarrased into doing so by Theodor Bikel offering him the fare?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:24 AM

Perhaps we could twin "The Digging up of Ewan" with "The Burying of Bob"?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:25 AM

No corpse kicking around here, Jim - I'm genuinely interested in MacColl: the man, the myth, the legend as it were. I find the Humanity of Celebrity endlessly fascinating and certainly worthy of celebration - the more idiosyncratic the better.

Is it true that having heard Ewan's Freeborn Man of the Travelling People a bunch of travellers camped up on Ewan's land only to have him phone the police and order a summary eviction? A cautionary tale for all songwriters there!

A tale is told of a drunk Elvis fan getting wind that the writer of one of his favourite Elvis songs was singing downstairs in the pub he was drinking in, so down he went and started heckling MacColl to sing Love Me Tender, which he did, in the style of Elvis. Then he went on to sing First Time much to the drunk's delight.

As I say - the man, the myth, the legend.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:30 AM

Their's a man down the chip shop says he's Elvis .............

Absolutely true!

Good point about the growing myths and stories Sean. A powerful, creative and fascinating man. I have the same interest as you and intend to read the books.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:32 AM

As I said, read the book (and the relevant threads).
"Is it true that having heard Ewan's Freeborn Man of the Travelling "People a bunch of travellers camped up on Ewan's land"
Now there is a new one - somewhat spoiled by the fact that Ewan had no land to camp on - but why waste a good opportunity with facts? It is a pretty fair indication of the level we can expect from this thread though - bon voyage!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 06:47 AM

Their was a myth about his ownership of a rather smart pair of corduroy trousers - a clear case of class treachery - but as I promoted that story I guess it's time to come clean ..................

maybe later

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 07:28 AM

EWANS LAND ? what fecking land ? he was a pauper most of his life until Roberta Flack had a major hit with ' First Time Ever I Saw Your Face ' jeezus the mind boggles.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 07:55 AM

ha ha,what nonsense ,
just try camping in Beckenham.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:13 AM

I'm just reporting on stories told: Folklore, as it says. Like the folk club organiser weary with MacColl's prima-donna attitude who scrawled ARSEHOLE on the back of the chair set aside for the star turn, knowing our hero's affectation of turning the chair around to sit with the back facing the audience.

My favourite of all is the legendary first meeting of Alan Lomax with A L Lloyd and Ewan MacColl at some point in the 1950s in a WMC in Tow Law where Bert and Jimmy were giving the miners a concert of their own folk music. Does anyone know for sure if this actually happened? I've spoken to various ex-miners of Tow Law over the years who have no memory of it (nor of course know of any folk songs but that's a separate issue). There are however still folkies in Tyneside who sing Blackleg Miner with great sincerity of heart; again one is reminded of 1984:

It was only an 'opeless fancy,
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye!'


A suitable epitaph for the Folk Revival perhaps?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:37 AM

Argh Sean, you have mentioned the blessed and wildly creative Bert and so another collection of people can leap in / up / down with bad tales of treachery and deception. Bert may have owned corduroy trousers, I saw Ewan's but I have no knowledge of Bert's.

So to speak

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Santa
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:43 AM

I heard Tony Capstick tell the McColl & the gypsies story at a concert on Jersey, 1975 or 76. I don't know how old it was before then.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:45 AM

The story is ballocks, the second one that is. MacColl and Lloyd met in London, via their mutual acquainatnce with Lomax. I can't remember the details, but if you consult Ben Harker's Class Act, it is doubtless in there.

Regarding the first story, I dare say there are people in this world who are childish enough to vandalise a perfectly good chair in the way you describe, just as there are people who are childish enough to propagate unsubstantiated legends. But why would a folk club organiser book anyone he thought was an arsehole.

Are you the last man in Europe or something?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:46 AM

I am looking at "Journeyman" as I key this in...end of chapter18 "...by 1939 we werebeginning to discuss the possibility of abandoning our amateur status and setting up a full time proffesional theatre company".
Beginning of chapter 19 "The war didn't put an end to our plans....."
So what did he do between 1939-45? As he didn't tell us, is it surprising that all sorts of tales grew to fill the void?
Now don't get me wrong Ewan McColl was, and still is one of my 'heroes'...... warts an all.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 08:54 AM

If you read Class Act by Ben Harker, it's all in there. The years 1939-45 are covered concisely.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:08 AM

I heard Tony Capstick tell the McColl & the gypsies story at a concert on Jersey, 1975 or 76. I don't know how old it was before then.

Cheers, Santa - this is a thread on folklore, so its nice to have some sort of provenance to work with. As I say - the man, the myth, the legend.

childish enough to propagate unsubstantiated legends.

See above.

But why would a folk club organiser book anyone he thought was an arsehole.

To please the punters obviously; but then again, some of my favourite singers have turned out to be less than appealing face-to-face, and I believe (or so I'm told) MacColl wasn't exactly easy-going in his demands. One of my favourite ever ballad singers, I last saw him at The Bridge in Newcastle and was bored to death by his execrable self-penned polemics about South Africa.

warts an all.

Absolutely.

The years 1939-45 are covered concisely.

Perhaps someone might be good enough to provide a précis for those of us who don't have Mr Harker's book to hand...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:17 AM

And let me reiterate that Harker's version is well filled out by Peter Cox in "Set Into Song ... the Radio Ballads". One needs both books, I think, to work out the full sequence of events. I have already to a considerable extent, for benefit of last poster, provided a precis in my previous post, second one on this thread. Look back at it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:18 AM

I went to The Working Class History Museum in Salford along with a lot of other people for the launch of Ben Harker's book. I asked, rather nervously, how Ewan felt about going missing in the war years and how it affected him. Ben said Ewan felt bad about and the guilt followed him for the rest of his life.

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: GUEST,Seamus Mòr
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:21 AM

Why not buy the book like the rest of us?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Class-Act-Cultural-Political-MacColl/dp/0745321658

Pretty well set out in Chapter 4, right down to his Army number - Private 3779986, when he was formally conscripted on 24 July 1940.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: curmudgeon
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:25 AM

Make sure to buy it through Mudcat!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:29 AM

If you watch the film by Tim May, ' The Ballad Of Ewan MacColl ' you will hear it from Alan Lomax himself of how HE introduced Ewan to Bert.

Where the feck do all these stupid stories come from, Ewan MacColl a landowner FFS ? he's now known as ' Spinning MacColl '


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 09:56 AM

I think I'll have add this book to my reading list! Quite a backlog there already - I'm currently on with Ginger Geezer - The Life & Times of Vivian Stanshall; next up is Folk by Bob 'Only in it for the Money' Pegg; after that Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton. Add to which The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown and whatever new Phil Rickman novel that might emerge in the meantime...

Where the feck do all these stupid stories come from

Folklorists have been trying to answer that one for generations...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jamming With Ollie Beak (inactive)
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 10:09 AM

Ahhh...more hagiography on St. Ewan


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 11:25 AM

Suffering Jesus - can't the poor sod be left to rest in peace ?

Ewan McColl, I mean, not the other character referred to first in this post.

Hope you're well, Jim C - this could be another marathon . . .


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 11:33 AM

"Like the folk club organiser weary with MacColl's prima-donna attitude"
I have booked Ewan MacColl into folk clubs on three occasions and each time I found him one of the easiest people with whom to work. Punctual, prepared, professional and interested in how the club was progressing.
By the way I own one of the books and I have read the other.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 11:35 AM

"Hope you're well, Jim C - this could be another marathon . . ."
Doubt it Bryn - rather a quick visit to Wonderland
I'm fine thanks, apart from the usual pains in the arse!
Necrophobia rule OK
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:09 PM

It might be worth putting all this in context:
While all the stars of the revival who spent more energy knocking MacColl than they apparently did trying to become better singers, he and Peggy were devoting a night a week for about ten years assisting less experienced singers.
As I learned from personal experience, they threw open their home to new singers so they could access their extensive collection of books and recordings. Unlike a number of singers I have approached for material and information, they never refused assistance when approached.
While club organisers where whingeing about performers singing political songs - and still are if recent threads are anything to go by - MacColl and Seeger were writing and performing songs about the peace movement, apartheid in South Africa, the fascist takeover of Greece and Turkey, racism, the genocide in Viet Nam, Trades Union rights, the miner's strike, Thatcher's carve-up of Britain........ and the beat goes on. They also gave their services free-of-charge to these activities.
They assisted the setting up of new clubs - including three I was involved in, performing without charge to get them going.
Now perhaps we can hear from some of the grave-dancers what they personally have done and are doing at present to assist folk music to survive and continue to be enjoyed.
Maybe our O.P. would like to start?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:19 PM

my brother who also lived in Beckenham,was allowed to go in and look through Ewan and Peggys books to review material,they were allowed in to the house ,in their absence.
Ewan and Peggy left a key to let themselves in,they were very trusting and most helpful, having books prepared and laid out etc.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:30 PM

All very laudable, Jim - but the point of this thread isn't to knock EM, much less dance on his grave, rather to look into the folklore surrounding him. He is celebrity figure about whom stories are told, and in the name of Folklore I thought it was worth a thread.

The OP is a simple improvising musician, storyteller & ballad singer who just gets on with the business of improvising music, telling stories & singing ballads. He has no agenda other than to celebrate the diverse wonders of his personal cultural heritage in the sure hope others are doing so too. He also couldn't give a stuff about assisting Folk Music to survive because he is of the knowledge that wherever there are Folk there will be Folk Music.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 01:25 PM

Sorry SOP - don't believe a word of it.
You opened this thread by with a question about MacColl's war record, something you could have easily found out by thumbing through the mudcat archive - even if you couldn't bother your arse digging up 'Class Act' or 'Set Into Song', as you obviously have no intention of doing (as I sair earlier, why spoil a good bit of maliciousness with facts).
You went on to relate a story about MacColl turning Travellers off his non-existant land and then questioned the logic of his singing miners songs to miners.
And then there's those boring anti-apartheid songs..... what an arrogant bastard eh - interfering in the internal affairs of White South Africa.
"This thread isn't to knock MacColl" - in my hole it isn't! Give us credit for a little perception - we've been here millions of times.
"a simple improvising musician, storyteller & ballad singer who just gets on with the business of improvising music,"
I'll take that as "just getting on with my career" as an answer to my previous question.
It's recommendation enough for me that 20 years after his death there are still no-mark arseholes taking a pop at MacColl - he must have done something right to merit such attention
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: GUEST,Winger
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 04:53 PM

You're absolutely right, Jim … here we go again.

Why is it that when someone asks a question about Ewan MacColl (aka Jimmy Miller) it draws a highly irrational response from those who have apparently declared him off-limits. Not everyone knows everything about him, Jim. That's why we have forums such as Mudcat – those who don't have your encyclopedic knowledge of all things MacColl can ask questions and hopefully get answers (just like the 'Catter who asked about the Singers'Club).

"Read the book …" What book? Hope you didn't mean MacColl's autobiography. For some reason he developed amnesia about 1939-45 – no wonder people ask questions about what he did during the war!

And how did you manage to work Dylan into this discussion? "If you dare to ask about Ewan MacColl and the war, I'll mention Dylan and the Civil Rights movement." Wonderful bit of intellect, Jim.

For God's sake get over it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 07:57 PM

What book? Hope you didn't mean MacColl's autobiography."
Two books and numerous threads on mudcat on this tired old subject.
'Class Act' by Ben Harker and 'Set into Song' by Peter Cox (both mentioned above).
Dylan - he was the one who changed his name from Robert Zimmermann just as MacColl was once Jimmy Miller, though it's ok for one to do it but not the other according to the Dylan crowd.
I knew MacColl for twenty years; I had some idea of the work he did on singing. Many of the problems that are raised on this forum; relaxation, voice production, tone, breath control, were covered by The Critics Group and could, I believe be of help to singers here. People like Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr, both respected workers on singing techniques, cut their teeth in MacColl's group.
Yet whenever MacColl's name comes up we still have to plouter through this shit.
I constantly hear what a bastard MacColl was; what evidence are we given for this? He evicted travellers off land he didn't own. Great stuff!!!
We are told that somebody wrote 'arsehole' on the back of his chair at a club where he was booked - but it was ok because he was only there "to please the punters" - wonderful way to treat a visiting guest and it doesn't show much respect for the audience who apparently wanted him there - does it?
If any of us connected with The Singers Club had pulled such a stunt with a visiting singer we'd have been out on our arses. Whether we liked their singing or not we had far too much respect for fellow performers than to treat them in the infantile way SO'P apparently finds so amusing.
SO'P, I'll give you a MacColl story to add to your repertoire.
The Radio Ballad, The Travelling People probably did more for Travellers in Britain than any other single event. It made many of us aware of the situation they faced and almost certainly had a considerable influence on the passing of the 1969 Camping and Caravan Act which went some way to getting them recognised as human beings.
When it was near completion and ready to go on air it was decided to include some songs made by the Travellers themselves so an appeal was put out, and was answered by a feller named John Brune, who, no doubt you would have admired immensely.
Brune turned up with recordings of a couple of women Travellers singing such songs; the Radio Ballad team were delighted and gave one of them to Sheila Stewart to learn.
When the programme was all but completed Brune announced that the songs were fakes and he was the singer - because of where the song had been placed in the programme, as an example of Travellers own composition, it was withdrawn and Sheila, one of the finest singers on the scene, was deprived of the chance of appearing in the programme to represent her people. Had the song been included it would have undermined the authenticity of the programme and the Travellers would have lost the chance to be heard.
Don't take my word for it; read Bob Pegg's interview with Sheila Stewart on 'The Living Tradition' archive.
You've got to larf - haven't you?
I think it's time somebody "got over it" - don't you?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 12:37 AM

'I constantly hear what a bastard MacColl was; what evidence are we given for this? ' Jim asks above.

What follows is a true story, from my own experience as witness and bystander, to demonstrate that, for all his undoubted brilliance and virtues, Ewan could on occasion take his self-arrogated stewardship of the English Tradition to the point of arrogance, contentiousness and extreme unreasonableness, This happened in 1958, while Sandy Paton, who appears marginally in the tale, was over here. I shared a flat in Hampstead with John Brunner, a sf writer, later famous as author of Hugo-winning novels like Stand On Zanzibar, and already well-known in sf magazines. He it was who first introduced me to the folk scene in 1956. He contributed a regular column on the London Folk Scene, & on British folk matters generally, to a NY monthly folk newsletter, highly regarded at the time tho I fear the name escapes me after all these years. He wrote in one column, in a purely theoretical piece on traditional-v-revival techniques, that he wondered if folkies generally preferred to hear a talented revivalist or "an unaccompanied ancient Dorset farm labourer with a voice like a rusty hinge". Note that this labourer was purely fictitious, putative, archetypical: no particular singer was named.

A few days later, Sandy Paton, who hadn't read this article but knew both John & me, told me that Ewan was denouncing John in folk clubs for having insulted the great Harry Cox of Norfolk [not Dorset, note — they are not even near-together counties], by having written something about "scratchy-voiced old Harry Cox". And sure enough, next time I visited Ballads&Blues, Ewan announced he was about to sing one of Harry Cox's songs, adding "I am on a Cox-jag at the moment because he has been publicly insulted in an American journal by their London correspondent, one Brunner, who says he has a voice like a rusty hinge." I went home and told John, who had stayed at home that night to get on with a story. Our next-street neighbour Eric Winter, a much-respected member of the Scene, founder-editor of Sing Magazine and a prominent critic, read what John had written, compared it with what Ewan had asserted, and asked astutely "So who does think Harry Cox has a voice like a rusty hinge, then?"

So, in my presence, John confronted Ewan in the bar of the Princess Louise at the first opportunity, pointing out that he hadn't meant Harry Cox, but had simply referred theoretically to a purely fictitious source-singer. Ewan's response, in absolutely "My·mind's·made·up·don't·confuse·me·with·facts" tones, was to say "You rushed into print on a subject you knew nothing about and it was the duty of someone who knew better to set you right"; whereupon he turned on his heel and walked away, refusing to discuss the matter any further,

I repeat: I was there; I was involved; I saw and heard this last confrontation. I repeat that I had, and have, the utmost respect for Ewan's achievements in & contributions to British Folk, as anyone who recalls my review of Journeyman for The Times will know. But this does not blind me to the fact that, as this incident illustrates, he could be unspeakably arrogant as to his self-appointed not·to·be·gainsaid status as the Guardian-Of-The-Tradition, thoroughly unreasonable, grossly contentious ... and I think this might provide an answer to Jim's question.

Michael Grosvenor Myer


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 01:59 AM

Moreover, getting back to the original topic of this thread: as one just too young to have served in the War [I was 13 when WWii ended], but old enough to have been liable for National Service [two full years of intolerable tedium and humiliation until, if lucky enough, promoted or even, like me, fortunate enough to be commissioned; followed by 3 or 4 compulsory annual 15-day camps; followed by compulsory membership of the Z-Reserve, liable to be called back at any time the government decided, until the age of 51] — try as I might I cannot but regard EwanMacColl/JimmyMiller's war record as other than contemptible and disgraceful, however much respect I might have for so many other aspects of his undeniable talents and achievements. Someone mentions above that Ben Harker, author of the 'Class Act' biography, stated orally that Ewan always looked back on his war record with shame; but I can find no indication of this in Harker's book; nor in Peter Cox's 'Set Into Song; nor, above all. in Ewan's own 'Journeyman' which I had to read with particular care as I was reviewing it - which, notoriously, as has been already mentioned how-many-times on this thread, segues effortlessly from 1939 to 1945. There seems to be a pervasive attitude of 'oh-not-again', and of 'forget-and-forgive' permeating this thread. But surely there are some things which don't deserve to be forgotten or forgiven. I enter this post in [I hope] no vindictive spirit, but in that of a seeker for just assessments, who, however, like most of us, unwillingly, did not attempt to evade the duties required of me by the Law.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 03:56 AM

Thanks for that, MtheGM.

Methinks at times the myth Jimmy Miller created in Ewan MacColl grazes as an all-too Holy Cow on the grave of Traditional Folk Song, much less its so-called revival. The legend endures along with his effected mannerisms - it was, after all, Ewan who copped the hand-over-the-ear pose from Arabic muezzin along with that faux-melismatic style which has become de-riguer ever since, despite his dictatorial insistence that we somehow sing our own. If this was truly the case few in the revival, Ewan included, would have dared sing a note!

I was on the verge of ordering at least one of the books mentioned on this thread but noticed that volume two of Daevid Allen's autobiography Gong Dreaming is now available I went for that instead. Sing your own, right enough.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 04:52 AM

MtheGM wrote 'I enter this post in [I hope] no vindictive spirit, but in that of a seeker for just assessments, who, however, like most of us, unwillingly, did not attempt to evade the duties required of me by the Law.'

This sounds to me rather like a Nurnberg Trial defence.

I knew McColl and argued with him on purely political grounds but did not discuss the policies of his club. I didn't like the bunch of Ganymedes it flung up, however, but great men always have copycats. His actions or reactions to serving in World War ll were personal but I would have thought it was difficult for a Communist to reconcile the vagaries or vacillations of the British government over the period of the war. One minute Uncle Joe was a Great Friend and Russia was 'the land where the sun didn't set' and the next, when it suited HMG's policy, to reveal that Stalin was a mass murderer.

I refused to comply with 'the duties required of me by the Law' during the Suez debacle of 1957 and ended up in Barlinnie gaol for six months as a conscientious objector. Times were different during Ewan's time but do not seem to be a-changing.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 06:19 AM

Sorry, Jim: don't quite follow. The Nurnberg defence was "just obeying orders", with implication of parenthetical 'tho I knew it was wrong'. I am no committed pacifist, and didn't think it was in any way *wrong* to do National Service: just disagreeable; but like all my generation I did it because the law required it and I am a law-abiding citizen. However Ewan might have been confused over the vagaries of attitudes to USSR, he didn't attempt to declare himself any sort of conscientious objector: he simply decided he was above the law and scarpered and hid and then was lucky to get away with it on psychiatric grounds. I admire your principled stand and am sorry you had a bad time; but, as I don't happen to share your principles, I can't see where that makes me in any way culpable for having just got on with it, as we all did at the time, tiresome as we may have found it, rather than run away from it as Ewan appears to have done — AND YOU DIDN'T, but preferred to state your position and take any consequences which ensued; which, I reiterate, I find admirable even tho you were acting on convictions which I don't happen to share.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 06:26 AM

Thanks, MtheGM


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 10:59 AM

Mike ,
Being of the left I am well acquainted with the confusion faced by MacColl's generation regarding WW2.
You will be aware, I am sure, of the hasty change of policy when the Soviet Union was invaded – one minute an Imperialist war – the next a fight against fascism. The Communist Party general secretary, Harry Pollit resigned over the issue.
Added to this was the ambivalent attitude of the Government of the day – "I have in my hand….."
It is worth remembering that Britain refused to intervene when Franco's fascists overthrew the elected government there. Some schools of thought claim that, had they done so Hitler may have thought twice about going to war altogether.
It is also worth recalling the actions of some of our 'betters' regarding Hitler's rise to power: The WINDSORS, LORD Rothermere (of Daily Mail fame), SIR Oswald Mosley… et al. We know that the early reports of the extermination camps were described by a number of MPs as "Lies invented by whingeing Yids".
On a more personal level, my father returned from Spain on the eve of 'The War Against Fascism', having been wounded and held prisoner there. He received no hero's welcome; rather he was met with excommunication from his church for fighting on the wrong side, was awarded a police record as "a premature anti-fascist" and became unemployed because of having being 'blacklisted' from his job. Unable to find work he became one of McAlpine's Fusiliers, the result being that I don't think my sister and I met him more than a dozen times before my tenth birthday,
I'm not claiming that the above was in any way the reason for Ewan's wartime non-activity. I discussed the war with him a couple of times, but only in general terms; I share Jim McLean's view that his actions were personal and none of my business. I do know that he shared my views on the ambiguities of the war, but I have no idea whether this in any way influenced his decision not to remain in the army.
There is another aspect to his actions. I know from discussions with his contemporaries in Manchester that he was put under pressure to leave the army in order to continue his theatre work "Because it was a more effective way to fight fascism".   This was a fairly common argument used by the left: I know a number of my father's friends were dissuaded from going to Spain because they could "do a more valuable job at home".
Sorry – reams to be written on this but packing calls!
SO'P
it was, after all, Ewan who copped the hand-over-the-ear pose from Arabic muezzin…….
You appear to be unaware that the act of cupping the hand over the ear to control pitch is a world-wide practice – there are even woodcuts of English broadside sellers using it!   
"despite his dictatorial insistence that we somehow sing our own."
I suppose if you repeat an inaccuracy often enough it MIGHT eventually be accepted – as you have, I am sure, read numerous times, Singers Club policy not MacColl's dictatorial insistence – read Peggy's letter on the Living Tradition website.
"I was on the verge of ordering at least one of the books mentioned on this thread"
Save your money; your mind is obviously locked and bolted.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 12:23 PM

Many thanks, Jim. I really do take your points on board by determined empathy with your pov, which I respect, tho, as I said also to Jim McLean a couple of posts back, not one I share. Hope we may return to this point when you get back. Would also value your comments on my other post above, about Ewan's [I think] unreasonably picking a quarrel with my friend John Brunner over something John never wrote, which I posted in good faith in response to your having explicitly asked for evidence that Ewan could be something of a 'bastard' [your word]. Have a good week!!!!

{THREAD DRIFT coming up: My friend John Brunner [now alas dead some 15 years], mentioned as sci·fi writer, was also a poet and an early CND member; and was author of words of CND's acknowledged anthem, The H-Bomb's Thunder ["Men & Women Stand Together", to tune of Miners' Life Guard]. I was there when he wrote the first draft. He could not sing a note, so asked me to sing it back to him to hear how it sounded. So I can claim to be the first-ever singer of that song which went on for years being sung by all those thousands [nay, probably millions!]on the CND marches - and probably still goes on indeed...}


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 01:21 PM

Mike,
I agree entirely that Ewan could be bloody unreasonable at times.
I observed it on several occasions, though I have to say I never experienced it personally. Occasionally his pig-headed single-mindedness got the better of him; he certainly didn't like being wrong, but I discovered if you stuck to your guns and put your arguments well he quite often took your points on board (though he was reluctant to admit that you were right!)
To a great extent his guardedness stemmed directly from the hammering he took from the revival. It seemed he drew into himself much more following the disasterous John Snow meeting in the mid - sixties when he and Bert tried and failed to pull the revival together and get some consensus between the performers and clubs.
The same happened following the demise of the acting group (which developed from The Critics Group)
Each Time he bounced back.
None of this altered in any way his (IMO) genius.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 01:44 PM

'None of this altered in any way his (IMO) genius'

Indeed not, Jim: as, you will note, I have been at pains to say regarding my own "IMO" throughout all my animadversions against some of his attitudes and actions. Re your remark about how one could eventually get him to climb down, at least implicitly & up to a point, by sticking to one's guns: note again, in that lamentable John Brunner incident which I have described in such detail, how he refused to hear John out, but walked off with the conversation unfinished; which I always think an unforgivably rude thing to do — I have btw noticed it as a characteristic habit of Oxford men of my generation (I, needless to add, was at Cambridge!).


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 02:31 PM

"despite his dictatorial insistence that we somehow sing our own."
I suppose if you repeat an inaccuracy often enough it MIGHT eventually be accepted – as you have, I am sure, read numerous times, Singers Club policy not MacColl's dictatorial insistence – read Peggy's letter on the Living Tradition website'

you wrote to SO'B, Jim. Not perhaps for me to intervene in your correspondence with him, or to purport to know better than Peggy — tho it seems to be generally agreed here that she got the dates wrong in that letter of hers. But I repeat what I wrote on the inlay to my record Butter&Cheese&All [Brewhouse 8904] in the note to Red·Apple·Juice: that Isla Cameron often insisted on singing it, in an American accent, at the end of her set, explicitly to wind Ewan up, winking roguishly at him each time as if to say "Here's what I think of your old 'got to sing in own tradition' rule!" I remember his once shaking his head sorrowfully at her at the end of one such rendition & saying "A flogging for you, Madam: 50 lashes at the gangway!" I don't care what anybody sez — it WAS, SO, Ewan's rule: I remember his frequently articulating it at B&B sessions at the Louise, which I attended regularly — I can even be clearly descried, sitting literally at Ewan's and Bert's feet, in one of the pix in Journeyman..


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 03:06 PM

Sorry Mike,
I can't speak for Ballads and Blues - I know it was never a 'rule' at The Singers, even before my time there.
When I first heard of it I asked around anybody I could find who were involved and they confirmed Peggy's account.
Originally the idea came from Lomax anyway when he heard MacColl and Lloyd doing American material and chastised them for it.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 06:39 PM

Probably last word from me for now:
There is another aspect to this discussion.
I became involved in the revival at the beginning of the sixties through the Spinners Club in my home town of Liverpool
While this was the first place I saw Ewan and Peggy, you probably couldn't get further from Singers Club policy than what was happening there - MacColl had no sway in the policy whatever.
Where did "dictatorial insistence" enter into the equasion?
Is it being suggested that there were hundreds of clubs hanging on MacColl's every word and awaiting orders on what should or should not be club policy? How many clubs did MacColl actually control?
If my memory serves me right, while he and Peggy could fill any club they performed in (you had to book in advance to get in to see them), that was the only contact they had with the clubs they visited - or did I miss something and were all the clubs secretly being manipulated from 35 Stanley Avenue?
I have no doubt that MacColl was quite capable of arguing for policy he believed to be important; I've seen him do it often enough. Wasn't that his, and everybody's right - or is it being suggested that his views should be suppressed?
The people running the clubs I visited in Liverpool, Manchester and London appeared to be a pretty independent bunch: Terry Whelan, Mike Harding, Harry Boardman, Bobby Campbell, Gordon McCulloch, Frank Duffy, Christie Moore, Mick Groves.... can't think of one of them who would have sprung to attention when MacColl came into the room (but maybe I missed the on/off switch).
Even if it was a 'rule' at the Ballads and Blues, surely that was their perogative.
I visited clubs that banned musical instruments, ones that would not allow contemporary songs. Members of the Critics Group often complained about clubs where they were asked not to sing political songs (see fairly recent thread on this subject).
So what's it to be; was MacColl secretly using a Taser to impose his views on the revival or was he merely expressing an opinion?
Will look forward to seeing how (if) this is answered.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: Nick E
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 06:40 PM

WOW! You wont need to remind me not to impune The MacColl!
It is rare to see a Mudcat thread this testy and long.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: What did you do in the war, Ewan?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 11:39 PM

Jim Carroll - I'm interested in "the hammering he took from the revival" and "the disasterous John Snow meeting in the mid - sixties." I don't think these are discussed in Journeyman. Are they discussed in the other two books that have been cited in this thread? or somewhere else?

Nick E - this is nothing. If it's testy and long you want, try http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=112434


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