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Zappa the Shantyman :-)

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Frank Zappa's birthday (21 December 1940) (23)
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Dave the Gnome 05 Sep 11 - 04:57 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 Sep 11 - 06:43 AM
Dave the Gnome 05 Sep 11 - 11:58 AM
Gibb Sahib 05 Sep 11 - 02:36 PM
Dave the Gnome 05 Sep 11 - 02:53 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Sep 11 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken 06 Sep 11 - 05:08 AM
GUEST,matt milton 06 Sep 11 - 05:52 AM
MoorleyMan 06 Sep 11 - 09:35 AM
Gibb Sahib 06 Sep 11 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken 06 Sep 11 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Sep 11 - 05:42 PM
Gibb Sahib 06 Sep 11 - 06:25 PM
Gibb Sahib 06 Sep 11 - 06:26 PM
Jeri 06 Sep 11 - 06:41 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 06 Sep 11 - 06:56 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 11 - 12:17 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Sep 11 - 04:11 AM
bubblyrat 07 Sep 11 - 04:36 AM
Jack Blandiver 07 Sep 11 - 05:48 AM
Jack Blandiver 07 Sep 11 - 05:50 AM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 11 - 05:51 AM
Jack Blandiver 07 Sep 11 - 06:18 AM
GUEST,matt milton 07 Sep 11 - 08:39 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Sep 11 - 03:48 PM
gnu 07 Sep 11 - 04:31 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 11 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 Sep 11 - 05:51 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Sep 11 - 06:08 PM
Speedwell 08 Sep 11 - 06:48 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 08 Sep 11 - 08:04 AM
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Subject: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 04:57 AM

I came across this fabulous quote when researching some other stuff this morning -

"When everyone else was listening to Cream, I was listening to A.L. Lloyd and Ewan McColl. These were two old guys who used to record together, trying to replicate the original instrumentation of sea shanties...Some of the words were absolutely unbelievable...I loaned the LP to Beefheart and he probably still has it." - Frank Zappa as noted in the book The Lost Episodes.

The link is here if you want to see it in context.

Who would have thought it eh?

DtG


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 06:43 AM

That's in the note for his version of The Handsome Cabin Boy (I think - I could check but it would mean getting up of the sofa, or opening another tab). I used to have a tape of FZ in conversation with Paddy Moloney about the similarity of certain Irish tunes to those Paddy had heard in China and he was wondering what the connection was. Zappa's answer? Sailors!. Somewhere, video footage exists of Zappa bringing together The Chieftains and Mongolian musicians for a session in his studio...

Who'd have thought it? Well, Zappa's Universe was as vast as his passion for music, and whereas Folkies have a tendancy towards an ever-so-slight insularity (at the very least a peninsularity), those on the Outside can love the music without buying into the myths and religiosity of it all. I love Zappa and Peter Bellamy equally and would balk at being called a Folkie; Uncle Meat is right up there with Merlin's Isle of Gramarye.

Folk is but one pixel of a much bigger picture.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 11:58 AM

Love the term 'peninsularity', SA - Hope it isn't in copyright :-)

Couldn't agree more about the rest as well - But didn't want to get into the whole 'what is horse music' discussion. Welol, maybe not the one pixel - Maybe more like one piece of the jigsaw?

The two most played CDs in the car at the moment? Oh, Brother where art thou? and Paulo Nutinis 'Sunny Side Up'. Last week it Morris On and Led Zep 4 :-)

Everyone should enjoy what tickles their fancy anyway and thanks for the extra info on Zappa - I was never that into him or the Mothers so I realy have learned something new:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 02:36 PM

Zappa liked the _Blow Boys Blow_ album. It sounds a bit like an exaggeration to suggest that he was "into chanties" or even that he was "listening to AL Lloyd." I think it just boils down to the fact that he discovered that particular album, by whatever chance, and loved it.

In college, I listened to lots of Zappa *and*, by whatever chance, I also discovered Blow Boys Blow. Not a weird combo, I don't think! Anyway, without making too much of it, I don't think Blow Boys Blow equates to chanties....or...it's not so surprising that one would listen to BBB as it would be if a person were "really" into chanties, from other sources.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 02:53 PM

Hi Gibb - The quote that he was "listening to AL Lloyd." was from Frank Zappa himslef so I am not sure how it could be an exaggeration. I quite like some shanties but have never heard Blow Boys Blow - I suspect it would be a bit too 'academic' for my tastes but that is based purely on a (probably false) premise that I find both Lloyd and McColl a bit too schoolmaster-ish. My favourite Shanty Group was the now sadly demised Jolly Jack - Who were slated by some shanty aficionados for singing shanties in harmony instead of unison :-(

Anyway, that aside, I have probably misunderstood your point - Are you saying that Frank Zappa did not realy like shanties? If so, why, and if not, could you please clarify?

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 03:26 AM

Zappa notwithstanding I'd say Sea Shanties are an essential aspect of Western Culture. I reckon just as many people 'know' The Drunken Sailor as they do Happy Birthday - and will sing the 1st verse & chorus (at least) quite happily. Indeed if you listen carefully to the one surviving* off-air recording of the old radio concert of the Third Ear Band doing Eternity in D (January 17th 1971) you can hear the Cliff Adams Singers cutting through with Drunken Sailor at the end.

Third Ear Band - Eternity in D (1971)

(The collage / critique is my own by way of total fan-art; I created a new channel especially for my Third Ear Band fan-films then didn't do any more...)

Anyway, in my life I recall the Cliff Adams Singers doing a lot of folk / maritime songs, though the last time I heard Sing Something Simple they did Satisfaction which struck me as deeply subversive with respect of the angrier edge of the alt-as in-Altamount-culture ethos espoused by the Stones back i' th' day. I don't expect many of The Folk Fellowship (Chantey Heads in particular) to get the Cliff Adams Singers though, much less consider their particular brand of vocal harmony in any way Authentic, much less Traditional with respect of Shanty Singing. Naturally, I would argue that it was evert bit as Authentic and Traditional as any other Shanty Crew, just different. One dry-land shanty reconstruction is just as valid as any other.


* In all my life every version of this radio concert I have heard all derive from this particular recording with the Cliff Adams Singers at the end. If any one has a better one please get in touch!!


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 05:08 AM

I sense an imminent thread drift towards classic Light Programme vocal ensembles. My vote goes to the Fraser Hayes Four.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 05:52 AM

I can well imagine Zappa would be into sea shanties.

Work and sex were his two big preoccupations: both of them feature heavily in shanties.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: MoorleyMan
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 09:35 AM

Hey I like the Third Ear clip - not seen that before. Hell, it's even funky!
Now all we need is a clip of the iconic Fraser Hayes Four struttin' their stuff round the capstan - I'm sure Raymond can oblige us there...
As for Zappaesque sea shanties, well now you've started me thinking. It can't happen here? And wasn't Burnt Weeny Sandwich another term for ship's biscuit? Hmm...


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 04:21 PM

Hi Dave,

My point is that Zappa bringing up shanties -- more precisely, bringing up his love of the Blow Boys Blow album (the link is to a different Lloyd/MacColl album, but I believe much of that one was reused for BBB, and BBB was the album Zappa actually had?) -- is more of a rhetorical device than any evidence of Zappa's deep or special connection to shanties. He is say, "Look, I have broad musical tastes, and eclectic influences" -- something we know to be true...and notable...and the point is well taken.

I am suggesting that
1) BBB was an album that was actually a quite accessible (e.g. to non-shanty fans -- not at all overly "academic" for that time) and also quite available (i.e. to find, for purchase). Anecdote: A friend of mine, a huge fan of Zappa (but clueless about chanties) was in my car with me a few years back, where I had BBB playing. He recognized it immediately: "Oh, Blow Boys Blow! -- Zappa loved this." My friend also liked it, and that without being indoctrinated (so to speak) into the tastes of "typical" "folk" music fans.
Another weird anecdote: recently I heard my housemate, who is a sort of hippie/stoner sort (sorry for the labels, but they are convenient) was listening to some CD (I don't know who it was) of someone playing an instrumental version of "Handsome Cabin Boy." After the song was over, I jokingly asked, "So how come they didn't sing the lyrics? It's no good without lyrics." He was unaware there were any lyrics. So I am guessing that this song has passed into (crossed over into?) the "rock" world -- again suggesting that BBB may have been listened to by a wider audience than folkies (though then it again it might well have been Zappa who introduced it!).

2) This one album, it seems, is standing in to represent Zappa's alleged interest in chanties. Perhaps he also checked out some other chanty singers. But I suspect that *mainly*, by virtue of enjoying this album, Zappa is stating his love of "shanties" generally. Which is fine -- we do that sort of thing all the time, but we are being disingenuous. It['s like when a person hears the one hit song by an artist and then, when asked what artists they enjoy, they offer up that name -- when they probably don't follow much else the artist has done.

3) The characterization of shanties is "off," revealing that Zappa could not have had any deep familiarity with the genre and probably did not listen to many other performances outside BBB. "replicate the original instrumentation of sea shanties..." just does not make any sense. and "Some of the words were absolutely unbelievable" puts emphasis on a skewed idea (IMO) about the "bawdy" nature of shanties. (Incidentally, I don't remember many/any of the actual shanties on BBB being bawdy, rather there were a couple non-shanty sea songs that were. And they certainly weren't 'unbelievable') People coming from the "rock" perspective (let's say) seem to often take the tack of praising the supposed inherently lewd and outrageous nature of chanties in order to share their interest. Anyways...

Sorry to be so long-winded. My point is that Zappa is speaking in generalities, saying not that he was "into" shanties in any significant way *besides* the significance that other "rock" people might not have opened their ears enough to enjoy an album like BBB, as he did. Others are taking Zappa's vague statements and making more of them than they are, I think. And the people on the side of promoting Lloyd/MacColl seem to be using the quote a little carelessly here. The reissue of BBB, IIRC, did note Zappa's quote -- which made sense in showing how influential that album had been. It was an influential album in both the folk music scene and "even in the rock scene." Quite interesting, I agree. But it's the album that was influential, not the shanty or maritime genre in general.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Raymond Greenoaken
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 05:23 PM

>Another weird anecdote: recently I heard my housemate, who is a sort of hippie/stoner sort (sorry for the labels, but they are convenient) was listening to some CD (I don't know who it was) of someone playing an instrumental version of "Handsome Cabin Boy." After the song was over, I jokingly asked, "So how come they didn't sing the lyrics? It's no good without lyrics." He was unaware there were any lyrics. So I am guessing that this song has passed into (crossed over into?) the "rock" world -- again suggesting that BBB may have been listened to by a wider audience than folkies (though then it again it might well have been Zappa who introduced it!). <

Might be worth noting that The Byrds used the tune of Handsome Cabin Boy for their song Space Oddysey, on The Notorious Byrd Brothers – a widely heard album.

>Now all we need is a clip of the iconic Fraser Hayes Four struttin' their stuff round the capstan - I'm sure Raymond can oblige us there... <

The Fraser Hayes Four were bodiless creatures made entirely out of larynxes. A search for video footage would be doomed to fretful failure.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 05:42 PM

For most of us, Sea Shanties are just part of the crack; to others they're an OCD. I suspect Zappa was like the rest of us - loved in passing without becoming a mental illness. All things in moderation!

I recently did a salty gig & worked up some shanties: couldn't get through Blood Red Roses, Drunken Sailor or Essequibo River without blubbing. How come? My father loved shanties; everyone does - they're an integral aspect of popular culture.

The Fraser Hayes Four regularly sailed Round the Horne; word is that's where Raymond collected his versions of Won't You Go My Way and Roll, Alabama, Roll...


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 06:25 PM

Integral aspect of popular culture? Not in America. Many people know "Drunken Sailor," but they don't necessarily file it into a familiar body of songs they'd know as "shanties."

Zappa's quote shows that these songs were *not* familiar to people in his general sphere (generation, time, location, etc). He was stretching beyond something, or at least felt like he did, to "discover" these "two old guys." If everyone were familiar with this repertoire we wouldn't have painted it as so "unlikely" or exotic.

In America, so far as chanties are known by people who are not hardcore fans of the genre, they are typically known as something "British" (and/or Irish) and rather exotic, obscure, "old", queer, etc. As such Americans (again, by which I mean general listeners) usually cannot have this concept of shanties as something "out there", "all around us", "a part of our common heritage", or whatever. It's a very different feeling of the self in relation to the genre than what I've seen many Britishers and Irish have. For Zappa, the music of these "two old guys" wasn't a satisfying part of his cultural identity (like "ah, me dad loved him some shanties as did me grandad before, and it always brings a wee tear to me eye when I hear one"...OK, I am being silly); it was something "wacky" -- wacky was what Zappa was about.

Yes, Zappa loved shanties in passing, but not because shanties were all about him and beloved by everyone and inescapable, etc etc, rather because his ears were open and because this particular album was one among many albums of different genres that crossed his table at some point.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 06:26 PM

*he wouldn't have painted


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 06:41 PM

Regarding sea shanties and popular culture: "yo ho, me hearties, you ho". I believe Johnnie Depp and Pirates of Whatever have helped make shanties more interesting to the general public.

I actually LIKE the fact that various breeds of folk music aren't widely popular. They exist for those who find them and like them. Most of them do age better than most pop, but I think that comes down to instrumentation. I'm happy thinking people can find shanties if they want to. I don't have to think everyone loves them.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 06:56 PM

It's worth noting that shanties are exotic / fantasy culture; they're anomalous reinventions that appeal not only to hard-core fun-less fundamentalists, but to most of us who dig the romance & historicism of a tall ship and a star to sail her by. For sure, it's all a load of yo-ho-hoakum - but who cares? The more exotic / remote these things are the better it is for all concerned.

Zappa wasn't about wacky; he was about great music. He lived in the real world & appreciated folk-matters as an outsider where they appear exotic & interesting.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 12:17 AM

Suibhne--

exotic / fantasy? Those are different things. Something that one's father loved and which brings nostalgic feelings is not exotic. It *may* however be fantasy -- a false nostalgia, for example. But the romance of tall ships is not something that tends to register with Americans outside of "enthusiast" circles. I was just at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum the other day, in one of the great world shipping ports. One of the museum exhibits has a small box labeled "fish smell", where one can get a whiff of what "fish" smells like. ! Outside of certain pockets, maritime matters are not assumed to be something with which Americans are generally familiar; even if thousands are familiar, such things have a relatively weak role in the cultural imagination, and sea-related stuff, for any Americans, sooner evokes Britain -- the Other.

Americans tend to have a very different relationship to the chanty repertoire than do people of Anglo-Saxon (or even Celtic) stock in the Isles. Though they would have strong historical evidence to form connections with shanteys as part of their historical past, the reality is that they don't. Not really. Some Anglophiles perhaps, and people who like, say Ren Faires. But I'm talking about Zappa here, and about most Americans nowadays. Where I live, I look at the people around me and, among them, I am perhaps one of the most "British" looking. And yet I am of German, Sicilian, Irish, etc stock and an American who does not identify with English cultural heritage (outside of language). Others identify even less, and British culture is considered quite foreign indeed. It may be that some Brits view "us" Americans as "basically" some kind of descendants from them, far fewer Americans, I sense, view themselves that way. It is much harder to identify a people or ethnic group in America who could, in the current climate, form an affection for shanties in the same way that Anglos and Britain can. It's hard to develop that sort of warm relationship with something one doesn't see as one's own.

Due to this, Americans are not able to view shanties as something in their past that resonates into the future, or as something that represents an distant part of them, in their cultural DNA. The point is that whatever fantasy that they might engage in will be different. Indeed, they have far less inclination towards that fantasy. Zappa's Italian-American family in California, what he might ironically-humorously refer to as "greaseballs," are people that fall squarely outside of the sway of the fantasy. To an inquisitive mind like Zappa's, chanteys are of interest for several reasons, but they remain an obscurity, rhetorically on par with "Tuvan throat singing". Such a person is not relating to shanties as part of "folk" music -- so the idea of Folk as (healthy) fantasy doesn't necessarily apply.

Despite the caricature image of Archie Bunker's "regular old American", America really lacks any kind of clear, core or default ethnic group that one can look to and construct the sort of relationship to "folk music" that seems to be prevalent in Europe/UK. The connotations these songs and genres have tend to be very different. The interest in shanties that Zappa found or that *I* found...as a Zappa-fan in college, a composer of experimental/avant garde music, who happened to stumble on the Blow Boys Blow album under no guidance or nudging of my surrounding culture and not drawn by a feeling of national/ethnic identification... is quite independent of the currents of exposure that one might experience in UK/Ireland.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 04:11 AM

But the romance of tall ships is not something that tends to register with Americans outside of "enthusiast" circles.

The history of Hollywood is replete with the romance of tall ships, not quite on the same scale as The Wild West I admit, but even now you get blockbuster pirate films. In the UK the mythology continues - like in the Winter Gardens at Blackpool where one of the bar rooms is done out so it's like being in a galleon (I even get sea-sick in there - at least I think it's sea-sick). My whole notion of the sea & shanties is underwritten by Hollywood and related Americana (Melville) but then again there are areas of the sea-port town in which I dwell where the stink of fish can be so bad it makes you ill. Sea Shanties regularly get 'sent up' in cartoons (don't they sing them in Peter Pan?) - surely that's a healthy indication of cultural awareness of such matters.

Such a person is not relating to shanties as part of "folk" music -- so the idea of Folk as (healthy) fantasy doesn't necessarily apply.

I'm interested here in the extent to which shanties exist outside of "folk" - out there in the 'real world' as it were, outside of that elite & specialised circle where they are Chanteys rather than Shanties. Earlier on I said Folk is but one pixel in a wider picture - a vestigial aspect of a particular zeitgeist (the second baby-boomer revival & susequent after-shocks) but even so I might question whether shanties were really a part of that zeitgeist or something else entirely. Who, for example, of the millions who've watched Moby Dick will have known (or cared) who was singing the shanties much less how 'authentic' they were? Very few I'm sure. Most of us just accept that as part of the cinematographic experience. Any love of the historic maritime in general is bound to engender an awareness of sea shanties however so "casual" when compared to some of the OCD Chantey people I know. OCDs are fine (I feel the same way about Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Rene Zosso - and Frank Zappa too to a lesser-but-still-unhealthy extent) but - like steamtrains in the UK, where normal families may thrill to the romance of a steam-hawled trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway without making it their religion - there are other ways, and the true Folklore of Sea Shanties in 20th Century Popular Culture is maybe worth looking into. Zappa & the Cliff Adams Singers are a part of that in a way your OCD Chantey crew isn't.

What happens to Folk when it makes it into the real world? Well, in my experience people will like it but they won't become folkies. One doesn't have to be a folkie to love folk music; one doesn't have to subscibe to the sort of warped religiosity (is there any other sort?) which we find here on Mudcat. Folk is a fantasy, but most everyone in the world has their music. I think of American music and 'Folk' hardly comes into it (though I take an a special interest in many of the singers & songs Max Hunter collected - check out Mrs Pearl Brewer and Ollie Gilbert) because it's so vast and diverse. Zappa, Moondog, Harry Partch, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, Don Cherry, Miles Davis, Michael Hurley, De La Soul, Kanye West, Eminem - these are but tips of vast icebergs of cultural wonderment - and not just for me.

... is quite independent of the currents of exposure that one might experience in UK/Ireland.

You'd be surprised - and maybe a little disappointed, but you'd find plenty with whom to share your passions I'm sure. You'd find repro Montague Dawsons on many a living room wall though, and even a shop in Liverpool that specialises in maritime gifts & gew-gaws doing a roaring trade, though outside of the occasional Fishermans Friend CD they don't make much of the music.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: bubblyrat
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 04:36 AM

There's a Zappa living round here in this part of Surrey ; I'll get my "other half" ( whose daughter was married to a Guthrie descendant ! ) to ask him if he recalls his uncle's interest in "sea shanties" if you like !


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:48 AM

Here's the piece in question:

Frank Zappa - Handsome Cabin Boy

Don't hold your breath though. This is like speculating on whether Elvis had a passion for Child Ballads because he once sung a cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Maybe he did; maybe he had the complete recordings of Ewan MacColl, maybe he even had MacColl's recordings of The Elliots of Birtley, though more likely the Es O' B had recordings of Elvis (if that isn't to tarnish their pure-blood Godlike folk-image-illusion) given the actual 'folk' music of the North-East mining culture. For me it was listening to Bowie and NEU! at my mates house in Backworth; his dad (a miner) sang Elvis songs at the club as I recall. How rich and wondrous our Folklore!

Then there's Reeves and Mortimer's grotesque parody of Hanged I Shall Be in their recent on-line comedy series for Fosters. I use the word 'comedy' here in its very losest sense; what Vic and Bob are doing here is more by way of Surreal Juxtaposition which will make no sense to anyone who doesn't know their other work, much less The Albion Country Band's classic Battle of the Field album. This doesn't make them Folkies (remember The Singing Mound anyone?) but indicates their familiarity and love of the music in a far wider cultural sense than is generally admitted to in Folk circles.

Vic & Bob's Afternoon Delights Episode #18 "Singalongsong: Pancake Day"

You know, the more I watch that the harder I laugh...


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:50 AM

Doh! I've just twigged that Bellamy used the tune of Handsome Cabin Boy for his setting of Kipling's Saint Helena Lullaby. Smart buoy wanted!


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:51 AM

Hey man you've really lost me now, sorry! I apologise if I might be doing the same, unawares, but you seem to be talking past me. My points on this thread have been simply these.

1) It would be more accurate to say that Zappa "dug" the Blow Boys Blow album, which he enjoyed without much further indoctrination into the shanty genre, for certain likeable qualities in the music, rather than to read into it *too* much and imagine he was especially keen on or influenced by chanties *generally*.

2) Zappa's exposure to the album --a representative (and yet not so representative) slice of the chanty genre-- was probably due to some happenstance rather than a positive inclination to be drawn to shanty repertoire from prior cultural "set up." Here I disagreed with Suibhne Astray's suggestion that shanties are a widely familiar part of popular culture to which many people are regularly exposed and which are culturally resonant.

3) I explained my grounds for the last in that most Americans have not been "taught" to associate chanteys with their national heritage and nor do they have the kind of clear ethnic identity (eg. Anglo-Saxons> England) that is conducive to a deep feeling of ownership of shanties as "their" folk heritage. I am suggesting that one be aware of the very different way that shanties are received in America.

Suibhne, I don't get why you keep talking about "OCD" people, and elites, and keep making (snide?) remarks about people being traditionalists or academics, and countering that with a kind of "it's all good...that's the beauty of it that we should all embrace" kind of thing, when nobody has been making any value judgements or trying to curb any expression or even criticise. But now that you say,

outside of that elite & specialised circle where they are Chanteys rather than Shanties

...I am seeing that you really *are* caught unawares in the dominant-group's trap of not being able to see outside of one's position because one is, well, the group that sets the rules. I have seen great and very thoughtful discussion from you, and I don't mean that as a personal jab, I mean it only with respect to this point, and I apologise for even saying it. Sorry.

Have you realised that I have been writing 'apologise' and 'criticise', etc, in a way that I, as an American, would not do. Maybe you did. Anyways. But the point is that one's position, as part of a dominant or marginal group, influences one's perception. The dominant, supported by the fact that one's own position is also dominant, tends not to notice some things that are different in other groups, and might assume they are the same. The foreigner or minority group in a country must know both his own language and the dominant language, while the dominant subject can get by with just his own. The two may interact, but the dominant subject may never have to learn any of the minority language. Such is the case that whereas Americans have to acknowledge and usually cultivate some interest in British culture when they approach shanties, Britishers (non-specialists) never have to consider Americans when they partake in "their" shanty singing...nor would even need the occasion to become aware of, say, other prevalent spellings of the word.

There is no elite circle in which songs are known as "chanteys." If you are 5 yrs old in kindergarten in the States, you learn to spell the word that way. It's just the way that most institutions in the U.S. spell it. The word has been spelled CH in the States for longer than it has been spelled SH anywhere else, and most of the original writers on the subject used that spelling. That is not to authorize it as more correct or, as you would seem to imagine, imbibe the spelling with some special "academic" (= elite??) connotation. It is simply to explain WHY the spelling is absolutely prevalent down to this day. Americans use whatever spelling, and have adapted to whatever spelling they are familiar with, without prescribing one as standard. It is Commonwealth English that has standardiSed a spelling, in the fashion of a dominant group (the English are the masters of English, right?), are comparatively blind to the fact that there is no standard in America. Similarly, I feel, UK-ers feel comfortable that there is a rather discreet and known "thing" out there/back there, which bears a rather more distinct relationship to the English people. That is exactly what I am arguing does not exist (i.e. not nearly *to that extent*) in America.

I don't know where you're getting elites/non-elites from, though you seem to be reading into *my* personal interest in shanties and making some irrelevant assumptions. The distinction I have been making is not between elite and lay or between correct and incorrect or between historical and fantasy. It's between different lay subjects' understandings of/relationship to the chantey genre. At a certain point in history, shanties got sucked into the Folklore Machine and plopped out, more often, as British Heritage. Mind you, not as Pakistani-British heritage or Chinese-British heritage, but as "real" White Man's British Heritage. The issue here is not how that happened. It's that, with this being the case, by the mid-20th century, British subjects were able to enjoy the dominant role of those who define, who standardiSe, who hold the birthright to the genre, whereas Americans have remained, in their perception (I'm talking non-specialists here), in a marginal role.   

These machinations of history and society and media and blah blah are not the fault of the innocent subjects, whether Americans, Commonwealthers, etc. It's not that we are doing anything wrong. What I hope for is that we could just be aware of the assumptions that the different positions engender. Specifically, I would ask some UK'ers who haven't done so to try to take a step outside of their unfortunate dominant position of the Definers and Prescribers of the World...the Keepers of Greenwich Mean Time...and recognisze that, not only do many of their assumptions about chanteys not hold outside UK circles.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 06:18 AM

I'm not being snide, Gibb - just realistic; there will always specialised seekers of authentic experience and those who are quite content with a more casual encounter. OCD is in the nature of the (very human) beast; I recognise it in myself & I recognise it in others too. These are specialised elites - I am part of several myself (Green Men, Misericords, The Clemencic Consort and Third Ear Band to name but four!) - helping perpetuate things which are absolutely no relevance whatsoever save for a very small minority of passionate individuals. I love that. Folk is like that. It's about a handful of people who care.   

I grew up with Sea Shanties but it's only since joining Mudcat a few years back that I come across the term Chanteys. Whatever the case, my interest here is how (by whatever route) Sea Shanties are a known aspect of Popular Non-Folk Culture even to this day. My father was very keen on the maritime, but died when I was only 2 so I have no memory of him. One day I played my mother Bob Robert's record Songs from the Sailing Barges; after Bell Bottom Trousers she said: "Your father used to sing that." That gave me a common link with a man who died when he was 20 years younger than I am now. Personal I grant, but in terms of culture and continuity (and atavisic proclivity??) it continues to fascinate me. I keep meaning to learn BBT, but only ever got as far as The Candlelight Fisherman, though I did once put a tune to The Oily Rig.

Interesting to note that in his book Breeze For a Bargeman (which shares its title with an album of songs he did) Bob Roberts doesn't mention songs at all!

*

Last year, I had the honour of playing tour guide to Charley Noble and taking him to visit the various rotting hulks on our salt-marshes. We didn't sing, but the experience made real for me the joy and passion that underwrites a love of the old songs - and the new of course. They come true when you're out there in the field seeking direct communion with the very elements & holy relics of that which is now lost...

But that's not what I'm on about here. What I'm on about here is why everyone in the country will know The Drunken Sailor and sing along quite happy.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 08:39 AM

"It's worth noting that shanties are exotic / fantasy culture; they're anomalous reinventions that appeal not only to hard-core fun-less fundamentalists, but to most of us who dig the romance & historicism of a tall ship and a star to sail her by. For sure, it's all a load of yo-ho-hoakum - but who cares? The more exotic / remote these things are the better it is for all concerned."

Plenty of shanties are straightforward passed-down rememberings of actual work songs that were used by actual sailors on actual ships. They have not been dreamed up retrospectively by Victorian song collectors.

Now you might have a point were you to suggest that the ACT OF PERFORMING those songs today is one that inevitably has a lot of exotic/fantasy culture baggage.

But to imply that the CONTENT of sea shanties is de facto bogus is way off the map, in here-be-non-existent-dragons territory.

You say "for sure, it's all a load of yo-ho-hoakum": you'd do well to remember that the elongated vowel sounds of "yo-ho-ho" are not just silly piratespeak but are (entirely non-coincidentally) easy to articulate when doing strenuous and repetitive labour. They are moany, plaintive, with plenty of solidarity-building call-and-response. (This call-and-response could equally be seen as exploitative, in a master/slave way). They're clearly worksongs, and are no more or less genuine than any other worksongs, whether from Shetland weavers or Alabama chaingangs.

So, while I can see why you might say that "the more exotic/fanstasy" the better, the opposite is probably more true: "the more bare-chested and mechanistic they are, the better"


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 03:48 PM

Absolutely, but in terms of pure ethnomusicological context the function of sea shanties these days is very different from that they were designed for, although the moany, plaintive, with plenty of solidarity-building call-and-response aspect endures, though more in terms of communal communion with collective faith romance. I'm cool with that; nothing I like better than joining in on a good shantie / chantey at full throttle even though I get sea-sick on the Knott End ferry. The romance of the thing is a very joy. Same with Folk Song as a whole really...


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: gnu
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 04:31 PM

"... rather because his ears were open..."

That's one thing I always admired about Frank... ears and MIND. Sheer genius and talent I say. Taken from us far too soon.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:12 PM

I loved Zappa's music -- not all of it, but probably most of what I heard. He was an inspiration, too, as a composer (something I guess I dabbled in for a while...I did get a 'useless' degree in Composition, ha!). But he was inspiring for either bringing the 'popular' world into the 'classical' (or vice versa, depending on how you see it). I used to compose 'complex', avant-garde (whatEVER you want to call it) stuff for my pop music bands...we'd be playing ska in a club, with the horn section harmonized in stacked perfect fifths, or whatever, through-composed arrangements, etc. Or I'd bring the band into the concert hall, to play along with the 'orchestra.' Zappa was definitely a pioneer of that, and a major influence.

As far as the text component or sometimes political (?) messages of his went, however, he had a habit of overstatement. The most convenient analogy that comes to mind right now are the people who put up pictures of Pres. Obama with a 'Hitler' mustache. Even if I disagreed with their critique of the president, I would be open to listening to their points of view. But when you pass people on the street corner with pictures of Hitler-Obama, how can you talk to them? Likewise, Zappa's presentations were sometimes like that and, more so as I am older, I find them to be....dare I say?,,,,immature. He was great had making artistic 'connections', but sometimes I think he *abused* what he used. An opinion.

His musical ideas were of far greater interest than his texts and dramatic stuff.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:51 PM

I think so too - but the texts were integral to his vision. Uncle Meat I regard as something of a masterpiece: I love the lyrical 'folklore' (Dog Breath) which is something that continues (off & on) up to the apotheosis of Roxy / One Size Fits All before he veers off to play to the crowd (which set the scene for the cry of Shut Up And Play Your Guitar... most apt!) That said, I have an especial fondness for the verbose operatic obscenity of the Flo & Eddie band; The Sofa Routine is enthralling blasphemy (immaturity as high art); Billy the Mountain seems designed to push the resolve of his public to its limits & the documentary evidence he gathers on Playground Psychotics frames much of the 200 Motels mythos beautifully.

Ben Watson's Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play remains THE definitive analysis of Zappa's genius - well worth checking out.

Sorry for banging on about shanties - this thread really ought to be about Frank. Like Gnu says - too soon.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 06:08 PM

Re: An 'overstatement' of sorts that I liked: I had a soft spot for Ruben and the Jets. Even though I sincerely love doo-wop music, I also had no problem with the grotesque caricature of it. I think I was/am on the same wavelength with Frank: a sort of love-hate relationship with the genre, berating ourselves for liking something that was sometimes caveman-simple and so formulaic, and yet loving it (and feeling a connection to it) all the same. It was mocking and celebrating at the same time. And I think it succeeds because Zappa had a personal connection to doo-wop -- not just the stuff that was popular on the airwaves and what most people would hear, but specifically the hardcore Los Angeles-area doo-wop *culture*. I still love to see the lowriders at the beach playing their "traditional" repertoire of Oldies on the radio.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: Speedwell
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 06:48 AM

One aspect of Frank Zappa's recordings that I've always found interesting and engaging is his habit of including "soundbites" and short conversations of the band talking about him or other subjects which were important to them at the time. Listening to his early recordings which included these snippets I get a sense of someone who was not only offering his music but also a kind of "folk recording" of events. I was unaware of the shanty connection, though. I may well have a VHS tape of the Zappa/Chieftains documentary festering in the garden shed somewhere. It was filmed shortly before his death.


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Subject: RE: Zappa the Shantyman :-)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 08:04 AM

Check out Playground Psychotics, Speedwell - it's a two-CD documentary of field-recordings featuring the Flo & Eddie band at their finest. Lots of yammering and some blistering live performances too. Word is most of the dialogue of 200 Motels is made up of things that the members actually said & Zappa fed back to them as scripted dialogue... the Filmore album takes this to extremes of course.


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