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Wheely Down by Richard Thompson

Edthefolkie 06 Jan 12 - 05:23 PM
michaelr 06 Jan 12 - 06:25 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 06 Jan 12 - 06:31 PM
GUEST 07 Jan 12 - 12:10 PM
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Subject: Wheely Down by Richard Thompson
From: Edthefolkie
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:23 PM

Has anyone got a theory on what "Wheely Down" off "Henry the Human Fly" is about? I happened to pass the place (in Hampshire) recently - this reminded me how much I liked the song and how little I understand it, although it has some memorable images e.g. kestrels turning in empty sky etc.   

I don't think I want to ask Richard - I'm sure he doesn't feel like an explanation after all these years, especially as he seems to have been channelling Martin Carthy when he recorded the song!

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Subject: Lyr Add: WHEELY DOWN (Richard Thompson)
From: michaelr
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:25 PM

I don't want to attempt an analysis, but we should have the lyrics here. The song is certainly atmospheric.

Wheely Down
Written by Richard Thompson
Appears on Henry the Human Fly (1972)

She womanly lay like the lay of the land
The land around Wheely Down
And every curve was a high, high hill
To hang above the town
From Holland they came to make the maps
And they had made her well
For the rivers danced all across the green
And the pinewood sweet did smell

As far as ever a man can see
It yields him more and more
And every house he washes it white
And he covers it all with straw
Except for the fool, who makes his home
Upon the flooded ground,
And the still on the tide is a glass to the eyes
That stare out of Wheely Down

All things must change within the earth
The moving and the lame.
For the worms will rot the miller's wheel
And the rats will eat the grain.
And the armies of deliverance
Are run into the ground,
And the kestrel turns in the empty skies
On high over Wheely Down.

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Subject: RE: Wheely Down by Richard Thompson
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:31 PM


I don't know about the meaning but here are two quotes from The RT Guitar Tab Archive - About The Songs (where there is an entry for the song, but it's descriptive rather than interpretive - no more informative than the Henry sleeve notes!):

Muna (RT's daughter): "He hates bringing any meaning to his songs. He's always said to me he wants people to come to their own conclusions about a song, if there's a picture story already there it can sometimes ruin it."

John Kirkpatrick: "As usual with Richard, when you ask him was that about anything particular? He'll say "Oh I don't know, its just a song".

These may be both ways of saying that sometimes songwriters put together something that they think sounds nice without any thought about whether it has a coherent meaning!.


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Subject: RE: Wheely Down by Richard Thompson
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 12:10 PM

Thanks chaps! I've actually seen RT politely batting away questions about "meanings" on a couple of occasions - I wouldn't presume to ask him, tending to just admire from a distance. That song has just bugged me since 1971 though.

Henry the Human Fly really got to me, it must that Richard was stretching himself as a songwriter and all sorts of strange branches were growing. I suppose "Wheely Down" is a picture story - I always bracket it with his "Devonside" and the "Pavane" book by Keith Roberts. No logical reason, it just goes in the same slot in the Travelling Post Office of life!

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