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Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'

Lighter 16 Jun 13 - 07:40 AM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 09:11 AM
Lighter 16 Jun 13 - 09:38 AM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 10:25 AM
dick greenhaus 16 Jun 13 - 10:31 AM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM
Abby Sale 16 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 11:46 AM
Georgiansilver 16 Jun 13 - 12:00 PM
Georgiansilver 16 Jun 13 - 12:06 PM
Georgiansilver 16 Jun 13 - 12:08 PM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 12:11 PM
dick greenhaus 16 Jun 13 - 12:20 PM
MGM·Lion 16 Jun 13 - 01:28 PM
Nigel Parsons 16 Jun 13 - 02:58 PM
GUEST 17 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM
Nigel Parsons 17 Jun 13 - 11:13 AM
dick greenhaus 17 Jun 13 - 11:18 AM
dick greenhaus 17 Jun 13 - 02:00 PM
Steve Gardham 17 Jun 13 - 04:07 PM
Joe_F 17 Jun 13 - 08:42 PM
MGM·Lion 17 Jun 13 - 11:49 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Jun 13 - 11:54 PM
Uke 18 Jun 13 - 12:41 AM
MGM·Lion 18 Jun 13 - 01:29 AM
Uke 18 Jun 13 - 01:54 AM
RoyH (Burl) 18 Jun 13 - 05:12 AM
Keith A of Hertford 18 Jun 13 - 05:38 AM
GUEST,Eliza 18 Jun 13 - 05:45 AM
GUEST,Eliza 18 Jun 13 - 06:00 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 18 Jun 13 - 06:57 AM
MGM·Lion 18 Jun 13 - 08:26 AM
Lighter 18 Jun 13 - 09:11 AM
Snuffy 18 Jun 13 - 09:14 AM
greg stephens 18 Jun 13 - 09:36 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 18 Jun 13 - 11:34 AM
Abby Sale 18 Jun 13 - 12:37 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 18 Jun 13 - 12:46 PM
Joe_F 18 Jun 13 - 03:01 PM
MGM·Lion 18 Jun 13 - 05:56 PM
GUEST 19 Jun 13 - 08:33 AM
greg stephens 19 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM
Lighter 19 Jun 13 - 09:21 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 09:32 AM
cooperman 19 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM
GUEST,SJL 19 Jun 13 - 11:02 AM
greg stephens 19 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 11:17 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 11:20 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 11:29 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 11:38 AM
Lighter 19 Jun 13 - 11:46 AM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,SJL 19 Jun 13 - 12:00 PM
MGM·Lion 19 Jun 13 - 01:17 PM
Gibb Sahib 19 Jun 13 - 04:00 PM
dick greenhaus 19 Jun 13 - 04:45 PM
Lighter 19 Jun 13 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,SJL 19 Jun 13 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,SJL 19 Jun 13 - 06:51 PM
Joe_F 19 Jun 13 - 08:44 PM
dick greenhaus 20 Jun 13 - 11:48 AM
Uke 20 Jun 13 - 03:45 PM
Lighter 20 Jun 13 - 08:49 PM
GUEST,SJL 21 Jun 13 - 09:42 AM
dick greenhaus 21 Jun 13 - 10:32 AM
GUEST,Lighter 22 Jun 13 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Lighter 22 Jun 13 - 10:11 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 22 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM
Abby Sale 02 Jul 13 - 02:35 PM
Steve Gardham 02 Jul 13 - 02:48 PM
Lighter 02 Jul 13 - 04:50 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 02 Jul 13 - 05:24 PM
GUEST,SJL 03 Jul 13 - 09:34 AM
dick greenhaus 03 Jul 13 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,SJL 03 Jul 13 - 12:07 PM
GUEST,SJL 03 Jul 13 - 12:23 PM
MGM·Lion 03 Jul 13 - 03:09 PM
Lighter 03 Jul 13 - 03:18 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Jul 13 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,SJL 04 Jul 13 - 05:01 PM
GUEST,dick greenhaus,GUEST 04 Jul 13 - 09:37 PM
GUEST,SJL 05 Jul 13 - 01:29 PM
Steve Gardham 05 Jul 13 - 02:46 PM
dick greenhaus 05 Jul 13 - 10:46 PM
GUEST,SJL 05 Jul 13 - 11:55 PM
GUEST,SJL 06 Jul 13 - 12:01 AM
MGM·Lion 06 Jul 13 - 12:19 AM
GUEST,SJL 06 Jul 13 - 02:03 AM
MGM·Lion 06 Jul 13 - 02:19 AM
Steve Gardham 06 Jul 13 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,SJL 06 Jul 13 - 10:46 AM
Lighter 06 Jul 13 - 12:08 PM
GUEST,SJL 06 Jul 13 - 07:47 PM
dick greenhaus 06 Jul 13 - 08:20 PM
MGM·Lion 07 Jul 13 - 01:33 AM
Steve Gardham 07 Jul 13 - 08:53 AM
Lighter 07 Jul 13 - 08:55 AM
GUEST,SJL 07 Jul 13 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 07 Jul 13 - 09:19 AM
Lighter 07 Jul 13 - 09:49 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 07 Jul 13 - 10:03 AM
Steve Gardham 07 Jul 13 - 06:06 PM
GUEST 07 Jul 13 - 07:10 PM
Steve Gardham 08 Jul 13 - 11:17 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Jul 13 - 12:09 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 13 Jul 13 - 12:30 AM
Steve Gardham 13 Jul 13 - 09:23 AM
GUEST,SJL 15 Jul 13 - 10:33 AM
Steve Gardham 15 Jul 13 - 11:14 AM
Lighter 15 Jul 13 - 12:54 PM
Lighter 15 Jul 13 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,SJL 15 Jul 13 - 02:56 PM
Lighter 16 Jul 13 - 10:15 AM
GUEST,SJL 17 Jul 13 - 01:12 AM
Suzy Sock Puppet 28 Sep 13 - 01:43 AM
GUEST,Rev Bayes 28 Sep 13 - 01:49 PM
Lighter 28 Sep 13 - 05:51 PM
MGM·Lion 28 Sep 13 - 06:29 PM
Suzy Sock Puppet 30 Sep 13 - 10:21 AM
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Subject: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 07:40 AM

This rugby and military favorite is among the most unpleasant and reviled, yet frequently sung, narrative songs in English. Think about *that* for a moment. Then understand that "The BGW" meets every qualification of the "Child ballad," except that a decent Victorian professor like Child would have been outraged even to know it existed.
(Though the inspiration clearly goes back to the 1830s.)


I am revising a detailed discussion of this song and would like to have some input from 'Catters, some of whom have presumably sung "The GBW" (or a least heard it sung) more than most other people.

Common reactions range from "I wish I didn't know this song!" and "It encourages violence against women" to "funniest bleeping thing I've ever heard" and "ROFLMFAO!!" As a researcher, I'm not really allowed an opinion.

A noticeable absence in folksong research is in the realm of singers; own opinions about the songs they sing, what they mean, and why and when they bothered to learn them and what they think of them years later.

So does anyone have any special recollections, associations, or strong feelings connected with "The Bloody Great Wheel"? Or is it just another pointless thingie to fill up your brain?

(Shameless self-promo: my published study of "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" is still available from Dick Greenhaus at CAMSCO for about the price of two Egg McMuffins. Cheap! The nourishing conclusions may surprise you. "The Bloody Great Wheel" should follow.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 09:11 AM

Not quite sure about the Child ballad bit; most ballads are not first person narrations ["An engineer told me before he died"]; and lack moralistic interjections by the narrator ["But woe alas, the biter bit"]. Tho there are admittedly one or two exceptions. But an interesting piece of Industrial Balladry, without a doubt. Pity Bert is no longer around to ask about it (though I suspect he might be a bit 'creative' about its provenance!)

I think it an accomplished piece of versification, to be sure; and have often sung it to the appreciation of the right audience [coach on way to football (soccer: I was a goalkeeper, not a rugger-bugger), eg, or army barrack room ~~ I was noted in 2 Trg Bn, RASC, Oudenarde Barracks, Aldershot, 1951, as the one with the biggest repertoire of barrack-room songs!]. I think it sufficiently witty to pass muster as a worthwhile piece of creative writing, to put it no higher.

Good luck with the project.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 09:38 AM

Thanks, M. Bear in mind that "Child ballads" run the gamut from the irreducibly stark "Lord Randall" and "Edward" to the later elaborations of Peter Buchan (or some say his informants).


"TBGW" has little or no significant moralizing filler. On the positive side, and more important, I think, are its narrative concision and the fact that it really does tell a story in rhymed stanzas.

The first-person element you refer to is inconsequential. Recall the "I" in, e.g., "The Battle of Harlaw" and "The Burning of Auchindoun." As in "TBGW," these "narrators of convenience" play no role in the story itself.

M, if you have plenty of time on your hands, I'd love to know the specifics of your repertoire at Aldershot. (For an alarmingly growing number of people, 1951 is rather like the Great War or earlier for the likes of us....) PM me if you like!

(And make that "two Egg McMuffin Meals." Still cheap!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 10:25 AM

Yes, indeed. Auchendoon, Harlaw, &c were the exceptions I mentioned.

These came to mind without much prompting. I am sure there were more I have forgotten for the moment ~~~

Many cumulative songs like Cosher Bailey [Did you ever see?] or QM's stores have disobliging variants to verses

BGW
Queen of all the fairies [aka Leave it alone, play with your own][tune Blaze away]
Mary in the mountain glen [They called the bastard Stephen]
3 old ladies locked in the lavatory
Chastity belt
Sexual life of the camel [tune Eton Btg Song]
Eskimo Nell [to tune Annie Laurie]
Good Ship Venus
My god how the money rolls in [tune Bonny over ocean]
Little Angeline
Roll me over
Caviare
Sweet violets
One-eyed Riley
Christopher Robin variants
In the south of France [aks When your balls hang low]
Hitler has only got one ball [tune Col Bogey]
Where was the engine-driver?[ ditto]
Boolox & the asame to you [ditto]
Inky-pinky parleyvoo [aka Mlle from Armentieres]

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 10:31 AM

A tangential comment to Jon's study of "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" AKA "THe BEst Anti-War Song Ever Written":

It provides a brilliant demonstration of how sensibilities and reactions to songs change drastically over a relatively brief period of time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM

Let me add that I got a copy of Jon's book mentioned above from Dick, & found it most fascinating.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Abby Sale
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM

I'm with you strongly on the book. I'd go so far as to call it one of the most important pieces on folksong we have. The revelation on the meanings of songs dramatically changing from the origin to today are startling. Jon's research is superb and patently proves the remarkable points.

As to BGW, even Legman hesitates on this one. He names it frankly - sadistic and misogynistic. The only note I've ever personally seen in Legman that suggests any pause whatsoever on bawdy or sadistic lines in folk song.

I think the difference these days may be similar to the moral or tolerance changes we have since BGW was first produced. The perceived humor of a blind person stumbling around or of kicking out a person's crutch or shooting him in the foot or punching out the sassy child seems to have changed. I admit I have no issue singing or hearing bawdy folk song and few taboo words bother me. (I sang a stronger version of The Old Sea Crab the other night and it went over well.)

But that's just sex. I don't sing BGW. I also don't sing "hateful" songs recommending or finding humorous the reviling any group - for me that includes sexual orientation, race or even preferred musical instrument. I don't permit ethnic jokes in my house or hearing.

I was struck when I discovered I objected to BGW. At least to my _own_ singing of it. Surprised me, that did. It didn't bother me much as a child but I finally concluded it wasn't about sex at all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 11:46 AM

'concluded it wasn't about sex at all.'
.,,.

No, indeed: a most cogent conclusion ~~ it's more about dominance, and the fact that men can't bear a controlling woman, so any such has to be punished with a disgusting death.

It has affinities in theme to Eskimo Nell, hasn't it? But that IMO has much wit. I remember many years ago (1969) having a Legman book to review: "The Rationale of the Dirty Joke", and corresponding with him a bit. I have dug out this correspondence and find inter alia having written to him about his view of Eskimo Nell ~~

"I disagree about its lacking 'the saving grace of humour' -- no room for detailed analysis, but take eg

...Deadwood Dick was breathing quick with lecherous snorts and grunts
As 40 arses were bared to view, to say nothing of 40 cunts.

Now 40 arses and 40 cunts, you'll find if you use your wits,
Or if you're slick at arithmetic, add up to 80 tits;
And 80 tits are a goodly sight to a man with a mighty stand.
It may be rare in Berkeley Square, but it's not on the Rio Grande.

The deflation, or bathos, at the end of the stanza after the great build up, by the incongruous introduction of the concept of upper class mores which are in their turn deflated by such an introduction into a situation in which their morality cannot apply, is surely humorous [& witty] in the extreme?"


I think I would stand by that judgement, BGW has its humour indeed; but I think many of the same points are better made by E Nell; who, far from being destroyed like the GBW's unfortunate wife, gets the better at every turn of Deadwood Dick, & of Mexican Pete, who at one point, in supposed revenge for her having got the better of his companion by deflating him almost immediately on penetration, inserts his pistol into her ~~

He shoved it up to the trigger-guard and fired it three times three,
And to his surprise she rolled her eyes and squealed in ecstasy


Must say I prefer Nell to Wheel, all in all, both morally & æsthetically.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 12:00 PM

Mthe GM.. on our rugby coach we used to use Deadeyed Dick.... and Mexican Pete.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 12:06 PM

Just realised that "The Wild West Show" didn't get a mention yet... well it has now....
Chorus:-
Ok We're off to see the Wild West Show.
The elephant and the kangarooooooooo
Never mind the weather, as long as we're together,
We're off to see the Wild West Show....

And in this cage ladies and gentlemen we have the.......... Red Pepper bird!.... (crowd shouts) The Red Pepper bird What the ........ hells that? (narrator replies) The Red Pepper bird eats red pepper, drinks red pepper and flies backwards to keep his a..e cool! Back to the chorus and rthen onto another outrageous animal... any memories for anyone?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 12:08 PM

Also just remembered "The Lobster"


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 12:11 PM

Have heard both versions of the name, G Silver. Dick Deadeye is a character in G&S {HMS Pinafore}, and I suspect he might have floated into E Nell by association of some sort; though either name will do, as both scan perfectly well, and it is of course a chimerical search for any definitive version of such a widespread work.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 12:20 PM

"it's more about dominance, and the fact that men can't bear a controlling woman, so any such has to be punished with a disgusting death."

Hardly. It's about a woman who couldn't be satisfied by normal means, and a helpful man who tries to help her with advanced technology. Her death was clearly an accident, following her "enough, enough, I'm satisfied!"

Listen to the words.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 01:28 PM

But his 'helpful, technologically advanced' gadget was not fit for purpose ~~ there was no way of stopping it. And if she was blameless, then why "the biter bit"? So she died a peculiarly disgusting death, brought on by a combination of her insatiability and his neglectful inefficiency. That not a punishment then, Dick?

Accident? Manslaughter at least, in law, I should reckon. I can't imagine that volenti non fit injuria would have applied in this instance. (Is Richard about?)

Listen to the words, right back to you; and oblige me, if you would be so good, by not adopting that patronising tone.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Jun 13 - 02:58 PM

And if she was blameless, then why "the biter bit"?
"The biter bit" may be a typo for "the bitter bit", although I've always sung it (and heard it sung) as "Now we come to the tragic bit"

Cheers

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM

Surely the point of these most degrading rugby songs was to see who could come up with the worse form of excess, who could exaggerate the most, stretch their imaginations the furthest in vileness. It may only have its place in a few very limited situations, but it does have its place! Or did!

I think a good shrink would be able to tell us why young men in certain situations need to stretch the boundaries, so to speak.

I am not ashamed to admit that once I laughed at and revelled in such vile filth!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 11:13 AM

Surely the point of these most degrading rugby songs was to see who could come up with the worse form of excess, who could exaggerate the most, stretch their imaginations the furthest in vileness.
If that was the point then surely only one song would survive from the whole genre.
The fact that that isn't the case suggests your assumption is wrong.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 11:18 AM

While the creation of a machine that can't be stopped (I had a Chevy like that, once) may be criminal negligence,I see no indication that the woman was "controlling", nor any that she was "punished" for duch a propensity. Her only comment, prior to the violent and disgusting end, was "Enough, enough, I'm satisfied!"

Abby-
I think the "Crabfish" is considerably more sadistic, though perhspd a better song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 02:00 PM

THinking about it a bit, isn't this another case of looking at a Victorian era song through modern sensibilities?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 04:07 PM

GUEST was a cookieless me.

Sorry, Nigel, don't follow your logic. As it says, I was referring only to the most extreme ones like TBGW. If lots of wits were trying to come up with the vilest stuff why would only one survive?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Joe_F
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 08:42 PM

I think the emphasis on the putatively misogynistic engineer may be uncalled for. He is missing in both versions that I heard & supplied to Lighter in correspondence (the one at Putney School, VT, in 1953, and the one at St Andrews University, Scotland, in 1958); there, the source of the story is "a sailor", and he takes no part in it; the "maid" builds the machine herself. Her foolishness in not providing a method of stopping it echoes that of the Sorceror's Apprentice & his descendents in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. No doubt her being made a lustful woman reflects the war of the sexes, but so do many other things.

In both, also, it is "the bitter bit", not "the biter bit"; I had not heard of the latter useful phrase until Lighter mentioned it in his essay. I think "bitter" suits the context better.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 11:49 PM

the biter (is) bit (British old-fashioned) ···

someone who has caused harm to other people in the past has now been hurt - 'It's a case of the biter bit. After years of breaking girls' hearts, he finally fell for someone who didn't love him.'

                                             The Free Dictionary


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 11:54 PM

In the version I learned back in 1947 or so, there were no "bitter bits"
"But here my story must lag a bit
There was no way of stopping it"

The sailor built the machine, but it was to help a frustrated woman.
There was no indication of misogynism, nor of controlling women, nor of sadism (except, possibly, on the part of the singer.

I'm not sure why the death of Charlotte, the Harlot is any less repulsive.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Uke
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 12:41 AM

The meaning of this extreme song would probably vary according to the social context in which it was sung. For instance, in his book "Dark Laughter" (1994), a unexpurgated study of military folksong, Les Cleveland explains that soldiers like himself perhaps found some symbolic resonance when singing "The Great Big Wheel":

"This sadomasochistic parable of a death machine devouring its individual victims is paralleled collectively on the battlefield by the larger spectacle of a whole civilization caught up in the murderous complexities of military technology." (p.28)


I think Gershon Legman makes a similar point, that the song can be read as a protest against industrial civilization - an inhuman techno-Moloch that "f***s people up".


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 01:29 AM

Oh, indeed. It's a fine exemplar of the Frankenstein/Golem/RUR motif, the invention or creation that can't be controlled.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Uke
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 01:54 AM

Yeah, Cleveland also mentions the song being a variation on "The Sorceror's Apprentice" tale.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 05:12 AM

My recollection of this, based on many hearings during my 7 years millitary service, is of a recitation rather than a song. I'd like to hear it sung. What's the tune like?
I also heard 'The Crabfish' for the first time whilst in the army, and by my time of demob had heard 'McCafferty', Young Soldier Cut Down', D Day Dodgers, The Screw Gun,and 'Wild Colonial Boy'. It was hearing McCafferty and Dodgers sung by an old Battery Sgt Major that led me to search for British folk songs. Before that my interest in country music and Blues made me think that all folk music came from America. Therefore, in a roundabout sort of way I have my service days, beginning in 1951, to thank for my life in folk music. I started as a professional in 1964, so next year will be my 50th anniversary. They have been wonderful years, and I look forward to many more.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 05:38 AM

The tune is Froggie Went a Courting.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 05:45 AM

I remember BGW at Uni donkey's years ago, along with many other similar songs, some mentioned here. I adored the Wild West Show, and must have heard literally dozens of verses. (I also particularly liked a song about a gentleman who seemed to have "...large balls, twice as heavy as lead..." who, "...with a singular twist of his muscular wrist, he threw them over his head, tarara boom..." etc. Anyone know that one? If so, I'd be grateful for the rest of the words which I've forgotten!)
As to the original post, I thought BGW was deliciously funny when I was young and naive, and it was sung by rather juvenile and very drunk lads who roared it out. I don't think one can 'analyse' it for sadism, cruelty, disrespect to women etc. In its day, in the context of men, booze and general merriment, it was just a young lads' rude song. The students I heard singing it were not in the least cruel or disrespectful to women, they were perfectly normal and nice to have as a boyfriend. Dirty/rude songs have their place, and are often witty and funny as well as rude. Just don't sing them in the vicar's hearing!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 06:00 AM

Ah! I've just found the song about the gentleman with the large balls on here! (He was a juggler of course.) Good old Mudcat!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 06:57 AM

I don't know where you got your information, but that's not how it goes. It goes like this:

A woman told me before she died
And I've no reason to think she lied
That her husband had a dick so small,
That she couldn't feel the damned thing at all

So he built her a tool of steel,
Driven by a bloody great wheel,
Balls of brass he filled with cream,
And the whole fucking issue was driven by steam.

When she saw it she drew back in fright
Then off to her sister's she fled for the night
She can't say what happened as she wasn't there
But when she got back there was shit everywhere!

She retched as mopped up his vile remains
Here an eye, there a toe, a bit of his brains
Ah, the poor man, even so what luck!
A lousy inventor and an even worse fuck!

So there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 08:26 AM

Re: tune. The one I knew had little resemblance to Froggie's Courting - have tried to sing it to that but the rhythm didn't feel right. The one I know is a slowish, quite stately air, somewhat hymn-like, which SFAIK is one peculiar to the song rather than a re-use or reworking of any other.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 09:11 AM

SJL shows that the women are just like the men: when they get sent to hell, they will absolutely not be coming back again.

But seriously:

There are no less than *fourteen* recognizably different tunes that have carried the "BGW" lyrics. In addition, it sometimes appears without any tune at all, as in RoyH's recollection.

By far the most usual melody before about 1960, however, was the hymn tune known usually as "Old Hundredth." ("St. Bees" is also used.) Around 1960 the popular folk-revival tunes of "Froggie Went a-Courtin'" and/or "The Crawdad Song" began to take over.

Pseudo-industrial sound effects were also added.

Some years bacl I suggested that "BGW" was closely related to a popular Victorian music-hall ditty of the 1830s called "The Steam Arm." Since then, Patrick Spedding and Paul Watt's anthology of "Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period" bears out the theory: several comic songs on similar themes were produced in quick succession. Unfortunately, no text of "BGW" seems to have survived from much before WWII.

The existence of bawdy songs in the 1830s called "The Steam Tool" and "The Steam Jock" in the same meter *and the same nearly unique aaaa rhyme scheme* demonstrates the relationship.

Exactly when "BGW" as we know it was created remains unclear: but the circumstantial evidence (too complicated to go into here) shows that it was almost certainly no later than around 1900. (The words, by the way, rarely varied until the 1960s, when various additions began to get tacked on)

Thanks for the replies. There's always something more to say and new to learn. (Most of these threads on "what song X means to me" quickly fall flat: what is it about "BGW" I wonder? Don't answer.)

RoyH, were the texts and tunes of the other songs you mention pretty much the usual?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Snuffy
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 09:14 AM

The tune is reminiscent of Froggie's Courting but very slow and ponderous, echoing the rhythm of the machine

|So he invented a | prick of steel a-| hummm-| mmmmmmm|
|So he invented a | prick of steel | driven round by a | bloody great wheel. A-|
| hummm-| mmmmmmm a- | hummm-| mmmmmmm|


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: greg stephens
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 09:36 AM

In my youth, we invariably sang it to the hymn tune St Bees(or a slight variation thereof). Then the Froggie Went a Courting version started coming in, in the 60's, possibly influenced by a commercial recording of rugger songs(performed by the Jock Strapp Ensemble), which used the latter tune.I much prefer the stately measured tones of the hymn tune.]

I don't see it is particularly sexist or mysogynistic, far from it. The version we sang recounted the genuine and caring attempts of an engineer to provide his wife with some fun which he was incapable of providing himself. Her end was a tragic and unforeseen accident, and in no way presented as any kind of judgement on her. What we sang was "now we come to the painful bit" (nothing about a biter being bit or anything).


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 11:34 AM

Why, thank you Lighter. It took me all of 5 minutes to earn my ticket to hell :-)

Invented by Men


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Abby Sale
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 12:37 PM

It seems fairly obvious that a sadist must justify the sadism - "the victim deserves it for xxx reason." Even if the justification is absurd, it seems (to me) needful for the sadist to proceed without qualms.

I think she is being punished and I think her "crime" is a simple, common one: having a greater sexual apatite/need than the man. The mere existence of the song is justified by that. I've many times heard the notion that referring to another being "oversexed" just means having a greater apatite than the speaker. Makes sense to me.

Dick: I can only go by my perception of others' perceptions. The venue I sang Sea Crab in was a friendly, singer-songwriter place and appropriate laughter from them was evident. I'm pretty sure BGW would have been greeted less kindly for the reason of tending towards hate crime. Maybe I'm projecting, though. I could take a survey there on this next month, if you like. It would hardly be a valid sampling of US reactions, but if you like...


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 12:46 PM

Excuse me. That should have read, "Invented by Lazy, Self-Centered Men Who Are Threatened By Women's Sexuality"

Nothing misogynist about any of this? Yeah, right.

And btw, according to anthropologist David D. Gilmore:

Man hating among women has no popular name because it has never (at least not until recently) achieved apotheosis as a social fact, that is, it has never been ratified into public, culturally recognized and approved institutions ... As a cultural institution, misogyny therefore seems to stand alone as a gender-based phobia, unreciprocated.

There is no equivalent of this sort of "humorous" folk song for women. Instead there are lamentations, "I have no money, no decent clothes, I'm overworked, I'm pregnant and abandoned, he gets drunk and beats me..." Somebody's lying here.

When people victimize others, there is generally speaking, some sort of rationale involved that blames or demonizes the victim. And if you think this song is funny, then maybe you should move to Pakistan :-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Joe_F
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 03:01 PM

It is rash to speak of "the" tune to this song -- or of "Froggy Went a-Courting" for that matter. I don't happen to have heard a tune that fits both, but that is no surprise. Of the two for The Wheel that I have heard, the Vermont one was rather nondescript (scale DRMFSLTdrmfslt; dots mean continuation for a beat):
Sd.ddrmr.TS.
Sr.rrmfm.rd.
mf.fL.fm.mS.
mr.rrmfm.rd.
The Scottish one was Old Hundred!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 05:56 PM

Old Hundred is, of course, best known, hymnwise, as "All people that on Earth do dwell", a metrical version of Psalm 100, hence the tune's name. GBW doesn't seem to me to fit that tune too well, metrically.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 08:33 AM

I have to say I have never heard The Engineers Wheel sung to Old 100th.It doesn't seem to go at all. Always to St Bees or Froggie Went a-courting


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 09:04 AM

that was me, logged out for some reason


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 09:21 AM

Thanks for the link, SLJ. You'll be happy to know that I'm familiar with Maines's amazing discussion of Taylor's inventions of ca1870.

The website photo of the "Manipulator" is quite something. However, it bears *no resemblance whatever* to Taylor's own illustration of it in his "Pelvic and Hernial Therapeutics" (1885).

This makes me suspect that the thing in the photo is a postmodern sculpture inspired by "The Bloody Great Wheel." I don't see any documentation at the website, so I reserve my opinion.

Taylor's machines were designed (he said) to treat hernias through abdominal massage. He had another one (for men!) that bears some resemblance to the device described in the song.

It would be interesting to know how many of his machines Taylor actually manufactured and sold.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 09:32 AM

The tune I have always known this to is, I think, having played it a couple of times on YouTube, based on not quite accurate recollection of the hymn tune called St Bees ~~ used for hymn "Hark My Soul, It Is The Lord". Seems to me to go best, and with fewest complications like introduction of anomalous 'umm-hmm's & such, of all the tunes nominated here thus far.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: cooperman
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 10:40 AM

I always thought Froggie went a courting was sung to the Bloody Great Wheel tune!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:02 AM

St. Bees

Michael, you're right. This is the tune that fits. Froggie does not at all. In fact, my lyrics with this tune- bloody hysterical!

Hysterical. What does that word mean actually? Where does it come from?

And look Lighter,if you want to challenge me on the issue of hardware contributing to female bondage, we can go with the chastity belt. I'm flexible.

I really think it would be fab if y'all made a youtube video of it. Seriously. If you think the song worthwhile, it will survive longer in that format than a book.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:10 AM

It does indeed fit the St Bees tune(with modified last line) perfectly. But it also sings perfectly to the Froggie tune as well, with the inserted uh-huhs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:17 AM

Susan

Hysteria, [whence 'hysterical'] like your children, was born of your womb ~~

X❤♥M♥❤X

Wikipedia
For at least two thousand years of European history until the late nineteenth century hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women and caused by disturbances of the uterus (from the Greek ὑστέρα "hystera" = uterus), such as when a neonate emerges from the female birth canal. The origin of the term hysteria is commonly attributed to Hippocrates, even though the term isn't used in the writings that are collectively known as the Hippocratic corpus


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:20 AM

And ~ uhmmm ~

we can go with the chastity belt. I'm flexible

Would you care to rephrase that?.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:29 AM

We have been into all this before, about how any song in common metre, allowing for variations between 4343- and 4444- stressed lines, i e ballad metre, can be sung to the tune of any other. Sometimes, from this, you will get changes in the classic settings regarded as appropriate, as eg the tune of Fause Foodrage has become associated ubiquitously with Willie-o-Winsbury bacause someone by misapprehension recorded it so ~~ forget who, but it's all in one of the threads somewhere. So now try singing BGW to that & you will find it goes perfectly well. So it is in fact mainly convention that assocs one ballad tune with one set of words; & BGW could be sung to any of those with the 4444 metre.

We have had lots of threads on this.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:38 AM

Here's the answer to the singer whose name I had forgotten, along with another example, from Blandiver, from a thread I OPd on The Wicker Man film a while back

"Willie O' Winsbury tune was originally Fause Foodrage and would have remained so had not the wind turned the pages of Andy Irvine's music book? Less forgiveable, perhaps, is Pentangle's use of Lay the Bent for The Cruel Sister"

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:46 AM

> BGW could be sung to any of those with the 4444 metre.

So ytue.

But it isn't. It's sung primarily to only three, the others being unique occurrences in the record. (The actual distribution of tunes among singers is unknown, but it would be startling to discover that "Old 100th," "St. Bees," and later "Froggie/Crawdad" were not the "usual" tunes.

I wonder if women have no hate-filled folksongs about men because there's no "lady-like code" that prevents them from being as outspoken against men as they like whenever they like. Men, on the other hand, used to have a "gentleman's code" (as well as a stoic one) that inhibited them from blaming women (other than Eve, in certain professional circles) for their and the world's ills.

Thus the men need an outlet in songs and jokes directed against the opposite sex and the women don't.

Just another hypothesis.

BTW, the proportion of clearly misogynist folksongs to all folksongs seems to be minuscule.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 11:55 AM

But in another sort of folklore, the joke, Jon, would you say that was the case? Try counting just all the mother-in-law jokes you can find...

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 12:00 PM

No wait! I've got it!

I will make a youtube video. I will get the angelic women from my choir to sing this song with that tune and my lyrics. And just like Percy et al. used the superior medium of publishing to eclipse the oral tradition, I will likewise use the superior medium of youtube to eclipse your literary one. I will "improve" and "refine" and ultimately bury your version.

And I will put across the top in bold letters, "FROM THE MOUTH OF THE GREAT BLOODY SPINNING WHEEL!" And people will say, "My, my, weren't women clever back then!" They will never doubt me unless they pick up a book, so you see, my chances of my prevailing in this matter are excellent.

Step aside! I know how this is done! (laughs like a witch) For I have learned from the masters, those wicked sorcerers with a pen! And the good old days are gone. You can no longer torch me up with society's approval :-)

Except in Pakistan...

Some imagination, eh?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 01:17 PM

Hmmm ~~ Maybe you'd better flex yourself into that chastity belt of yours

Laughs like a wizard


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 04:00 PM

Except in Pakistan...

At it again, eh?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 04:45 PM

THe tune I learned for it ca 1947 was essentially that of "The Strawberry Roan".


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 05:38 PM

Interesting example, M, But even stereotypical mothers-in-law are a special subset of "all women."

It's been a long time since I heard a "mother-in-law" joke here in America - but maybe I don't get out enough.

The same goes for jokes about "women drivers" and "dumb blondes"(I don't know of any folksongs about them). The objects of the jokes aren't all women, they're a certain kind of "straw woman," so to speak.

Personally, I don't think the psychosocial analysis ("political" in Trendspeak) of folklore can tell us much, if anything, about society. It can tell us mainly about the songs and stories analyzed, and perhaps something about those who especially enjoy (or dislike) them. (It can often tell us a lot about the analyst too....)

To learn about society, one studies society, and not just some of its artistic productions - which will presumably reflect what is found elsewhere rather than vice versa.

And even then one draws large conclusions very cautiously.

Joe: Thanks for your tune. I can't quite place it.

Dick: Yours is the second reported ex. using "The Strawberry Roan" -some 20 years earlier than the other (found by Ed Cray).

And from Australia comes (wait for it) "The Syncopated Clock" (a pop hit in the U.S. in 1951).


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 05:51 PM

Btw, nooo greg stephens. No Froggie, Uh-Uh. If you put those lyrics to Froggie, you effectively remove every last trace of humor from it. Whereas if you sang it to St. Bees would be torn between the desire to laugh out loud or throw a drink in your face, on the other I would not feel any ambivalence whatsoever about going for the drink. If there's one thing in this world I could not abide, it would be a yahoo singing about a lethal sex machine without the slightest sense of irony. No sir. And if you sing this with any sort of a drawl, ye shall not be spared!

Lighter, that is not a valid theory. It's absurd. Women have always had their songs. There is this one, "I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again" (Oh Lord). That is pretty much "When I Was A Maid" - except that Granny decided it needed to be injected with a little humor to take some if the sting out. And I'll bet she had a whole slew of fiddling, banjo strumming, catpaw clacking relatives to help her add the finishing touches.

"The Maid Freed From The Gallows"? Let's see...who hopes to be rescued by their own true love when deserted by their family? Well, anybody I guess, but in this case, it's a maid. And I would infer also that he had something to do with her predicament. All you have to do is research the history of hanging women in Britain, particularly young women, girls, to figure out what she was likely guilty of. It is probably the reason her crime was not explicated, and why the crime was reduced to a non-capital offense by 1922 due to a sea change in the way the judiciary and the people looked upon such an unfortunate event. Most of these young women were servants by occupation and under the age of 16. The sad thing is, we know that babies are sometimes stillborn and sometimes they die shortly after birth. Since many a young girl gave birth alone (with her back against a thorn as it were), there were no witnesses to clear her of that particular wrongdoing. According to the Infanticide Act of 1624, for an unmarried woman, the mere act of concealing the baby's death was proof of guilt. I'm sure most of these infants died at the hands of their Cruel Mother, but the odds are, at least a few of them were unjustly accused.

So maybe when the true love comes to save her, he is really coming to inform the judge of her innocence. And why would he do that? Damned if I know. I've never been able to figure men out. Could be he knows of her innocence and feels he must step up to avert a miscarriage of justice. Could be he doesn't want her to hang and feels he must step up and lie to save her life. Men are funny creatures. You never know what they're going to do when they're not inventing strange sex machines :-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 06:51 PM

Sorry about the typos. I was trying to type and get dinner on the table at the same time. Wouldn't want anyone to have to skin a wether on my account.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Joe_F
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 08:44 PM

MtheGM & GUEST: Truly, Old Hundred doesn't fit well; one has to put a lot of extra syllables on single notes, and split up words:
A sai lor toldme be fore he died.
I don't know whether the bas tard lied. etc.
However, the touch of blasphemy more than made up for that among male St Andrews undergraduates in 1958. They could even sing it marching down the street to piss off the end of the pier, and respectable persons observing them from windows might imagine they were being pious.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 11:48 AM

I've always been intrigued by the fact that women, traditionally, were the carriers of bawdy songs, at least in Scotland and Appalachia.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Uke
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 03:45 PM

Contrary to the general opinion here, I think TGBW goes fine to "The Old 100th" tune. But I think the text must be slightly different.

Perhaps the text has been altered a little so the syllables will fall evenly across whatever tune is being used, and without melisma.

As I recall, Ed Cray sets the words to "The Old 100th" in his book "The Erotic Muse" and it also works perfectly well there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 08:49 PM

Dick, "the" carriers? What makes you think so?

My impression is that some women singers in Scotland and Appalachia (and the Ozarks) may have been more forthright than elsewhere, but surely the bawdiest songs even in those areas were chiefly transmitted by men.

Recall too that 100 years ago even "Oh No John" was considered nearly unprintable. Yet most men may have thought that sort of song was too mild even to bother with, and they didn't often sing truly bawdy songs for the collectors - who wouldn't usually take them down anyway.

Thus the women's repertoires may have seemed "bawdier" to genteel ears mainly by default.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 21 Jun 13 - 09:42 AM

Lighter, you are right. It is most definitely by default. These kinds of songs fall into a man's domain. Until fairly recently, men and women have not been herded by Marxist intellectuals and the powers that be (according to their own agenda of divide and conquer)to accept false egalitarianism. And now, fueled by the mass media to share all the same social space. For ages beforehand, women and men each had their own society within their own gender and that was a good thing! Now you have a situation where, except for the proverbial night out with the women or the men, each is compelled to share all social space. This has greatly fomented the "war between the sexes," if not created it. Now women want to change men to suit themselves and vice-versa, and like I said, this has not been for the better. I am not talking about extreme situations such as wife-beating, it is the evolution society in general that has come to revile such behavior and men to their credit have actually been the ones to take the lead on elevating standards for male behavior towards women. Recall how the husband in "The Wife Wrapt in Wether's Skin" feared the consequences of offending the male kin of her family if he were to actually beat her. In a microcosm that is how it came about.

I had to laugh when I read Abby Sale's post up above as she was talking about mismatch between sex drives in an egalitarian way. I can tell you honestly that I have never met a woman (myself included) who wanted to have sex as much, or in as varied a way, as a man. Believe me, that is a great source of humor amongst women. Just this morning, on a news program, some woman was plugging her book about the importance of sleep with a woman commentator and a joke was made about how sleep is like sex to a man. That's how it really is ;-)This song is basically pornographic and the reference is the same as to pornography today. It caters to a male FANTASY of this voracious oversexed woman that doesn't exist (and btw, lesbians seldom look like the women in pornography ;-). I'm not even sure that most men would want it to go much beyond fantasy. Like you said, this is an outlet. This has always been the case. Nowadays we are all becoming confused about things that we all used to take for granted.

In reality, women's complaints about sex fall into a different department altogether. They have all to do with a lack of tenderness. I wrote those lyrics because I can never resist an opportunity to show how clever I am. Many times I pretend to be offended just to stir up some controversy. It's very devilish of me. But it is not because women tend to make up jokes and songs like that. Women might be offended by a song like this, but only mildly if she has a lick of wisdom.

Sooo, can't we just cuddle? ;-)))


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Jun 13 - 10:32 AM

Jon-
I've been so informed by the late Margo Mayo, and had this reinforced by comments from Sheila Kay Adams, Jeannie Robertson and others.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jun 13 - 10:07 AM

> Lighter, you are right.

Words rarely heard.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jun 13 - 10:11 AM

What's more, media representations of men and women now encourage both sexes to act according to the horniest and most aggressive masculine stereotypes of the past.

In other words, like narcissistic borderline personalities who haven't yet broken any laws.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 22 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM

Spot on. I believe also that in the interests of keeping folk music alive, women have been carriers of men's songs and vice-versa.

To illustrate my point, listen to these two versions of "The Cruel Mother":

Tom Spiers

Emily Smith

I am hard pressed to criticize this gentleman because he is both very knowledgeable and a fine musician, but Emily Smith brings something to this ballad that takes it to your heart. That is because this is a woman's ballad.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Abby Sale
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 02:35 PM

Dick, I have the same info on women as significant or primary carriers of songs on sex. Especially in those locals you cite. Also from Sheila Douglas, who knows Scotland; and even Legman. I suggest that it is only from Victorian times that women were assumed not to control or enjoy sex, masturbate, be aggressive, have orgasm, etc. Even Kinsey was destroyed for suggesting these things exist. FWIW, in traditional Jewish society and religious law, it is clearly the women who "own" and control. It is women (in law) who are _entitled_ to have sex, not men.

SJL, You say much of interest but re: "There is no equivalent of this sort of "humorous" folk song for women." Beg to differ. See Jean Ritchie's family institutionalization of the war between men and women. (Not her phrase - I think it's Thurber's.) On a Saturday night they had challenge singing (among other stuff). Men would sing anti-female songs and women reposte with anti-male ones. These were taken as jesting and humorous. Of specific songs I only remember women singing Equinoxal and Phoebe. Either might sing Farmer's Curst Wife but would alter the last verse appropriate to gender.

There are many, many songs where the woman wins out and I'm not thinking of the whore stealing sailor's clothes; I'm thinking of winning in battle, wits, justified trickery, piracy,
etc.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 02:48 PM

Susan,
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'This is a woman's ballad'. I hope you're not suggesting that I shouldn't sing it, because I do and it's one of my favourite ballads. As you know, I'm pretty certain it was written as a warning to well-heeled young girls to avoid liaisons with servants.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 04:50 PM

> I have the same info on women as significant or primary carriers of songs on sex.

But doesn't it depend on what we mean by "songs on sex"?

IIRC, the rustic or mildly double-entendre songs collected by Sharp but not published till Reeves were indeed mainly from women.

OTOH, the "BGW" stuff (not to mention the "Hog-Eye Man"/ "A-Rovin'" type of shanty) with descriptions of absurd giant organs and so on come overwhelmingly from men. Also grotesque fantasies like "Columbo," "Kafoozalem," and "Eskimo Nell," which often mix sex with scatology.

I would suggest that such songs are not so much "about sex" as they employ aggressive and exaggerated sexual images to blow off steam (so to speak) humorously, angrily, swaggeringly, etc., mainly for same-sex consumption. Cf. the "gross-out" contests of middle school.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 02 Jul 13 - 05:24 PM

Well, you are the experts so I must stand corrected.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 09:34 AM

Now here's a man who does this ballad justice IMO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00mJyNWo_8I&sns=em

No fiddle on this one. Please.

I based my former opinion on my knowledge of anthropology and history (which is considerable). There were only a few early song collectors who were women. Generally speaking, the "mouths of the spinning wheel" did not receive much credit as song carriers- even when they began to have real names it was not a game changer. Credit has gone to the male collectors until very recently. You cannot alter or erase early history as it has everything to do with the shape of things in the present.

One interesting difference between these few early woman collectors and their male counterparts is that that women weren't much for taxonomy. They just wrote them down and put them in a book- ballad, bawdy, what have you. Women do have a different approach to just about anything. They have received little credit for their approach. Consequently, when they have sought recognition for their efforts in any field, they have striven to emulate men. So are you very sure your consensus doesn't rely on more recent history and modern sensibilities? Are you the SCA?

As I stated before, I have never known women to embrace dirty songs. Naturally, we have heard them from brothers and playground boys. To us, they were just another cultural reminder that our bodies are meant to be a source of shame and ridicule whereas men are permitted to celebrate theirs, very often, perhaps most often, at our expense. Women have also been under tremendous social pressure to accept the situation and be good sports about it. I can do that now but it took me several years to get there.

With all due respect Steve, you are entirely wrong. The purpose of using nobility in the Cruel Mother is to make the point that all women - from the highest to the lowest- are vulnerable to an insincere lover, and more importantly, that this a situation in which the cost to a woman always was and remains far higher than to a man. It always was and remains a joke to men to trick a woman into sex. And they never did or do empathize with the pain they inflict on women in this regard. The use of nobility makes the message universal. It is a warning to all girls that none are immune to male treachery in matters of the heart.

You may recall the well-heeled young lady who turned the tables on False Sir John? He was nobility himself but he was a murderous wretch who got what he deserved. What's the message there? And in Maid Freed from the Gallows, her family clearly had the means to help her so she wasn't a thief. They turned their back on her because she was a "bad girl" who had disgraced her family. Her crime had to do with her true love who fortunately came through in the end and also clearly had the means to do so. What's the message there? Moreover, I would say that using nobility to make a universal point would be a woman's approach when speaking to all women. Male universality is expressed in songs such as the subject of this thread- and of course drinking. There's always that. Otherwise men address matters of class or opposition in terms of who is superior.

There is a rather lengthy article posted in a thread about militant atheism. Very brilliant article. You should read it, and if you do, I would explain how I think it relates to this discussion.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 09:56 AM

I strongly suspect that the "dirty" songs--the ones featuring "nasty language" and scataology and misogyny--are almost entirely Victorian and post-=Victorian in origin. Burns' "Merry Muses", for example were certainly bawdy and certainly explicitly sexual, but, generally speaking, a good time was had by all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 12:07 PM

Severe repression leads to perversion of what would otherwise be a natural impulse. I don't think the Victorian influence is behind us either. In the marketplace, they cater to every kind of sexual perversion and promiscuity. It is out there, everywhere, to the point that it cannot be hidden from children. At the same time there is a great obsession with sex crimes to the point where a nineteen year old can be labeled a sex offender for cavorting with a 17 year old girl. There is no more school boy's dream either because society has become ultra-dogmatic about the issue of age and don't seem to realize (as they used to) that an older man and an underage girl is generally exploitation whereas an older woman and an underage male is, well, a school boy's dream. So much (most certainly not all!) sex offender dogma seems like a disingenuous attempt to protect children whilst letting the media run rampant with a hyper-sexualization that is bound to impact children and young people in a negative, innocence destroying way.

Another Victorian hypocrisy is alive and well in the non-legal status of prostitution. It's society's way of saying even thought we call it the oldest profession in the world for good reason, such women will be judged and condemned by not affording them the benefit of police protection and access to the courts in cases of abuse and hardcore exploitation by their clients and handlers. It's an oversexed, hypocritical society's way of saying, "You are a bad girl and therefore, you deserve every and any bad thing that happens to you." And, if caught, you will be pinned with one of the three violations that will not be sealed (in NY state at least), and the man goes free.

Attitudes toward sex in the Victorian Age are more or less the culmination of attitudes that began with the Protestant Reformation. And in tragic ballads prior to the PR which address themselves to sexual morality (like the Cruel Mother), there would be more pathos and less condemnation prior to the PR, more empathy and compassion for a desperate woman. Look at your laws.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 12:23 PM

Actually, I meant 16. 17 is the age of consent. In fact, I know of a "sex offender." They are married now with 2 kids.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 03:09 PM

16 is our age of consent. It is not 18, as often confused, eg by Kingsley Amis in his novel Girl 20. Nor is it a law of nature but a piece of mid-C19 legislation ~~ I have read idiotic essays about Will Shax showing people breaking the law in R&J when no such law existed at the time.

Re female collectors ~~ you overlook eg Lucy Broadwood, Iona Opie ... tho the earlier ones like Broadwood did suffer from informants reluctant to sing them songs becoz they were, as they said, "outway rude".

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 03:18 PM

A handful of truly nasty songs appear in _Bawdy Songbooks of the Romantic Period_, all of which appeared between about 1835 and 1840.

Most, however, involve exuberant, humorously erotic adventures and predicaments - certainly "unprintable" in quantity until recent years but practically quaint by today's publishing standards.

As the price of the songsters was quite high, one assumes that their principal readership (and the principal patrons of the "coal-hole" drinking clubs where the songs were evidently popularized), was made up of well-to-do young rakes rather than the average thrill-seeking youths of the period.

I doubt that more than a half dozen of the hundreds of songs have been collected since their appearance in the 1830s. Their style is more broadside/music-hall than it is "folk."


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Jul 13 - 06:05 PM

Susan,
I see, so the fact that she's a lady and he's her father's clerk is totally irrelevant. I wonder why they bother to mention it then!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 04 Jul 13 - 05:01 PM

Rhymes with "Lurk" :-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,dick greenhaus,GUEST
Date: 04 Jul 13 - 09:37 PM

"Attitudes toward sex in the Victorian Age are more or less the culmination of attitudes that began with the Protestant Reformation"
Sounds perfectly reasonable. But what about bawdy songs from, say, Italy or Spain, where the Reformation had much less impact? I'm, sadly, a monoglot, but can anyone more informed than I give us his or her thoughts on the matter?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 05 Jul 13 - 01:29 PM

In order to see the big picture, you must also take the Counter-Reformation into account. The true Catholic culture of "The Dark Ages" can only be uncovered in pre-Reformation history and culture. Certain aspects of it, which one might call socially enlightened, particularly attitudes toward the mad and the poor, are directly linked to primitive society. The fool for example...


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Jul 13 - 02:46 PM

"Lurk"!!!!!!
The earliest and most examples have 'York' and 'clerk' pronounced 'clark' or even 'clerk', not a great rhyme for 'York'

It should actually run
There was a lady lived in York
Was courted by some local dork.

or
Courted by a lad from Cork.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jul 13 - 10:46 PM

I've always thought that the male parent beiung a clerk was the reason the lady just didn't marry him. Which still has nothing with the Wheel or bawdry in general.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 05 Jul 13 - 11:55 PM

Nice, Yorkie, but I have a better one. This here is a "Papist incantation."

   While shee washte and while shee ronge,
      Lillumwham, lillumwham!
While shee washte and while shee ronge,
      Whatt then? what then?
While shee washte and while shee ronge,
While shee hangd o the hazle wand.
      Grandam boy, grandam boy, heye!
      Leg a derry, leg a merry, mett, mer, whoope, whir!
      Driuance, larumben, grandam boy,

Burlesque, without a doubt.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 12:01 AM

21 isn't even a real ballad. It's not.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 12:19 AM

What do you mean by that gnomic utterance, Susan? If you are referring to Child #s, the one under consideration is 20.

If not, then ????

And why not, anyhow?

And the Maid Freed whom you ref above is just as often a man, despite the title Child stuck on it.

And how the hell did we drift on to all this anyhow?!

♫♫Round and round goes the Bloody Old 'Cat
We whitter of this, we natter of that...♫♫


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 02:03 AM

No Michael. 21 is "The Maid and the Palmer." Not our ballad Michael, but it's a hoot.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 02:19 AM

Yes, I know what 21 is, Susan. And I agree it's a hoot. And dubiously a ballad.

But still much exercised why you mentioned it here?!

❤~M~❤


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 10:08 AM

Susan,
21 is certainly not a burlesque. It's a very ancient and venerable piece with precedents all over Europe. It is at least mid 17thc. I don't sing the last 2 lines and while they do look rather odd to us, they are in keeping with the period. It would certainly make an interesting exercise sorting out which of the words have a meaning of some sort. I would refrain from ascribing 'burlesque' based on chorus alone.

The 'while' is not certain in the manuscript. I prefer 'white' which is what I sing.

Jon,
Apologies for thread drifts.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 10:46 AM

Jon, I apologize for the thread drift as well.

Steve, if you sing it then it is indeed a ballad.

MtheGM, look how I get in over my head. I gotta stop doing that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 12:08 PM

No prob.

Maybe the original topic has nowhere else to go.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 07:47 PM

Uh-uh. No way. Steve is pulling my leg. If that's a ballad, I want to hear it from him.

Lilliwham, lilliwham, what then, what then?

Indeed.

Jon, don't trust Steve. He will have you second guessing yourself everyday of the week. He's very good at it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 06 Jul 13 - 08:20 PM

Am I the only one interested in the influence of a paticular culture upon the bawdy (or "dirty") songs that culture has produced?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 01:33 AM

Susan ~~ Never take any version of any Child ballad [or any song likely to be mentioned on this forum] as the definitive one. Many of them have nonsense choruses in some versions, or defective variants, which in no way detract from their 'ballad' status or seriousness.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 08:53 AM

No, Dick.
There's at least John M, Jon, Ed and myself who find this branch of folklore fascinating. It's just that Jon has just about cornered the market on this one. I'm still working on my long term project of an anthology of songs containing sexual euphemism.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 08:55 AM

Dick, I'm interested in precisely that.

However, causes and effects in such cases are nearly impossible to draw reliably.

I would suggest, though, that "BGW" is more effectively the product of a certain sort of masculine subculture (i.e., youngish rowdy smart-aleck misogynists in an still-novel industrial age) than it is of, say, Anglo-American culture in general.

Of course, even if I'm right, I'm not sure what it tells us.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 09:10 AM

Oh go away and play and sing your dirty little songs. I am tired of the lot of you.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 09:19 AM

Some over-conceptualising going on here. One of the functions of music is to create and define social groupings, and one very effective way to do this is to have unacceptable material. If you join in, you're in the in-group, and if you look on, shocked, you're in the out-group.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 09:49 AM

So true.

Consider gangsta rap.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 10:03 AM

Ya think?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 06:06 PM

Susan!

What brought on that uncharacteristic outburst?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 07:10 PM

Exactly which of these "uncharacteristic outbursts" would you be referring to?

Poor Susan. She seems to want to be involved in our discussion but obviously has no idea what she is talking about. It gets annoying. I think she should keep quiet from now on and let us do the talking because we know what we're talking about.

Cheers!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 11:17 AM

Guest,
I'm afraid I disagree. Susan has some excellent contributions if you look back through her other postings, which is why I used the word 'uncharacteristic'.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 12:09 PM

Agreed, Steve. But I couldn't quite see what she was getting so exercised about above either.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 13 Jul 13 - 12:30 AM

Do you know what I think of all this?

Arcane.

And this is where you live:

http://www.answers.com/topic/merrie-england-3#page2


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Jul 13 - 09:23 AM

Susan,
You are beginning to worry me. You are exhibiting schizophrenic tendencies. Our approaches are diametrically opposed to the website page you have flagged up!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 15 Jul 13 - 10:33 AM

Steve, I really do believe that most of the the "trad" songs that come up for discussion here are a tainted product of Victorian times. The "song hunters" were looking to "collect"(as in things?)outdated songs to improve and publish and that's basically what you have. I don't think it matters how one approaches these efforts, the songs themselves are more or less fixed from that era. How much they do or do not resemble the popular music of preliterate, preindustrial England or wherever is anybody's guess.

I prefer the word traditional as opposed to folk because people like you and your associates belong to an elite group. Consequently, your approach is diametrically opposed to any that would resonate with the common people. The word folk becomes a misnomer anywhere near you guys. No one was really using the word folk before the mid-1800s anyway. It annoys me that you don't seem to think that anthropology or cultural history have any real bearing on what you discuss here but the bottom line for me is who cares? I have had my fun coming up with various ideas on my own but being ridiculed for them repeatedly has caused me to lose interest in this sort of discussion. I liked it better when you were taking the time to teach me things.

So Steve, you're definitely a snob but you should not imagine that this interferes with my ability to appreciate what you do. And you shouldn't imagine that I don't like you. Too late for that. I already do. Now go away.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 15 Jul 13 - 11:14 AM

I've never been called 'elite' before!

I do completely agree with your first paragraph and I also prefer the word 'traditional' although that has other connotations as well.

And again you're probably right about resonating with common people in that any group that spends a lifetime studying historical material tends to remove itself from the sphere of the common people in that context. But in the rest of my life I live amidst the 'common people' and was born one of them.

I don't worry too much about the word 'folk' and not many of the scholars I associate with do. Many words have multiple meanings. I don't think it's worth wasting time arguing what is and what isn't. The people I associate with have a pretty good idea what the loose boundaries are of the material we sing and study and that is sufficient.

I'm just as interested in the cultural and anthropological aspects of the material as the next man and try to read around the subject as much as possible but there's an awful lot to learn and one can't be an expert in all of it.

'Repeatedly ridiculed'. As I've already stated this is not the case. You have made some very useful contributions and sparked some interesting debate. We can be forthright and outspoken here and don't pull the punches, but that leads to lively and useful debate.

Most of the people on this forum are willing to give of their extensive knowledge and time and I for one appreciate that. I can also take the criticism and appreciate that more than any compliments.

If a snob is someone who says what he/she likes and rejects what he/she doesn't like then yes I hold my hands up.

I'm gone!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Jul 13 - 12:54 PM

> any group that spends a lifetime studying historical material tends to remove itself from the sphere of the common people in that context.

The alternative, of course, is to let the material go unstudied.

Theough it's obviously true, if we take Steve's observation to heart, the "common people" become the only ones allowed to study it; yet, by lacking the education and methods that would make them "uncommon," they're unable to give much more than a few personal, subjective comments.

Lloyd and MacColl, for example, started out as "common people" in this sense but became writers and performers. So did Stan Hugill, who as a former "common person" was rather uncritical of his so-called "desk sources."

Singers who stayed "common" rarely had much to say about their songs, especially from a historical, sociological, or anthropological perspective.

How could they? Nor should others have left it at that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Jul 13 - 12:56 PM

It's also pretty obvious that the "common people" have little interest in what the "experts" have to say.

That's life.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 15 Jul 13 - 02:56 PM

Oh, cut it out Steve. If you are "gone""," it's simply because you have things to do.

Lighter, it's not the common folk's refusal to listen to experts. Quite the opposite. It stems from the fact that the "experts" have taught the folk that the past is irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. You know that too, otherwise you would not be doing what you're doing.


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Jul 13 - 10:15 AM

Which experts have done that, SJL?

In my experience, it is only postmodernist, deconstructionist philosophers who have done so - along with the entire, multi-zillion dollar entertainment industry except for some public television documentaries and the like, which seem to be fighting a losing, losing battle.

Take the average person. Why, according to the mass media and independent postmodernist mouthpieces, should he/she give a crap about anything that happened to anybody (outside of his own family) more than a couple of years ago, if that?

Carpe diem, dudes!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,SJL
Date: 17 Jul 13 - 01:12 AM

Your experience sounds about right.

"Dammit Neil, the name is Nuwanda!"


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 28 Sep 13 - 01:43 AM

Really. Really guys. You have to come up with a contraption like this?


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: GUEST,Rev Bayes
Date: 28 Sep 13 - 01:49 PM

Well, somebody out there wants one, judging by the effort that goes into marketing:

http://www.extremerestraints.com/fucking-machines_48/maestro-multi-faceted-fucking-machine_7584.html

Not clicky'd for fairly obvious reasons...


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Sep 13 - 05:51 PM

Supplemented by alleged American Sign Language gestures. Are they legit?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmvECqEpLdg


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Sep 13 - 06:29 PM

The Froggy a-Courting tune that time, to be sure!


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Subject: RE: Origins: 'The Bloody Great Wheel'
From: Suzy Sock Puppet
Date: 30 Sep 13 - 10:21 AM

I don't know if the sign language is legit or not but it was entertaining.


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