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How Many Verses?

Andy7 20 Dec 16 - 03:36 AM
Manitas_at_home 20 Dec 16 - 04:05 AM
Dave the Gnome 20 Dec 16 - 04:12 AM
GUEST 20 Dec 16 - 05:09 AM
BobKnight 20 Dec 16 - 05:12 AM
Leadfingers 20 Dec 16 - 05:18 AM
Jim Carroll 20 Dec 16 - 05:19 AM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 20 Dec 16 - 06:29 AM
Steve Gardham 20 Dec 16 - 09:27 AM
DMcG 20 Dec 16 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,LynnH 20 Dec 16 - 01:26 PM
Steve Gardham 20 Dec 16 - 03:03 PM
Bat Goddess 20 Dec 16 - 04:17 PM
Joe Offer 20 Dec 16 - 04:26 PM
Steve Gardham 20 Dec 16 - 05:06 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Dec 16 - 02:53 AM
BobKnight 21 Dec 16 - 07:11 AM
Allan C. 21 Dec 16 - 11:26 AM
Will Fly 21 Dec 16 - 12:08 PM
Andy7 21 Dec 16 - 12:23 PM
GUEST,kenny 21 Dec 16 - 04:31 PM
The Sandman 21 Dec 16 - 04:38 PM
Joe Offer 21 Dec 16 - 05:29 PM
Deckman 21 Dec 16 - 05:36 PM
Bill D 21 Dec 16 - 06:16 PM
ripov 21 Dec 16 - 07:41 PM
Jack Campin 21 Dec 16 - 08:25 PM
The Sandman 22 Dec 16 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 22 Dec 16 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Desi C 23 Dec 16 - 02:28 AM
Ged Fox 23 Dec 16 - 04:27 AM
Tattie Bogle 23 Dec 16 - 05:55 AM
Tattie Bogle 23 Dec 16 - 06:05 AM
GUEST 23 Dec 16 - 12:11 PM
The Sandman 23 Dec 16 - 01:44 PM
JohnH 23 Dec 16 - 06:19 PM
oldhippie 23 Dec 16 - 07:23 PM
Joe Offer 23 Dec 16 - 10:41 PM
Jim Carroll 24 Dec 16 - 02:55 AM
GUEST,Martin Ryan 24 Dec 16 - 03:38 AM
DMcG 24 Dec 16 - 04:03 AM
leeneia 24 Dec 16 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,Wm 24 Dec 16 - 04:53 PM
Bill D 24 Dec 16 - 05:06 PM
The Sandman 24 Dec 16 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,j 24 Dec 16 - 06:24 PM
Jack Campin 24 Dec 16 - 08:13 PM
Richard Mellish 25 Dec 16 - 06:48 AM
oldhippie 25 Dec 16 - 07:20 PM
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Subject: How Many Verses?
From: Andy7
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 03:36 AM

IMO, most songs should have 3,4 or 5 verses.

Two verses is nearly always too short, and one or more has to be repeated.

More than 5 is too long, your audience will start to get bored.

Of course there are exceptions! There are some short songs that are very pretty and complete in themselves. And there are story songs that need more than 5 verses to get the full story across (although some still take too many verses to get there!)

But as a general rule, when writing or performing a song, I'd say 3-5 verses is the optimum length.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Manitas_at_home
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 04:05 AM

So Chevy Chase is right out then?


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 04:12 AM

I saw him Chevy Chase "Christmas vacation" on Sunday. He was very funny...

Fred Wedlock (The Folker)
In Sir Patrick Spens I clean forgot the forty second verse
So I sang the twenty seventh twice as loud and in reverse
And no-one noticed


:D tG


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:09 AM

"Subject: How Many Verses?
From: Andy7
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 03:36 AM

IMO, most songs should have 3,4 or 5 verses.

Two verses is nearly always too short, and one or more has to be repeated.

More than 5 is too long, your audience will start to get bored".

I suggest you find a more intelligent audience, or work harder.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: BobKnight
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:12 AM

Three verses with choruses, is about right, 4-5 verses, if it's a song without a chorus. However, a folk type song has as many verses as required to tell the story, and that's the great thing about our music. We don't have to rigidly stick to a 2-3 minute constraint to please a radio station, or DJ.

I think the longest song I've written has nine verses, but thankfully no chorus.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:18 AM

Depends on too many variables . At a VERY crowded singaround , singing an eight verse and chorus song is not letting at least one other singer perform , but at a themed event it may just the song for the theme


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:19 AM

Like aking "how many pages?" - bang goes Hardy, Dickens, Tolstoy....
As may as it takes
If it's too long, a song worth learning it's being sung badly
This is reducing singing to the level of tabloid journalism
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 06:29 AM

Asked at a workshop for advice on how to build a repertoire (of Irish traditional songs), I once suggested:

- resolve to sing ONLY songs that you really enjoy singing
- think of about 6 - 7 major subcategories of the genre (humorous, political, place-songs etc)
- identify and learn one SHORT and one LONG song in each category
- don't rush - these things take time!
- add new songs as you learn them but always think of this basic classification.

Armed with a repertoire like that, you can sit in any session and expect an opportunity to slot in an appropriate song, of appropriate length at an appropriate time. That way, you contribute to the organic nature of a good session. Few things wreck a session completly so much as a singer determined to sing "their" song, regardless of context.

Regards


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 09:27 AM

Some good advice here. When it comes to singing songs quality is much more important than quantity.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: DMcG
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 01:20 PM

As was said above there are too many variables. Take a song like Matty Groves. You have at three least and normally four characters (Matty, the lady, the Lord and the page. Often there is a friend of Matty as well) you have at least four scenes: picking Matty up, the affair, the betrayal and the denouement. Usually you have the friend trying to give the alarm as well. That is a heck of a lot to try to squeeze into 3, 4 or 5 verses. So if you are not prepared to have a longer song, you are also abandoning stories of such complexity. Very short songs on the hand can be just as effective: Alex Glasgow's "But the doctor doesn't come" is over in around 45 seconds and is really hard hitting.   Then again, "The Prickly Bush" usually has around 5 or 6 verses and bores me rigid.

In short: the song should be the length it needs to be. Forget arbitrary rules like 5 verses or 3 minutes or whatever. Things may be different if you are in search of time on the radio, but otherwise let the song decide.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 01:26 PM

I remember a song writing workshop with Roger Watson who maintained that 7 verses was the optimal length.............


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 03:03 PM

First of all Andy7 this is supposed to be a folk forum (I think but I may be wrong) and your ideas seem to be coming distinctly from the pop scene where 3 or 4 verses is the norm.

>>>Of course there are exceptions!<<< Yes, and the folk scene is one of those exceptions!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 04:17 PM

A lot of variables, as has been noted above. Depends on the venue, the event, and the focus of the audience.

A song inappropriate to a loud bar venue might be perfect for a library gig or house concert where the audience is not only interested in the song itself, but in hearing the background, history, and scholarship -- and maybe some alternate versions for comparison. (Then again, if it's the sort of gig where your audience is there to drink and socialize, go ahead and sing whatever you want -- they're not listening anyway.)

In a singaround or session, don't hog the limelight and sing your longest ballad -- keep it reasonably short and try to be inclusive by choosing a song with a chorus. Or, in the case of a mixed (vocal and instrumental) session like my weekly Press Room trad session, choose a song with either a good chorus to engage the singers or a good instrumental break to keep the instrumentalists interested...or both.

Be true to the song...but don't bore your listeners.

Linn


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 04:26 PM

If you're singing a song that tells a story, you can't cut it so much that it makes the story unintelligible. So, with some songs, you have to sing ten verses. The Frozen Logger has 11 verses in the Digital Tradition, and I think most audiences will enjoy hearing all 11 verses. If you sing fewer than 7 verses of that one, it's too few.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:06 PM

The OP is obviously not familiar with traditional song of any kind. If he was he would know that the vast majority of folksongs are narrative songs and that they had been honed down by discerning singers (and audiences) for several centuries. To suggest that they then might contain extraneous material is ridiculous. Recently written songs, perhaps.

I have been singing folk songs for nearly 70 years and I would say the average length would be 7 or 8 stanzas but some much longer, and I have never had anyone even hint that a song was too long. Yes, I have heard people sing a long ballad in an inappropriate situation but that is all about reading an audience.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 02:53 AM

"The OP is obviously not familiar with traditional song of any kind"
I agree completely Steve, though I do think that the problem we need to face nowadays is the shorter concentration-span that has been foisted on us by technology, the media..... progress(sic)
This applies as much to our literature as it does to our songs.
I think we are faced with a choice of reversing that situation in our own spheres of influence or dumbing down - it seems to me that deciding on an optimum length of song is very much the latter - in which case - I'm off to take up macramé (not)
This is why I am so insistent that our view of what we wish to promote has to be a clear one rather than let trends redefine our art.
Walter Pardon one compared the traditional songs in his repertoire with the Victorian parlour ballads, music hall and early popular songs he had picked up along the way
He summed up his long version of Van Diemans Land - "It's a long old song, but it was a long old journey" - a perfect example of a singer completely at home with his art.
Of the rest he said, "You have no sooner started one of them than you've finished it".
That's why he was always reluctant to sing them publicly.
Similarly, 80 year old County Clare singer, Martin Reidy, who was renowned and revered for his long songs, told us "I wouldn't give you tuppence for a short song"
Martin sang the longest song I have ever recorded (15 minutes long) and once, when he attempted to shorten it in front of an audience which included a large number of strangers, he was shouted down by the locals, who demanded he sang the verses he had skipped - a community completely at home (and familiar) with their art.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: BobKnight
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 07:11 AM

Sorry, I was wrong, the longest song I've written was, "The Ballad Of Indian Peter," at 14 verses. As, I said, the wonderful thing about our music is the song can be as long as it needs to be. Most of my songs last 4 or 5 minutes, but I also sing trad songs too, and some of those can be a bit longer.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Allan C.
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 11:26 AM

Long ago at a Getaway (and someone who was actually there will likely correct my errors in telling this) a gentleman took his turn at the open mike. He had chosen a lengthy song to perform. In fact it was so long that he had taped his lyric sheets together to form a single, continuous sheet that extended to the floor. As the man droned on through the verses, someone in the front row rushed the stage with a lighter and set fire to the pages!

Let this be a warning to all.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 12:08 PM

Surely what matters is how well the song is sung and the quality of the song itself? I've been at singarounds/sessions/clubs where a long ballad held the audience rapt because the person performing it had chosen a song with great content, a good tune - and sung it with passion and feeling. In short, done their homework.

I've also lost the will to live when someone performs an equally long ballad, head down, from several sheets of paper in a toneless voice. A lighter in such circumstances would have put us all out of our misery.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Andy7
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 12:23 PM

"The OP is obviously not familiar with traditional song of any kind"

Having spent many years going to folk clubs and folk weekends, I'm very familiar with traditional songs of many kinds! And have even been known to perform them myself on occasion.

I did say in my OP that story songs may need more than 5 verses to get the story across. I didn't mean in any way to criticise good, long, traditional songs.

I was speaking more of the whole range of mixed styles heard in many clubs these days: 60s stuff, blues, country, modern songs in the folk style, modern songs in the not-so-folk style, etc. etc. These are the songs that I recommend the 3-5 verses range for.

It's only personal opinion, though. I'm not trying to destroy the folk tradition, and I won't disagree too much with those who hold other opinions! (Well, as long as they don't sing me any 20-verse ballads while I'm waiting to go to the bar, haha!)


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,kenny
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 04:31 PM

How many verses ? As many or as few as are required for you to tell the story.

I'm reminded of seeing the great Steve Goodman at Cambridge Folk Festival, 1972, I think. He sang his great song "The Ballad Of Penny Evans" - a masterpiece, in 6 verses.
Soon after he sang his "Ultimate Country and Western" song. From what I recall, he said by way of introduction that every country song had to contain one or more of 5 elements - momma, a truck, the farm, prison or a train. The song went something like :

"Ever since the day that momma went to prison,
Things on the farm ain't ever been the same.
We were sorry on the day she got her freedom,
'cause she drove the goddamn truck into a train".

So, 6 verses or 1 - whatever it takes.

The longest song I ever heard sung live was at the Ballisodare Folk Festival in 1978, on the main stage as well. Over 25 minutes long - he was pushing his luck more than a bit with that.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 04:38 PM

"Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,LynnH - PM
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 01:26 PM

I remember a song writing workshop with Roger Watson who maintained that 7 verses was the optimal length............."
I am afraid I have to disagree, with the above mentioned workshop leader, it reminds me of a singer I once knew, who maintained that any song written before 1899 was traditional and anything after that was not


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 05:29 PM

Maybe a better question would be, how few verses. Most two-verse songs feel incomplete to me. A song needs at least three or four verses to feel right.

I do think that when writing songs four or five verses is a pretty good goal. It takes that much to develop an idea in a song. Longer songs do tend to lose attention.

But story songs are a different ballgame. Still, it helps to be succinct but still convey the story completely.

I have sung under church choir directors who tailor songs to fit a certain time in the liturgy, and then they quit singing - I've even had some quit mid-verse. Kinda like coitus interruptus, church-style. In some songs, you really need to sing all the verses. Don't stop "We Three Kings" before you get to the myrrh. If you're singing a Trinity song, don't stop at the Son. If you're singing a murder ballad, don't stop before the victim dies....

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Deckman
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 05:36 PM

I believe the song should continue just as long as it takes for the tale to be well told. If we're talking about "traditional folk ballads", those songs can continue for far longer than our modern day ears ( and brains ) are accustomed to. However, I feel that our shorter attention span is a result of our modern day input of T.V., sound bites, commercials, rapidity, etc.

Someone early on in this thread mentioned the olden ballad of "Mattie Groves." I have perhaps a unique acquaintance with this murder ballad. And by my sharing of this story, perhaps I'll prove my point:

My folk music mentor, starting in 1949, was a radio sidekick of "Haywire Mac." They shared the same mic for several years broadcasting live on a San Francisco radio station in the early thirties. His name was "Bill Higley." His radio moniker was "Willi Waw Willy".

Early on in my training with him, he insisted that I learn several of the long ballads. He said that these would sharpen my mind and build attention to my powers of memory. I was only able to spend a few weeks with him during the summers of my teen age years. So when I went to visit him occasionally for more training, I always had several 'long ballads' carefully memorized. One was "Mattie Groves."

When I first performed it for him, I got through the first 29 verses from memory, and also with very good diction (remember that Bill Higley was a radio man"). On the very last verse, I stumbled on ONE WORD. He stopped me and said: "What did you say?" I repeated (spoken) that mispronounced word. He said: "DO IT AGAIN!"

As I started to sing that verse again, he stopped me and said: "DO IT AGAIN ... FROM THE FIRST VERSE!"

I did, and I've also never forgotten that lesson.

As many others have said far better than I can, your passion for the story, the song, the enjoyment and respect of the music can carry most audiences through any long ballad, as long as you enjoy it also.

A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of singing "The Braes of Yarrow" to 150 teenagers in Idaho. Using every skill that I didn't know I had, I kept them captivated for EIGHT MINUTES as I sang, and told, and acted out, this incredible saga.

... would that commercial television would disappear we could get back to what we can do to truly enrich out lives and educate those who follow in of shadows. CHHERS, bob


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Bill D
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 06:16 PM

re: The burning ballad. True story.. I was not there, but I know several who were, and knew the victim... who passed on a few years ago.
At an FSGW sing he dug out that same song again, (a long, tuneless thing about chopping up someone's kids and serving them in a stew, as I remember). We 'almost' reenacted the incident. I slid toward him (we all were sitting on the floor) and someone who knew the story tossed me a book of matches, but the paper was on the ground, and he never even looked up!

There is an obit page here on Mudcat, but I won't bother this thread with it. Suffice it to say, if you sing LONG songs, better be good at it.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: ripov
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 07:41 PM

I remember that song well Bill. It was the first time I had seen/heard anyone perform anything non-classical (other than on the wireless of course). My french teacher did it at a school concert, thereby greatly increasing what we now call 'street cred'.. If I'd heard him three years earlier, I would have paid much more attention in his lessons!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Dec 16 - 08:25 PM

At the other extreme: what's the longest through-composed traditional song anyone can think of? Depending on how you count, with no verses, or one?


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: The Sandman
Date: 22 Dec 16 - 03:55 PM

wiggle wiggle, by bob dylan
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a gypsy queen
Wiggle wiggle wiggle all dressed in green
Wiggle wiggle wiggle till the moon is blue
Wiggle till the moon sees you.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle in your boots and shoes
Wiggle wiggle wiggle you got nothing to loose
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a swarm of bees
Wiggle on your hands and knees.

Wiggle to the front wiggle to the rear
Wiggle till you wiggle right out of here
Wiggle till it opens wiggle till it shuts
Wiggle till it bites wiggle till it cuts.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a bowl of soap
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a rolling hoop
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a ton of lead
Wiggle you can raise the dead.

Wiggle till you're high wiggle till you're higher
Wiggle till you vomit fire
Wiggle till it whispers wiggle till it hums
Wiggle till it answers wiggle till it comes.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle like satin and silk
Wiggle wiggle wiggle like a pail of milk
Wiggle wiggle wiggle all rattle and shake
Wiggle like a big fat snake !
this song would be better if it was just one verse.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 22 Dec 16 - 05:48 PM

RE setting fire to the lyric pages--

OMG what a funny story!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 02:28 AM

I believe there's almost never any good reason for more than 4,    any more is sheer indulgence and Audience abuse


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Ged Fox
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 04:27 AM

"If we're talking about "traditional folk ballads", those songs can continue for far longer than our modern day ears ( and brains ) are accustomed to. However, I feel that our shorter attention span is a result of our modern day input of T.V., sound bites, commercials, rapidity, etc."

"Traditional folk ballads" are the ancestors of TV drama, stories sung to while away the long winter evenings in the pre-electric age. They are, even the longest of them, much shorter than their modern equivalents.

In my limited experience, folk clubs, where they are not primarily antiquarian societies, seem to be more the descendants of the glee club tradition, rather than the homely fireside tradition.
My personal rule-of-thumb, therefore, when singing at folk clubs, is that a song should fit on a single A4 sheet when printed using 12-point Verdana typeface.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 05:55 AM

No problem with 40 verse traditional ballads, so long as they are well done, brought to life by the singer, etc, either as part of a concert in one of the dedicated ballad clubs (yes, they still exist): but not in a 40-person song session with everyone patiently waiting their turn.
As for writing new songs, depending on the subject, story, chorus or not: yes, somewhere between 4 -7 verses seems good. There is a temptation with some writers of comic songs to over-egg it: 14 verses, each independently funny, but just "too much of a good thing" all at once, leading to some sort of verbal indigestion: keep it down, to the point, and save your surplus-to-requirement funny lines for another song.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 06:05 AM

Should have been "or" between "concert" and "in" above!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 12:11 PM

So bob shouldn't have bothered, then ?

Desolation Row
WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

They're selling postcards of the hanging

They're painting the passports brown

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors

The circus is in town

Here comes the blind commissioner

They've got him in a trance

One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker

The other is in his pants

And the riot squad they're restless

They need somewhere to go

As Lady and I look out tonight

From Desolation Row



Cinderella, she seems so easy

"It takes one to know one," she smiles

And puts her hands in her back pockets

Bette Davis style

And in comes Romeo, he's moaning

"You Belong to Me I Believe"

And someone says, "You're in the wrong place my friend

You better leave"

And the only sound that's left

After the ambulances go

Is Cinderella sweeping up

On Desolation Row



Now the moon is almost hidden

The stars are beginning to hide

The fortune-telling lady

Has even taken all her things inside

All except for Cain and Abel

And the hunchback of Notre Dame

Everybody is making love

Or else expecting rain

And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing

He's getting ready for the show

He's going to the carnival tonight

On Desolation Row



Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window

For her I feel so afraid

On her twenty-second birthday

She already is an old maid

To her, death is quite romantic

She wears an iron vest

Her profession's her religion

Her sin is her lifelessness

And though her eyes are fixed upon

Noah's great rainbow

She spends her time peeking

Into Desolation Row



Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood

With his memories in a trunk

Passed this way an hour ago

With his friend, a jealous monk

He looked so immaculately frightful

As he bummed a cigarette

Then he went off sniffing drainpipes

And reciting the alphabet

Now you would not think to look at him

But he was famous long ago

For playing the electric violin

On Desolation Row



Dr. Filth, he keeps his world

Inside of a leather cup

But all his sexless patients

They're trying to blow it up

Now his nurse, some local loser

She's in charge of the cyanide hole

And she also keeps the cards that read

"Have Mercy on His Soul"

They all play on pennywhistles

You can hear them blow

If you lean your head out far enough

From Desolation Row



Across the street they've nailed the curtains

They're getting ready for the feast

The Phantom of the Opera

A perfect image of a priest

They're spoonfeeding Casanova

To get him to feel more assured

Then they'll kill him with self-confidence

After poisoning him with words

And the Phantom's shouting to skinny girls

"Get Outa Here If You Don't Know

Casanova is just being punished for going

To Desolation Row"



Now at midnight all the agents

And the superhuman crew

Come out and round up everyone

That knows more than they do

Then they bring them to the factory

Where the heart-attack machine

Is strapped across their shoulders

And then the kerosene

Is brought down from the castles

By insurance men who go

Check to see that nobody is escaping

To Desolation Row



Praise be to Nero's Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn

And everybody's shouting

"Which Side Are You On?"

And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot

Fighting in the captain's tower

While calypso singers laugh at them

And fishermen hold flowers

Between the windows of the sea

Where lovely mermaids flow

And nobody has to think too much

About Desolation Row



Yes, I received your letter yesterday

(About the time the doorknob broke)

When you asked how I was doing

Was that some kind of joke?

All these people that you mention

Yes, I know them, they're quite lame

I had to rearrange their faces

And give them all another name

Right now I can't read too good

Don't send me no more letters, no

Not unless you mail them

From Desolation Row


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 01:44 PM

ballad in plain d another forgettable song, probably one he regrets writing, too many verses and all of them mediocre, masters of war is far better.
once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn
I courted her proudly but now she is gone
Gone as the season she's taken
In a young summer's youth, I stole her away
From her mother and sister, though close did they stay
Each one of them suffering from the failures of their day
With strings of guilt they tried hard to guide us
Of the two sisters, I loved the young
With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one
The constant scrapegoat, she was easily undone
By the jealousy of others around her
For her parasite sister, I had no respect
Bound by her boredom, her pride to protect
Countless visions of the other she'd reflect
As a crutch for her scenes and her society
Myself, for what I did, I cannot be excused
The changes I was going through can't even be used
For the lies that I told her in hopes not to lose
The could-be dream-lover of my lifetime
With unseen consciousness, I possessed in my grip
A magnificent mantelpiece, though its heart being chipped
Noticing not that I'd already slipped
To the sin of love's false security
From silhouetted anger to manufactured peace
Answers of emptiness, voice vacancies
'Till the tombstones of damage read me no questions but, "Please
What's wrong and what's exactly the matter?"
And so it did happen like it could have been foreseen
The timeless explosion of fantasy's dream
At the peak of the night, the king and the queen
Tumbled all down into pieces
"The tragic figure!" her sister did shout
"Leave her alone, god damn you, get out!"
And I in my armor, turning about
And nailing her in the ruins of her pettiness
Beneath a bare light bulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground
And she in between, the victim of sound
Soon shattered as a child to the shadows
All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight
I gagged in contradiction, tears blinding my sight
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love's ashes behind me
The wind knocks my window, the room it is wet
The words to say I'm sorry, I haven't found yet
I think of her often and hope whoever she's met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is
Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
"How good, how good does it feel to be free?"
And I answer them most mysteriously
"Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?"
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Ballad in Plain D lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: JohnH
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 06:19 PM

As many as it takes to tell a story. Preferably well!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: oldhippie
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 07:23 PM

"Wouldn't it be a pretty good prank
To have 65 verses to 'Armatage Shanks'" - Chuck Brodsky


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Dec 16 - 10:41 PM

Tattie Bogle brings up a good insight. There are times when long songs may be completely appropriate and appreciates; but there are times when long songs, particularly ballads, are not appropriate. If there are lots of people waiting to sing, it's not right to sing a 15-minute song.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 02:55 AM

It seems odd that anybody should wish to restrict the length of a song any more than they should wish to restrict the length of a book, or a film or a play - a sign of the times maybe.
If that is the case, it's something to be fought against.
If we were all sheep that need to follow modern trends, we wouldn't have a past, or a cultural heritage - we certainly wouldn't have any folksongs.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 03:38 AM

It's that "waiting to sing" phenomenon that bothers me, I think. Too many singing sessions resemble a queue for confession in the old days ( that one's for you, Joe) or well behaved AA meeting. Finding a balance between being "fair" to people, managing the limelight-greedy and maintaining some organic character to the session - that's the problem set! Having a range of song-types and lengths helps.

Happy Christmas!


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: DMcG
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 04:03 AM

On occasion when I have fancied doing a longer song I tell people I want to skip my turn this time round so I can do a longer one next time. Or if they'd prefer I'll do a shorter one each time. Most people seems happy with that (or too polite to moan)


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: leeneia
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 11:04 AM

That's a good idea, DMcG.

I still remember how much I resented a woman in Milwaukee who was large in size, dressed expensively, had a loud, trained voice and who took over a session by singing songs 36 verses long.

I don't mean she was fat. She was tall and strong, and dominating people had just become a habit with her. I've seen behavior like that elsewhere, and now I don't accept it. All 5'3" of me springs into action.
===========
I don't think anybody has mentioned the tune of a long song. If a long song has a tune only 8 measures long, it's a good idea to compose a Part B of your own. Heck, maybe even a Part C. You have just as much right to compose a ballad tune as anybody else.

And there's nothing that says you can't add an artful chorus for the audience to sing. It can be short.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,Wm
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 04:53 PM

"And there's nothing that says you can't add an artful chorus for the audience to sing. It can be short."

I find that choruses so often interrupt the narrative and the intimacy of a ballad performance, especially when they'e obviously grafted on to satisfy the whims of those who feel it necessary to sing along to every performance. Ballads are special—why turn them into just another song?


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Bill D
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 05:06 PM

I know a woman who was once offered a gig at a bar...the owner asked if she could do about a 40 minute set.
"Sure", she said, "Would you like one song, or more than one?"

She told me that it was only 'slightly' an exaggeration, that the ballad she was thinking of was 'only' about 30 minutes... but she loved the look on his face and knew he wouldn't ask for it.

And many years ago, I knew another woman who had worked up about a 16-17 minute version of "The Lass of Roch Royal" and once tossed it in right after some kid did "Puff the Magic Dragon".... just to make some sort of point.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 05:26 PM

"Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan - PM
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 03:38 AM

It's that "waiting to sing" phenomenon that bothers me, I think. Too many singing sessions resemble a queue for confession in the old days ( that one's for you, Joe) or well behaved AA meeting. Finding a balance between being "fair" to people, managing the limelight-greedy and maintaining some organic character to the session - that's the problem set! Having a range of song-types and lengths helps.

Happy Christmas!"
What a brilliant post.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: GUEST,j
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 06:24 PM

Impossible really. Some would enjoy a 40 verser and others could be falling asleep after 1 verse.

Not that I have any long songs I'd remember, I think much revolves around a wider time, place and what will fit with the mood question

I think its about trying to fit in a lot on the time. I'm not a performer but lets say "Smile in your sleep" could e a good choice another a dead dog scrumpy" in some places (I play mostly in instrumental do), you might even question whether to open your gob at all is in keeping (as well as whether the established ways take kindly to songs).

Maybe i we are looking at something like taking it in turns perhaps floor singing in a folk club 4 verses is a reasonable guideline but there are many different situations.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Dec 16 - 08:13 PM

I don't think anybody has mentioned the tune of a long song. If a long song has a tune only 8 measures long, it's a good idea to compose a Part B of your own.

Exhibit A: Andy Hunter's recording of "Graysteil". I think it has a LOT more than 40 verses, set to a very simple drony tune. Which Hunter is afraid to vary one little bit. And it's not even a very interesting story. Monumental tedium. Whoever entertained James IV with it MUST have done something different or he'd have been dumped on a rock in the Forth and told to teach it to the seagulls.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 25 Dec 16 - 06:48 AM

Joe Offer - PM Date: 21 Dec 16 - 05:29 PM
> In some songs, you really need to sing all the verses. Don't stop "We Three Kings" before you get to the myrrh. If you're singing a Trinity song, don't stop at the Son. If you're singing a murder ballad, don't stop before the victim dies....

I agree; but the "Folk" haven't always seen things the way we folkies do. Almost all the pub versions of "While Shepherds ..." include the verse that ends "And this shall be a/the sign", then miss out the verse describing how to find the Heavenly Babe and go straight on to "All glory be ...".

At the other extreme from a narrative ballad is the kind of song that is inflicted on us in many public places, which has barely enough words for one verse, but repeated forty-eleven times.

Apropos not taking too long before the next person gets a turn, I have a few extra-short songs that I can pull out if called on near the end of an evening when we're running out of time.

There's also a difference between wishing to perform and being willing to perform if asked. On a typical evening at my usual club (Sharp's) most of us get to sing/play/whatever once in the first half and once more in the second. But sometimes we're thin on the ground and go round more than twice, and sometimes there are too many for two each. I am always happy not to perform, but if I'm not going to be called on I do like to know, so that I can stop thinking about what to sing or play.


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Subject: RE: How Many Verses?
From: oldhippie
Date: 25 Dec 16 - 07:20 PM

I loved the long ballads when I was doing college radio. Programming "California Joe" by Jim Ringer, followed by "California Faith", (the continuing story) by Debby McClatchy was a favorite.


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