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Leon Rosselson's final album: interview

Colin Randall 20 Dec 16 - 05:18 AM
Sandra in Sydney 20 Dec 16 - 05:43 AM
Colin Randall 20 Dec 16 - 06:03 AM
Colin Randall 20 Dec 16 - 06:29 AM
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Subject: Leon Rosselson's final album: interview
From: Colin Randall
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:18 AM

I am sorry to have been inactive at the Mudcat forum, at least as a contributor, for quite some time. Work and family commitments have a habit of intruding and I no longer have a journalistic outlet for articles on music. Out of the blue, Leon Rosselson contacted me about his final album after 55 years of recording. It led to what I think was a fascinating interview by e-mail which I have posted at Salut! Live ( Forgive the spartan look of the site; I am labouring over a redesign.

These extracts give a flavour of the interview:

Q: ... do you have a small group (say three to five songs, one album) of which you are particularly proud?        

A: Well, I'm pleased if I succeed in making a song that works (for me as well as for the audience) by which I mean a song that is well constructed (ie no duff rhymes, padded out lines, stress on the wrong syllable etc), is inventive, tells a good story whose meaning is not necessarily on the surface with a melody that complements, points, punctuates the lyrics.

I'd include three of the songs you mention [Song of the Old Communist, Wo Sind Die Elefanten?, Tim McGuire, My Father's Jewish World]. I'm quite fond of Tim McGuire because I think it's the first story song I wrote and it became quite popular but, as Ned Sherrin pointed out when I was trying to get him to include my songs in That Was The Week That Was, there are non-rhymes and weak lines. I became more rigorous later on. Susie is another song I rate highly. And The Last Chance because it breaks all the rules. Also Story Line, which has a neat circular shape that reflects the meaning of the song.

But audiences don't necessarily - as with that song - share my estimation. Also they mostly don't notice the work that has gone into making a song. My most widely popular (& recorded) song - The World Turned Upside Down - was probably the easiest song to write since the story and Winstanley's words were already there. And I'm pleased with songs that are not great songs but make audiences laugh because it shows the songcraft has worked.

Q When you set out on this artistic journey, did you have idealistic thoughts of changing the world through your songs?

A: I think I've answered this in Just the Song. Reading Pope's satirical poems at school, I was impressed that he could write, with some justification, "Yes, I am proud, I must be proud to see/ Men not afraid of God afraid of me."

I thought of that when I was writing satirical songs but had no illusions on that score. Songs don't change anything. I think only rock musicians believe that they can. And maybe left political parties like the Communist Party that espoused folk music & the SWP that espoused rock.

But there are limits to the power of song as Billy Bragg & the massive Red Wedge tour discovered when they failed to persuade the youth to put their trust in Kinnock.

On the other hand, one thing song can do is make us feel less alone. So song has always been used to create a sense of solidarity in social movements, to give heart & hope to, for instance, the French revolutionaries, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Wobblies, Kentucky miners in the 1930s, the civil rights movement, anti-apartheid campaigners... And those movements can bring about change.

I don't tend to write those solidarity songs - We Shall Overcome, Which Side Are You On?, Dump the Bosses Off Your Back - although The World Turned Upside Down has become a sort of protest anthem.

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Subject: RE: Leon Rosselson's final album: interview
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 05:43 AM

thanks, Colin

Leon Rosselson's final album: interview

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Subject: RE: Leon Rosselson's final album: interview
From: Colin Randall
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 06:03 AM

I think the link was incomplete.

This should work:

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Subject: RE: Leon Rosselson's final album: interview
From: Colin Randall
Date: 20 Dec 16 - 06:29 AM

I have made a dog's dinner of this. The only solution seemed to be to post the article again and it can now be reached ( and I am testing it properly before hitting 'submit message') at Leon Rosselson: final album and interview

Test done. Link works. Can moderator please kill my redundant last message (and Sandra's attempt to help ran into the same obstacle)

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