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The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy

DigiTrad:
AROUND ME BRAVE BOYS
BRISK YOUNG WIDOW
NOSTRADAMUS
OAK, ASH, AND THORN
On Board a 98
THE BARLEY AND THE RYE
THE GOOD LUCK SHIP
THE OLD SONGS
WE HAVE FED OUR SEA FOR A THOUSAND YEARS


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Phil Edwards 02 Sep 20 - 10:31 AM
Charmion 02 Sep 20 - 10:54 AM
GUEST,Sean O'Shea 02 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 02 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM
r.padgett 02 Sep 20 - 12:34 PM
Phil Edwards 03 Sep 20 - 04:58 AM
GUEST,matt milton 03 Sep 20 - 11:46 AM
The Sandman 03 Sep 20 - 01:16 PM
GUEST,LynnH 03 Sep 20 - 01:28 PM
John MacKenzie 03 Sep 20 - 01:56 PM
r.padgett 03 Sep 20 - 03:12 PM
The Sandman 03 Sep 20 - 03:25 PM
Steve Gardham 03 Sep 20 - 03:36 PM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 02:36 AM
Brian Peters 04 Sep 20 - 07:22 AM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 12:55 PM
GUEST,Sean O'Shea 04 Sep 20 - 01:38 PM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 03:14 PM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 03:26 PM
GUEST 04 Sep 20 - 04:15 PM
RTim 04 Sep 20 - 04:30 PM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 04:47 PM
The Sandman 04 Sep 20 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,Nick Dow 04 Sep 20 - 06:55 PM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 01:25 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 01:41 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 01:50 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 03:26 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 03:35 AM
Phil Edwards 05 Sep 20 - 07:11 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 07:36 AM
The Sandman 05 Sep 20 - 07:44 AM
Howard Jones 05 Sep 20 - 08:50 AM
r.padgett 05 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Nick Dow 05 Sep 20 - 11:23 AM
Brian Peters 07 Sep 20 - 06:24 AM
Phil Edwards 07 Sep 20 - 08:05 AM
Brian Peters 07 Sep 20 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,matt milton 07 Sep 20 - 09:12 AM
Phil Edwards 07 Sep 20 - 10:35 AM
Brian Peters 07 Sep 20 - 11:15 AM
r.padgett 07 Sep 20 - 01:18 PM
The Sandman 07 Sep 20 - 01:29 PM
Hagman 07 Sep 20 - 09:08 PM
Jeri 07 Sep 20 - 09:14 PM
r.padgett 08 Sep 20 - 01:02 AM
The Sandman 08 Sep 20 - 03:02 AM
The Sandman 08 Sep 20 - 03:04 AM
The Sandman 08 Sep 20 - 04:24 AM
GUEST,henryp 08 Sep 20 - 05:06 AM
The Sandman 08 Sep 20 - 05:51 AM
Brian Peters 08 Sep 20 - 11:46 AM
Jeri 08 Sep 20 - 06:30 PM
Hagman 08 Sep 20 - 07:56 PM
The Sandman 09 Sep 20 - 01:27 AM
The Sandman 09 Sep 20 - 01:46 AM
The Sandman 09 Sep 20 - 03:55 AM
graham_t 09 Sep 20 - 04:26 AM
Hagman 09 Sep 20 - 04:45 AM
Hagman 09 Sep 20 - 04:47 AM
Phil Edwards 18 Sep 20 - 10:58 AM
Howard Jones 27 Sep 20 - 07:00 AM
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Subject: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 02 Sep 20 - 10:31 AM

Metrical irregularity, that is - although I'm sure the great man was irregular in other ways!

I've learnt several songs from Bellamy's recordings, and - such is the power of his interpretations - I've very often ended up learning them the way he sang them. The trouble is, this sometimes means that you aren't actually learning the tune of the song. Bellamy's delivery has something of the metrical irregularity that you often hear in source singers - sometimes speeding up or slowing down, sometimes hesitating or interrupting themselves, and hardly ever putting in the right length of rest at the end of a stanza - plus an extra layer of declamatory rock and roll theatrics.

The end result is that the original melody, if there was one, gets completely lost; if you were to treat an unaccompanied Bellamy recording as a source text and notate it, instead of a folk song that other people could pick up and sing you'd end up with a contemporary classical piece in several different time signatures or none at all. Compare Bellamy's Death of Bill Brown with Will Noble's - the latter is vivid and conversational in its delivery, but you can still hear where the beat falls.

For another example, where are the accents in Two Pretty Boys? Everywhere and nowhere:

TWO pretty BOYS WERE GOING TO SCHOOL
IN the EVE-NI-i-ing COMING HO-o-ome

Practically every syllable's accented - it's not so much a tune as a proclamation.

I once tried to work out what the tune must originally have sounded like - a fairly quick 6:8, I thought:

TWO pre-tty BOYS were GOING to SCHOOL
in-the EVEning COMing HO-ome

But that sounds rather jolly, which is an odd fit for the lyrics.

The really odd thing about Bellamy's de-metrication strategy is that he even applied it to his own tunes. Look at that great piece of Bellamising, On Board a '98:

Now when I-was-a-boy... and SCARCE... eighTEEN... I DROVE a ROARing trade...

Unsingable by anyone else, or not without immediately sounding as if they're imitating Peter Bellamy.

If that was based on an existing tune, I'd have said the tune 'naturally' wanted to sound more like

NOW when I was-a BOY and SCARCE eighTEEN I DROVE a ROARing TRADE
and so on.

But, again, you end up with a jolly, bouncy number, which clearly wasn't what PB had in mind.

There are exceptions - there are always exceptions - but over quite a lot of his work it just seems as if Bellamy just didn't like metrical accents. You even hear it in Gethsemane - again, a tune of his own. Having sung it a few times I find it benefits from a discreet but definite accent on the 'one':

The GARDen called GethSEMane in PICardy it WAS...

But Bellamy sings it effectively without any accents at all.

I could go on (but won't). Has anyone else noticed this odd characteristic of Bellamy's work? Was he trying to make himself inimitable, or to make the imitations obvious?


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Charmion
Date: 02 Sep 20 - 10:54 AM

I would say neither, Phil.

Bellamy was a self-conscious performer, God knows, but I doubt his artistic ego worked quite that way.

I think it more likely that, like many singers working in the traditional idiom, he created the song and his way of singing it without much reference to anyone except his audience, or anything but the lyrics and the story they tell. After that, every performance reflected the original concept.

Also, many singers have a fast-and-loose relationship with metre, which they basically don't need if they sing a capella or accompany themselves. What's an extra beat between friends? Who cares if I cut off the two-beat rest at the end of the line, if there's no guitarist at my elbow to click her tongue in annoyance because I haven't left room for her bass run?

As for the issue of grim songs with bouncy tunes -- well, yer typical ballad tune drops trippingly off the tongue while the lyrics distribute drowned lovers, murdered babies, beheaded wives and defeated armies all over the landscape. That's folk!


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,Sean O'Shea
Date: 02 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM

The tune for ON BOARD A NINETY EIGHT is not Peter's.
It's practically ADIEU SWEET LOVELY NANCY and Peter credited it so.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 02 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM

I met and conversed with Peter many times. He looked after my disabled wife at a festival while I was on tour in Scandinavia.
Firstly I'm very pleased that you have taken the time and trouble to listen so closely to his singing.
I would say that most if not all his delivery was taken from the East Anglican tradition, however he was a great fan of Paddy Tunney, and we talked about him a couple of times. He had a huge vocal range(On board a 98!) and a unique delivery. He was not interested in anybody copying him, he would always guide you to the tradition.
I do remember him referring to a well known singer by name and saying, 'He sings as if he's never heard a traditional singer.' To Peter Bellamy that was a sin.
I think some of the examples you have quoted are stylistic variations to help in the story telling. An old Dorset traditional singer once told me his fathers rule. 'Emphasis makes a song boy!'.
Within the British singing tradition structural variation of the melody is an accepted technique, and sometimes can result in a virtual re-composition of the tune . Listen to Caroline Hughes for a good example, however other singers like his good friend Walter Pardon do not use it at all. The rest is down to musical taste. Bellamy is an acquired taste to some people, a complete turn off to others. He was bursting with talent and is sorely missed.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: r.padgett
Date: 02 Sep 20 - 12:34 PM

I agree with Nick Dow ~ simply when learning songs you should go to source singer ~ as Peter would no doubt originally have done ~ sing in your own voice and not that of Peter Bellamy ~ that is his arrangement

Now just a comment regarding Jon Boden ~ but Jon does sing rather like PB ~ that is up to him and he does have the range to do it!

Ray


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 04:58 AM

Interesting comments. Thinking about it some more, saying that "the original melody ... gets completely lost" was wrong - the tune of Three Pretty Boys, or Bellamy's version of Lemady, is right there.

What gets lost is the beat. I imagine that PB would snort at the idea that a folk song has a beat in the first place, but I think if you listen to a lot of source singers you can hear how many beats there are in the bar and where the accent falls - even while that structure is being pulled out of shape where the words demand it (3 beats instead of 4 in this line, 5 instead of 4 in that one). To take another 'Revival' singer, Tony Capstick clearly had a metronome in his head - listening to his unaccompanied recordings (Van Diemen's Land, the Scarecrow, Old Molly Metcalf) you can hear where the accent falls at all times, even when he's singing against it.

Bellamy clearly could sing (and write!) a rhythmically regular tune when he wanted to - Down the Moor, Anchor Song. I suppose what intrigues me is that, quite a lot of the time, he didn't want to. And it does make him hard to follow. (I spent about twelve weeks with PB's Lemady: six weeks to learn how he did what he did, six weeks to learn how not to do it - or at least how to keep it in reserve.) But I guess that - as a couple of people have said - when we want guidance on how to sing these songs, it's not interpreters like PB who we should be looking to.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 11:46 AM

interesting to hear Bellamy was a big fan of Paddy Tunney. Paddy Tunney is maybe my favourite traditional singer. If I could only ever listen to one folk singer ever again it would be him (well, maybe a toss-up between Paddy and Mississippi John Hurt). I think of the way Tunney sings as almost the polar opposite of how Bellamy sings, very relaxed and conversational. That's not a criticism of Bellamy, it's an observation about style.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 01:16 PM

in my opinion Peter did not sound like any east anglian tradtional singer that i can think of, nothing like Cox or Pardon.,He always reminded me of Edith Piaf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 01:28 PM

I think it was Percy Grainger who said that the only possible time signature for folk song was 1/4. Offers a lot of flexibility and I would say Pete Bellamy used it!


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 01:56 PM

I wasn't a fan of Peter's singing, but I did like YT. Many moons ago when Adam was a lad, myself and a couple of others, tried to form a folk group, and we tried out a few numbers at Hammersmith Folk Centre in Dalling Road. Well the said PB was in attendance one evening, and after we had performed, he took me to task, for singing one of "his" songs, and asked us not to sing it any more. Now I can't remember what song it was, I can barely remember the names of the other members of the group (George & Charlotte) but I do remember being more than a little put out by his request. It was a traditional song I do know that.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: r.padgett
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 03:12 PM

PB was out of order ~ singers can sing trad songs as they please ~ even badly ~ maybe he was afraid of you getting too good John!

Ray


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 03:25 PM

in my opinion a revival singer who was stylistically closer to tradtional singers from the south of england was Cyril Tawney, compare him to Bob Lewis


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 03:36 PM

Peter sounded like Peter and there is absolutely no reason why he should have sounded like anyone else. He was a one-off, his own man, and thank God for one-offs!

Whatever he said back in the early days, I'm sure he soon grew out of it. He might even have been winding you up, John.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 02:36 AM

I enjoyed his perfomances, he did have flaws, but there was never a dull moment when he was strutting his stuff


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Brian Peters
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 07:22 AM

Hi Phil, I'm sure Bellamy was following the example of traditional singers in breaking up the rhythm, but I suspect that - like everything else he did - he chose to do it in spades. Also bear in mind that, as Ewan MacColl pointed out, ‘it is a mistake to lump folk singers together as if they were soldiers on parade’ - meaning that traditional singers didn't all do the same thing. Walter Pardon, who you mention, often sang with an irregular metre, others less so. Sometimes the 'irregularity' was just a matter of pausing for breath, for a bit longer than you would if you were singing over a 4:4 guitar rhythm.

Learning songs from a highly stylised revivalist like Peter is fraught with difficulty, and I'm quite sure he'd have told you off for it, and ordered you to go and listen to the people that he'd listened to instead. If you learn songs from any revival singer, especially one as idiosyncratic as Peter, then my advice would be to try to forget completely the way they did it, and start again from scratch with words and tune, then try to put something of yourself into it. Dick is right that Peter didn't sound like any traditional singer, but you can hear elements of all kinds of traditional styles in his singing - it's just that his timbre, pitching, decoration and exaggerated conversational style are very individual.

If you've listened to enough traditional singers and are learning a song from a book to perform unaccompanied (i.e. with no imposed rhythm from an instrument), then it should be possible to bring some of that irregular style into your performance. It's actually very liberating.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 12:55 PM

How he would have loved the fact we were discussing him.
He was the Edith Piaf of the uk folk revival


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,Sean O'Shea
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 01:38 PM

The first time I've ever agreed with anything you've ever written,Dick,he would have loved the fact that he was being discussed.Everything relating to his personality and style of performances brought up in this thread has been said a million times and many times on Mudcat.Why do people bother to resurrect old bones without adding any new meat?


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 03:14 PM

Sean o Shea, here is on board 98
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtJEbC-7uN8
Whether you agree or disagree with me is of no interest to me.
Neither is your opinion about this thread of any interest to me
Peter was a flamboyant performer, I believe he was insecure, possibly as a result of his upbringing, his father was a fascist and close ssociate of Oswald Mosley.
As a songwriter I would not put him in the same class as MacColl, but he produced some good work,
I Think he was remarkable in developing his Art and his Music, his musical style was idiosyncratic, OUTGOING FLAMBOYANT, but one of his flaws was his inabilty to recognise and praise other skilled performers who had a different more subtle approach,
But it was charcters like Peter,Mrtin Windsor PackieByrne, that made those days of the uk folk revival so intersting, they seem to have been replaced by competent grey men who have little interest in the tradtion and who sing in estuary accents,their inane tedious pop with a folk flavour


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 03:26 PM

on board a 98 the same as adieu sweet lovely nancy
well i suppose it starts the same way. but that high cadence bears no resemblance are,it may have started like that, but it goes off on musical ramble andis imo unrecognisable
R you Sean o Shea from the glengariff area that plays a piano accordion?


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 04:15 PM

I don't understand much of your 03.14 thread,Dick.What are you arguing against?
You don't reference an antithesis and your assumptions about Peter's character are, at the least,offensive and at worst,libelous.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: RTim
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 04:30 PM

I was never a fan of Peter Bellamy's singing...but there is no reason why I should be...there were and are plenty of other singers to admire. I also know that many of my friends felt differently......one man's taste seldom covers all.
In the case of On Board the 98... I always thought it a little arrogant that he needed to write his own tune (or as is suggested use Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy - which I too don't hear) - when there was a perfectly singable and good tune collected with the text by Vaughan Williams.
In some ways I think that helps explain why he was like he was and shows an insecurity that finally showed itself with he tragic death.
I did meet him once socially and he stayed with me and my wife after a local gig and conversion during that stay was never easy.......and I remember my wife saying that when she walked him to the Station the following morning, he was almost too scared to cross the road.
I do however admire that he Rowed his Own Boat, in his own way...

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 04:47 PM

Sean , we like to talk about Peter, even if we have in your opinion not much to say, because we knew him and liked him.
Anonymous Guest nothing libellous about my post his father was Reynell Bellamy, he was Mosleys right hand man, that does not mean Peter was a Fascist, however knowing his background and knowing Peter and having had a conversation with someone close to him,it[imo] Helps to give an insight in to his character and his sad suicide.
A few months before his death i had a conversatiomn with him , he was depressed about lack of work, he had tried to commit suicide once before.
LET US PLAY HIS MUSIC AND REMEMBER HIM IN HIS HEYDAY, HE HAD STYLEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia6msU4XWmI WHEN DIE I WILL LIVE AGAIN


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 05:03 PM

Any assunptions about Peter are made because i knew him , furthemore here is confirmation about Richard Reynell Bellamy who wrote we marched with Mosley
Richard Reynell Bellamy was brought up in the aftermath of the Great War of 1914-1918. For many years afterwards, men with severe disabilities and disfigurements were a common sight on the streets of Britain: the result of injuries sustained in the carnage of the trenches.Long before the Great Depression of 1931 the pinched faces of hungry children told of widespread poverty in northern industrial towns in what was the richest Empire the world had ever seen. The jobs of their parents had long ago passed to the cheap sweated labour countries of Asia and elsewhere.Bellamy was not one to grumble in the comfort of an armchair and leave the solution to others. He joined the Blackshirts almost at the start and went out onto British streets to fight for peace and prosperity through Mosley’s policies of a high wage economy, economic autarky, a Corporate State - and no more wars unless Britain was attacked.This brought him into daily conflict with communists, democratic socialists and capitalist supporters. But he remained true to what he believed in and in 1940 paid for it with imprisonment without charge or trial under the infamous Defence Regulation 18B.In the course of his political odyssey Bellamy, came to know just about every British Blackshirt worth knowing and attended all the major Leader meetings and many local ones besides.Towards the end of his life, at Oswald Mosley’s request, he wrote it all down for posterity - providing this unique inside story of the British Union of Fascists.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 04 Sep 20 - 06:55 PM

I think this is getting a bit out of hand. We were talking about Peter's singing style.
My views on Peter's are on the Wikipedia article about him if anyone is interested. He was a man I respected and trusted. My wife will not have a word said against him, after he fed her and helped her for three days when she lost all her money at a Folk Festival, while I was working abroad.
Brian's post sums up his singing style very well. I am sure he had a lot more to offer when he left us. So let's concentrate on his legacy. I hear echoes of his singing and playing in lots of the younger singers, and it always brings a smile.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 01:25 AM

Nick, I liked him too.
Peoples charcters and in faxt everything about them including their singing] are a result of their background and events that happened to them., knowledge of what has happened to a person and their upbringing i believe helps us to understand the way they behaved.
I liked his company and thought he was a good performer , but he is not someone i would take as a bechmark of style as a singer , neither do i share his revernce for Kipling , who i think was an imperial apologist, and a reactionary[ backward lookin propogandist .
Kiplings best work IMO was his childrens stories just so etc


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 01:41 AM

I also think that Peter expected more from the uk folk revival, I think he had hoped to be a "Star"regarding the festival and club scene in a similar vein to how some seek fame on the pop scene, and that this disappointment was a contribution to his death[ confirmed by wiki here.,
"The Transports was a runaway success, since when my career has gone ppppffff! " Similarly from fellow folksinger Brian Peters: "The saddest Bellamy moment arose after I'd complimented him on a barnstorming performance the last time I'd seen him. With a wan smile, he picked up his diary and, holding it up for me to see, leafed through empty page after empty page, without saying a word." Distinguished American folksinger Lisa Null, a longtime friend, writes "He was broke, unable to find gigs, unable to adapt. He complained so much about this, many of us kind of got used to it -- a bad mistake. He was sending out warning signs." Another singer, Nick Dow, adds, "In respect of his empty gig diary, we were chatting on the phone, and he asked me 'Nick how do you get so much work?' I answered that it was because I was a persuasive bastard and wasn't averse to making a nuisance of myself. He replied that he couldn't easily ring up and ask for a gig, he found it so embarrassing. He was a singer and performer, not a businessman in any shape or form. Peter needed our help, and the oxygen of the appreciation of his art."

Shortly before his death, his widow later told Michael Grosvenor Myer, he had spent a whole day listening intently and self-critically to his entire record output, saying at the end "But I am good. What the hell has gone wrong?"


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 01:50 AM

He and I chatted 3 or 4 months before his death[ Chippenham Festival , he showed me his empty diary and said to me,I do not think Ireland will be MY Salvation.
I was in the process of moving from the uk to Ireland.Peter was a fine artist and a talented writer and vibrant performer,, he suffered from depression, he might have been manic depressive or bi polar. but his music lives on
I think he would advise any singer including Jon Boden to develop their own style.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 03:26 AM

Like. MacColl he borrowed from the tradtion for tunes,example Fiddlers Hill is When a man is in Love.
His songwriting tended to look backwards, not really surprising that he was so fond of Kipling, along with Michael Grosvenor Myer he seemed to dislike progressives on the folk scene or lefties as he called them. Kiplings poetry along with C Fox Smith, Lends itself well to musical arrangement, and Peter did a good job in composing and arranging the material.
He liked to sing and play bottleneck blues on guitar, But rarely performed these at his gigs.I think the Zenith of his singing career was with YT


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 03:35 AM

Another positive about his singing and his attitude to songs was that he believed words were important, rather than just sounds, there was and is imo an element of the uk folk revival who prefer to listen to sounds rather than words.
THAT IS WHY FOLK CLUBS RATHER THAN OPEN MICS ARE IMPORTANT
Peter was not middle of the road easy listening, but he had something to say and it was not the bland banalities of commercial pop and easy listening


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 07:11 AM

Brian - "try to forget completely the way they did it, and start again from scratch with words and tune"

Absolutely. But in a way, that's where I came in! If the only version of Two Pretty Boys you've ever heard is Bellamy's - or if you've only ever heard his version of On Board A 98 for that matter - what is the tune? It's not a matter of an interpolated bar of 2/4 here or a bit of rubato there - there's no consistent metre at all. What he did is brilliant, no question about it, but he didn't just put his stamp on those songs, he painted his self-portrait on them.

I think this is an extreme version of a more general issue in revival singing; I call it the Early One Morning Problem. The problem is, nobody wants to sound like they're singing Early One Morning. (Paper idea: "Singing Together - blessing or curse for the English tradition?") Unfortunately a lot of traditional song tunes are really rather pretty, particularly if they're regularised and neatened up a bit. So, as well as leaving them un-regularised, people tend to go the other way - stretch out the metre, leave gaps for emphasis, accentuate the drama and mystery.

Nobody roughened up a song tune quite like Bellamy did, but lots of people did (and do) this. I learned Lemady from Tony Rose's version, which isn't especially showy, and I'd been singing it for years before I realised what a pretty tune it is - and that was only after I'd made a positive effort to sing it with a regular metre, more or less to see what would happen. (And then I heard Bellamy's version, which is a whole different story!)

I guess the lesson is just to go back to the source(s) wherever possible! As I type this, thanks to Youtube I'm listening to Lucy Stewart singing The Twa Brothers - electrifying, and (more to the point) metrically regular, despite being recognisably the same tune as Bellamy sang. (Which is interesting.) And perhaps there's also a lesson there about the difference between emulating the process and imitating the results.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 07:36 AM

Tony Rose ,now there was a fine singer IMO,
Sean, I knew PETER like him and enjoyed his perfomances, WARTS AND ALL.
Phil , when i decided to learn high barbaree i listened to Bob Roberts, YOU HAVE TO GET TO THE ROOTS.w When i listen to blues i go to broonzy blind boy fullerblind lemon jefferson sonny boy williamson both of them . Sonny boy the second came up with the great quote those white boys want to play the blues so bad, and thats just what they did refrring to the singer mick jagger and the stones, a useless blues singer


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 07:44 AM

Martyn Wyndham Read is a revival singer with a wonderful voice who imo sounds closest to most of the traditional singers, i have heard ,particularly when he sings unaccompanied


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 08:50 AM

My take on his style is that he regarded the words as supreme. The tune was there to carry the words, and could be pulled about and ornamented as necessary. This seemed to extend to when he sang accompanied - most singers find that imposes some regularity, but Peter seemed to sing in much the same way and his inimitable and distinctive accompaniment followed that.

He had a very individual style, but I think it is perfectly possible to extract the underlying tune from it. The important thing is that it was very effective at getting the song across, albeit not to everyone's taste.

I can't claim to have known him, but I did meet him several times, and once spent several hours in his company. He was charismatic but could be contrary, and I can understand how he rubbed some people up the wrong way. I found him to be an electrifying performer, which somehow his recordings (even the live ones) don't quite capture for me. An extraordinary talent and a great loss.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: r.padgett
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 11:13 AM

Yes I agree with Howard above ~ the words in traditional song conveying the story are the most important part ~ have to be ~ the tune is as well as an aid to memory a means of helping to tell that story

The means of telling the story uses English language with all its pauses and stops, long notes and whatever can be used to accentuate parts available to a singer

Of course this can and will affect the overall tune with its deviations ~ bound to

I reckon Tony Rose was probably the best singer and musician of the area ~ though Martyn Wyndham Reed is fine singer ~ he does pick some funny keys (each to his own of course!)
Ray


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,Nick Dow
Date: 05 Sep 20 - 11:23 AM

Couldn't agree more about Jagger, that said when I interviewed Bill Wyman for the BBC about the early days of the band, there was no argument about the Stones commitment to the Blues and it's root singers. The Stones re-launched Muddy Waters career. (Take a look at the film 'Cadillac Records) Presley ripped off loads of blues players in many respects especially Little Walter, and Arthur Crudup couldn't stand the sight of him. To me he is more of a villain than Jagger.
Back to Bellamy. He was a Ray Charles fan, and we spent some time swapping riffs when he played bottleneck guitar when I lived in Birmingham. I was fairly young and was more than pleased when he asked my advice. We also spent some time watching T.V. with an interesting close harmony soul band which he asked to view.
I will repeat myself. Peter was bursting with talent, and they broke the mould when they made him.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Brian Peters
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 06:24 AM

Phil,

I was going to suggest you go and find an alternative recording of 'Two Brothers' to give you a different angle from Bellamy's, but you've already done that. Listen to what PB does on verse 2: the first line is sung more or less in rhythm, but in line 2 he draws out the words 'and little can I play at...' in order to accommodate a three-note descending melisma on 'can'. If he'd sung 'can' on one note, the line would have been mush more regular - as Howard said, it's not all that difficult to unpick. If you imagine 'On Board a 98' sung to Bellamy's tune, but in the rhythm the Coppers sing 'Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy', you can get a handle on that one as well.

Was it arrogant to write a new tune for '98' when there was one available? Well, it's only what Bert Lloyd and others had been doing for years. I must admit I hadn't spotted 'Adieu SLN' as the basis for Bellamy's tune, but I hear it now. But of course he had to insert that great octave leap in the fourth line, which gave him the chance to sing one of his high notes. [I like 'painted his self-portrait on it', BTW!]


> people tend to go the other way - stretch out the metre, leave gaps for emphasis, accentuate the drama and mystery.

I'd have said the trend over most of the history of the revival was very much in the opposite direction, because people chose to accompany their songs with instruments that ended to impose a rhythm. When Bert employed Alf Edwards it wasn't just to keep him in tune - Alf could and did play very rhythmically. Most revival performers would slip in the occasional unaccompanied song to prove they knew how to do it, bu most of the stuff was highly rhythmic. It was only about half way through Martin Carthy's career that he dropped the very metrical guitar accompaniments and started playing behind the vocal line.

> I guess the lesson is just to go back to the source(s) wherever possible!

I think so...


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 08:05 AM

I take the point about revival singers being more likely to neaten up & square off tunes than the opposite, although I do think there's a bit of tendency among some singers to handle unaccompanied songs with kid gloves - delivering each line with all due respect but losing the connective bounce of the melody as a whole.

Bellamy's top end was quite something. I don't have any trouble with the octave leap in On Board A 98, but I find Soldier, Soldier an absolute killer. I've never managed the final "yea-HO" in Santa Fe Trail, either (and I've only ever heard one person hit it).


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Brian Peters
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 08:17 AM

> I've never managed the final "yea-HO" in Santa Fe Trail, either (and I've only ever heard one person hit it).

You may have come across my tale of Bellamy haranguing an audience halfway through the chorus of 'Santa Fe Trail': 'Come on you BAHSTARDS, there's a wonderful harmony to this, and not one of you is getting it!'

When I used to sing it with Gordon Tyrrall, it was a matter of high principle to get that top G in the harmony. Though I had to go falsetto to bend it upwards to A, as PB liked to do.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 09:12 AM

"You may have come across my tale of Bellamy haranguing an audience halfway through the chorus of 'Santa Fe Trail': 'Come on you BAHSTARDS, there's a wonderful harmony to this, and not one of you is getting it!'"

Ha ha, I'd love to hear more of that sort of thing at folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 10:35 AM

I did once see a singer at a FC having words with the audience because they'd started clapping along... on the on beat.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Brian Peters
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 11:15 AM

'Ha ha, I'd love to hear more of that sort of thing at folk clubs.'

How about:'Will you f***ing shut up!!', addressed by guest performer (not me, I hasten to add) to audience member daring to sing along...?


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: r.padgett
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 01:18 PM

Fine balance as to when to sing the chorus or not ~ clubs have singers who attend to sing ~ concerts not necessarily so

Ray


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 01:29 PM

Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,matt milton - PM
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 09:12 AM

"You may have come across my tale of Bellamy haranguing an audience halfway through the chorus of 'Santa Fe Trail': 'Come on you BAHSTARDS, there's a wonderful harmony to this, and not one of you is getting it!'"

Ha ha, I'd love to hear more of that sort of thing at folk clubs. quote
A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR HIS LACK OF GIGS.
By contrast Roy Harris was a master at getting audiences to join in choruses and never harangued anyone.I would advise young perfomers who might be reading this to follw in Roys footsteps rather than Peters. It is not a good idea to talk down to an audience or to swear at them. Show audiences respect and they generally will respect you back you should talk and communicate but not talk at audiences


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Hagman
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 09:08 PM

SM, having heard PB live (only twice, unfortunately) and having devoured all the available live and off-air recordings around over the years, suspect that Bellamy would have been very jovial in his use of the epithet "BAHSTARDS"... in much the same way as us Aussies use it as an affectionate term of endearment for our mates, as in "Ya silly bastard!"

Still can't forget the impact he made on me the first time I saw him live (1980), even though the set-list has long gone from the memory - "electrifying" has been used above, and couldn't agree more.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Sep 20 - 09:14 PM

I agree about his use of "BAHSTARDS". It would mainly have prompted me to look for that harmony.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: r.padgett
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 01:02 AM

Yes yes not I think meant as a derogatory comment but as encouragement to sing!

Ray


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 03:02 AM

i disagree, his attitude was often taken the wrong way by people and i am sure was one of the reasons he did not get more bookings, getting work is not, just about talent or hassling people[as nick dow suggested earlier], a lot of Organisers do not like being hassled.
I knew quite a lot of people who thought Peter was arrogant., [i think his appearance of was insecurity arrogance.
John Mackenzie gave a perfect example of Peters behaviour that was typical and which got up a lot of peoples noses
In fact, when i was running Bury Folk Club I received a number of calls from him and i had a conversation with him in which he asked me about his new publicity.
I said to him that it gave the impression of big headedness, he rplied that everything he said on his publicity was true, but English people at that time generally preferred people who were modest about their talent.
I did give him a gig ,but it was to me an illuminating conversation,and i believe sadly, that Peters charcter as it was perceieved by many who did not know him well was a contributory reason for his lack of gigs .
i knew people who regularly went to folk clubs who would stay away if he was booked and for various reasons did not like him, reasons such as perceived arrogance and singing style there were others of course but in my experience a minority who liked him.
Southern Rags cariacture of him as Elmer P Bleaty did him no favours., it may have been meant as a joke but often that sort of puerile joke is perceived by those who dislike the perfomer as reinforcement of his image


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 03:04 AM

sorry typo above should read, appearnce of arrogance was in fact insecurity


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 04:24 AM

we have had response from an Australian and an American and a Yorkshireman.
there is a fundamental cultural difference between most English people, Americans and Australians about manner of adressing people with politeness [even more so back in the seventies and eighties]. Yorkshire people are renowned for calling a spade a bloody spade
However the folk media at that time, Southern Rag in particular with the lampooning of Peter[ as Elmer P Bleatty] did not help his career , i believe he tried to make the best of it by laughing at himself , but[imo] it was a disaster for his musical career.
I realise it was meant as a joke, but a joke that indirectly was partly responsible for his lack of work and his depression and his sad death, i say partly responsible, he had suffered from depression before.
Nobody should feel guilty, and his memory lives on through his recordings, his work on the transports etc


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 05:06 AM

From A Celebration of Peter Bellamy by Karl Dallas
The Living Tradition Issue 34 September/October '99

"Fortunately, he was never invited to join MacColl's Critics' Group, though having attended some of their sessions, I was interested to find that some of the very techniques Ewan was teaching his young proteges - like the way Lloyd's tendency to smile as he sang emphasised the upper frequencies of his voice - appeared also in Bellamy's own auto-didactic technique. He was developing a brilliant narrative style, in which half-spoken words would beckon the listener into the tale, and lines would be run together across barlines to make his story-telling the more effective. He never forgets that these songs are mostly stories, and he never allowed his vocal excitement to get in the way of a good yarn."

After a Peter Bellamy concert, my wife bought a copy of the double LP The Transports. Peter inscribed QANTAS on the bow of the hulk and wrote across the top, "Thank you for making my night." It seemed a curiously ambiguous thing to write, but he appeared to be in a good humour. Looking back, the meaning becomes clearer.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 05:51 AM

QANTAS, was that an airline for high flyers.
Lloyds ideas about singing are in my opinion not based on any tradtional uk singers, affected art song claptrap


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Brian Peters
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 11:46 AM

"it was not meant as a derogatory comment but as encouragement to sing!"

I think most of the people present took it in that way, Ray. He was amongst friends and knew he could get away with it, in fact, those who loved him loved him even more. He really did hate audience disengagement. Of course he did piss some people off as well, as I've always acknowledged when I've written about him.

In response to Henry's comment, I remember the moment when I introduced Peter to my Mum, who had seen a performance of the Transports and loved it. "Oh, so you're the man that wrote The Transports... I hope you made a lot of money out of it!" Peter clearly didn't want to upset an elderly lady, and his wan smile was tragic to behold.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 06:30 PM

My only personal interaction with him was running down a high school hallway at the Niskayuna Festival to ask him the name of a man who wrote a song he'd sung. It was Nostradamus/Al Stewart. He was very nice to me.
Having lived in England for a couple years, and having a few English friends, Dick, I'll stick to my opinion that he was just encouraging people to sig. If he had a reputation for being crabby and overly sensitive, it might've been a different story. The guy I knew only slightly was a creative, exuberant smart-arse* who loved sharing his music with people.

*I mean that respectfully.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Hagman
Date: 08 Sep 20 - 07:56 PM

QANTAS was/is the biggest airline in Australia, the equivalent of BA in its day. Bellamy often inscribed "The Transports" LP with the logo as a big nod to "transportation" to Oz.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 01:27 AM

Jeri ,earlier quote from John Mackenzie
Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: John MacKenzie - PM
Date: 03 Sep 20 - 01:56 PM

I wasn't a fan of Peter's singing, but I did like YT. Many moons ago when Adam was a lad, myself and a couple of others, tried to form a folk group, and we tried out a few numbers at Hammersmith Folk Centre in Dalling Road. Well the said PB was in attendance one evening, and after we had performed, he took me to task, for singing one of "his" songs, and asked us not to sing it any more. Now I can't remember what song it was, I can barely remember the names of the other members of the group (George & Charlotte) but I do remember being more than a little put out by his request. It was a traditional song I do know that


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 01:46 AM

my memory of him was an intelligent articulate person , who liked to argue for the sake of it. Nick has mentioned his kindness and helpfulness,
my first impressions of him were of arrogance and on occasions a tendency to patronise, his public school accent exacerbated this impression as i got to know him a little, i realised that his arrogance was insecurity [imo].
he was talented creative kind articulate, annoying, interesting. arrogant argumentative, over the top, but rarely dull and never boring., fairly good at rubbing people up the wrong way


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 03:55 AM

I think he craved the adulation that is normally associated with the popscene,it is as if he he understodd the Music side, but did not really understand the concepts of the revival and the ideas of it being music that involved local communities, That at that time it also had a Political edge, one that Peter openly made a point of disagreeing with.
With the involvement of MacColl Lloyd and a lot of left minded people who volunteered their time running clubs for no financial reward, people like the Communist Ted Poole who ran a folk club for over 50 years.
   I think the idea of MacColl Lloyd Poole etc, was that this was the peoples music, music of local communities i think they hoped that people would sing tradtional music, and be creative writing songs for the sake and enjoyment of it,not with the hope of being something akin to a pop star.
IMO Peter expected the wrong things from the folk revival, in more ways than one
Success is sometimes down to being in the right place at the right time, Luck,Diplomacy,Networking Organisational Skill,Favopurable Media Coverage.
Southern Rag, IMO did Peter no favours with the caricature of Elmer P Bleatty, I am sure it only was meant as a joke but it did him career damage imo.
Peter, mistakenly thought the uk folk revival would bring adulation and career success during his lifetime, that was not the case, but he has achieved recognition to some extent posthumously


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: graham_t
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 04:26 AM

I've alway's thought that Dick Gaughan's views on Bellamy were very interesting, given that they were so different in many of their views. This appeared in his "Links in the Chain" section of his long defunct website and recovered using Wayback Machine


"People often used to register surprise when informed that I counted Peter among my friends. Neither of us ever made any secret of our political, social or philosophical views and they were about as far apart as you could get. But, even though I disagreed profoundly with many of his views, and he with mine, I respected the fact that he was prepared to defend them and argue his corner. He could also be extremely funny and was excellent company.

I also respected the integrity and single-minded determination which ran through his work. He did what he wanted to do and had no interest in altering his approach or the content of his work in order to seek popularity. He spent his life in the place Hugh MacDiarmid called "where extremes meet", the place where I believe all artists should live.

His love of traditional song was clear but he did not place the tradition on any pedestals. He understood that it is a living process of evolution and development and he played a major part in contributing to that process. Like any serious artist, he was able to break all the rules because he had a profound understanding of them and knew what they were for.

One of my fondest memories is of the night at Norwich Festival where he introduced me to Walter Pardon and had to act as interpreter as neither Walter nor myself could understand a word the other said.

Many others will passionately disagree but it is my belief that Peter never quite produced the masterpiece which his talents suggested; he came close on many occasions but always gave the impression that each was just another step on the road to truly finding his real voice. I have a suspicion that frustration with this search may have played a part in his death.

I met him first in 1966 and the last time I met him was about 6 months before he died. I am left with memories of late-night intense debates where neither of us took prisoners and of a man who walked his own road. I liked him and I respected him and I wish he'd stuck around a bit longer"


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Hagman
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 04:45 AM

I'd be happy with that as my epitaph, Sandman. I hope it's in the public domain? :-)


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Hagman
Date: 09 Sep 20 - 04:47 AM

Referring to this thread...

"my memory of him was an intelligent articulate person , who liked to argue for the sake of it. Nick has mentioned his kindness and helpfulness,
my first impressions of him were of arrogance and on occasions a tendency to patronise, his public school accent exacerbated this impression as i got to know him a little, i realised that his arrogance was insecurity [imo].
he was talented creative kind articulate, annoying, interesting. arrogant argumentative, over the top, but rarely dull and never boring., fairly good at rubbing people up the wrong way"


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 18 Sep 20 - 10:58 AM

Update: last night, for the first time, I sang The Two Brothers/Two Pretty Boys in a song session* "after" Lucy Stewart, rather than after Peter Bellamy. It sounded surprisingly different, and people seemed to think it worked. I did wonder about sliding back into Bellamese for the last verse

("Aa-aa-aa-and WHAT! SHALL I- TELL! YOUR STEP MO-o-o-o-ther")

but in the event I thought better of it.

Next stop On Board A Sweet Lovely 98...

*by which of course I mean, sitting right where I am now.


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Subject: RE: The Irregularity of Peter Bellamy
From: Howard Jones
Date: 27 Sep 20 - 07:00 AM

Spotify has just invited me to become a "fan" of Peter Bellamy "so i don't miss any new releases". If only.


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