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Is 'Streets of London' a folk song

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STREETS OF LONDON


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Streets of London (Ralph McTell)^^^ (63)
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Chords Req: Streets of London (Ralph McTell) (14)
Help: Streets of London (Ralph McTell) (4)


Dave Hanson 11 Aug 08 - 09:20 AM
George Papavgeris 11 Aug 08 - 09:52 AM
Mr Happy 11 Aug 08 - 10:04 AM
The Borchester Echo 11 Aug 08 - 10:26 AM
Jack Campin 11 Aug 08 - 11:26 AM
RobbieWilson 11 Aug 08 - 11:28 AM
irishenglish 11 Aug 08 - 11:39 AM
Marilyn 11 Aug 08 - 12:01 PM
Jack Campin 11 Aug 08 - 12:25 PM
irishenglish 11 Aug 08 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,Puck 11 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM
Jay777 11 Aug 08 - 01:34 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 11 Aug 08 - 01:49 PM
Big Al Whittle 11 Aug 08 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,spb-cooperator 11 Aug 08 - 05:43 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 11 Aug 08 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,glueman 12 Aug 08 - 02:29 AM
Joe Offer 12 Aug 08 - 02:34 AM
Gurney 12 Aug 08 - 02:53 AM
GUEST,glueman 12 Aug 08 - 03:53 AM
Phil Edwards 12 Aug 08 - 04:04 AM
GUEST,glueman 12 Aug 08 - 04:23 AM
The Sandman 12 Aug 08 - 05:02 AM
Dave Hanson 12 Aug 08 - 05:23 AM
GUEST,glueman 12 Aug 08 - 05:32 AM
Will Fly 12 Aug 08 - 05:36 AM
Big Al Whittle 12 Aug 08 - 05:38 AM
TheSnail 12 Aug 08 - 06:39 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 12 Aug 08 - 07:03 AM
Will Fly 12 Aug 08 - 07:07 AM
Will Fly 12 Aug 08 - 07:20 AM
TheSnail 12 Aug 08 - 07:54 AM
Will Fly 12 Aug 08 - 08:05 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 12 Aug 08 - 08:10 AM
TheSnail 12 Aug 08 - 08:47 AM
goatfell 12 Aug 08 - 10:49 AM
Dave Hanson 12 Aug 08 - 10:52 AM
George Papavgeris 12 Aug 08 - 11:02 AM
Jay777 12 Aug 08 - 01:10 PM
Bob Pacquin 12 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM
Big Al Whittle 12 Aug 08 - 01:29 PM
Phil Edwards 12 Aug 08 - 02:00 PM
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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 09:20 AM

Trite and whiny, whatever genus it's shite ! yeah Jack I bet you wish you could write shite like that.

eric


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 09:52 AM

Of course, it has nothing to do with today or with ordinary people now, does it? Because London (and any large city) has no homeless, no beggars, everyone is happy, no bag ladies anywhere to be seen, and nobody sleeps on park benches unless they are feeling romantic on a balmy summer's night... And the tune itself, so catchy that you can hum the first six notes (ta-ta-ta-ti-ti-ti) to anyone in the world and they will recognise it. So recogniseable that it has become trite.

But what a pension! And what honour to have become part of the world's cultural furniture, so to speak, that you are no longer deemed special - because you are everywhere.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Mr Happy
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 10:04 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streets_of_London_%28song%29


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 10:26 AM

As Greg Stephens rightly points out, the song is about Paris but Mr May (McTell) changed it to avoid upsetting somebody or other (I forget the full details). I don't know really why he changed his name but I do remember when his first LP was about to be released, he wanted his real name on it but Transatlantic wouldn't let him because the sleeves were already printed.

I also remember hearing Streets Of London for the first time at the Folk Cottage, Mitchell, which McTell had taken to inhabiting after his return from Paris, c1967. People applauded politely and asked him to play Hesitation Blues.

Note of (possible) historical interest: the woman who carried "her world in two carrier bags" was Meg Aikman who did very well for herself, thank you. She used to turn up in the Cousins during the all-nighter as part of her tour of London night spots, do one song and move on once she'd raked in what she thought was enough.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 11:26 AM

I play in a weekly session with a homeless singer/guitarist. He doesn't do "Streets of London". His favourite musical statement about his position is "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". Now that *is* a good song.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 11:28 AM

'What a wonderful song!! Despite it's title and refrain it's really about Paris, though the one identified character used to trawl the trendy clubs of London, doing very nicely for herself, thank you!!

I think I will just listen in my ignorance and let the song bring to mind what I have seen with my own eyes on the streets of Glasgow, Wolverhampton, Paris, Stockholm but most markedly when I lived in London. It's a shame that McTell chap couldn't bring to public view the hardship of homeless people or the indifference that the general public show to them as well as Jack and Bonzo have done. Sadly my ignorance extends to their music and I will just have to settle for second best.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: irishenglish
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 11:39 AM

Hey Jack, Ralph did Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out on his Stealin' Back album, so does that mean he does good songs as well?


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Marilyn
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 12:01 PM

mmm... is 'Streets of London' a folk song?

Well, for me, personally, the answer is NO - it's a sixties pop song.
You might not agree with me but still that's what I think.

When the song was new I was a teenager and, like many youngsters at the time, dreamy, idealistic and hopeful of a better world. I liked the song then.

Do I like it now? I'm not really sure. I find it rather twee and very dated but I still join in and sing.

It actually makes me feel rather sad when I hear it now because it reminds me that the idealistic youngsters of the time didn't actually manage to change anything - the selfish 'me first' guys won as they always seem to. And look at the mess that's got us into!!


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Jack Campin
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 12:25 PM

: Ralph did Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out on his
: Stealin' Back album, so does that mean he does good songs as well?

I'll take your word for it. Does he do it particularly well, though? (SoL is so awful I've avoided anything else with his name on it; that may be undeserved, since I've heard that he won't perform it any more himself).


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: irishenglish
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 12:46 PM

Considering its an album of older blues and ragtime music, and is done in those styles,it is very good indeed. Pity you haven't come around to the hundreds of other worthwhile songs Ralph has done in the 40 + years since Streets. His Sand In Your Shoes album from (I think) 1994 had some amazing songs on it-Jesus Wept,Still In Dreams, Peppers and Tomatoes. His most recent one, Gates Of Eden is an album comprised of Guthrie, Dylan, Mance Liscombe and Jack Elliott songs. I still like Streets, I don't find it twee, and I don't find it awful. You do, that's fine, but I really think you might want to give old Ralph another chance. I don't think you are correct in saying he doesn't perform Streets as well. Cheers


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,Puck
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM

I think it was a sixties 'pop-song', which has evolved into a classic folk song.
And yes, I was that dreamy, idealistic hopeful, that imagined a better world was coming.
Nothing has altered for me - I've not grown up - I'm still dreaming and hopeful, and though disappointed so far - I live in hope.

I loved it then and I love it now.


P


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Jay777
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 01:34 PM

I sang it in folk clubs in the 70s, and no one objected. Still as relevant today as when it was written. I think Ralph should re-release it, as a charity record to raise funds for homeless people.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 01:49 PM

NO!

It's a folk revival song, and is of its time.

Although it WAS big in the charts, it is not, and never was POP.

I have heard others perform it better than Ralph, but I suspect that the same COULD be said of most of the songs that appeared in that much simpler era, when technology could still NOT improve markedly on the original recording.

It is a good song, possibly a great song, of its type, but Ralph McTell has produced many much better, which did not capture the popular imagination.

He deserves a second look from those who are unaware of the scope of his compositions over the years. They might find a treasure trove of lyrics and music that is worthy of much more attention than it has ever received.

Streets of London was merely the gateway to a much finer archive.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 02:09 PM

Ralph Mctell is a godlike fount of creativity.

I didn't much like his last gig, when he read his autobiography to the audience. I'd read it anyway, and he's not an actor - he hasn't learned to read publicly to that standard.

However every other gig since I first saw him in Les Cousins in 1967 has been a wonderful experience. he's one of the best guitarists and songwriters of our generation.

For me his best song is 'The Setting' - fabulously beautiful piece. If you don't want him as a a member of the folkmusic movement - presumably because of some deranged idea you have about 'the nature of folkmusic' - you're rather like some idiot of a football manager who doesn't want the best players in the team.

Folkmusic has that much stronger a chance of surviving with men of talent like Ralph involved in the movement.

Its rather like these fourteen year old kids who've watched one or two movies on the porn channel and played with themselves and think they know all about sex. You won't find out about the nature of anything huddled together in your little enclaves. theres a world out there which makes the rules - theres no profit and no sense in setting up in opposition.

You know one of WH Auden's great ambitions was to formulate a word that got into the Oxford Dictionary. He never did it. Its not the intellectuals and smart arses that make the rules about common usage of language which is the basis of all folksong. Its the people.

Folkmusic, like sex, is what people make of it. Anybody who tells you they know it all - knows nowt.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,spb-cooperator
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 05:43 PM

If it fits within your definition of a folk song it is, if it doesn't, it isn't.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 11 Aug 08 - 05:56 PM

From Jay 777: "I sang it in folk clubs in the 70s, and no one objected. Still as relevant today as when it was written. I think Ralph should re-release it, as a charity record to raise funds for homeless people."


Strangely, I wrote to both Ralph's website and The Big Issue, this morning, Jay, suggesting exactly that, and wondering if the song could be sold in CD form by the Big Issue Sellers themselves. I'm sure many people would buy it from them..

I've not heard anything yet, and I'll certainly let you know if and when I do.

Meanwhile, if anyone else would like to drop them a line with the same or similar suggestions, then here are the contact details.

Ralph McTell - contact page


The Big Issue - contact page


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 02:29 AM

Having spent the last few months being berated for not knowing what folk is I can only say that if Streets of London is a folk song (and most of you are adamant it is) it lets a whole world of music under the wire. I shall know in future to take learned opinion with a barrel of salt.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 02:34 AM

Glueman, I think the only correct answer is, "Well, that's a matter of opinion."

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Gurney
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 02:53 AM

Right, Joe, and the only opinion which counts is that of the amateur singer (folksinger) who sings it.

No 'folksongs,' just folksingers. I've known Martin Carthy to come back to a session after his gigs. That's when he becomes a folksinger.



I'm hoping that if I stress this point often enough, it will become accepted!

Some hope.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 03:53 AM

If someone would care to explain the difference between say, Yesterday by the Beatles and Streets of London vis a vis 'folk' I'm all ears.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 04:04 AM

if Streets of London is a folk song (and most of you are adamant it is)

I'm adamant it's not, if that's any consolation.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 04:23 AM

The song is only of personal significance because it coincided precisely with a realisation that folk clubs weren't for me. SoL became a symbol of everything that was erroneous with folk and folkies at the time and reading the thread it's something that hasn't been resolved to this day.

I can only repeat, if Streets of London is passed off as folk in folk clubs on a regular basis I'd expect a tidal wave of blues, country, pop ballads, etc, to also qualify.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 05:02 AM

does it matter?if someone wants to sing it fine, if someone else doesnt ,thats fine too.
Ralph McTell named himself after blues singer Blind Willie Mctell,which in itself is strange because he used to do more Blind Blake material,than Blind Willie Mctell.
http://www.dickmiles.com


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 05:23 AM

It could be worse, some dickhead on the BBC Radio 2 folk and acoustic message board is trying to convince us that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a folk music writer, I give up.

eric


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 05:32 AM

It matters not a jot, I agree, but may have some bearing on 'Where have the audiences gone?' and the rest of the stuff people slap one another with on here.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 05:36 AM

Folk clubs eh...? Played at one in East Sussex last night and it was typical of most these days: PA, music stand, and a repertoire which ranged from people's personal compositions to themes from "Star Wars"...

I think I played the only traditional tune there (The Cuckoo's Nest), on guitar. ( The Cuckoo's Nest ).

They're more akin to "Open mic/open stage" nights in pubs - but, what the hell, it's somewhere to play.

Seems like the old debate of "whether it's folk or not" is never going to end!


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 05:38 AM

I think some of lloyd webbers stuff will pass into the tradition. I hold no brief for the tory git. But some of his work has captured the public imagination - Any dream Will Do - is already the stuff of pubsingers, clubsingers and what I would regard as folksingers.

Some of the melodies are very inventive and I think folk musicians will start having a toot at them before too long.

In a couple of hundred years - he will be as indistinct a character as O'Carolan.

Meanwhile we'll just have to go on paying for his Canallettos.

Folk clubs are great. Festivals too. Folksong archives Folksong societies. Folkmusic studies at University - although one despairs at the narrowness of vision of when these august characters talk about 'the tradition'.

But do the job of entertaining the public and you will start to understand that folkmusic is bigger than them all.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: TheSnail
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 06:39 AM

Will Fly

Folk clubs eh...? Played at one in East Sussex last night and it was typical of most these days: PA, music stand, and a repertoire which ranged from people's personal compositions to themes from "Star Wars"...

I think I know the one you mean and I don't think I'd call it typical of East Sussex although I can't speak for the rest of the country. For a pretty solid (but not exclusively) traditional repertoire, try The Lewes Arms Folk Club on Saturday nights or Folk at the Royal Oak, Lewes on Thursdays. Neither use PA.

There are plenty more to choose from in the Folk Diary.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 07:03 AM

Another 'folk' song of Ralph's, his beautiful...

'Barges'


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 07:07 AM

I go through the Folk Diary religiously. My absolute favourite session of all actually doesn't appear in the Diary. It's on the last Sunday of every month at the "Bull" in Ditchling, and is run by Ian Chisholm & Stephen Sibbald. In fact, Ian & Stephen don't run a tight "traditional" ship - there's a nice mix of traditional stuff, with a bit of blues and jazz thrown in - whatever people can do...

At the last session we had just one guitar, several bellows'n reeds instruments, three fiddlers, two mandolins, soprano sax, trombone/clarinet... The "Rochdale Coconut Dance" appeared to be swinging through the old French Quarter in New Orleans at one point - excellent stuff!


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 07:20 AM

Should also have mentioned in my last-but-one post that the people at the East Sussex club, audience and performers, were lovely people - friendly and hospitable.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: TheSnail
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 07:54 AM

Will Fly

My absolute favourite session of all actually doesn't appear in the Diary. It's on the last Sunday of every month at the "Bull" in Ditchling, and is run by Ian Chisholm & Stephen Sibbald.

An excellent session which, along with many others in the area can be found on this webpage. Alas, I don't get there as often as I used to since moving to Eastbourne.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 08:05 AM

TheSnail:


Many thanks for the webpage link to sessions - didn't have this one.

Do you get to The Lamb, by the way?


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 08:10 AM

I've always liked Streets Of London especially John Allen Camerons early recording of it. The YouTube clip of McTell doing it in 1975 was great. That led me to this clip that is hilarious.

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


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: TheSnail
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 08:47 AM

Do you get to The Lamb, by the way?

Not very often. Not as a matter of deliberate policy, it's just that my spiritual and cultural home is Lewes and there is so much going on in and around there. From the times I've been, a good club in a good pub.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: goatfell
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 10:49 AM

I remember Kris Kistoffson when he wrote 'me and bobby mcgee' that some people said it wasn't a country song, but he says and I agree with him if it feels or sounds like a country song then it it is a country song, the same goes for songs like streets of London if that feels or sounds like a folk song then it is.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 10:52 AM

Differnce is WLD nobody ever got to be a millionaire through folk music, and as yet no one is sure what planet Lloyd Webber comes from, he's certainly not an earthling.

eric


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 11:02 AM

Eric the red said "...nobody ever got to be a millionaire through folk music...".

In the English-speaking world, arguably (though Dylan did all right using folk songs). But in other cultures, this does not hold true - plenty of millionaires from folk music in Greece, for example, and I am not talking drachmas but euros. The Halkias family, for a start. George Dalaras, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Dionysis Savopoulos and a host of others have been successful for 30-40 years now, they have been consistently filling stadia and arts centres and concert halls, they have been selling albums in the hundreds of thousands and millions.

So let's not assume that folk means "no money". Only in some distorted markets is this the case.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Jay777
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 01:10 PM

I agree with Goatfell's definition, about songs "feeling" like folk songs. For me personally, that "feeling" comes from lyrics that tell stories, and (generally simple) music which could have been played on instruments available in a pre-electric age. SoL meets those criteria, imho.

I always associate SoL with the similar (tune) My Samuel How You've Changed (or, Jenny Won't You Please Take Me Home) by Al Stewart. Never quite fathomed the meaning of the proper title or lyrics, but love it anyway- a bit like Bo Rap.

Re GUEST,mgarvey's comment, old threads are new to us newbies, who might even be able to add to old threads, and not just regurgitate what was said before. It would take hours to read through every msg, to see if we were covering old ground, before we posted msgs of our own.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Bob Pacquin
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 01:12 PM

i kown that


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 01:29 PM

My only point is that some of ALW's songs and tunes are attractive and have entered public consciousness. From that point - its really only a matter of time til musicians and lyric writers appropriate them, and then press them into the service of expressing something about their lives.

As for no folksingers becoming millionaires - I wouldn't be too sure. Fairly ordinary players were getting thirty quid a night at the end of the 1960's, when I was taking home twelve quid for a weeks teaching. Ones further up the ladder must have had correspondingly more opportunities.

It must have seemed like a job with a future - prior to the civil war in the clubs.


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Subject: RE: Is 'Streets of London' a folk song
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 02:00 PM

if Streets of London is passed off as folk in folk clubs on a regular basis I'd expect a tidal wave of blues, country, pop ballads, etc, to also qualify

glueman - I'm slightly surprised to find myself agreeing with you.

PA, music stand, and a repertoire which ranged from people's personal compositions to themes from "Star Wars"

Apart from the lack of PA - of which I'm very glad - this sounds like a good description of the last but one folk club singers' night I've been to. It's basically an 'open stage' club - and as such it's thriving and it's a good night. But the singarounds I go to have got something it hasn't.


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