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Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol

rich-joy 14 Mar 04 - 07:27 AM
Jim Dixon 15 Mar 04 - 10:18 PM
rich-joy 16 Mar 04 - 05:03 AM
rich-joy 17 Mar 04 - 04:55 AM
rich-joy 22 Mar 04 - 05:14 AM
rich-joy 30 Mar 04 - 04:33 AM
rich-joy 18 Apr 04 - 04:39 AM
rich-joy 11 Aug 04 - 05:32 AM
rich-joy 13 Aug 04 - 05:49 AM
rich-joy 17 Mar 05 - 05:15 AM
rich-joy 18 Mar 05 - 04:53 AM
rich-joy 03 Aug 18 - 09:24 AM
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Subject: Chris Couveau - Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 14 Mar 04 - 07:27 AM

1. WHO is Chris Couveau???
2. "I Saw Her As She Came and Went" (Bayard Rustin) query.

This thread has been cobbled together with posts from the 1960s Australian Folk Albums thread because of my query to do with Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol" and my quest to establish just WHO set it to music :

No. 1 post is after hearing this song sung on the new CD of EXTRADITION's old recording "Hush" :
" ... The surprise for us was hearing Colin (Dryden)'s recording of "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", that he set to Oscar Wilde's famous poem.
I've only ever heard Paul Lawler (ex Sydney/Darwin) sing that song - beautifully and heart-rendingly - and I think he learnt it from Gerry Hallom years and years ago, who also taught him a lovely guitar riff, that Colin Dryden doesn't do on THAT recording ... But I'd never heard anyone but Paul sing that song - s'pose it'll take on a new lease of life now!!! ..."


No. 2 post :
"... I've just come across a copy of "The Coffee House Songbook" OAK Pubs, NY, 1966 - in an opshop - which covers "... the tradition of folksong which we have found to be most favoured by semi-professional and often wandering Folk Singers of North America between 1959 and 1965 ..."
and Surprise! Surprise! it includes "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"!!!
Set to the music of "I Saw Her As She Came and Went" by Chris Couveau from Williamsport, PA - DOES ANYBODY KNOW THIS SONG, or this artist?????
Now many of the chords written on this copy are the same as those which Paul learnt for this song - but not being a musician, I cannot say if it's the same tune!! However, The EXTRADITION CD only credits "Oscar Wilde, arr Colin Dryden/Colin Campbell" ...

Anybody know any more details? (or should I start another thread perhaps?!)..."


No. 3 post :
"... Well, I just went Googling and came up with a TINY fragment of the song that sounded VERY familiar!!
It is on a Bok/Muir/Trickett recording "So Will We Yet"(?), but was written by gay civil rights activist (a singer and quaker,too) BAYARD RUSTIN (1912-1987)

So WHO set Oscar to this piece??? Was it the mysterious Chris Couveau in PA?
Or, was it the deceased Colin Dryden, Down Under (no, NOT from the grave!! In OZ, I mean!!) No, maybe not, he would've been too young perhaps ...
Anyone any clues please? ..."



SORRY for the confusing nature of this thread (I'm a tad tired)!!
(It would help if I could do fancy formatting in HTML, I s'pose ...)
Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 15 Mar 04 - 10:18 PM

Jeff Wilkinson (born in Detroit, lives in New York) sings BALLAD OF READING GAOL on his album "Just Luck" Gadfly CD 215, 1996. It's credited to "Wilde/Wilkinson" so I suppose Wilkinson made up the tune he sings. You can hear 30 seconds of it at Barnes & Noble. I don't know if anyone else uses the same tune.


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 16 Mar 04 - 05:03 AM

Thanks for that link, Jim - and yes, it IS quite a different tune he uses.

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 17 Mar 04 - 04:55 AM

I have just had a friend play the tune "I Saw Her As She Came and Went" from the "Coffee House Songbook" (see post No. 1 above, part 2) and while it is not EXACTLY the same (as Colin Dryden's/Paul Lawler's tune), there are enough similarities for me to conclude that Colin Dryden had DEFINITELY heard this version, somewhere, all those years ago ...

Any more clues?

Who (and where) is Chris Couveau?


Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 22 Mar 04 - 05:14 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 30 Mar 04 - 04:33 AM

have just started a thread requesting lyrics of :

"I Saw Her As She Came and Went" by Bayard Rustin ...

Cheers!
R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 18 Apr 04 - 04:39 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 11 Aug 04 - 05:32 AM

... still chasing info on Chris Couveau,

and,

WHO set "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" to the Rustin tune ...

Cheers! R-J

PS I THINK it was Stewie, who supplied the lyrics of "I Saw Her As She Came and Went" in the other thread I started ...
Lyr Req: I Saw Her As She Came And Went (B Rustin)
MAYBE some Link Pixie could do a blickey for me in both threads???!!!

Done. --JoeClone, 12-Aug-04.


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 13 Aug 04 - 05:49 AM

THANKS! Ma-aa-ate!!

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 17 Mar 05 - 05:15 AM

Thanks to Stewie, I have just heard a recording of Bok, Muir & Trickett singing "I Saw Her As She Came and Went" - it is DEFINITELY the same tune that Colin Dryden used (and Paul Lawler uses) for "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" .

So it looks like the marrying of the two songs was an American thing, not Australian : back to mystery of Chris Couveau.

Margret Roadknight - are you there?! I wonder if Shayna Karlin can shed any light - are you still in touch with her???

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 18 Mar 05 - 04:53 AM

just received an email from Gerry Hallom (on his way to Portugal), regarding this song that he taught to Paul Lawler all those years ago.
It reads in part :


I've tried posting messages on this mudcat cafe site, perhaps Richenda you could post-on my message to you.

I don't know a great deal about the music of this piece other than Colin's version, which I have on tape, (it) is one of the most eerie, dark disturbing things you're likely to hear. If Beethoven sang he might sound a bit like Colin (Dryden)on this but perhaps not as deep.
I got my version from the University out at Ryde in Sydney, illegally!

I've heard rumours that it is now possible to get a cd of Extradition and that this is on the disc. True? I hope so, I could do with a more durable product.

Let me know if there is some foolproof way I can log onto this web site,

Best regards,
Gerry.



Gerr ~ EXTRADITION's rare "Hush" recording has been re-issued in 2003 on CD by "Vicious Sloth Collectables" in Victoria, Oz - VSC016 - they have a website too, at www.vicioussloth.com.au

Cheers! R-J
PS I will email you this whole thread, maybe that'll work ...


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Subject: RE: Chris Couveau ? Ballad of Reading Gaol
From: rich-joy
Date: 03 Aug 18 - 09:24 AM

Apologies for another old thread revival,
but I have just uploaded to YouTube, the only recorded version of the song, as sung by my late Beloved, that I can find.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GH8-spu7Tw&t=1s


Even after all these years, I still haven't found many answers to all my questions of provenance, but here is the update as written up at the YT clip :


" LYRICS : Irish poet-playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) / MUSIC : thereby hangs a tale - read on...

What a sad and a beautiful song - and from such a sad poem, written following Oscar’s 2 years in prison with hard labour from being convicted of “gross indecency”, and drawing attention to the brutalisation of prisoners and conditions endured. He served time in 3 other prisons prior to Reading Gaol : Newgate - Pentonville - Wandsworth, but there is no reason to suppose conditions were humane in any of them.

There are many readings of the poem available (even at 109 stanzas), but precious few songs and the origins of this particular version are something of a mystery.

The tune is based upon the composition by activist, Bayard Rustin (1912 – 1987): “I Saw Her As She Came and Went” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ypv9...), said to have been written in the 1940s when Bayard was incarcerated under “Jim Crow” laws in America, and before he became an unsung hero of the civil rights movement. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzeAf...). His melody was apparently inspired by an old practice exercise for the Lute, used here in this 1956 clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGg-w....

One “Chris Couveau” was known to have sung this combination of Wilde’s poem and Rustin’s tune, in the Williamsport, PA area of the USA, c.1965, which was published in an OAK songbook – but whether he (or she?) was responsible for the initial joining and arrangement, is at present unknown.**

Folk music legend, Colin Dryden (1943 – 1987) from Yorkshire – a glorious singer and musician - who emigrated to Australia as a young man in 1965, joined forces with East End musician Colin Campbell who had emigrated in 1966, and this song was recorded in a 1970 concert within the super group EXTRADITION, in the altered form that is very similar to the way PAUL LAWLER sings it here. Paul, from Liverpool, also emigrated to Australia - still a youth - in 1964 and it is believed that he learnt this song from his English folkie mate, Gerry Hallom, who was also a mate of Colin Dryden’s. :)

The two Colins were very innovative musicians and it is presumed** that they evolved this song to its new form. Colin Campbell, in particular, was an esteemed member of the renowned Australian experimental groups, TULLY and TAMAN SHUD (worth investigating if you’ve not heard of them!)

Thankfully, Extradition’s version of “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” - sung by Colin Dryden, can still be heard on the hard-to-get Vicious Sloth CD reissue of “HUSH” (the vinyl is worth big bucks if you can find it!) ….. and also on Soundcloud. It is missing from the YT upload of “Hush”.

Sadly, this version of PAUL LAWLER’s “Reading Gaol” is the ONLY recording of his version, found to date – no ubiquitous iPhones et al in the 70s-80s – but despite the loss here of his usual guitar introduction, it is still a poignant and beautiful rendition and is an all-time “Lawls favourite”!!

VALE, PAUL LAWLER (1946 – 2014)

**If anyone has further information about the provenance of this song, such advice would be much appreciated (e.g. is Shayna Karlin still around, does anyone know?) "

Cheers, R-J
Down Under


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