To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=91381
54 messages

Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)

10 May 06 - 04:04 PM (#1737419)
Subject: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: RobbieWilson

Someone told me at a festival recently that I sang one of the words of this wrongly. If this is correct both the DT and the RT official site are also wrong.

I can't remember what the correct word was supposed to be as it was something mystical and ancient, but the very nice man who explained all this to me was very definite about it and said that he had checked when the same error was pointed out to him. He also said that this single word was crucial to understanding the whole song as Michael was trapped not by a kiss oh,but by some mystical creature whose name escapes me.

Does anyone know anything about this? I can't seem to find my copy of Liege and Leaf at the moment. In the meantime I think I shal continue to sing the words I have been singing.

thanks
Robbie


10 May 06 - 04:11 PM (#1737421)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Declan

I've usually heard that word as Thistle, but it didn't make much sense.


10 May 06 - 05:48 PM (#1737488)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Mr Fox

I've always heard it as 'thistle' but the official Richard Thompson site (which I must assume is correct) has 'kiss-o'.


10 May 06 - 05:56 PM (#1737495)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

I've just had a listen to the Liege and Lief version (from the No More Sad Refrains Sandy Denny anthology) and it sounds like kiss-O to me.

Mick


10 May 06 - 06:03 PM (#1737501)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Phil Cooper

Sure sounds like kiss-o to me as well.


10 May 06 - 06:07 PM (#1737502)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Geordie-Peorgie

The Fairport Song Book has it as 'his mad mind had trapped him with a kiss-o'

Dave Burland sings 'thistle' burritz wrang!!


10 May 06 - 06:08 PM (#1737504)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: nutty

This should be the definitive version. The lyrics are here on the Richard Thompson site

CLICK


10 May 06 - 06:23 PM (#1737517)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

I think that was the point of the 1st post nutty!

Mick


10 May 06 - 06:40 PM (#1737535)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: treewind

This site suggests "curse-o" which makes a lot of sense.


10 May 06 - 07:00 PM (#1737550)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: McGrath of Harlow

The kiss is a cursed kiss anyway, so the sense would be the same either way. And I've heard it sung thistle too.

But once a song gets out into the oral tradition - which means people singing what they have heard (even if on a record) and remembered or reconstructed, rather than what they have read on a page, the notion of a definitive version gets rapidly eroded. Indeed it seems toi me that the existance of variants are a token that a song is alive.

And the fact that an author has settled on a particular set of words on their website doesn't make that "definitive". Writers have always revised and changed what they have written, and the latest version isn't always the best or the one subsequently preferred - William Wordsworth is a case in point. Bob Dylan is maybe another.

Sydney Carter took pride in constantly changing his songs, not with the idea of improving them but to keep them fresh. (Though maybe part of that was that like a lot of us he had a tendency to forget the odd word or line and had to improvise an alternative on the hoof - and sometimes found that the change worked better.)


10 May 06 - 07:29 PM (#1737559)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Joybell

Interesting. Ancient creatures often trapped people by kiss-os, though anyway. It's one of the oldest methods. More boring than wondering about a less familiar method. Cheers, Joy


11 May 06 - 03:22 AM (#1737809)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: RobbieWilson

Thanks for all the input. The missing word was not thistle, it was the name of some malevolent spirit or a type of curse and sounded like pisgo or fisgo or something like that. Does Liege and Lief have the words on the sleeve?


11 May 06 - 04:13 AM (#1737823)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: DMcG

No, there are no lyrics on the Liege and Lief sleeve. But I guess if the author thinks he wrote 'kiss oh" on his website, and most of us think they say "kiss oh" when we listen, then your critic is out on a limb saying that is 'wrong'. His words are certainly different, and may well be better because of the process McGrath mentions, but that doesn't mean yours are wrong.


11 May 06 - 07:07 AM (#1737884)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,JTT

Oh! I always thought his mad mind attacked him with a thistle, which sounded sore.


11 May 06 - 10:14 AM (#1737994)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,JK

{Sure you don't mean "a Brillo" That could also be painful!}

I have always sang "kiss-o'" and have never even questioned the words I learned all those Years ago from listening to Liege and Lief, over and over ect.
To me it will always be sung as '..his mad mind had trapped him with a kiss-o'
Cheers


11 May 06 - 10:45 AM (#1738009)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Jacqui

The word you are looking for is 'Pishogue', which to quote Katherine Briggs' Dictionary of Fairies is 'an Irish fairy spell, by which a man's senses are bemused, so that he sees things entirely different from what they are in reality.' This does indeed make sense of the whole song,because as soon as the raven has been killed Michael sees thing as they really are, 'his true love with a wound so red'.

The song is nearly always sung incorrectly (after all how many people have actually heard of a pishogue?!!) and it was possibly my husband who originally spoke to you, Robbie. Thank you for listening, it's sad that such a lovely song is so often misunderstood.


11 May 06 - 10:55 AM (#1738019)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Skipyt


11 May 06 - 12:31 PM (#1738112)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Darowyn

I read your answer Jacqui, and bells were ringing in my memory, of the sound of the word that you spell pishogue.
Somewhere I have read the word "piseog" in the context of Celtic magics. It would sound almost the same.
So I searched and found this-
"The Irish word Fáith means Seer or one who has the Second Sight i.e. the ability to communicate with the dead and even the power of prophesy. These folks were also known as Piseog (witch) who practiced Piseogacht or witchcraft. The Piseog/Fáith was a local healer, wise or cunning person, and philosopher."
Cheers
Dave


11 May 06 - 12:44 PM (#1738115)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: DMcG

Are you sure this is not just a coincidence?   There doesn't seem to be anything else in the song that indicates an Irish connection. Did Richard Thompson know all this when he wrote the song?

Of course, it's quite possible he did know this and use it, but I'd like some supporting evidence rather than just one ambiguous sound. Failing that, I'd say its a good example of the process McGrath referred to.


11 May 06 - 01:22 PM (#1738147)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: nutty

I fail to see the difficulty here. As the song was written by Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick, surely the matter could be solved by asking them.


11 May 06 - 01:49 PM (#1738177)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Declan

Speaking of co-incidences my name in Gaelic is Deaglán Ó Fáith which means descended from the Fáith.

The word Piseog is often used colloqually in Ireland to mean superstition in general. I've alo heard the word sung as Mist-O which I presumed meant that his mind went foggy.

Given that the song is relatively recent (35-40 years at this stage) it would appear that the process has been working overtime on this one.


11 May 06 - 04:25 PM (#1738340)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Brian

Hi,

I think the 'very nice man' (a source of debate, in itself) Robbie was refering to, was me.

It would appear I've stirred up something of a hornets nest with this. Yes, it has been pointed out to me as pishogue/pishog (or as Darowyn spelt it 'piseog' - there are other variations too).

Put pishogue into Google and it appears to be not such a rare word at all. One definition here .

Looking at the 'official' RT web site does make me question how much input Richard Thomson has to it. The lyrics to CMM do appear to have some very un-Richard Thompson phrasing. 'Beat UP(?) the four winds ' for instance. surely the line is 'Beat AT the four winds'

I also find the fact that several people here have heard different words at that point indicates that it is not particularly clear on record (certainly not the original Fairport vinyl anyway). I've been back to both the Burland recordings (RT played on the album) and also to 'Leige and Leif' (vinyl and CD) and would have to say I can not change my mind that the word is pishogue, which make sense of the song and not 'kiss O', thistle, or mist O etc.

I have always considered RT to be an excellent and careful lyric writer, whereas some of the phases as stated on the site are sloppy. It appears to me that the site has a few mondegreens in it, from somebody who has taken words off of recordings, not the original transcripts.

I think at the end of the day we'll all just settle on our own opinions of what the words are. Ask RT, now there's a good idea!

cheers

Brian


11 May 06 - 04:47 PM (#1738353)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Declan

Just listening to Liege & Leaf and whether or not it is the power of suggestions it definitely sounds like the word starts with a P. As Sandy sings it doesn't appear to have an 'sh' sound in it, but given that she was not a gaelic speaker this may be as close as she could come to pronounce the word.

It also fits in with the Sorcerer's words a few lines later.

I'm convinced enough to sing it in the future, unless someone can get a definitive answer from RT himself?


11 May 06 - 05:26 PM (#1738374)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: DMcG

It would appear I've stirred up something of a hornets nest with this
I hope you'll find that I'm a very quiet and amiable hornet, really. If you find the song makes more sense to you that way, stay with it. Pending any answer from RT, there's little more to say. I'm just wary of the way ideas and suggestions can so easily turn into accepted truth when we don't know with certainty either way.


11 May 06 - 05:36 PM (#1738390)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Brian

Thank you Declan. You've nearly convinced me that I'm not entirely mad (another source of debate). I too am not a gaelic speaker, and most certainly couldn't claim any expertise on the subject, but have heard pishogue/pishog/piseog pronounced with an 's' or 'sh' sound.

Perhaps a gaelic speaking mudcatter could give some info on the correct pronunciation or possible regional variations.

Having sung the song myself and had this pointed out to me, I found that both re-listening to the record and looking up the meaning convinced me that this was the correct word.

Brian


11 May 06 - 05:49 PM (#1738400)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Ed.

Declan/Brian

Richard Thompson wrote the words to the song. He used the phrase 'kiss-o'

Sorry if you don't like that.

The question of:

Beat UP(?) the four winds ' for instance. surely the line is 'Beat AT the four winds'

is just an American not understanding English as it is used in England.


11 May 06 - 06:00 PM (#1738409)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Brian

Ed,
I'm English living in England! RT is a good lyricist and an intelligent man. Give him credit for writing well. If others reduce it to jibberish, that's their problem.


11 May 06 - 07:17 PM (#1738463)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: nutty

I believe that beat up the wind is a nautical term which in common use means to cause a stir


11 May 06 - 07:21 PM (#1738464)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Declan

ED,

I have no desire to re-write any of Richard Thompson's songs.

Believe me when I say I have huge respect for the man. If he wrote 'kiss-O' then that is correct and I have absolutely no problem with that.

But there is a suggestion that the word written in the original song was not Kiss-0 but Piseog. And given that the words 'beat at' are incorrect on the RT web-site there is a potential that the other lyrics on the site are also not perfectly recorded.

Having gone to the bother of listening to the album track I am not convinced that Sandy Denny is singing Kiss-O, and given that both of the songwriters were involved in the session I'd take this as the definitive recording.

Please give me credit for trying to help to unravel the answer to the question asked in the thread and don't try to imply that I have some sort of an agenda here.


11 May 06 - 07:58 PM (#1738495)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,JTT

I have to say I'd agree with those who say "go with what the writer wrote".

A piseóg/pisreóg really has more the cadence of "an idiotic superstition" in normal usage. People tend to say dismissively of something like ... oh ... saying "God bless it" automatically after someone says "What a beautiful day", that it's "a bit of a piseóg". The sense is that it is a superstition, or a belief coming from ancient misunderstandings.

Still, I like the idea (if it's not happening to me, of course) of his mad mind attacking him with a thistle. Way hey!


11 May 06 - 08:05 PM (#1738498)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: Declan

I've submitted a question on Richard Thompson.Com with a reference back to this thread. It looks from the site as if it is Richard himself who answers the questions, so we may know for certain when the question gets answered. There seems to be a bit of a delay in replies coming through. The most recent I could see were replies to February questions. In the meantime I assume we'll all go on believing what we want to believe.

And yes of couse go with what the writer wrote, the qustion is what did he write?


11 May 06 - 08:28 PM (#1738512)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Brian

Well said Declan. My feeling entirely.

When Robbie and I talked at Miskin, we had a perfectly friendly and constructive conversation on the subject. He quite rightly, did not take what he was told at face value, and raised the subject here for further discussion. In doing so, it has become clear that while the most common interpretation is 'kiss O', various people have come up with other interpretations of what was sung. That in itself raises doubt as to what the word is.

In my opinion, both yourself and Robbie have taken what I said in the right spirit. Listened, and looked into it further. This is not a matter of dogma, just discussion over song lyrics.

What I find questionable about this, is why a writer of RT's undoubted talent (and no, I am not his greatest fan) would come up with such a meaningless and feeble line as

'His mad mind had trapped him with a kiss O'

when it doesn't even give a good rhyme. 'Mist O' would have been a fairly obvious word, made a bit more sense and fitted better, but there are few takers on that.

I acknowledged in my first post that asking RT would be the ideal solution.

I think we have all got it wrong, and the real words are posted here.

cheers

Brian


12 May 06 - 03:15 AM (#1738743)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: DMcG

This is a slight bit of a thread drift, but is 'His mad mind had trapped him with a kiss O' really such a feeble line as you suggest? The 'O' is weak, I grant you, but the idea of being betrayed or destroyed by a kiss is quite widespread in tradition - for example 'George Collins' and (less destructively) 'Thomas the Rhymer'


12 May 06 - 04:57 AM (#1738790)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: GUEST,Brian

DMcG. I would agree that ' a kiss O' would make sense if a seduction context fitted within the framework of the song, but there is none. Without the seduction context, the line becomes meaningless (in my opinion). This is a prediction by a raven (the piseog), not seduction.

Brian


12 May 06 - 05:18 AM (#1738803)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric?
From: DMcG

I'd better make this my last post, or I'll sound even more like an obsessive!

The song does explicitly refer to his lover, so I don't think some level of seduction is out of the question. But I'm not sure seduction is necessarily required anyway - merely that his madness and love were incompatable.

Wait till Richard Thompson replies and tells us that the word is really Kizhuo, some obscure drug treat for mental illness at the time he wrote it. (I made that up, before anyone pursues it further!)


I'm also impressed by that other set of lyrics you posted before.

Nice chatting to you.


19 May 06 - 03:32 AM (#1743713)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric? (R Thompson)
From: RobbieWilson

I too have askeed the question on the RT.com site but the answers don't seem to have been updated for a little while. Perhaps yer man is out doing a few gigs these days.


19 May 06 - 04:35 AM (#1743733)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric? (R Thompson)
From: Geoff the Duck

You could also buy the Fairport Convention songbook - Follow the links and get a definitive set of words (they have already provided corrections online to errors or omissions).
Quack!
GtD.


19 May 06 - 04:38 AM (#1743734)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric? (R Thompson)
From: Geoff the Duck

Don't know where the BLICKY disappeared to?
Quack!
GtD.


19 May 06 - 04:41 AM (#1743736)
Subject: RE: Crazy Man Michael Misheard lyric? (R Thompson)
From: pavane

I always thought the word Sandy Denny sang began with P, though I couldn't place it either (sounded like 'Pistle/pistol' to me but that didn't make any sense) I will go and listen again (any excuse..)


06 Jan 12 - 12:17 AM (#3285628)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: GUEST

I always thought the line was
'for his mad mind had trapped him with his wits-o'=

meaning his wits were so addled they had trapped him in delusions.

I don't offer this as the correct lyric - simply how my head made sense of what I heard.


06 Jan 12 - 01:14 PM (#3286037)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: GUEST,michaelr

From the horse's mouth.


06 Jan 12 - 03:13 PM (#3286099)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

The link was posted years ago michaelr. (See above 10 May 06, 06:08 PM). Despite the words that appear on the site and the words that Fairport appear to have sung, there appears to be a persistent desire to have it be something else. I can't remember if I've got a version by RT himself alone which should settle the matter of what he wrote presumably. I'll have a look later.

Mick


06 Jan 12 - 03:39 PM (#3286122)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Had a quick look and don't think I've got a solo version. But according to one source the version on Disc 2 of RT: The Life And Music Of Richard Thompson was recorded especially for that set, so if anyone has that version it should be easy to check; I would assume that what he sings there is what he wrote.

Mick


06 Jan 12 - 06:43 PM (#3286242)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: michaelr

Done, Mick; and the only significant difference is that RT sings "Crazy man Michael, he wanders and walks".


06 Jan 12 - 07:05 PM (#3286257)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

michael

Thanks for looking (listening?).

I think given all the evidence that RT really meant kiss-O and that the various witless fairies appearing from the mist may be assumed to be mondegreens. (Experience teaches us otherwise!).

Mick


07 Jan 12 - 12:03 PM (#3286563)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: autoharpbob

I have always heard it as "his mad mind had trapped him with a pistol"
This makes perfect sense. He had been trapped in madness when he was armed. The pistol is the "dagger of fire and of steel" that he draws out in the next verse. If he had not had a pistol when he was mad, he would not have shot his true love.

If RT wrote kiss-o, then fine, that is what I will sing. But it doesn't make sense, Sandy definitely sings something beginning with p, and pistol makes sense to me.


07 Jan 12 - 12:44 PM (#3286586)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Sorry autoharpbob

I've just relistened to Sandy singing it on the No More Sad Refrains collection (it's the Liege and Lief version) and I still believe that she clearly sings kiss o.

In fact her words are identical to those on the RT Song-o-matic with two exceptions:

v3,l4: And the cold earth did wonder and start-o (not startle)
v3,l6 That here did lie on the ground o (not And)


Mick


07 Jan 12 - 01:40 PM (#3286622)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: autoharpbob

Seems that we may be getting into the realm of singing what we believe to be "correct " without actually thinking what the words mean. Like "Wildwood Flower" , for instance, where the words don't actually make any sense but are sung that way because they always have been. I don,t believe kisso makes sense. To me pistol does make sense. But maybe RT can explain to me why it is kisso, and of course I am not claiming to know better than the writer of the song.


07 Jan 12 - 02:26 PM (#3286649)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

The thread started with asking what was correct and as far as I can see kiss-o is correct ie what RT wrote, and apparently what he still sings.

RT is unlikely to give you any explanation - see the quotes I put up in the Wheely Down by Richard Thompson thread (although he has said it was about the death of Jeannie Franklyn in a car accident).

As for how the song develops in the wild that's a different matter and maybe in a hundred years time, when who RT was is an esoteric fact, the song may be sung quite differently. It's happened with songs that were collected as traditional and which modern resources let us find original sheet music from the last century; you can see the changes made. People are always altering what they hear that doesn't make sense to them so that does make sense to them (the same way that people prefer to believe conspiracy theories rather than believe that something is a random event; they want it to make sense).

And just to be clear, I have no problem at all with people altering songs; I do it all the time myself quite deliberately. (Yesterday I posted Shirley Collins' version of
Long Years Ago, where the first verse has an obvious missing word at the end of the last line. You can see it in other versions posted there and the rhyme makes it obvious. Shirley sang it presumably how she got it, with the missing word. I don't sing the song, but if I did I'm sure I'd insert the missing word). With modern compositions I think I'm a bit more conservative - by and large I try and sing what was written. But not always; sometimes a writer's speech style doesn't sit well with me and I make small alterations to the language, but I wouldn't alter anything that I thought changed the meaning of the song as it was written.

Mick


07 Jan 12 - 03:59 PM (#3286695)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: autoharpbob

Understood Mick, and thanks for explaining your position so cogently and reasonably. I guess I just have some work to do to get to grips with the meaning of what RT wrote.


07 Jan 12 - 05:32 PM (#3286731)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Thanks for that bob.

I wouldn't like to think that I was dictating what people chose to sing. (I try to stick to factual posts; I'm useless at arguments!).

And on the subject of mistakes, my own song folders are certainly not exempt from them from the days when I took songs down from records and tapes. From time to time I decide to sing something I haven't done for years and when I relisten to the song with the aid of modern digital tech, audio editors and decent phones I find I got something completely wrong in the words I took down listening on my Dansette all those years before!.

I should also make it clear that when I said Shirley Collins sang Long Years Ago as she got it, I meant that she chose to sing it like that; I'm sure she was aware of and could have inserted the missing word if she'd wanted to.

Mick


19 Nov 14 - 05:28 PM (#3678462)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: RobbieWilson

Thank you all for your contributions.
I am still convinced it is " Kiss, O " and will continue to sing this.

Incidentally RT often changes elements of his lyrics himself so I think it is a little fatuous to argue about the "correct" words of a song, though not to discuss what you might be unclear about hearing
Robbie


20 Nov 14 - 04:49 AM (#3678595)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: Musket

I used to sing kiss o. If The Blessed RT wrote thistle, then fine but words of songs being altered slightly through mishearing, misremembering or thinking an alternative works is all part of what we call the folk process.

In his song Valerie, I always sung "She's got gonorrhoea" so I felt rather embarrassed when I bought his Acoustic Classics album earlier this year, to find, now I hear it clearly, "She's got gold in her ear."

Whoops...


20 Nov 14 - 09:25 AM (#3678661)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Crazy Man Michael (Richard Thompson)
From: cptsnapper

I remember that when Maggie Holland made her first album we ended up singing The Grey Valerio.