|Ebenezer Theodore Joshua|
Most of the small number of us assembled joined in the theme.In fact Gary started the theme off last week with his song, White poppy.
Colin started us off with Ghost Story. I don't usually add too much in the report that wasn't said on the night, but my hunt for this on the web was an interesting one. Unfortunately I didn't find a recording, but I did find this mention of the song. The first place I saw it was on the website of The Church Times:
The folk-singer Martin Carthy told Third Way magazine recently that you sometimes have to deal with the fact that, for progressive artists, society can regress as well as progress. "I was with the Watersons at this festival down in Telford at the time of the Falklands War," he said. "All the people there were real radicals, and there was a lot of comedy there, and street theatre, and lots and lots of politics.
"And this guy stood up and sang a song called 'Ghost Story' about the Falklands War - the first song I'd heard about it - and a lot of the audience booed him. I can't tell you what a wake-up call that was. The Watersons and I just stood and gaped. We were horrified.
"I realised that if the war had happened 20 years earlier, there would have been 20 or 30 songs written about it, because it was that political then, and I would have been a part of that."
Should musicians ignore their consciences at that point? Accept that the audience does not want "didactic" music and move on? Carthy decided instead to work harder...
We didn't boo Colin. Indeed Colin carried on in a generally anti-war tone with H-bomb's thunder by John Brunner, The sun is burning by Ian Campbell, Billy Bragg's Between the wars, and Geoff Pearson's War without bangs.
Robin mused that while he had borrowed his version of Where have all the flowers gone from source: Pete Seeger, other people seem to sing it differently. I think that is simply because so many people have recorded the song. Tom mentioned Joan Baez. In fact Wikipedia lists about 35 different versions. If I were to sing it in public, which I don't, I would probably be influenced by the Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs version. It's not surprising that there are some slightly different versions around.
Derek challenged me to find a version of his 1919 music hall song, There's a simple little cross out at Mons. He said he may be the only person to have sung it since 1919 and maybe he's right; the only references I can find on the web to the song are written by Derek! Some of Derek's other songs also posed a challenge for me but I managed to find Tommy's lot by Dominic Williams and, of course, Hanging on the old barbed wire (this a surprisingly straight version by Chumbawamba).
Tom told some interesting stories about the songs he sang. Apparently Eric von Schmidt who wrote Joshua gone Barbados, misrepresented the story, and while Ebenezer Joshua, a union leader who became the first chief minister of Saint Vincent, called a strike of sugar cane workers, he wasn't necessarily as corrupt as the song implies. Tom played his own tune, Lionel's train, written for a the friend who gave Tom his banjo. Lionel spent most of his working life in Kenya, and on returning to the UK, he took up an interest in steam trains. The banjo was covered in red Kenyan dust and while Tom repaired and cleaned it, he tuned his guitar in G for practice. This was the first tune he wrote in that open G tuning.
Both Richard and Steve G took to singing Dire Straits songs; Richard sang Brothers in Arms and Steve sang The man's too strong.
Both Simon and Steve G brought remembrance of Ray Croll into the mix, singing Mike Harding's Jimmy Spoons (which both Ray and his late wife, "V" liked), and Hughie Jones' The Ellan Vannin tragedy (which Ray sang). Steve G added an excellent song written specially to remember Ray, called Only a folkie, with some borrowing from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.
Here's a selection of these songs plus some others sung during the session.