|Around the camp-fire, men of Company A,|
16th Infantry, San Geronimo, Mexico, May 27th, 1916.
There was chat before we started about learning songs, and the preference, certainly among those established on the sing-around scene for people singing without words. Simon suggested, with no dig intended, that Derek probably learnt songs on one hearing in a pub many years ago. Derek initially said that this was an exaggeration but then admitted there was at least one song just like that.
Mike wanted it to be recorded that we started five minutes earlier than usual, with him singing Children of the train. This song is about the Charfield railway disaster which occurred on 13 October 1928 and of the two unidentified children who were among the dead. You can also hear about the story here.
After singing a song about bonfire night, Derek declared that he had never been camping and knew no campfire songs on his own behalf. Most of his contributions for the evening therefore were songs he learnt from a friend who had been on Young Communist League camps. At least one of these songs had been learnt by his friend at the campfire. The first of these was Ghost Army of Korea. He continued with We are from Omsk and the final offering along these lines was The ballad of Harry Pollitt.
Derek challenged me to find these songs. You will note that I failed on some but it was interesting to note that Topic Records seems to be in the process of posting a lot of its recordings on YouTube, presumably to mark the label's 75th anniversary. Some of the songs I have found this week have been viewed only a handful of times - or even none before me! This could be quite a resource for future reports.
Simon sang Asikatali. Mike said that song once got him thrown out of a Conservative club. He was with a group who were invited to a concert by a South African choir. They started singing a verse in English after the choir had sung a verse in the Zulu language. It so happened that the grandfather one of the members of the club was a settler in South Africa and the said member took offence when he heard the English translation (by Pete Seeger) and suddenly understood what the song was about; and so Mike's group was ejected.
Simon's second song was The ballad of Patch Eye and Meg from Michelle Shocked's album Texas Campfire Tapes - not such a subtle link to the theme. Unfortunately, while singing the song his G-string broke (ouch!) which forced him to finish is unaccompanied.
Phil's campfire offering was Gypsy Davey (Roud 1, Child 200). Steve's was The ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen).
Chris sang Try to remember (Tom Jones - the writer, not the singer) which got us singing round our imaginary campfire.
Colin, as is often his way, stuck faithfully to the evening's theme. His songs seemed to come from the scouting movement on both sides of the Atlantic - or are they all from across the pond? The first of these was My leader (to the tune of My bonnie lies over the ocean). Derek asked whether this song was written by Robert Schumann; a joke which only one person present understood (not me I am afraid) - it was a reference to Schumann having composed many Lieder (songs, usually setting romantic German poetry to music).
Colin's second song was One fish ball (George Martin Lane), which is the song which was later developed into the better known song, One meatball. Next Colin sang The battle of Kookamonga (Homer and Jethro). He also sang Pop goes the weasel though as far as I could hear there was no "tupp'ny rice" not "in and out of the Eagle" so I assume it was an American version.
Roger's campfire songs were from closer to home: Campfire's burning, There's a hole in my bucket (assisted by Chris), You'll never get to heaven, and Taps
Having taken over the job of MC after Mike left at half-time, Colin sang Music alone shall live and finished off the session with She'll be coming round the mountain.
Don't forget that next week's session (14 November) is remembrance, armistice, commemoration, because it's our closest to 11 November.
Here's a selection of the songs sung during the session.
(Number of people present - 8, of which 8 performed)