Mudcat Café message #136089 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #15209   Message #136089
Posted By: Judy Cook
14-Nov-99 - 07:44 PM
Thread Name: Lyr: Daughters of the Revolution (Berni Armstrong)
Subject: RE: Daughters of the Revolution
I got the nicest email back from Berni Armstrong. He (yes - the mystery gender is masculine) told me about himself and the amazing story of the writing of the song. I copy it here for your interest.

----------- from here copied from Bernie Armstrong ----- I now live in a small town in Catalonia (N.E. Spain) and have largely lost touch with the folk scene. Though I know that a few of my songs are still heard around the circuit from Liverpool to Wellington New Zealand... and "DoR" is certainly the most popular of my "babies" :-) (incidentally, I have never earned a nickel from any of my folk songs.... but maybe that's what makes them "folk songs" ;-)

It's curious that you live in Maryland because I regularly correspond with some people from there who, like me, are part of a bilingual families mailing list on the net.

So down to me... if you haven't seen a pic of me yet, you can put a face to the name by checking out my website www.geocities.com/berni_armstrong/

I'm afraid there are pitifully few examples of my work there yet. I have been meaning to get down to digitally recording some songs, converting them to MP3 files and loading my Website with them... but you know what "meaning to" implies :-) A lively one year old Daughter has been causing her own little Revolution in Mom and Dad's quiet creative existence this year ;-)

So, let me tell you a little about the song. It was written in 1984 in Darlington, England where I was working with a Multi-Media Theatre Company. One of the dancers was an American woman called "Cathy Burge" and in the course of a conversation she mentioned that her grandmother was a member of some terrible right-wing organisation known as "The D of the R" - The phrase stuck in my head.

Later, I was having coffee with Cathy in her room and noticed she had an appalachian dulcimer... which had belonged to the aforementioned Grandma.... I had loved the sound of that instrument since Joni Mitchel's "Blue" but had never played one. I placed it across my knee and strummed, fingers dancing up and down the frets... and I swear to you that the first thing that came out was the melody of the line "we were sixteen unarmed women and they a platoon of fighting men" accompanied by those words in my head. I broke out in a cold sweat and said "I feel a song coming on...."

Cathy lent me the dulcimer and I rushed off to my room where the whole song wrote itself through my fingers in less than an hour. It really was the most powerful visit of the muse I can remember... That trip also gave birth to "Betsy Loveless' Lament" about the wives left behind when the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported to Australia.

That first draft of "DoR" differs little from the final song.... though Roy and a friend did suggest some fine tuning which I carried out before he recorded it. Sadly, thieves were to steal the dulcimer before I found out if the "spirit" within it had any more tales to tell me. Incidentally I will never forgive Roy for saying to me "That is the best song you will ever write!" NEVER say that to a writer... it's a sure fire recipe for writer's block :-( Although, in many ways his prophecy seems sadly to have been fulfilled :-(

So.... that's the song... As for me....

Well, when I wrote the song I was a freelance performing artist. I was also involved with various worthwhile causes, including the Nicaragua solidarity campaign. I had written a few songs in English for them and they were encouraging me to learn Spanish and visit Nicaragua. To cut a long story short, I interrupted my budding career as a folk performer to spend a year in Spain as an English teacher.. where my brief was to learn the language and prepare for Nicaragua. However, here I met the woman who is now "mi compaņera de la vida".... and before too long Nicaragua seemed less appealing... sigh... Then I joined a fairly succesful Catalan Rock Band and had five good years getting my old desire to be Jim Morrisson out of my system :-) Though I never wanted to be "the lizard king"... who wants to eat flies?

Nowadays, I'm a translator and a private English teacher... and I still keep my hand in writing the occasional song and composing on the computer.