Mudcat Café message #3185290 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #138735   Message #3185290
Posted By: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
11-Jul-11 - 05:05 AM
Thread Name: Do purists really exist?
Subject: RE: Do purists really exist?
Like No Man's Land, TBPWM is a brilliantly written song in the style of the tradition.

It's written in some style anyway, but if you mean The Tradition as used by FolkTrad types to designate those Collected Canonical Songs we call Folk Song, then I might question that on any number of structural points. But the rest of your post does that perfectly so I'm not going to do it. As well as putting words in mouths, it puts thoughts in heads or else preaches to the converted. I only brought it into the discussion as I first it sung by June Tabor in the filthy back-room of a pub somewhere in the Northumbrian coal-field when there was still a working colliery (with steam trains) nearby. She sang it alongside The Plains of Waterloo, if not in the same breath, then in the same set. It's certainly on the same album (I still have a copy of the record as bought from her that night). So - Plains of Waterloo on one hand - The Band Played Waltzing Matilda on the other. I was just a kid - 14/15 or so - but my dislike of the latter song was instant and enduring; 35 years on I detest it still, whereas even the John Renbourn Group version of Plains of Waterloo (with its OTT programmatic arrangement of fifes, drums &c.) still manages to move me. Better still, Shirley Collins; better still, June Tabor herself; but best of all was the nameless (to me) (male) floor-singer who wasted me with it at The Bay Hotel Folk Club in Cullercoats around 1985 or so.

Thing is, I know my dislike of TBPWM marks me as a Purist; even in the first instance my reaction was one of what's the fecking point? Much less - so what?. Especially as POW was so strong regarding the subjective human aspect of war, without turning that into some unweildy political point about its wrongness. War is never a matter of absolute wrongness, it is always matter grim necessity and individual opinion of All Shades, even unto the Bullying righteous opinions of white-poppy wearing pacifists for whom TBPWM is gospel. Also when I was 14/15 I used to have a friend - an old man in a wheelchair who'd lost both his legs and half of his face at the Dunkirk Evacuation some 35 years earlier. We used to sit in the sun in a local graveyard and smoke and talk; me the slovenly hippy Gong-freak with a penchant for local history & folklore, and he the living hero who'd been blown to bits when he was 15 (having lied about his age in his eagerness to enlist) in a war against an entrenched evil that had ended a mere 16 years before I was born. I cannot begin to comprehend that sort of sacrifice, but I know that I could not have live the sort of life that I have done all these years without it. To him and millions of others, I owed my very freedom; and Dear God he was not bitter, but proud. Working it out now I realise that if he'd been 15 at Dunkirk, he was only 50 when I knew him - the same age (almost!) that I am now.

One thing I will not do is write a fecking song about it. Life is life. It goes on. My love of The Old Songs (a term used by many Traditional Singers I believe, Richard - one certainly used by Bob Copper in his poem of that name : see Here if for some reason that one has somehow passed you by. Imagine if using THE CORRECT term it was The Folk Songs - just would have the same punch, would it?) is largely one of poetic immediacy - no agendas, similies, wonky poetic metaphors unless by way of circumlocution (Seeds of Love is pure hard-core filth in this respect) and pure textual jouissance. Kipling caught this; & others have too. To me its high art, and in any case the first thing I want to do when told by a righteous idealogue like Billy Bragg not to buy The Sun, is to go out and buy The Sun. That's not why I listen to music, nor is it part of my political world view (best summed up in Kipling's poem A Pilgrim's Way) much less my musical one (which, right now, enjoys those three lost early Krafwerk albums on a par with Miles Davis early 70s electric period and the chamber music of Henry Purcell) in which Folk Music was only ever a small part, which is maybe the key here. What is the dominant music in your life? What proportion of your musical life is given over to Folk? I'd say it's never been more than 20%, and these days it's settled to around 10%, which is where I reckon it belongs. Even in its Innocence, folk was only ever a small part of a much bigger cultural reality without which I'd say it's pretty meaningless.