Mudcat Café message #4034386 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878   Message #4034386
Posted By: Brian Peters
15-Feb-20 - 08:49 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
[Continued - message divided because Mudcat inserts weird spacing when my posts get too long]

jag: ”How about that at any one time it was nostalgic old curmudgeons who couldn't stand the modern stuff that the young people liked and prefered the songs their parents and grandparents sang. How about that the collectors were much less familiar with the popular music of the time of their subjects grandparents and so were more likely to let it slip through their filter.”

The first point chimes with the account of pub singing in the 1880s provided by Flora Thompson in Lark Rise, which is analysed in some detail by Steve Roud in Folk Song in England. The gatherings were stratified according to age, with each group having its own repertoire: the young men singing the latest hits from the music hall and from ‘penny song-books’, middle-aged men performing older songs with a proportion of recognizably ‘folk’ material, and finally the octogenarian ‘Old David’ finishing every evening with ‘The Outlandish Knight’, allowed apparently as an indulgence to his old age. But all of it went on under the same roof.

On the second point, I think that the filter that was being applied was stylistic. Although Roud makes the good point that the new songs from the music halls worked perfectly well as unaccompanied pieces in the pub setting, I’d question his assertion that there was a ‘fundamental similarity’ between these and the older songs. I think the early collectors were quite capable of distinguishing the approximate age (and therefore the ‘folk’ status) of the songs they were hearing by the subject matter (rural settings, lost love, unwanted pregnancies, naval engagements, highway robbery, etc) and the nature of the melodies. Harker makes fun of the ‘I know it when I hear it’ definition, but people who’ve listened to a lot of traditional singing can make that distinction with a reasonable degree of accuracy. That’s how Walter Pardon was able to distinguish between his ‘folk’ and ‘non folk’ songs without a collector having to tell him which was which – they just sounded different.

Did I really write that review of Sam Larner, Jim? I didn’t remember it and don’t have a copy on my computer, but it does sound like the kind of thing I’d have said. It must have been a long time ago if I was under the impression that the Dubliners got ‘The Wild Rover’ from MacColl!