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Lyr Req: Barbara Allen (from Phoebe Smith)

05 Dec 06 - 05:19 PM (#1900979)
Subject: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's Barbara Allen
From: Jon Boden

Just been learning Phoebe Smith's Barbara Allen but tape a bit crackly and can't work out the 2nd word: "in ........ town I was bred and born".

I've been using "Scarlet" town as a default but just wondered if anyone knows what she's actually singing,

J


05 Dec 06 - 07:45 PM (#1901130)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Peace

Mnay people sing 'Newry town' or 'London town'. Incidentally, it seems to be spelled "Barbara Allan" on her album, "The Yellow Handkerchief." I couldn't find her specific lyrics posted anywhere. Hope something here helps.


05 Dec 06 - 08:12 PM (#1901161)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Several have 'Scarlet town'.
See thread 19122 and others here in Mudcat
Barbara Allan

Use the Lyrics and Knowledge Search blank.


05 Dec 06 - 09:05 PM (#1901200)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: The Borchester Echo

I haven't heard the Phoebe Smith tape. I don't suppose this helps, but as the song is one of the most widespread and thus most collected, just WHERE it was you sing doesn't matter an awful lot. I've been quite taken with the text from Jim & Francis Gray in 1906:

In Scotland I was born and bred,
In Scotland I was dwelling,
when a young man on his deathbed lay
For the sake of barb'rous Allen

but not particularly convinced by another from Bronson:

In Reading town, where I was born,
There was a fair maid dwelling,
Made every youth cry well-a-day
Her name was Barbara Allen

erm . . . Reading? I know it's particularly beloved to Nancy Kerr, but . . .

Scarlett is a pretty good compromise, I'd say.


05 Dec 06 - 10:29 PM (#1901256)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Maryrrf

I don't know what word Phoebe Smith actually sang, but "Scarlett Town" seems to be a very common setting for Barbara Allen, so it would bea good guess.


06 Dec 06 - 02:18 AM (#1901312)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Malcolm Douglas

The Roud Index lists first lines. The entry for the Voice of the People issue has "In North town I were bred and born", while the Yellow Handkerchief issue has "In [North?] town I were bred and born"; others, then, have been not quite sure what she actually sang.

Scarlet Town is by far the most common, but Reading Town is not unusual, and appeared on broadsides. All sorts of other places appear from time to time, some deliberate localisations (London, Lexington, Dublin, Cambridge, Liverpool); others probably just corruptions of "Scarlet" (Charlotte, Story, Stoney, Starling).

I don't know of any traditional examples that have Newry, but Alfred Williams (Folk Songs of the Upper Thames, 1923) found a Newbury once.


06 Dec 06 - 02:21 AM (#1901316)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Al
From: Matthew Edwards

Except that what Phoebe actually sings on the recording isn't "Scarlet" or "Reading" Town; listening to her words closely is actually quite a confusing experience because they appear to be a bit jumbled. I would think that if I were going to learn from her performance I'd try to capture the intense almost operatic sweep of her style and use whatever words that seem to fit. It seems to me that her version highlights the drama of the story and she conveys this so vividly that you don't need to hear the words to understand her - the emotion and the 'meaning' get through on another level.

Peta Webb at the VWML might be able to help as she knew Phoebe quite well.

For what its worth the first verse sung by Phoebe sounds something like this to me:
In old town I were bred and born,
And Cambridge(?) I when dwellin',
I fell in love with a pretty fair maid,
And her name were Barbara (h)Allen.


Splash out and buy the Veteran CD anyway!


06 Dec 06 - 03:10 AM (#1901329)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Al
From: Paul Burke

This is one of the songs that the singer could localise to wherever it was sung, to add interest for the audience. So it might be fruitful to look around the places where she lived (Kent and Suffolk I think) for likely candidates.


06 Dec 06 - 03:46 AM (#1901342)
Subject: Lyr Add: BARBARA ALLEN (from Mike Yates)
From: Matthew Edwards

The Roud Index credits Mike Yates with recording this song from Phoebe Smith, but on checking the sleeve notes to the Topic LP 12T253 Songs of the Open Road Mike Yates says that this recording was made in 1968 by Paul Carter, presumably at the same time as the recordings were made for Phoebe Smith's solo Topic LP 12T93 Once I Had A True Love. It is this same recording which was reissued on the Veteran VT136CD The Yellow Handkerchief.

As it happens Mike Yates included a lyric sheet with the Topic LP so this is his version of her words:-

Barbara Allen

1. In North town I were bred and born,
And Cambridge I went dwelling,
Till I fell in love with a pretty fair maid
And her name were Barbara Allen.

2. It were early into the month of May,
When the green leaves they were budding,
When a young man on his death bed laid,
For the love of Barbara Allen.

3. He sent round one of his servant men,
To the place where she were dwelling,
And says 'Young woman I been sent for thee,
If your name are Barabara Allen.'

4. Slowly she put on her clothes,
And slowly she walked to him,
Then she turned her back a-wards him
And a-saying, 'Young man, you are a-dying.'

5. 'Dying, miss now that never can be,
One kiss from you will save me.'
'One kiss from me you never shall have,
Since my poor heart you have ruined.'

6. 'You remember that last Saturday night,
In the alehouse you were drinking;
You drank your health with all fair maids,
And you daunted Barbara Allen.'

7. 'Mother, dear, come make my bed,
And make it long and narrow,
For as I may lay and take a rest,
And think of Barbara Allen.'

8. 'Mother, dear, look at my bedside,
You will see a watch a-hanging,
There's a guinea gold watch and a diamond ring,
Hung there for Barbara Allen.'

9. She were walking through the old footpath,
She heard the church bells a-tolling;
And the more they tolled, so loudly rolled,
Hard haunted Barbara Alen.

10. She were walking down a road,
She met the corpse a-coming;
And the nearer she got to the corpse,
The further he drew from her.

11. 'Set him down, my six bonny lads,
And let me gaze all upon him;
For this young man has died for me,
And I shall die tomorrow.'

12. He died on (to) one grey day,
And she died on the other.
They were both buried in (to) the old churchyard,
Both under the big laurel.

13. Out of her sprang a red rose tree,
And out from him a briar.
They grow, they grow, to a steeple tall,
And the red rose covered the briar, briar,
And the red rose covered the briar.


06 Dec 06 - 09:17 AM (#1901491)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Snuffy

There seems to have been some wordplay on Scarlet and Red(-ding) but which came first? Either is possible.


06 Dec 06 - 10:54 AM (#1901541)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Mr Happy

The placename 'Scarlet Town' appears in many other songs too, even some American ones.

Where is this town, is it really Reading?

Anyone know?


06 Dec 06 - 11:01 AM (#1901546)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: EBarnacle

As this song goes so far back, it is impossible to be authoritative about the name of the town. I suspect it changed location as singers moved about.


06 Dec 06 - 11:30 AM (#1901558)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Al
From: Paul Burke

There's a North Town in Aldershot, Hampshire, and another between Bideford and Okehampton in Devon, so I expect she meant North Town.


06 Dec 06 - 11:52 AM (#1901576)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Jon Boden

Thanks all. Much appreciated.


06 Dec 06 - 12:53 PM (#1901625)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The earliest copy in print (1740-1750) only says 'town'. (He sent his man down through the town to the place where she was dwelling).
In Scarlet Town is found in print in 1765.
All the others come later.
Quoting A. L. Lloyd in his "Folk Song in England," "'What county does that song come from?' is a question commonly put bu innocent amateurs. They inquire in vain. Sundry versions of 'Barbara Allen' give the young lady's dwelling place as Scarlet town, London town, Quelick town (wherever that may be), as Reading, Newbury, Newry, Dublin, ..... no doubt with a view to making the ballad interesting in whatever locality it is sung."

No one knows what town the singer was referring to when he sang 'Scarlet town'.


06 Dec 06 - 07:32 PM (#1902003)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Adrianel

When I learnt it (from my third form teacher, in 1955), it was Camden Town. Maybe that's where he came from.


06 Dec 06 - 07:35 PM (#1902005)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: The Borchester Echo

Camden Town! I love that. 2 Regent's Park Road, possibly?


06 Dec 06 - 08:09 PM (#1902017)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Allen
From: Declan

I first heard the song sung by Pete Seeger, and he sings Scarlet. I don't know who his source was. I've heard a variety of other towns since.


07 Dec 06 - 05:15 AM (#1902244)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 2nd word of Phoebe Smith's barbara Al
From: Kevin Sheils

Reading, of course, is phonetically Scarlet.


08 Dec 06 - 03:32 AM (#1903199)
Subject: Lyr Add: BARBARA ALLEN (from Phoebe Smith)
From: Roberto

Barbara Allen
Phoebe Smith, The Yellow Handkerchief, Veteran Tapes 136, recordings 1969-1976 (transcription with the help of Danny Stradling)

A north (?) town I were bred and born
And Cambridge I went dwelling
'Til I fell in love with a pretty fair maid   
And her name were Barbara Allen

It were early into the month of May
When the green leaves they were budding
When a young man on his death bed laid
For the love of Barbara Allen

He sent round one of his servant men
To the place were she were dwelling
And a-saying - Young woman, I've been sont for thee
If your name are Barbara Allen

Slowly she put on her cloak
And slowly she walked to him
Then she turned her back awards him
And a-saying - Young man, you are a-dying

Dying, Miss, no that never can be
One kiss from you will save me
One kiss from me you never shall have
Since my poor heart you have ruined

You remember that last Saturday night
In the alehouse you were drinking
You drank your health with all the fair maids
And you daunted Barbara Allen

Mother dear, come and make my bed
And make it long and narrow
For as I may lay and take a rest
And think of Barbara Allen

Mother dear, look at my bedside
You will see a watch a-hanging
There's a guinea-gold watch and a diamond ring
Hung there for Barbara Allen

She were walking through the old footpath
She heard the church bells a-tolling
And the more they tolled, so loudly rolled -
Hard haunted (hearted) Barbara Allen

She were walking down that road
She met the corpse a-coming
And the nearer she got to that corpse
The further he drew from her

Set him down, my six bonny lads
And let me gaze all upon him
For this young man has died for me
And I shall die tomorrow

He died on to one grey day
And she died on the other
They were both buried in to the old churchyard
Both under one big laurel

Out of her sprang a red rose tree
And out from him a briar
They grow, they grow to a steeple tall
And the red rose covered the briar, briar
And the red rose covered the briar