This site was originally conceived by Jon Boden and launched in June of 2010 to deliver at least one new song a day for a year. It’s about encouraging social singing and intended as a resource for the audience to gather their own inspiration, perhaps learn new repertoire and wherever possible take that out into the wider world. Each new song was set to appear at the very start of the day as the midnight hour ticked by. The process was reset each subsequent year, finding a new audience each time around, as well as keeping many devotees happy and has just been started again.
All of the songs were recorded by Jon, sometimes with instrumental accompaniment, sometimes without and occasionally with a helping hand or voice or two. As well as the songs themselves, each day featured a post that tried to unravel the origins and mysteries behind the songs, Jon’s inspirations and some general history wherever it seemed of interest. Those posts were all written in 2010 as a journey of discovery, with links to other resources where appropriate. Some of those resources may not have had the staying power of AFSAD, but we will be trying to fix any broken links that we can as we go.
You will also find that some of Jon’s choices and performances provoked praise comment, criticism and in some cases a good degree of extra ferreting around the net to add to the story, so the comments are well worth your attention. Anyone is welcome to join in, subject to moderation of course, although pretty much all opinions are accepted as long as they are reasonably and politely expressed. Anyone is welcome and no special knowledge is required, so feel free to add to the threads, but more than anything, enjoy the music.
A Boden tune here as Jon says, “After setting this lyric from Folk Songs Of The Upper Thames I then heard Will Noble sing a Yorkshire version with a not entirely dissimilar tune. Fay has now taken this on and improved my melody somewhat.”
Intriguingly this is another that appears in Sussex from George “Pop” Maynard, as well as the Thames Valley and interestingly to back up Jon’s comment Sheffield. If the notes at Mainly Norfolk are anything to go by, then this was a widespread and therefore you would think, popular broadside. It seems odd therefore that many collectors apparently ignored it and even Mudact is lacking. I must say I like Jon’s tune for this, although feel rather sorry for the poor lass. Mind you, perhaps she just didn’t fancy him.
Jon reminisces, “I borrowed A Song For Every Season on vinyl from Winchester library as a teenager, and for some reason this stuck in my mind. Unfortunately I had to return it and I’ve only recently got round to tracking that set down on ebay. Not cheap! Worth it though.”
This has a jolly, music hall feel from whence it probably originated, although is another collected by the Coppers. You’ll see a reference to Jon’s precious vinyl set on Mainly Norfolk and can also link to Mudcat, but again there isn’t much on this save that is was a very popular song in the C19th, often appearing in a mockney style dialect. A quick sweep of ebay brings up a single album sampler of the boxed set at £8.99 starting price, but with no track listing… I’m almost tempted.
Jon says, “Very Sussex this. Sung by Shirley Collins on the brilliant Voices album on Fellside.”
Sussex through and through as appropriately enough it’s in the Copper archive, collected by Bob from a Harold “Jim” Swain who got it from a shepherd near Felpham. Hastings’ born Shirley Collins originally recorded this for her Adieu To Old England and she described it as “a little confused,” but was suitably taken with it to record it as she found it. This seems to have several variant takes on Mossom, Mossen, Mossing, etc, although none of them actually seem to have much meaning for the word. There is, however, a River Mosson in France and the trade back and forth between Southern England and our near neighbour may account for a cross-channel origin, although that’s pure speculation. Mainly Norfolk has Shirley’s recordings noted and you can also link to Mudact here although it doesn’t really add much.
Jon recalls, “Sharron Kraus used to sing this at the Half Moon – always brought the house down. I’ve read a few strange articles claiming that this has something to do with Jesus. I suspect not.”
Hmmm. I’d tend to agree with that last comment too. I know Jesus was supposed to be the fisher of men, but the last time I looked he wasn’t proposing marriage or wearing gold chains, mind you it might be metaphorical marriage and gold of course. This one seems to be known widely across the country with both Harry Cox and The Coppers having it in their repertoire. Jon’s source for this, however, was Maddy prior and Tim Hart and they raise the Christian allegory theory, whilst slyly noting that “…it could be a very classic love story.” Mainly Norfolk covers this well and efforts to turn up much more of merit have faltered on the other song of the same title, as performed by Humphry Bogart in The African Queen.
Jon says, “This is such a lovely song. I keep meaning to learn some more Brecht stuff, so this is a start anyway.”
I must confess that Brecht is another I know little about. Mainly Norfolk has Jon’s source for this, Martin Cartthy’s notes, which refer to a Brecht play called The Good Soldier Schwejk. I couldn’t find that listed amongst his plays as listed here on Wiki, although that title actually belongs to a book by Jaroslav Hašek. It follows the fortunes of the titular soldier through WW1 as a recruit in the Austro-Hungarian army. It seems Kurt Weill turned Brecht’s text into a song and if you scroll down towards the bottom of this Wiki page you’ll see it listed with a date of 1942. I don’t know whether the arrangement Martin heard is based on Weill’s version, but I suspect it was, either way he recorded this twice, once solo and once when he rejoined Steeleye Span. There’s also a very good version of this by PJ Harvey and you’ll find a simple but effective video for that on YouTube easily enough, if you fancy it. It seems to have pretty much the same tune and Marianne Faithful has also recorded it as The Ballad Of The Soldier’s Wife and that’s rather splendid too. I think this version works well unaccompanied too.