Warlike Lads Of Russia


Jon admits, “I finally got around to learning this properly for the Nic Jones gig at Sidmouth. It was pretty scary performing this (on guitar) with Nic Jones sitting behind me and Martin Simpson to my left. I think I just about got away with it though. I have a real soft spot for songs about Napoleon.” If you missed said gig or know nothing of it, remarkably it made the main news section of The Guardian and you can link to that story here. I also found this Mudcat thread rewarding and it seems to suggest Nic at least wrote the tune for this and possibly built up the words from a fragment. He certainly seems to be the accredited source for all subsequent versions. Another little diversion can be taken, as the thread indicates Jones’ first recording was made for an album given away to subscribers of a magazine that seems to have been called Folk Review (rather than Folk Routes as the thread suggests.) You’ll see more about that recording with a link through to information about the LP on Mainly Norfolk. Folk feview was, however, was the magazine that Ian A. Anderson eventually took over and re-launched as Southern Rag, which then became Folk Roots and is now of course fRoots. That magazine was originally edited by Fred woods and the album featuring Nic’s recording was compiled by him, you can read his obituary here. There’s also some stuff on the fRoots website about the publishing history wrapped up with Ian’s musical story, which also makes interesting reading. I’d also agree that there are some cracking Napoleonic songs and this is certainly one of them.



21 Responses to “Warlike Lads Of Russia”

  1. Kevin Tudor says:

    I was at the Nic Jones concert in Sidmouth and I think you did a great job of it!!! I remember you commenting on the fact that Nic and Martin were behind you. With all of the songs that I can sing and aspire to sing, it has to have the “Tingle factor” for me – if the hairs on the neck start to lift, then I know that I have to learn it!!!

    This song was one of those moments and I thought Jon did a brilliant job of it!! As for me – we’ll, I’m about 40% there at the moment, but it is getting there – there’s just soooo mucvh of it!!

    Brilliant idea this, I am enjoying it sooooo much!!! Thanks Jon!!!

    Kev the Clogs

  2. Alex says:

    I’d never had the pleasure of any Napoleonic songs! and what a performance. Excellent stuff, really enjoyed this one 🙂

  3. John says:

    A very good song which I always associate with Nic Jones (and his guitar) but it’s also very nicely done unaccompanied by Jon.

    I had no idea how many songs about Napoleon were in existence until I listened to an entire double album of them – ‘My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte’ – by the late Irish singer Frank Harte and Donal Lunny. I was lucky enough to discover it by being given a copy of it by Donal himself! Another favourite Napoleon song of mine is Martin Carthy’s lovely version of ‘Napoleon’s Death’ which is on the Waterson:Carthy CD ‘Fishes and Fine Yellow Sand’.

  4. Ralph Jordan says:

    Hi Jon.
    Fond memories of you making sure that you had all the verses in the right order, backstage at Sidmouth just before the gig!
    At least doing it accapella, gives you a chance to alter the timings, giving you the chance to catch up with yourself, so to speak.
    Having said that. both versions are lovely. Well done!

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    I’d love to have been at the Sidmouth gig and I’m really envious of those posters who were there. does anybody know if there are any plans to release any recordings of it? I’ve found a mobile phone recording of ‘The Tailor in the Tea-chest’ on Youtube but it’s from the back of the crowd.
    I love this this and it’s another great version.

  6. Nick Passmore says:

    Great version: stands up well alongside the old cassette tape recording that I have of Nic Jones singing this at the Whitstable Folk Club back in the 1970s….

  7. Dave Eyre says:

    I was also privileged to be at the Sidmouth concert and the queue to get went around the block twice. It was well worth it and it was really good to see Nic. (And in the Bedford afterwards!!).

    I know of no research to support this assertion but the logic seems impeccable. Joe Heaney did an introduction to one of his songs about Napoleon by saying: I believe the Irish have so many songs about Napoleon, because at that time they were looking for a liberator”. He then went on to say “And they still are looking for a liberator!!”. How poignant given the recent news.

    Nic’s first recording was indeed for a give-away record and Folk Review was indeed one of the major magazines at that time.

  8. Brian Leach says:

    Also being festive there is “Jack Frost” on Waterson Carthys “Holy Heathens and The Old Green Man” which I believe is Mike Waterson’s take on Napoleon’s defeat in Moscow.

  9. Joan Crump says:

    For any Bagpuss fans, I mentioned to Sandra Kerr immediately after the Sidmouth gig that I’d noticed “The Warlike Lads of Russia” tune bore a striking resemblance to “The Boney King of Nowhere.” I thought it must me a knowing reference, but she and Nancy looked at each other and said, “Oh my goodness, you’re right!” So there you are: 1 tune, 2 completely different Boneys, as it were…

    Simon Dewsbury (and others who might have missed the Sidmouth concert): it looks like the Nic Jones event may be reprised in London in late spring. Details will be forthcoming shortly, as soon as we have some more confirmations from artists.

  10. Malcolm says:

    Yet another great song anyone have the chords?

  11. Ian Anderson says:

    A little correction on magazine history, Jon, f.y.i. (masybe!) Folk Review was taken over by Bill Caddick, not by me. Fred did offer it to us but it was already too far gone financially, and i.i.r.c. Bill struggled to get one or two more issues out before it folded completely. Southern Rag, grandmother of fRoots, was started from scratch – the only connection with the dying days of Folk Review was that the approach from Fred Woods had got us interested in the idea of doing a magazine before we discovered Folk Review was a stiff and that it would make more sense to start a completely new and different one. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    I don’t remember the Folk Review album being given away either (as I was a subscriber and never had one). I think it was a commercial release. I’ve got a complete set of back issues that I could check, but no time to do so right now!

  12. Mark says:

    Was only thinking yesterday about the Sidmouth gig – I have many happy memories of it, not really expecting to get in when we saw the queue, the excitement in the tent, the heat – it all seems a long time ago now! Anyway, iit was brilliant and introduced me to lots of Nic Jones songs I didn’t know. This being one of them!

  13. Simon says:

    That’ll be me garbling the history Ian although it was the sequence I thought I’d read on one of many random google searches, combined with Mudcat. I may have tried to condense it and in so doing over simplified things, slightly misinterpreting what you have on your own sight in my haste. The giveaway of the LP was allegedly to new subscribers only and someone has backed that up, bemoaning not getting a copy as they already subscribed. I’ll fully admit that all of this is at least second hand information, but I’m trying to build up the back story of the song and always grateful for corrections to detail. I guess I was just after the sense that, poor financial health as maybe, Folk Review was revived in spirit at least, so we still have a valuable champion of the folk world (and much more) in print today, namely fRoots.

  14. Phil says:

    It’d be great to hear Jon doing the Grand Conversation on Napoleon, btw. Or the Eighteenth of June, or the Bonny Bunch of Roses, or Boney’s Lamentation, or…

  15. Diana says:

    A totally different type of folk song. Must have been difficult to sing this one a cappella – I could imagine a drum beat accompaniment.

  16. John Monk says:

    Diana, you can always try beating the palms of your hand on the table. It works for me. Mostly. But, there seemed to be a few tempo changes. Also it wasn’t one that I sung along with.

  17. John Monk says:

    Nay fingers. Not Palms!

  18. Jane Ramsden says:

    Yes, difficult to sing unaccompanied. Not my cup of tea, but resoundingly well-sung by Jon. Think you really have to engage in the learning of this one, to get the right conviction to carry the song across without it being tedious with no accompaniment.

  19. Diana says:

    Love this one. A slice of history in the telling.

  20. Dave R says:

    Great. Steve Turner sings this as part of a suite of Napoleon songs on’Braiding’.

  21. Jane Ramsden says:

    Since we are in the realm of conflict, but also the build-up to Yuletide, here is a marvellous rendition from Celtic Thunder called ‘Christmas 1915.’ Thanks to Young Muzza for alerting me to this. (Our Diana would have loved it.)
    Worth checking out the very popular Celtic ‘Thunderboys,’ as they have recorded a fair mix of songs, including some traditional, & at least 2 Christmas carol cds.


Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/afolksongaday.com/httpd.www/wp-content/themes/comment-central/comments.php on line 121