Two Magicians


This is Child #44 and Jon says, “Paul made me learn this. It’s not a particular favourite of mine but it does have a good punchy chorus. I’m generally in favour of songs about shape-shifting but I think I prefer the Steeleye melody.”

A version of this was recorded for Hedonism, but didn’t make the cut. There are two very distinct versions being discussed here and the one that Jon sings follows on from Martin Carthy who in turn followed Bert Lloyd. Carthy credits Bert as you’ll see on Mainly Norfolk and Bert also tellingly wrote, “…the ballad dwindled away, but it seemed too good a song to remain unused, so I brushed it up and fitted a tune, and now it appears to have started a new life.” That explains the “Bide Lady bide” version. I wonder therefore whether the Steeleye recording is the version collected by Cecil Sharp referred to in this Mudcat thread. I’d agree with Jon on the melody but for the fact that one of the first records I came across when I started working for Proper was Rosie Doonan and Ben Murray’s excellent Mill Lane. It’s an underrated gem in my book that didn’t get the exposure it deserved with a cracking version of this that has rattled around my head for the last five years and more. Anyway this Wiki link is interesting too and makes it clear that the ballad had already been collected before Child. If you follow the page down there are interesting links to more on the shape shifting  mythology, worth following through if you have the time.
You can buy the January digital album now from all good download stores.


18 Responses to “Two Magicians”

  1. the_otter says:

    This was my joint favourite song from the itunes version of Hedonism – the other is the Broomfield Hill Wager. Don’t know why TM was cut from the finished album.

    It seems a bit all over the place here though.

  2. Shelley says:

    I think I agree with Jon here about the tune, although I do love Bellowhead’s funky version of it. We sing a version based on the same tune Steeleye use, from a mouldy old edition of “Folk Songs for Schools”, where the chorus contains the words “maiden name” instead of “maidenhead” which we thought was rather quaint!

  3. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    Blimey…….my courting days were complicated enough without all this Malarkey!

  4. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    She turned into a nightingale
    sang melodies so gay
    He turned into a singer
    sang rude folk songs every day

  5. LadyD says:

    Unaccompanied it doesn’t sound quite as salacious as the Bellowhead version.

  6. Jane Ramsden says:

    Also agree about this tune compared to the Steeleye version, as it jars a bit by the last verse. Definitely a case of faint heart never won fair lady, if this complicated courtship is anything to go by! Still, I suppose you know you’re in with a chance if they start shape-shifting on you! This is where I’ve been going wrong all these years – haha!

    Well sung, Jon.

  7. Peter Walsh says:

    They shapeshift into what seems like a list of rock groups at first (Doves, Eels, Speckled Trout… hang on, they weren’t a band; or were they a heavy metal group, hahaha!).

    I don’t know, you turn your back for 5 minutes and miss two birthdays and Ted gaining an extra dimension (now Tedd O’Ramsden in 3D instead of 2D!). Belated Happy Birthdays to you Muzza and Dainer.

  8. Dainer says:

    Both Jon’s and the Hedonism version are so different but equally excellent.

    Thank you Peter for birthday wishes. The years seem to fly by, and a month already gone since christmas! Roll on summer if we are lucky to get one this time.

  9. Tedd O'Ramsden says:

    On listening again, the words are literally fantastic, the shape-shifting deliciously inventive, the story either one of a stalker or ardent lover (depending on your point-of-view!), so it is the tune that is somehow not right, because the words have to be crammed in cumbersomely. All credit to Jon for getting it out smoothly. I can see how it can be made serious or saucy, also depending on your point-of-view.

    Glad to see ye back, Pierre! If I disappear for a bit, it’ll be because I can’t get my Mc-F-yee renewal to download and work, & end up with no internet security for a while. You know how it is when customer service (who have taken yer brass!) somehow turn it round so that all the advice you shouldn’t have had to ask for somehow doesn’t do the trick and it’s my fault, of course – only it ain’t, & I know it! T’is scaring me now, as I am certain it was another lot of internet security that de-configured/unconfigured/shape-shifted? and destroyed my old pc. Aaaargh! I will eventually run out of providers. Ted does not go back once they’ve done for him!

    I also have a feral female to try catch & neuter, as it is being pursued as hard as in this song! I hate the wild ones & this one, tho’ on my ‘to do’ list for a while, keeps mostly under the radar. Nearly had her last night… then she shape-shifted…

  10. Simon says:

    Having shape shifted into a frustrated, hair tearing, spreadsheet mangling, shoes and socks off, back of a fag packet mathematical computer drone for what seems like days on end, trying to get my Properganda ABC report completed, I seem to have missed loads… Firstly Happy Bithday to Muzza and Diana… Secondly I have recorded all the Simon & Garfunkle TV night, they were fab and Paul Simon’s last two solo albums are brilliant too… Hats off to Half Man Half Biscuit for Trouble Over Bridgewater, although as always the songs never quite live up to the titles… Just a thought but this is a not too distant relative of the impossible tasks/challenges of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, etc, etc

  11. Diana says:

    Simon thank you for your birthday wishes. Sorry you are having such a hard time at present – things can only get better I hope. The programmes on BBC 4 on S & G were great.

  12. Tedd O'Ramsden says:

    @ Skyman: I share your pc frustration, so you have made me feel better about my own. I thought you’d enjoy Simon & Garfunkel too. I knew you’d appreciate the production value that went into the BOTW album. And lots of us here just enjoyed all the music, of course. I think age and remembered experiences might have a bit to do with that as well!

  13. Peter Walsh says:

    Speaking of TV progs, I’m hoping my Sky+ has done a Bellowhead gig from SkyArts channel last night. These things are always on way past Pierre’s bedtime…

  14. Simon says:

    I will need a proper evening sit down with them Diana / Jane. S & G are so much a part of my Radio 2 dominated upbringing, with Bridge being one of the few LPs my Mum bought… Then there was The Graduate for a dose of early teen age angst… Then there was forgetting all about them when Art did Bright Eyes and Paul turned into a moustachioed megastar, while my jeans got tighter and my hair shorter… Then there was the rediscovery and the certain knowledge that Only Living Boy In New York is in my Top 5 tunes of all time… Then there was tthe finding out from here about Paul Simon and Martin Carthy and the whole Parsley, Sage business.

  15. muzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    @Admin Simon……………….I fear that thou, O hairy one, art on the brink of the Manopause with all that angst and reminiscing…
    Hang in there old fellow…it will pass…and you will soon be resigned to becoming a cynical old duffer like wot I am.

  16. Linda says:

    Aquarian number three here, Just been watching The Genius of Invention BBC2 did I spot Bellowhead music being used in the back ground?
    I quite like todays song

  17. Diana says:

    Hi LInda – which day is yours or has it gone?

    Great song though!

  18. old Muzza(N.W.Surrey-UK) says:

    Diana……..Aquarian No 3 celebrates on 14Feb if my memory serves me correctly.

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