Whiskey Is The Life Of Man


Jon reveals “I busked this arrangement of Whiskey at the Matachin recording session, to be used as a sort of quiet intro before the raucous band version. It’s a bit of a liberty on what is a pretty lively, salty number, but I think it works quite nicely like this.”

I’ll have to agree as it brings out the essential sadness of the life abandoned to the bottle. I’m assuming that most, if not all, will be familiar with the rambunctious Bellowhead version, so I’ll leave you with a quick link to Mainly Norfolk to contrast and compare with Ewan MacColl, The Clancy Brothers and Bob Roberts. I’ll also note Lou Killen’s and Graham Metcalf’s names in the mix. You can also follow Reinhard’s link on to Mudcat at the bottom of the page for more drinking merriment.



41 Responses to “Whiskey Is The Life Of Man”

  1. Russ... says:

    To me the slower pace makes it more of lament making it appear more of commentary of the evils of drink rather than the party song in the more robustly performed version. Still a great song, make mine a double please?

  2. Rosie says:

    Absoloutely love this, it’s the best version I’ve heard by far.

  3. Dave Knibb BA says:

    Stunning version!

  4. Patrick Rose says:

    I’ve been waiting for you to do this one, just so I can use it at the folk club. I couldn’t work out how to do it without instruments, though I gave it a go: http://www.howtoplayblog.co.uk/himself/index.html

    I should really sort out that link.

  5. Simon Dewsbury says:

    Jon, that’s just great.

  6. Sol says:


  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    I’m with Russ, although I think it is good to put your own stamp/take on things, Jon. Think I prefer it jolly though!

    @ Patrick Rose: Looked at all your recordings and note your tune/version of Donkey Riding is almost the same one I know, bar the odd note!

  8. Joanne Sheppard says:

    I do tend to like hearing songs that are usually very cheerful performed in such a way that gives them a whole new dimension, and I think this really works on that level. It suddenly changes the song from being a drinking song to a somewhat desperate, regretful sort of lament. Love it! (Although it’s the upbeat version I’d be more likely to sing on the way home from the pub.)

  9. Muzza(N.W.Surrey. UK) says:

    Wow….I wonder why I was “Quiet” at this time last year………
    Jon’s 2 completely different treatments of the same song…here and on the Bellowhead video (on Mainly Norfolk) both enjoyable in their different ways.
    I note that “Whiskey” varies from the Irish spelling (“key” to the Scottish spelling “ky” Looking at the old comments….I wonder if Dave Knibb is a pen name and I wonder if Joanne is still happy in the harem?…and I couldn’t find the Patrick link…ah me.

  10. Diana says:

    What a difference from the version I know on Matachin. This has always been a favourite of mine, since I think it was one of the first songs I ever heard from Bellowhead, but I found Jon’s solo equally excellent but what a difference there is between the two versions. One fast and one slow.

  11. John Bryson says:

    I’m a bit like Muzza – why was I also quiet this time last year?!
    A great song, Jon’s solo version and Bellowhead’s two separate interpretations, both superb in my humble opinion. Jon’s solo version realy brings out the melancholy when the demon drink takes hold – sounds a bit philosphical coming from someone currently completely off any alcohol (viral hepatitis does that to you!!!).
    By the way, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think it’s great following Jon’s AFSAD year for a second time

  12. Linda says:

    Love both versions. If your ever at The Royal and are not driving there’s a very interesting shelf of “special” whiskeys . I spotted these on my first visit and had to try one .Saturday afternoon might not have been the best time, the one I tried was a very good sipping whiskey with only the addition of a little water . A most enjoyable afternoon. Will be calling again.
    @Diana missed yesterdays comment had an early visit to the site . We were glad to see the end of last year ,it was a bit of a disaster hopefully 2012 will be better.The amount of concert tickets we have it’s certainly looking pretty good.

  13. Diana says:

    @Linda I expect you are pleased that your disaster is behind you now. The good news is that your concert tickets are good. I am looking forward to Sheffield Cathedral on the 13th which isn’t long off but the November one is out of sight at present.

    As for whiskey the only one which doesn’t make me shudder is Bushmills 10year old Irish Whiskey which I drink very occasionally with just a little water. I am afraid that some of the pills I have to take do not mix with alcohol. Still it is only a temporary setback.

  14. Diana says:

    It’s a small world – just switched on Simon’s link and what do I find – a very informative article on Dave Brubeck. Strange as I had just mentioned him recently. Must go back to it and play more of his music.

  15. Reynard says:

    Just saw Fay’s Twitter posting about Maggie Boyle’s Kitchen Songs project starting on April 5. You might want to follow this too.

  16. Diana says:

    Thanks- have just put in on my wall on Facebook so Jane should get it as well.

  17. Jan says:

    Always good to hear a song done in a different way, and this does work well.

    As far as whiskey is concerned, I’m very fond of the Islay single malts, Laphroaig in particular. Like you, Diana, alcohol does not mix well with my medication, so I don’t get to enjoy them often, but I do allow myself a teaspoonful in my bedtime hot milk and honey
    ( purely medicinal – I don’t enjoy it at all!)

  18. Diana says:

    Jan it sounds like you don’t enjoy your whisky – huh – I don’t think. I have had Islay single malt at one time but never Laphroaig. The damned pills are a flipping nuisance in all ways though quite apart from the drink aspect. I have given up reading what side effects you may suffer as they are all contradictory. 😀

  19. Diana says:

    @Jane I have put a link on my wall for you. I did think I had shared it with you but all I have done is get another copy on the wall. I have already said I am not very bright today. Ella (cat) has been to the vets three times recently and the prognosis isn’t good so a decision has to be made – obviously what is best for her.

  20. Linda says:

    Love this one!!!!!!

    Fay and The Hurricane Party Radio 3 11.0 o clock

    Bert Jansch BBC 4 10.00 o clock

    Looks like the iplayers going to be busy

  21. John Bryson says:

    Three years on, and listening to this again reinforces my view this is a superb version of the song.

    Incidentally, this song was how I found out about Bellowhead, I saw some of them interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV, heard them play a short piece of this, which led to me to the Christmas Sessions on BBC4, and the rest is history – AFSAD, Bellowhead, Fay, Full English, Remmant Kings, Spiers and Boden – am I missing anyone (not seen Hurricane Party yet)

  22. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Cor Blimey Guvnor……………….lucky it aint a lovely sunny morning because I have been led astray yet again by AFSAD and been sampling all the bally Bellowhead vids that I came across on Mainly Norfolk………and now I have to dash about (like Janey the catbotherer after a stray tom) in order to meet an appointment
    .Where’s that whisky!….and the clocks go forward tonight…Hello Summer.

  23. Linda says:

    Blimey Muzza aren’t we both up early… Still love listening to this song ……3 years on and I am still sampling the whiskey at The Royal and enjoying the monthly folk nights …..

  24. Old Muzza (N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    Whisky !….I thought you had a coke when we met at Beaulie

  25. Linda says:

    This is still one of my favourites and yes Muzza I am still sampling The Royal’s scotch …(see 2012 comment)

  26. Linda says:

    Guess where we’ll be Saturday watching Nicola Beazley and Alex Cummings?

  27. Linda says:

    6 years on still sampling The Royal’s scotch and Bradfield brewery’s Farmers ale ….Where does the time go…….and I still love this song

  28. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    I have not succumbed to Nancy Whisky since June 2nd 2018 but I still have an unopened bottle of Grants…..and this song might juuuuuuust….tempt me to open it!

  29. Linda says:

    Now who’s in front Muzza….want a hand with the Grants

  30. Old Muzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Who would have thought we would all be in fear of our lives just as Spring arrives.
    My house full of clutter(cant get into some rooms) but it is like a treasure trove of memories for me as I at last get round to doing a bit of sorting out. I know there is a Bolex 8mm cine projector in amongst it all…somewhere……and I still haven’t photographed the 10 photo albums to digitalise the Morris mens archives……………and I still haven’t got motivated to start yet!

  31. Linda says:

    Like you Muzza am doing a house blitz only problem where to store stuff till the tip and the charity shops open again ……….have you still got the bottle of grants? Love this song….and there’s some goodies coming up in the next few days…..

  32. John Bryson says:

    Hello Linda and Muzzy,

    My Wife Jane and I are having a tidy up as well – Jane is asthmatic so keeping out of the shops, I storm them!

    Linda – a great song and I agree, some fine ones coming up in early April

  33. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Linda…John….lovely to hear that you are still out there.
    Yup….still got four bottles of Grants (forgotten where they are) since I took my last shot 5 June 2018….soooooo tempted to take a nip (when I find them)
    Hang in there

  34. Linda says:

    Have to ask Muzza have you found the four bottles yet…….. Hopefully will get to The Royal this year….Always love this song which ever version it may be

  35. Jane (Maryland) says:

    I agree with all previous comments on the stellar quality of this version as well as Bellowhead’s lively rendition.

    Muzza, I had to smile at your 2020 comment about doing a bit of sorting out. Two years ago at this time we thought covid lockdown had provided the perfect opportunity to clear away all the clutter in our house. And now… well, we’ve made a start, anyway. Hope springs eternal!

    Did you ever find your four bottles?

  36. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Jane (Maryland)Well Jane….I got ‘blue lit’ to hospital in the middle of the night on 16th….just out and recovering with care at daughter’s house.
    But…I am told that, while I was away, the fairies descended on my downstairs rooms..so I don’t know what to expect when I finally get home. Not recpmended that you go to such lengths but best of luck with your decluttering!

  37. Jane (Maryland) says:

    Muzza! Glad to hear you’re on the mend. Take good care of yourself. Hope the fairies didn’t dispose of anything essential!

  38. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Whoa……well….today’s reading of the comments brought back unpleasant memories of my hospital dash of last year.
    Really weird as I had a bad night last night and was hoping that the unexplained pain hadn’t returned……thank goodness . I feel a lot better as the morning has evolved…..strange that the bad night links with previous comments!.
    loved the song……still haven’t had a whisky….still haven’t found the other two bottles of Grants whisky……( old blokes….I ask yer!)
    Ha..Jane(Maryland)….my ‘children’ ( aged 63/61/58!) tidying up was a disaster….still can’t find lots of things that they stuffed in bags and stacked up!

  39. Linda says:

    Cant believe I missed this one …….happy hunting Muzza

  40. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Cor blimey…….didn’t need to be reminded of some events of past years…but on a lighter note…have found three bottles of Grants but (because of meds) have declined to open them. wow-that’s six years…and I gave up pipe smoking 23Apr 1997…loved the smell of Condor original.. and look at the prices of tobacco these days aaaarrrgghhh-who’d have thought it!

  41. Linda says:

    OOOO Muzza can look after Grants for you if you are short of space always like this song as usual catching up again

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