Little Sally Racket


Jon admits “This doesn’t really work without a chorus but I didn’t have one to hand I’m afraid. I think I prefer it with a dovetailing chorus (as on Hedonism but also on the Young Traditions version from where I learnt it) but again that doesn’t work when you’re by yourself!”

I’m sure you’ll all know it by now, but it’s still interesting to hear this one shorn of all its punk-funk-folk-shanty-madness. I’m sure it was at Shepherd’s Bush last November that Jon drolly introduced this by saying, “Lots of people have asked us to drop this one… But we don’t do requests.” I remember the shock of hearing for the first time, but it’s now so ingrained as to scarcely register as anything odd. It did send me scurrying back to Bert Lloyd’s version on the Sailor’s Songs & Sea Shanties CD and even that one benefits from a massed “Haul him Away.” The only thing I can suggest is to join in yourselves and give Jon a hand. It’s also interesting to see on Mainly Norfolk that Maddy Prior has had a crack at this one and the extra verses will perhaps add an appeal to the singers amongst you. Mind you, I’m sure you could make up your own with impunity as I’m sure many will have done so before you.



19 Responses to “Little Sally Racket”

  1. This song is one of my favourites on the Hedonism album (and I discovered at the weekend that my mum loves it too).

    I actually think it works rather better than I would have expected unaccompanied, although I think that’s all down to Jon’s delivery.

  2. Shelley says:

    Definitely the “Marmite” track on Hedonism, but I love it, especially live. I now have images in my head of the band leaping around like maniacs, and Brendan playing two saxes at the same time – marvellous!

    It wasn’t until someone pointed it out to me that I realised I have a recording of Maddy Prior singing it (as “Haul Her Away” on “Bib and Tuck”) as the treatment is so different.

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

    I went to school with Nancy,Betty,Susie,Kitty,Dolly and Sally…they seemed such quiet girls at the time………Oh….and don’t believe a word that hussy Susie says.

  4. Anna says:

    I absolutely love this track on Hedonism, and I’ll never forget the first time I heard it – I hadn’t laughed so much in ages, and I love how Bellowhead keep us on our toes by throwing in something bizarre and unexpected every now and then. I think I’ll have to listen to this version a few more times before I’m convinced by it – the rowdy treatment works best for it, I think – but it’s always good to have your perceptions challenged!

  5. Nick says:

    I think Bellowhead have got this Shanty right on the nail. Shanties are working songs, sung in extreme conditions and each for a specific purpose. This shanty is meant to drive men to pull heavy ropes hard in strong seas. It has to be rousing, it has to get everyone working in unison and has to be loud and strong enough to overcome the chaos of high water, driving rain and storms. To me the shouts and screams of Jon and the other Bellowhead singers make a fine crew, bringing order over the stormy anarchy played out by the brass section.

    Incidentally a variant of this shanty is “Cheerily Man”, which has similar stanzas (Sally Racket, Susie Skinner, etc) against a slightly different tune.

    And while I’m here, I’ll mention Richard Thompson’s version, included in his “Life and Music” boxed set and noted at:

    Richard’s version even managed to involve rope hauling of a sort … he sung it live to fill time while fixing two broken guitar strings!



  6. crossstitchgill says:

    I prefer this version to that of Bellowhead. I find the raucous music hard to handle.

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    Quite literally breathtaking to sing, Jon! Well done. Great description by Shelley as the Marmite track on Hedonism. I have ‘Haul Her Away’ on Bib & Tuck as well.

  8. Diana says:

    I am in agreement with one of the above comments for exactly the same reason, I find Jon’s solo rendition preferable to the rather noisy one on Hedonism. I did not care for it all until I found Jon’s quieter one and now love it.

  9. Simon says:


    All things being equal I’ll see you next Thursday. I look forward to meeting you at last. I’ll certainly see you get on your way to your hotel. It’s quite walkable and reasonably central, although I can’t think of an especially attractive or peaceful route to get there but I’ll work on it. Providing you don’t do anything really silly it’s reasonably safe and there is a fairly simple Tube option if you prefer it, with the Bakerloo line going to Regents Park, or the Hammersmith and City to Great Portland Street, both of which are a little to the North of the venue and will return you to Paddington quickly. The pub is reasonable, but has an incredible history. There is a photo of Bob Dylan on the wall, which is not there for no reason or simple decoration. Last time I was there they had a reasonable ale on, so if you fancy a little tipple I’ll happily buy you one.

    I don’t know what your schedule is like, but if you have a little time before you have to return, I’d like to invite you over to Proper Towers, although we are a bit out on a limb in SE London. Are you flying into Heathrow or Gatwick?

    I’m really looking forward to the gig I must say! Fay is lovely, but the band she has assembled is almost without peer. A whole that is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Is anyone else attending?

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Simon: I wish! But Jealous Jane wishes you and Reynard, and anyone else, a great gig. Agree re: band line-up, so must at least get Fay’s CD ordered soon!

    Ref this song, must have been quite a spectacle watching and listening to sailors working to this shanty. Breathtaking just singing it, let alone hauling sthg to it! Very well done, Jon, on the unaccompanied version not being a bore, as some repetitive songs could potentially be…. at least when I sing ’em to missen! I’ve oft thought I sound boring and not sussed out how to make the difference yet!

  11. Diana says:

    @ Jealous Jane – envious Diana here as well. I am glad that Simon is looking out for Reynard – London can be a daunting place even when you are reasonably familiar with it, and not so much fun for a stranger attempting to find his way around.

    I just love these sea shanties and would have loved to have seen all those galleons of the past although would most likely l not have enjoyed sailing on them.

  12. Diana says:

    a bit quieter than Bellowhead’s version.

  13. Diana says:

    Still good to hear.

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  15. Old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Well that is weird………….the reply fields usually carry one’s email address and name……..they seem to have blanked out…….I have just re-inserted….might not accept the comment post
    I wonder if this is the end of the line?

  16. Old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Nope,…..the comment appeared as you can see…….must have just been a glitch.
    so I can continue talking to myself and shamelessly posting links to my Youtube efforts

  17. Peter Walsh says:

    You’re now talking to me too Muzza! Jane said you were able to post comments still, so I thought I’d try!

  18. Old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    Welcome back Peter…………….just me and thee then………(and Lindy lou always lurking around)
    now….how long will it be before the lovable old cat botherer cracks and just has to post a comment……………and maybe Daina!

  19. Linda says:

    Still lurking…..prefer the Bellowhead version

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