Jon identifies that “Bellamy was asked to re-write this for a revival of The Transports and I for one prefer this version. I think Bellamy always stuck by the Bert Lloyd version, although he did perform this one live. The “Carmen / alarming” is pushing it a bit, but the rest of the song makes up for it I think.”
Mainly Norfolk covers the rewrite with Bellamy’s note that the original version with Bert Lloyd cast as Abe Carman, but simply called The Robbers Song, was “deemed too lighthearted by the producers” for a production of The Transports at the Queen Elizabeth Hall In 83. He therefore rewrote it to give it more edge, which is the version that Jon performs here. Having listened to the original, Bert seems to inject Abe with a certain roughish jollity, which acts as a counterpoint to the solemn outcome of his crime and capture. But then Abe is undoubtedly a desperate man and a bully bragging about both his exploits and the weapons that are the tools of his trade. I think the rewrite is actually fairly subtle, it’s the performance that is so very different. As the sleeve notes on the expanded version or ‘silver edition’ suggest, “In the new version he’s transformed from a rogue with a twinkle in his eye to a really mean bastard with a chip on his shoulder.” If you are unfamiliar with The Transports, then you should have a look at this, there’s plenty of information to work through including contemporary newspaper reports of the real events that inspired Bellamy’s ballad opera, but there is no substitute for hearing it. I’ll confess that at the start of this project I’d have struggled with The Transports, but with the benefit of Jon’s guidance through the world of folk songs and singers, I now find it an absolute delight.