*** Updated Jan 31st ***

In which the author finally gives way to his inner hippie…

#1 – ‘The Manchester Rambler’ by Ewan MacColl:

A song from the 1930s inspired by his participation in the mass trespass action on Kinder Scout, demanding greater rights of access to wild spaces for the general public, not just the notional landowners and their gamekeepers.

MacColl was a keen rambler, travelling out of Manchester by bus into the Peak District, like thousands of other young unemployed people with time on their hands. For MacColl, rambling was integral to his politics; he did not simply find nature beautiful and the urban world ugly: instead, it was an objective of the hoped-for revolution: ‘to create a world that would harmonize with that other one that you enjoyed so much… If the bourgeoisie had had any sense at all they would never have allowed the working class into that kind of countryside. Because it bred a spirit of revolt.’ –

Recorded by P in Italy, August 2018.

#2 – ‘Mountainside’ by Yours Truly:

My one complete song. A bit of amateur ethnography coupled with observations of rewilding and thoughts about its possible futures. Fluffed the last verse a bit but like the feel of the performance otherwise. The sausages weren’t my idea!

Recorded by P in Italy, August 2018.

# -‘El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)’ music by Daniel Alomía Robles, lyrics by Paul Simon:

Footloose travel song which Simon tacked onto a 1913 composition by Robles, ‘based on traditional Andean music, specifically folk music from Peru’ which he heard being played by a band called ‘Los Incas’ in Paris. That’s a charango you can see on the table and I also recorded the song using that, which comes closer to a ‘traditional’ South American sound (the Incas’ arrangement used to back the S&G version also uses charangos) but I prefer this performance over all. A nice tune to play over this last year living out of my rucksack, often with the travel-friendly charango as the only available instrument.

Recorded by P in Italy, August 2018.

#4 – ‘Something’ by George Harrison:

Thought I’d better include a charango video. I think I learned this without ever looking up the lyrics, which would be why they’re a little ‘off base’ at times!

Recorded by A in the Czech Republic, November 2017

#5 – ‘Anděl’ by Karel Kryl:

I managed to learn two songs in Czech, this classic Karel Kryl tune and ‘Darmoděj‘ by Jaromír Nohavica (no recording yet). People seemed to appreciate the effort when I played it in public over there, and it was a moving experience to have them singing along in the way Czech people do (everybody seems to know all the words to all the songs). Spot the deliberate mistake in the melody which the audience gets right! Kryl has a big resonance over there because of his history of protest songs against the communist regime and his subsequent exile until the Velvet Revolution in 1989, see: . This is a more dreamlike song describing an encounter with an angel in an abandoned church, their debates about God, watching the birds and envying their freedom, and the singer’s attempt to replace the angel’s broken wings with new ones made from shell casings (ending their friendship after the angel flies out the window). I’ve struggled to find a good translation online, but a commenter on this thread makes the best effort, interpreting it as a song describing the boredom of military service in which ‘Forging souvenirs of empty cartridges was common amusement of soldiers’.

Recorded by A in the Czech Republic, November 2017

#6 – ‘Where’er You Walk’ by G.F. Handel:

From his oratorio ‘Semele‘, first performed in 1744. Jupiter tells Ino, Semele’s sister about all the wonderful things she can expect after he has brought her to Jove’s palace, where Semele is staying. Have sung this off & on since I was a boy and thought it might be nice to arrange it for guitar.

Recorded by O (video) & A (audio) in SE England, June 2017

#7 – ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’ – much loved folk song recorded and adapted by W.B Yeats and put to the traditional Irish tune of ‘The Maids of Mourne Shore’ by Herbert Hughes in 1909:

Yeats called it ‘an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballisodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself’. Some think this would have been ‘The Rambling Boys of Pleasure‘ which has a similar verse.

It has been suggested that the location of the “Salley Gardens” was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo where the residents cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials. “Salley” or “sally” is a form of the Standard English word “sallow”, i.e., a tree of the genus Salix. It is close in sound to the Irish word saileach, meaning willow. –

Also, ‘As well as providing willow shoots for thatching, [willow gardens] doubled up as a meeting place for young lovers’. I used to sing the Ivor Gurney version which has a beautiful alternate melody and piano arrangement, but haven’t found a satisfactory way to play it on the guitar. The Benjamin Britten arrangement is nice too.

Recorded by O (video) & A (audio) in SE England, June 2017

#8 – ‘Mountainside’ (again):

My first attempt at recording this song (see #2). I’m happy playing it at a slower pace these days….

Recorded by O (video) & A (audio) in SE England, June 2017

#9 – ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ – by Richard Thompson

My fingerstyle isn’t up to Thompson’s speed or accuracy (watch slack-jawed here, documentary discussion of the song here) so I’ve gone with this halfway house arrangement with a plectrum. When I was working as a gardener we used to stop for lunch at a cafe by the same Box Hill that gets namechecked in this song. So even though I know nothing about motorcycles, singing this reminds me of all the leather-clad bikers we’d see getting their bacon sandwiches and cups of tea with the hillside trees looming large behind us. The story of the song also makes me think of a friend of mine who lost her husband to cancer.

Recorded by A in SE England, July 2017


More to follow… vimeo has an upload limit of 1 video about this length per week so check from Feb 7th.

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