Sunday, 27 May 2012
50: Blow the Man Down
For the 50th song on this blog, I thought I'd go back to the very first Liverpool folk song I knew of - I've had the chorus of this song rattling around in my head since I was 7: "Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down, to me whey hey blow the man down, Blow him right back into Liverpool town, gimme some time to blow the man down!" The tune I sing here is the one I've known since then, at slight variance in its 2nd half to most of the tunes I've seen written down... this is almost certainly because of the distorting effects of memory recall, but I see no point in 'correcting' my childhood memory of the tune in the interests of some false authenticity.
That said (getting off my high horse now), apart from that chorus I don't really know what other words I learned as a child, although I definitely remember the reference to Paradise Street, because the song would go through my head whenever I walked down there. There are numerous versions of this halyard shanty, but I can state with 100% certainty that the words I'm using here, based on the singing of Stan Hugill, aren't the ones I was taught as a child. They tell the story of an assault on a police officer; the protagonist in the song is accused of being a thief sailing aboard the trans-Atlantic Black Ball line, but protests that he is a victim of mistaken identity, and is actually a 'flying fish sailor'. According to Hugill this meant "a John who preferred the lands of the East and the warmth of the Trade Winds to the cold and misery of the Western Ocean" - such flying fish sailors were seen as softies in comparison to those who sailed under the harsh conditions of the Black Ball Line.
Paradise Street, once at the heart of Liverpool's sailortown, is now almost entirely engulfed by the monument to chain-store consumerism that is Liverpool One. Nevertheless, if you do find yourself 'rolling down Paradise Street' for some reason, you'll see the beautiful gates of the Sailor's Home (pictured above) have been installed there as some kind of reminder of the street's maritime history.
The various versions of Blow the Man Down are all #2624 in the Roud folksong index.
Posted by robotforaday at 17:10