Friday 30 September 2011

26: Romeo and Juliet

This retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story is specially chosen in preparation for the Everton v Liverpool derby match tomorrow. I wanted to find out more about this song ever since I saw the words on the Red and White Kop Liverpool FC song archive. Turns out its another song from the pen of Stan Kelly (who also wrote, among other things, Liverpool Lullaby). This song was included on the record "Liverpool We Love You", a tribute to the club which featured numerous songs alongside the voices of manager Billy Shankly, as well as many of the players and fans. In order to prepare the record, Stan Kelly travelled for a season with the team Home, Away, and in Europe. Lucky bugger.

It's been said that the Liverpool/Everton derby match is "the friendly derby", and that's largely on account of the large number of families that feature the mixed marriages joked about in the song. Unlike other local football rivalries, allegiances aren't tied to religious affiliation or city geography, and it's not uncommon for family members to support different teams, although the increasing antagonism and constant throwing of verbal abuse during the match (as well as the regular bloodbath on the pitch) has led to many younger fans like myself wondering if this talk of the "friendly derby" is just harking back to a golden age that never existed.

Saturday 24 September 2011

25: The Liverpool Barrow Boy

Sometimes just called 'The Barrer Boy', this is popular song from the folk revival to the tune of the Irish polka 'Rakes of Mallow'. This song is featured in The Spinners' Song Book, where we are told: "The words are by Mollie Armstrong who takes the money on the door at the Spinners Club, Liverpool... Inspired by the sad sight of the Scouser barrow boys being hampered by the guardians of the peace in their profitable work of meeting public demand... A 'scuff' is a copper and a 'Judy-cop' a lady ditto."

The photo is from the Liverpool Museums website and is of fruit barrows around the side of the London Road TJ Hughes.

Monday 19 September 2011

24: Haul the Bowline

Sticking to songs with a Bootle connection, this is a version of a simple and direct short haul shanty from Hugill's Shanties of the Seven Seas (from which the illustration above also comes); Hugill tells us he "learnt this many years ago from a certain Mr. Dowling of Bootle, who had sailed in the Colonial Packets". Elsewhere (in Sailors' Songs and Sea Shanties) he explains, "Until the end of the days of sail this shanty remained a favourite song for sheeting home the foresail and for other jobs calling for a few good pulls. The pull came on the word 'haul' at the end of each verse."

Haul the Bowline is #632 in the Roud folksong index.

Monday 12 September 2011

23: The Bootle Air Raid Shelter Song

This kind of patriotic song may seem seriously out of step with modern sentiments, what with its references to "motherland" and the victory over Germany, with the tune lifted from Oscar Rasbach's music for Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" (you know, the poem that goes "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree" - Rasbach's setting was a big hit for Paul Robeson during the time of the war). All that aside, I've decided to include this air raid shelter song here anyway, because it's an important memorial to a big part of Merseyside's social history.

I got the words from Kiss Me Goodnight Sargeant Major: The Songs and Ballads of World War II, where Mrs Mary van Eker explains: "I was but a civilian who ran to the air-raid shelter every time the alert sounded. There was no author to this song really, someone sang a line and then someone sang another. It comes spontaneous to us here."

As Liverpool was such a strategically important bombing target for Nazi Germany, Bootle was very much in the line of fire, being at the northern end of the stretch of docks. Night after night the town was under a blanket of bombs, with the people of Bootle taking shelter in places like the basement of the Co-operative store on Stanley Road. On the 7th May 1941, the Co-operative basement shelter was full to capacity when the building above was hit. (The photo I'm using here records the wreckage at the site after the bomb hit.) At least 36 people died as a result; there is a memorial garden to the victims on Ash Street.

I include the song here because it's important to remember the spirit of the people of Bootle who were able to sing together as the bombs fell around them.

Monday 5 September 2011

22: The Deck of the Baltimore

A song about a stowaway on a ship from Liverpool to New York. This version is learned from Liverpool ballad singer and former demolition worker Bruce Scott, who includes it on his album "My Colleen by the Shore". The sleeve notes for that album say that he learned it in the Criterion pub, Brunswick Road, from Noel Scanlon, a Kerryman living around West Derby Road. Stan Hugill also collected a version of this song (with the title "Bold MacCarteney") from Liverpool seaman Spike Sennit, with similar words but a rather different tune; that version was published in Spin Vol. 7 No. 4, 1969 (and recently reprinted in Bosun's Locker, a collection of Hugill's Spin contributions).

The City of Baltimore, on board of which the hero of our song stows away, was a transatlantic liner built in Glasgow and operating mostly out of Liverpool, sailing at first with the Inman Line. She made her first commercial sailing from Liverpool to Philidelphia in 1856, and was scrapped in 1885.

Versions of this song sometimes go by the title of 'The City of Baltimore' or 'Bold MacCartney' (with MacCartney being spelled in all sorts of ways, such as "MacCarteney" as seen above). It is #1800 in the Roud folksong index.