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Banter VI Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter 64: This Cold Bed

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 64: This Cold Bed– This is a demo I recorded a while back. We have played the song in rehearsal but have yet to record it or perform it in our present incarnation of Banter. I wrote the words about 20 years ago but my wife told me the tune I had crafted was not a fit for the genre. Can you do better, riposted the wounded artiste? Yes. And she took the lyrics and hummed the tune that is used here, off the top of her head! Collaboration is a wonderful thing. The inspiration for the song was the hunger strike of 1981 which saw ten republican prisoners starve to death, most notably, Bobby Sands, who had been elected to the British Parliament on 9 April. The strikes were a turning point for Sinn Fein which supplanted the various nationalist groupings to become the major political force in the politics of Northern Ireland. I originally, and somewhat pretentiously, gave the song the title, The Dying Revolutionary, as I did not intend it as, solely, a loosely-based biographical item about Bobby Sands. I wanted to examine what forces could persuade an artistic individual to move from art to violence as I know the events of that summer in 1981 almost prised me from a life-long belief in liberal democracy and non-violence. Still, that awful working title stuck in my craw so I substituted what is now the better option. Sometimes it takes a while to work these things through…

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Banter VI Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 63 The Sea Around Us-

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 63: The Sea Around Us– Although he died almost 30 year ago, the songs of Dominic Behan continue to be played around the world, especially by Irish bands and performers. Notable songs include, The Patriot Game (which he claimed, with much justification, was plaigarised by Bob Dylan for God On Our Side.), McAlpine’s Fusiliers, of which you’ll find a version elsewhere on the site, and Come Out Ye Black and Tans. He was a committed socialist and republican and he had a wide network of friends and collaborators in the media politics and arts. The verse below, from this song, demonstrates his acerbity and humour: Two foreign old monarchs in battle did join/Each wanting his head on the back of a coin;/If the Irish had sense they’d drowned both in the Boyne/And partition thrown into the ocean. One summer in the mid-sixties, my brother and I hitch-hiked to Bundoran, a holiday town on the Atlantic coast of Donegal. We stopped into a church hall to hear Dominic Behan perform: still a happy memory.

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Banter VI Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter 62: I’m Not a Merry Ploughboy

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 62: I’m Not a Merry Ploughboy– In some ways, this song is a companion piece to Paddy Went Home Today. It was written around the same time (1995ish) and features a working man in Sydney. This character, however, springs not from an anecdote or acquaintance but rather is a product of pure (or should that be, fevered, imagination). In SoundCloud, where I also have a site, it is quite popular. It was given an outing or two at the Henry Lawson Club where the band used to play regularly in the mid-1990s. Now, it is being re-introduced for a new audience at the Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney. And, when we get round to recording  our usual folk ensemble version, featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bodhran, I’ll update it here. Until such time, here is a Band-in-a-Box rendition from when I was reduced to playing with myself (so sad).

 

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Banter VI Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter 61: Paddy Went Home Today

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 61: Paddy Went Home Today– I wrote this in the mid-1990s.  It was inspired by an anecdote by one of the group during a refreshment break (our rehearsals often feature such breaks, which we deem necessary- for our mental and emotional well-being, of course).  We were chatting about “characters” we had encountered in our working lives. One of these characters was a sheet metal worker encountered in the mid-1970s in inner-Sydney. This guy would slope off to the pub at morning smoko for a “cure”.  Often enough he would be missing in action when the foreman looked for him later. We have revived the song for our current repertoire as hosts of the folk club at The Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney. This version is a Band-in-a-Box demo I recorded a couple of years back. I’ll update this with the current, acoustic version featuring guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bodhran in the not-too-distant-future.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter 60: Ballyhootry-

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There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 60: Ballyhootry– I wrote this back in the mid-1990s. I must have fallen out on the wrong side of the bed that day because I created a town called Ballyhootry in the County Anywhere. I let fly at the ersatz Irish or Oirishry so beloved by Hollywood B-movies and songs. You know, where leprechauns frolic at the ends of rainbows and the beer is dyed green and quaintness rules the day to the deedle-lee-dee tootling of a tin whistle. Also a target is the rampant commercialism where Mammon trumps Tradition every time. (the use of the previous verb is not coincidental, by the way). FYI,  I still love Ireland, her blemishes notwithstanding, but I live in Australia now and consider it home- for all its imperfections. The song here is not backed by Banter but Band-in-a-Box because we have not yet recorded any version of the song, even though we’ve play it enough in the past. I’ll update, when or if we ever get round to it. In the meantime, enjoy a more rocky rendition than is heard in our acoustic oeuvre.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 59- My Last Farewell

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There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 59: My Last Farewell- Based on the last letter written by Padraig Pearse to his mother, this song was written by the O”Meara brothers (who also penned the well-known song, Grace, about another hero of the 1916 Irish uprising- Joseph Mary Plunkett). This song is often requested on our WOW fm radio show, A Touch of Ireland, here in the Penrith valley. Poignantly, the song references his brother William, who was executed the day following the execution of the Irish rebel leader. William seems to have been executed for his name rather than any significant involvement in the rising. “Willie”, a sculptor, was more involved in running St Edna’s School in Rathfarnam. Padraig, in writing his letter, was not to know that his brother, far from providing solace to the Pearse family, would join him in the ranks of the executed participants in the failed rising that provided the impetus for the founding of the Irish state within a matter of years.

 

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 58- Shelter

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There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Shelter: Song 58- Part of our repertoire since the mid-1990s, this song gets more and more dislocated from the realities of contemporary Australian official government policy, where refugees (designated as such by the UN) languish in off-shore detention camps. Written by Eric Bogle, one of our songwriting heroes, the sentiments expressed herein are closer to the hearts of many Australians than the callous real-politik practised by our major political parties.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 57- McAlpine’s Fusilier’s/Instrumental

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…
Song 57: McAlpine’s Fusilier’s/Instrumental– Over the years this has proved to be one of the most popular items in our repertoire. Obviously we enjoy playing whatever song or instrumental we happen to be performing. We play for enjoyment and not for pay. All we ask is a reasonable sound system. While we won’t make money doing this, we will make craic- and isn’t that all that matters. Dominic Behan wrote this song (among many other fine examples from the genre) and it captures the essence of the Irish navvies who, in their thousands and tens of thousands built the rail, the roads the tunnels and canals and a lot more of the infrastructure in Britain and farther afield.
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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 56- Follow Me Up To Carlow

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (plus one middle-aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and running again…

Song 56: Follow Me Up To CarlowAccording to tradition, the pipers of Fiach McHugh, the protagonist and hero of the song, played this melody as a marching tune for the Irish fighters during the battle of Glenmalure, fought 337 years ago, almost to the day of this posting. That wise oracle Wikipedia tells me, The Battle of Glenmalure (Irish: Cath Ghleann Molúra) took place in Ireland on 25 August 1580 during the Desmond Rebellions. An Irish Catholic force made up of the Gaelic clans from the Wicklow Mountains led by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne and James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglas of the Pale, defeated an English army under Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton, at the O’Byrnes’ mountain stronghold of Glenmalure. The lyrics were written by that great Irish scholar and songwriter, P. J. McCall, who also wrote such perennial favourites as Boolavogue and Kelly, the Boy from Killane. This song has long been in my repertoire and the group, Banter, is working up an arrangement (that you can hear below) that is, like so much of our latest ouevre, a work-in-progress. After a few refreshing beverages, we often get to musing about going into a real studio and recording a live, but considerably more rehearsed and  balanced version of our favourite songs…

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 55- Back Home in Derry

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (plus one middle-aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 55: Back Home in Derry– There have been books written on the life and times of Bobby Sands. Among other things, he was a songwriter who, had circumstances been otherwise, might have entered the legions of singer-songwriters of Ireland and fared well (or not-so..) in this avocation. But circumstances saw him elevated to the pantheon of Republican heroes and martyrs. He borrowed the melody for this song from Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and wrote these well-known lyrics which commemorates the transportation of Irish prisoners to Van Diemen’s land (present-day Tasmania).  We had returned to Ireland in 1979 and were living in Cushendall, Co Antrim, when the Republican prisoners in the H-Blocks of the Maze prison started to agitate for political status. I tell some of this story in another part of this blog- The Summa Quotidian Entry 34- This Cold Bed. I had written the lyrics and music but my wife thought my chords and melody were too-clever-by-half. Of course, she was right, so I “borrowed” a melody she hummed as she read the lyrics.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 54- The Lark in the Morning

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 54: The Lark in the Morning– A song in progress (we’ll probably end up copying The Dubliners version of this song with the interspersed instrumentals). At any rate, our bodhran player and main singer confided the other day that he used to sing this song way back when so we struck up the band, so to speak, and this is what resulted. We’ll keep working on it ( I was about to say, refining it but that might be a bridge- or should I say,- an inaccuracy too far…) This is one of the most popular songs, covered by many artists.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 53- Two Hornpipes

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 53:  Chief O’Neill’s Favourite/The Cork Hornpipe or Harvest Home– In 1974 , my wife bought me a small round-backed mandolin I lusted after from the music shop at the top of  Crown Street, Wollongong. I started plinking on it and after a time found that I could string the notes of these hornpipes together fairly accurately.  Of course, I slavishly followed the example of The Dubliners from a record of theirs which I played repeatedly to get the gist of the tunes. When Seannachie formed, I duetted with the gun mando player from that group- one Bertie McKnight- and for the next few years it became a staple of our performances. When the group, Banter, re-formed (again) just a few months ago, I re-introduced the hornpipes to the group. Why we hadn’t played them before remains one of life’s little mysteries because they are great tunes. Anyway, in this formation, I play guitar while the tunes are carried aloft by father and son on mandolin and fiddle respectively as the group’s main singer batters away on bodhran to mark the tempo.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 52- Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 52 & 4: Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye– I first heard this sung by Tommy Maken way back and I took it up as part of my repertoire when I was still young and green. Written by English songwriter, Joseph Geoghagen and published in 1867, the anti-war sentiment seemingly  embodied in the song may be an aretfact of 20th Century readings of it as some evidence suggests that the song was sung for comic effect in music halls in the 19th Century!   But in Ireland itjihky was sung, like Arthur McBride, as a cautionary tale about joining the British army. In any case, these anti-militaristic views were quite widespread, especially among women. We’re trying out another arrangement of the song, now, and it is still a work in progress (even though some-myself included-might quibble a bit about that word progress!) Nevertheless, it may be of interest to those readers and listeners who like to examine process as much as product.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 51- The Ferryman

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 51: The Ferryman– Like so many Irish urban songs, this Pete St John number tells of how economic forces affect the ways in which people regard their employment and the ways in which their relationships also may be subject to change. For all the gloomy sub-text, the song remains optimistic in spirit and this comes through in this treatment of it.

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 50- St Anne’s Reel

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 50: St Anne’s Reel– When we emerged from our self-imposed torpor a few months ago and started, in desultory fashion, to play music together again, we found ourselves quite rusty and found that the WD-40 that overcame this problem was the expedient solution of slowing down whenever we commenced a hazy tune. Our innate competitiveness, however, invariably resulted in the tune gradually acquiring momentum (sometimes to the extent that it eventually flew apart under centrifugal forces!) All good fun…

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Banter V Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 49- The Lonely Banna Strand

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…

Song 49: The Lonely Banna Strand– Back in the mid-seventies we sat around a fire in a bleak backyard in Werrington and sang this (and other) songs. I came across a reference to this song in an old diary and, having decided to get up and going again (even though two of us are over seventy and I’m closing on that big “O” at a rate of knots…and the baby of the group is over halfway to three-score and ten) we offer up a series of songs and tunes that we intend (at some time in the not-too-distant-future) to take into a proper studio and record a properly balanced set. I think the singer interprets this portion of the story of Sir Roger Casement with real feeling. When I lived in Cushendall, I would often take the family out to Moorlough Bay, which looks across the North Channel to Scotland, and walk the paths about the headland, thinking about the achievements of this great man. I taught, also, for nine years in the 180s at Ballymena Academy, the alma mater of Sir Roger. While I was there, they did not acknowledge him, in any meaningful way. I wonder if this is still the case?

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter 48- Let Them Not Fade Away

There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots (+ one middle aged son) gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. These songs were the resa-muso-imageult of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table is, now,  an iPad with connected mic that has somehow survived the knocks and spillages that are part and parcel of the sessions.  So here we are, up and ??running?? again…



Song 48- Let Them Not Fade Away After a quite lengthy break from blogging, I resumed keyboarding and promptly fell overboard by deleting this (original) post as I was constructing the  49th effusion (but at least it wasn’t as bad as waterboarding). Had it been one of my longer-form posts, I would have saved it in some fashion and would have been able to resurrect it whole and hearty…can you feel a “but” coming on?… but, I didn’t, and only a hazy outline of the original remains in my consciousness. A rock version of this song can be found in The Summa Quotidian sequence on this site. However, this is the bare-bones version featuring guitar and voice. The first song by The Rolling Stones I recall hearing was their single Not Fade Away from February, 1964. It made me a life-long fan of the group, particularly their 60s oeuvre. This song is part-homage, part-autobiographical snippet, which I think works pretty well.

 

 

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 47- Where is the Man

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 47: Where is the Man– First heard by one of the singers in the pubs and clubs of republican Belfast around 1970. I haven’t come across it anywhere else, but maybe it goes under another title: a not uncommon phenomenon in Irish folk. It has a great tune to it and lots of energy- just a couple of the reasons we like it.220px-robert_emmet-the_irish_patriot

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 46- The Spanish Lady

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 46: The Spanish Lady– This version is the most widely-known example. It is set in Dublin and concerns various activities of the unnamed Spanish Lady. Variants occur spanish-lady-black-beret-225_37288further afield, Belfast, in English towns such as Chester and in America. We don’t actually care if it originates in Timbuctu: it sounds and sings great!

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 45- Three Rivers Hotel

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 45: Three Rivers Hotel– An Aussie song recorded by many country artists here, most notably, the late, great Slim Dusty. It tells of the hard-working, hard-drinking blokes who undertake the hot and hellish, dirty, dusty construction jobs in the bush of Australia. The hotel, where cold beer and entertainment of various kinds is to be found, is the heart of3rivershotel the vastness and celebrated in more songs than this one. This is one of several variants on the song, written, I think, by Stan Coster, a songwriter and bushman of note, who died back in 1997.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 44- Spancil Hill

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 44: Spancil Hill– Another much loved and requested song from the 70s onwards, in my experience. It was originally a poem written by Michael Considine, who left for America in the wake of the Great Famine. He hoped to make enough money to return home and marry his sweetheart. He died at age 23 in 1873, without ever having fulfilled his dreams. But he sent a poem to his nephew on which the song is based. The punch andspancilhill power of the ballad, even in its popular, abbreviated form is a testament to his feeling for “my first and only love” .

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 43- Hard Times

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 43: Hard Times– Written by Stephen Foster who died much too soon at age 37. The wowsers of the time were smug, characterising him as a “drunkard” who wrote songs about “pathetic people”. Well, he’s remembered and revered 150 years after his death forstephen_foster such classics as Beautiful Dreamer, Gentle Annie, My Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair and Camptown Races, while his mean-spirited critics have sunk into well-deserved oblivion.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 42- Cross Me Heart

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 42: Cross Me Heart– A much requested song from audiences when we play(ed) in Western Sydney- and not only the Dubs, or, indeed, the Irish! The changes in streetscapes, manners and economic circumstances is a worldwide phenomenon, I’m sure. Often, a returning visitor to the British Isles will remark something to the effect- You know, you dubstreetwouldn’t recognise the place , now! Songs like this have a way of articulating these feelings better than we could ever express.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 41 – The Overlander

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 41: The Overlander– There are a couple of versions (at least) of this song. One is quite sedate, nice even. We don’t do that one. We prefer the Queensland version which has a lot more swagger and outlaw energy- like the legendary stockmen who drove cattle acrossdrovers immense distances in the Australian outback.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 40 – Two Irish Tunes

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 40: Two Irish Tunes– I have lost the first and I think the second is called, The Kettle Boils Over, but I’m not going to bet the house on it. Irish tunes and, to a lesser extent, songs, have variant titles. So, I’m not too distressed at this loss of information– which isirishmusos often over-rated in any case, and often useless -or, indeed, misleading in a few instances.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 39- The Triumphant and Centenary Marches

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 39: The Triumphant and Centenary Marches– Much played at Irish ceilis in past decades. These occasions were social gatherings in rural areas, especially, of Ireland and Scotland featuring folk dances of various kinds, accompanied by tea and biscuits. These gatherings were displaced by dances featuring showbands and fizzy soft drinks which were in turn displaced by discos and recreational drugs which were in turn displaced by dating sites and ceilisexting on digital media. But enough of this potted and probably wildly inaccurate social history! Anyhow, in a world of alternative facts and such-like, we enjoy playing the music of the traditional ceili even though its cultural milieu is, alas, long gone- except in a few recusant venues- God bless ’em…

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 38- McClory

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 38: McClory– Another immigrant song. Written by Pete St John about three interwoven strands of recent Irish history: the need to leave Ireland to find work, sectarianism and how friendship can overcome religious differences. One of our favourite songs, first heard from the singing of Jimmy Moore with Claddagh here in Sydney in the mcclory1990s. Unlike McClory and the persona of the song, we haven’t returned to Ireland, apart from visits, and as we get older, the song seems to improve- like a good wine.

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Banter IV Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 37- Three Score and Ten

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 37: Three Score and Ten– The events depicted in the song date to 1889 when fifteen fishing vessels and seventy or more men and boys were lost in storms off the Yorkshire coast. No one knows, definitively, who wrote the original song, but I agree with the sentiments I read somewhere that the song belongs to the people of the fishing ports and the families who suffered losses to the North Sea gales that have taken so many. Three3scoreandten score and ten, of course, is a trope for the length of human life. The magnificent King James Version expresses in Psalm 90, The days of our years are threescore years and ten;/ and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,/ yet is their strength labour and sorrow;/ for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Categories
Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 36- A Nation Once Again

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 36: A Nation Once Again– Thomas Davis, one of the main shapers of Irish identity, wrote this stirring ballad in the 1840s, making it one of the early Irish folk songs. He believed that songs were more effective than political harangues. It is notable for its classical references: for example, the 300 men  of the song’s first verse recalls the valiant Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC who, while losing their lives in defence ofthomas_davis_young_irelander ancient Greece, laid the foundations of the classical period and all its glories- of which we are the fortunate beneficiaries. While some of the references may be alien to listeners in the 21st Century, the meaning (and emotion) of the song contained in the choruses is unmistakable.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 35- The Irish Rover

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 35: The Irish Rover– A widely-known folk song: The Dubliners and Pogues produced a memorable version in 1987. I first heard it from an LP of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the early 1960s. The cultural impact is widespread: a character from the song, Slugger O’Toole, (who was drunk, as a rule) is used by a political website in Northern Ireland that provides a lively platform for diverse views on matters local and international. A successful group used the song , pluralised, to give themselves a musical identity. Covers220px-the_irish_rover of the song stretch across more than fifty years and, I would imagine, will continue into the future. As part of that musical stream, we offer this version from one of our sessions here in Sydney.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 34- Begleys

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 34: Begleys Went into the radio station today to co-host our regular fortnightly show, A Touch of Ireland. Drove there because of a phone call the night before from my partner in radio-crime that he was entertaining seven Irish backpackers from Bondi and that it may be advisable, nay, prudent, to vary our wonted routine and for me to pick him up. We always start with an instrumental- and to my surprise he started with this- a tunebegleys2 we had recorded around the table a few years back. And, indeed, it was one we resurrected just last week as part of our reconstituted sessions.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 33- Figuring out tunes…

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 33- Figuring out tunes…Just for aficianados of process- this track shows the group re-discovering tunes we used to play in the past and listeners can get the flavour of the rather chaotic methodology used to get stuff in some sort of order. The wonder is- how does anything whole ever get recorded? figuring-out-tunesHowever,  we generally reach a consensus as to what constitutes a Banter tune or song and this is the hallmark of a true group. I read about groups where a “leader” tells the others what to do, etc. but that isn’t a true group, it’s something ( not-really-Irish) else.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 32- Whiskey in the Jar

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 32: Whiskey in the Jar– Rock groups seem to like this one (Thin Lizzy, Metallica, et al). There’s something about the shape of the melody that appeals widely. This would be another song that is/was much requested when we play/played. The idea of the overlooked or inconsequential person sticking it to the Establishment has been a trope since Adam was a lad, I’ll wager. It appeals to Banter and, to be topical for a moment, it appealed towhiskey2 many millions of Americans when they voted for the outsider in the election a couple of days ago. Who will get stuck with the more dire consequences, if any, following this result, one muses?

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 31- Sonny

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 31: Sonny– Another disputed song- I have come across several versions of the song and how it came to be written. (Ron Hynes, Newfoundland folksinger, is, of course, thehi-ron-hynes-852 originator.) The good thing about being in a knockabout Irish folk band is that you can leave the wrangling to others. If you don’t care about commercial gain and prefer to gather at whim and sing and play just what you want, then the rest is just noise. All you have to do is try to create a version of the song that appeals- if only to yourselves.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 30- Deportees

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 30: Deportees– I first played this song as a student in Belfast in 1969 at at a impromptu folk session on the beach at Bangor, County Down. From memory, I first heard the song from the singing of Judy Collins in the mid-60s. (Of course, the great Woody Guthrie wrote it originally)guthriePerspective is a funny thing: the song commemorates a plane crash in 1948-a year before I was born. And still the drama plays out as I type this. Deportees in the 21st Century will be able to look down on the “wonderful Wall” promised by President Trump as they fly southwards to Mexico.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 29- Working Man

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 29: Working Man– Another song from another era. First heard this sung in the 1990s by a singer from the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, NSW, who looked and sounded like the writer and populariser of the song, Rita McNeil. It’s power is undeniable and, do you know something?: I can’t see any significant singer-songwriter penning a ballad about the ritamcneilltrials and travails of ping-pong playing employees of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as they struggle with code that will displace yet more workers and line the pockets of another generation of industrialists. But who knows? As someone once observed, prediction is very difficult, especially with regard to the future.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 28- The Monaghan Twig

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 28: The Monaghan TwigThis is an unadorned and brief essay during one of our sessions where the fiddle player and bodhran player had a bit of a go in one of the many refreshment breaks taken by the others in the group. These, although convivial in thebodhran-and-fiddle extreme, militated against the most effective use of time for group practice. Still, who do we really have to please apart from ourselves?

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 27- Denis Murphy’s/Rathlin Bog

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 27: Denis Murphy’s (or Jim’s Da’s Polka)/The Rathlin Bog An Irish traditional fiddle tune passed down by the fiddler’s grandfather and mandolin-player’s father. We insert in the middle of this polka, an instrumental version of the song, The Rathlin Bog. When we wererathlin last practising, the fiddler’s five year-old son was there bopping to the music. And I guess that’s tradition- the passing on of a musical culture.

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: Song 26- When the Boys Go Rolling Home

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 26: When the Boys Go Rolling Home– This song, I first heard from the singing of Geraldine Doyle, I think. It is rather more light-hearted about homecoming than, say, Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye. Or , indeed, that magnificent Bruce Dawe poem about the Vietnam War entitled, Homecoming. Not that the writer of the song, one Tommy Sands, is incapable of writing poignantly- I urge you to listen to There Were Roses, a brilliant song about the sectarian killings that blighted Northern Ireland for far too long. And there are fears that the dark times may come back again as a part of the unintended consequences of Brexitboysrollinghome

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Banter III Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 25- Don’t Get Married Girls

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 25: Don’t Get Married Girls– What a great song! Written by Leon Rosselson who has been around in the folk scene from the early 1960s. He is in his mid eighties now and still active and an activist. He is one of the characters I see as a role-model. It would be great to be still doing the rounds and playing in sessions at that age. Most of us in this little folk group have been married for decades, now. I’m just glad the song was not current when I was courting. We have beendont-get-married told on more than one occasion, after we have performed this satire, how lucky we are that the sentiments expressed here had not been articulated so compellingly way back then. “Why didn’t you bloody well sing this to me when we first met?”…  “I might look stupid, but I’m really  not!” is our invariably unarticulated riposte.

Categories
Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 24- The City of Chicago

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 24: The City of Chicago– Written by Christy Moore’s brother, Luka Bloom, this is a firm favourite among listeners. The Irish have many bastions in the US: Chicago, Boston, andchicago New York, to name just a few. And, as in England, the Irish were instrumental in building the infrastructure that helped propel the Industrial Age. As members, ourselves, of the Irish diaspora, songs like this have an added resonance for us.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 23- The Hills of Kerry

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 23: The Hills of Kerry– This song may be known by another name. Indeed, when we can’t recall the names of songs and tunes we are very likely to make up a title that seems to fit the song or the tune. The waltz time  and tempo here are very popular as vehicles forkerry songs and tunes that have a nostalgic cast to them. Of course, when we were younger and full of (supply here your own metaphor or idiom that characterises the energy and folly of youth) we tended not to feature so many of this type of song…

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 22- The Lark in the Morning (instrumental)

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next series posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 22: The Lark in the Morning– There is a song with this title which we will get around to recording at some stage, but here is an instrumental that has the sort of energy we like and which always enlivens a session when we gather to bash a few numbers out, have a few soothing ales and shoot the breeze. Our fiddle player gives it some welly and we all charge in too. There is something particularly satisfying about playing Irish music at full tilt. jam

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 21- Rhonda Valley Girls

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 21: Rhonda Valley Girls– A rousing songs about Welsh miners. We have seen the sad decline of old industries and processes over the past few decades and know all about the fate of once-proud workers in occupations who find themselves out of work or offered a rvgirlspaltry alternative in the casualised service sector. The election of Donald Trump is, like Brexit, a manifestation of the anger of these folk who have been waiting vainly for at least a generation for the elites to offer them something more than promises come election time.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 1- The Spanish Cloak

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 1: The Spanish Cloak– Also known as The Munster Cloak, this is a tune I first played with Seannachie in the 1970s. It’s amazing how the tides of time delivers strange configurations on the shore of the present: a chance meeting at a concert last year has led to a reunion of Seannachie for an upcoming weekend in Wollongong, with players coming from Queensland, the Northern Territory and Sydney- I’ll update the post when it’s allspanishcloak over! But back to now. When Banter formed in the 90s it quickly became a favourite with the group. It’s short but, I think, majestically sweet.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 2- A Bunch of Thyme

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 2: A Bunch of Thyme– Christy Moore popularised this song, which originates in the north of England, as far as I know. Of course, by the time it had made the rounds of the pubs of Ireland it became a naturalised member of the Irish Song Tradition. Many people listen to it and only hear a pleasant melody and overlook the dark lyrics: The rose that never will decay that the bunch-of-thymesailor gives to the maid is likely syphilis, for which there was no cure in the 17th Century where the song, most likely, originates. Banter have sung this song for decades now, and really don’t care where the song came from. And, anyway, the English have stolen plenty from us, so…

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 3- The Diamantina Drover

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 3: The Diamantina Drover– Another marvellous song which looks at the Australian experience. The drover is an iconic Aussie character anddrover here the persona reflects upon the landscape, regrets and longings in a uniquely antipodean way.  Written by Hugh McDonald who performed and recorded with the Bushwackers, the Sundowners, Banshee, Redgum, Des “Animal” McKenna, Moving Cloud and the Colonials, this is one of our favourite songs. Unfortunately, Hugh lost his battle with prostate cancer in November 2016

Categories
Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 4- Dainty Davie

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when three oul’ coots (plus a middle-aged son) gather together to make music? The following posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed -and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was first a laptop with built-in mic, and later, an iPadPro with attached mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the deal.

Song 4: The song dates to the middle of the 17th Century and it concerns the much-married minister of St Cutbert’s Church in Edinburgh- one David Williamson. At one point he was being hunted by English dragoons and, a guest of landowner-sympathisers, he was put in bed with the 18-year old daughter by her mother in an effort to hide him. The Mum returned downstairs where she plied the soldiers with liquor to deflect their ardour in searching for the minister. Williamson repaid this act hospitality and concealment by becoming intimate with the daughter. This gallant was then required to marry the saucy young girl. The song is popular among both Scottish and Irish folk-singers. I think the lyrics of this version are by Robert Burns. This song is part of our current repertoire in our monthly concerts at The Penrith Gaels in outer-western Sydney. P.S. I am happy to acknowledge the copyright owner of the photo above as ValentyneDreams who has graciously consented to this photograph being used as an visual introduction to this brief gloss on the song.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 5- The King of the Fairies/Queen of the Fairies

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 5: King of the Fairies/Queen of the Fairies– Another pair of tunes from the Irish instrumental tradition. The fiddle is central to the sound of Banter and here it is given due prominence in this brace of melodies. For me, Michael Hoffman’s 1999 Midsummer Night’s Dream with Rupert Everettkingqueenfairies as Oberon and Michelle Pheiffer as Titania springs to mind when I hear the titles of the tunes now. Anyway, I have always disliked the greeting-card imagery of fairies and angels as cute-as-buttons homoculi cavorting around petal-strewn gardens or fluffy white cotton-wool clouds.

Categories
Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 6- Donegal Danny

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 6: Donegal Danny– Another tale of the sea here. The singer always laments whenddanny called upon to do it as it is longer that the usual three minutes or so our songs typically occupy. The song, written for The Dubliners by Phil Coulter, one of the great musical talents to come out of Northern Ireland, has, as its narrator, another Old Man of the Sea. The singer notwithstanding, the rest of the group likes the song, so- democracy rules…or is it, rather, another example of the tyrannising of minorities which seems so in vogue in dictatorships, and in recent times, even such shining examples of democracy as the USA?

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 7- The Mermaid

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 7: The Mermaid– Songs of the sea are a staple of the group. We like the stories and the tunes and the rollicking pace so  many of them possess (such as the case with this example). A belief, common among sailors, was that spotting a mermaid was an omen ofmermaid impending storm and shipwreck. I have read, somewhere, that Boy Scouts in America sing song this around their campfires (which is no stranger than, say, a bunch of superannuated musos singing it around their grog-laden table…)

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 8- O’Sullivan’s John

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 8: O’Sullivan’s John– I first heard this song in the 1970s from one of the members of the folk group, Seannachie. I like to sing it as a modal tune rocking between two chords a tone apart say, C and D. When I was up in Townsville I sang it at a party and a folk group pecker-dunnethere took it up, but fancied it up with minors and such-like. I enjoyed their more sophisticated version, too, but have stuck to the more primitive version here, which I still sing from time to time. It was written by  travelling songwriter and storyteller Pecker Dunne, pictured here.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 9- The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 9: The Grand Old Duke/Heel and Toe Polkas In Banter we love bashing out lively tunes such as the pair presented here. As well as tacking on various reels, jigs and hornpipes to our songs, we enjoy focusing on the great instrumental repertoire available to aficianados of Irish music. The Heel and Toe Polka is a great favourite of Aussie Bush Bands and I can remember, at the turn of the millenium, watching people dancing up and down the main street of Gulgong to the accompaniment of the tune.

 

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 10- Now I’m Easy

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 10: Now I’m Easy– Also known as The Cocky Farmer, this great song of Aussiebogle endurance and stoicism was one of our most requested songs when we were playing on a semi-regular basis in the late 1990s. Back in the mid- 1970s, we began to listen to a great new writer named Eric Bogle. In the 80s, back in Ireland, my hair stood on end when I heard, for the first time, No Man’s Land. In the early 90s, in North Queensland, I attended a memorable concert by Bogle at the Burdekin Theatre. Long may he continue to write and sing.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 11- Joe Hill

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 11: Joe Hill– This great union song has been a part of my musical experience for many220px-joe_hill002 decades now and I am still moved by its defiant and uplifting message. Before his execution by firing squad in Utah, Joe Hill mordantly declared, in a note to IWW leader Bill  Haywood, “Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His will is also worth recording, My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”/My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow/Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill. I think Banter do a good job of the song here.

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Banter I Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 12- The Old Man’s Tale/Instrumental

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 12: The Old Man’s Tale/Instrumental– In my 20s, I played with a group in Wollongong called Seannachie. Our singer, Tony Fitzgerald, was the first person I heard singing this fine iancampbellsong. Written by Ian Campbell, a Scottish-born folksinger and left-wing activist, it was popular among the anti-nuclear Aldermaston protesters in the 1960s. Campbell was an influential force in music in his native Britain from the early sixties right up to his death in 2012. In Banter, I took it up and twinned it with the instrumental you hear at its end.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 13- Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 13: Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore– The songs of Irish emigration are legion. Before the Great Famine of the mid-19th Century, the Irish had a penchant for travel and this is reflected in the Brendan voyage and the travels of Irish monks across Europe in the Middle Ages. However, the famine forced millions off the land to starve in ditiches or seek refuge in America or Australia.The first memorable version of this song, for me, was sung by Paul Brady, in the 1970s, I think. This emigrant ballad exerts a strange but pbradycompelling pull on the listener when sung by a good singer. I would assert that this is the case here.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 14- Shoals of Herring

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 14: Shoals of Herring– The late, great Ewan McColl wrote this one. I was privileged toewan-mccoll hear him sing in the Wollongong Town Hall in the mid-1970s with his wife, Peggy Seeger. He wrote lots of fine songs about workers and the alienated. Perhaps the greatest exponent of this song was Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 15- The Raggle Taggle Gypsy/The Battle of Aughrim

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 15: The Raggle Taggle Gypsies/ The Battle of Aughrim– I first sang this song in the folk group Seannachie over forty years ago. When Banter formed in the mid- 1990s, we thought the stirring march, The Battle of Aughrim, would complement it nicely. I do wonder, though, how many fine ladies in history have ever left the money, fine clothes  and privileges of wealth and rank in order to follow a gypsy into the privations of a traveller’s life….                                                         the-battle-of-aughrim-by-john-mulvany

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 16- The Three Sea Captains

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 16: The Three Sea Captains– As I mentioned before, chimney sweeps are in my DNA but so, too, are sea captains. My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all3seacapts captains at one time or another in their lives. This graceful Irish set dance reminds me of this part of my heritage.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 17- Central Story/ The Hag at the Churn

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 17: Central Story/The Hag at the Churn– St Patrick’s Day used to be celebrated at a park near Central Station and I enjoyed it much more that the subsequent ordered and orderlychurn version that saw it contained within a secured site. This song celebrates a time about twenty years ago when we were rather younger and wilder. The instrumental at the end I initially thought was entitled The Goose in the Bog– I wonder what rhymed line I would have come up with if I had known the accurate title when writing the song…

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 18- Ride On

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’  coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps,  enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 18: Ride On– Written by Jimmy McCarthy, noted Irish songwriter, this song has been a favourite of the band since we first heard Christy Moore sing it. Although it is short, it is memorable and is often requested when we make one of our rideonsporadic appearances in public out here on the fringes of Western Sydney.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A Bit of Banter: 19- Sam Hall/ The Palmer River Song

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’  coots gather together to make music? The next bunch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps,  enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 19: Sam Hall/ The Palmer River Tune– This song has been in my repertoire for decades and when I discovered that there were chimney sweeps in my ancestry it made sense at a deep, even DNA, level. The song is twinned with a great Aussie tune from the gold-rushpalmer-river days in Far Northern Queensland.

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Banter II Songs and Tunes

A bit of Banter: 20- William Bloat/ The Sash

a-muso-imageThere’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’  coots gather together to make music? The next 20 posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps,  enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. These songs were the result of a few sessions around a table laden with alcoholic beverages of various kinds. Plonked in the centre of the table was a laptop with built-in mic that somehow survived the knocks and spillages that were part and parcel of the sessions. 

Song 20: William Bloat/Sash– Belfast built the Titanic and was also a centre for the flax industry in the 19th Century. The song is a humorous boast concerning a man having a spot of trouble with his wife. We twin it with a tune beloved of Orange folk. Belfast was one of the great industrial cities of the British Isles in the 19th Century and, like other manufacturing centres, there was a great pride taken in the quality of goods produced in the city.sash

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Songs and Tunes

Making the Living Poetry by Quentin Bega

The longueur between my eyes ungluing and fitful sleep
Can challenge a score most tedious or page a-snoring.
I know the ceremonies of the egg at breakfast time:
The scene has not exhausted TV writers yet-
And so I wrote a poem: commemoration blessed
By the “Times” (TV Times, that is.)

Galahad at the kitchen sink
Reviewing his strange position sees
In memory vast battles fought
Over sauce bottles and arduous
Pilgrimages to a point where two
Can understand a simple gesture.
Most strange: he shakes his elfish
Head and wrings the dishcloth.

Later, waiting for the post I hope again…
I take a turn around the garden, smell a rose perhaps.
Still later, looking at the sky, as I will often
Do outside; I gasp a gasp (small, of delight).
-I’ve read my Keats you know- I rush inside and grasping
Pen I live again and practise poetry:

Let me say to the whole sky- Hello!
Not forget the clouds or sheets of rain
But take them too and with them take the low
Swooped birds which flatten out the rolling plain
And make mirrors of the silver rivers:
Best seen from a curtain of rarest mind
Distilled which then attuned re-shivers
Shaking out the foil that makes me blind.

My wife interrupts creative flow: “The post
Has come.” I go, and grabbing missives from beyond
Return to recognise my writing- Self Addressed Envelopes-
Their purpose you all know, myself, I sigh, too well.
Not surprised and counting up the cost of postage
Am inspired to verse- strange term for despair.

If I could affix a postage stamp to my desires
And by swift courier send my dreams direct:
By easy payment cease to feel the gnaw
Of rats and slimy presences within my heart
How I would clerk away this toil:
Forego the rant and laugh away the blasted
Urges burned upon my shrieking mind
And feel the calm of statues to the moon.

My family gives advice, they find my stuff insipid.
“You’re in here while a world out there is going mad.”
They’re getting holes-in-one and winning journeys- sun
Drenched vistas kissing cardboard packets- I reply.
I can take advice from anyone; not proud, I scribble
Down a souped-up-eight-line poem, full of life.

We are excited! We are ecstatic!
The world has delivered another one to us!
I was just getting bored, going to bed
But we have been rescued! We have been saved!
They say that he lived with a tiger for two months!
Taught it Zen Buddhism! Chess! And Backgammon!
Lived on raw meat! The occasional peasant!
But now he has come he will tell us it all!

I’m glad I’ve taken their advice. Feeling humble, humble,
Bumble to the pub to re-acquaint myself again, again,
With vast events which justify the forests falling, falling.
Royalty is worth the trees, I see. Po-faced politicians, too.
Blessed be communicators, blessed be their names, their fame.
And glad to see democracy alive and well, I register dissent:

Trained at fox hunting, a guest in the Bourse
And schooled in reading the secret signs
On portals through which we blindly pass
Enables you to laugh when I say
“You are the enemy- you are no friend.”
For you point to rows of men in singlets and
Double-knits, girls in evening gowns and common prints
Who do knee bends if you but bow their way.

In the interests of realism I hope you understand me when I say
That though I was contrite earlier today I must report
My feelings now at the masses, the hoi polloi, have it
As you will- I’d flush ‘em down the toilet-
That they’d comprehend- the language and the action!
And now the spin-off: hear and mark the next denunciation.

We have seen the winners and heard them rejoice
Tumultuously in the city squares and coffee bars.
Hanging out of office windows, whooping along the corridors
Or tastefully gloating in Laundromats or bistros.
For they are vindicated in their perfect view: a loss
Of control of the hardening shades of real power
Releases them once again to their fragrant marshes
Until another prophet points to the beast nearing Bethlehem.

Fire in my belly, actually it’s beer, and quite a lot
Judging by the path worn, not to the Guinness tap, but
To the jakes. Emboldened now I borrow pen from man who serves
This slop and bursting from the close restraint of
Eight-line verse I sally on. I now attack my critics
Who send me S.A.E.’s instead of money through the post.

Quizzically befrowned, stop and go,
Reverse and sagaciously ponder,
Sniff and cock an ear toward
The howls of dogs around you.

The task- so fitting for your prowl.
The traces faint but soon perceived:
By all means call the others dogs
But hide your doghood from them.

A likely clump, some singing bush,
A sniffing joy, a wagging trill,
On spreading haunch give voice, for, Aye,
The masterpiece has found you.

No money in polemics, I decide, and dreaming, scheming
Come to know that I won’t win the pools- notice all these
References to Mammon? Yes, I admit I’m venal and greedy
But I’m safe ‘cause lots of poets have made it big by
Bringing the Confessional into the open. I hit upon a plan-
Listen to this discussion of my coffee-table poem:

Books are passé, my dear, don’t you know?
And little games on hooks, the same, the same,
I’m sure your husband uses to keep sane
The whiling day away, I’m sure. But tell me

Do you know what I myself have found,
All by myself while polishing my belt?
You don’t! Well, let me take you in, my dear,

-To my confidence, that is- what I have found.
I bought it in the Art shop down the road:
A coffee-table poem to firm our flaccid dreams.

I stumble up the hill and meet the wife a blazing:
“Where the blazes have you been? Your dinner’s burnt!”
I listen to the litany- I know it all by heart.
And I will be revenged- I will get her back.
Stamping to my room I hammer typing spite
Take that, and that, and that, thou awful kite!

Filling up with poison like a poison sac
Suck I in and blow me out, drinking down
And then piss out some fraction of the death
I comprehend and, indeed, I apprehend
Although it makes no difference in the end.
Breathe pure air if that you really must
And drink the chlorinated water from your tap.
But why to me you come if you would know
Why flowers will not flourish under snow?

My paranoia blossoms in the afternoon- I read new poetry.
And don’t they understand, the silly shites, ensconced inside
Their cradles in the colleges and universities? For most
I see from notes have safe positions, teaching students,
Or cosy sinecures the councils for the Arts provide:
No starving-in the-garret poets grace the page. No more:

There is no time for a new poetic
For guns are made faster than language.
The opiated spires are falling to
The rocking tilt of flashing boots.
At rest within your soft regime,
A scented bath in a palace of liquid sound:
The regiments of silence bid the eunuchs
With twisted towels from behind…

And just as darkness falls I have a swipe at God.
Oh, don’t we all? Easy, now they don’t burn us anymore.
But as Edwin Brock says, we’re left here in this century-
And that’s enough. The TV essay tells us of those men,
The particular physicists, who now aver that here it is,
Or maybe isn’t- could be fish or could be pheasant:

The hand outstretched from sky above
In Books and Tracts teach to remove
From mud and slime to be sublime
Encounter His most perfect Love.
To reach, to press, with fingers splayed
Through brush and bramble, rock and void,
Avoiding by-ways then I clutch
The outstretched hand of the anthropoid.

Black, brooding thoughts- on the dole, no work this year at all.
I’m resting! I’m resting! Well, it’s true enough-
I’m paid to play the part of bludger, work-shy me.
I pick up my guitar and dedicate a song to the Employment Minister.
I get a reggae beat; dreadlock anger- words come easy
And I sing my song alone, I sing my song alone:

I watch them from my window walking down the street
They’ve everything they’ll ever need or have to know
Why do they scream from the dole queues of their plight?
They’re all right They’re all right

I have to rise up every morning half past five
I catch the train and join the swarm just half alive
They sleep all day and party half the night
They’re all right They’re all right

My ulcers and my taxes always get me down
My neighbour’s son relaxes there’s no work in town
And yet he tells me things are getting tight
They’re all right They’re all right

I went away last summer on my holidays
But they were all around me in the sun to laze
I wonder why I work with all my might
They’re all right They’re all right

What more could they want I just can’t figure out
They take this question as a taunt without a doubt
It’s as clear as black is black and white is white
They’re all right They’re all right They’re all right…

My wife comes in and asks, “Have you written for those jobs
I marked for you in the paper?” No…no…no…no…
“I told you! You should have gone for that temporary teaching post!”
Oh God, I remember, remember last year, the last day,
That last day of teaching. We played that silly blackboard
Game. I saw more than a game. Felt a metaphor. I wrote then:

Let’s play hangman. It’s easy!
Strokes and dashes, wild guesses
That get nearer and nearer to the
Point where the rope begins to choke.

It’s fun, and a treat you know,
For the whole family. Take a flask,
Cut sandwiches and a rug to sit upon.
Find a grassy knoll- some small prominence.

Now, nicely settled, let us aid the man.
“A?” No. “Z?” Never mind, the charge
Will not survive this mob. Now look!
He’s worried. Time is short. Running out.

He knows the class only crowded there
To see an end. The last letter is now in place.
Nice to see…
Nice to see…

The memories of the past, the recent past, impels a scramble
To my box of papers, poems, songs, half-finished essay:
All the detritus of a negligent literary life. I come across
A spring-back folder read the hopeful dedication. Hopeful
In that I wrote 25, then scrubbed out five, wrote six,
Stroke, seven, stroke eight, I scrub eight, write in nine:

Twenty-nine and nothing done
And at this age to do
So, nothing doing?

Time of search and I review
And nothing in my view
Is worth reviewing.

Once I seemed to have it made
But find I’m on the make
With nothing making.

Embrace my form and find it false
But am I just a fake
Or merely faking?

I’m drinking whiskey now from a pint glass diluted with
Brown lemonade. It looks like ale but it doesn’t fool
My wife. And now we scream at one another. No point in
Describing it for you. Most of you will know what it’s like,
If not from life, from books or the TV teaching eye. I threaten
To leave. And I’m taken at my word:

What do you mean you’re going away?
You say that life with me is no longer your scene
You say our interests are now far apart
For you it’s over and you want a new start

Baby hold on this won’t take much time
I must be blind deaf dumb stupid yeah lame-witted so could you explain
Why you tell me that you want to stay friends (no thanks)
Is that what you call making amends?

Baby you have been listening too long
Those songs on the radio just don’t tell the truth
Nor do the books that you point to with heat
The Moon and Sixpence is not me at all

Do you recall when we walked down the aisle?
You swore to stay by me neither falter nor fall
You say the truth is everything now
Is that what you call breaking your vows

I want to know tell me then go
Are you leaving me because it now shows?
That you’re a failure you’ve fooled all your friends
But you couldn’t hide it from me in the end

I know I must bear some blame
I could have lied to you but what would remain
Narcissus with an echoing head
Who made love to a mirror in bed at night?

So I go. Couldn’t stay after that. And I walk. I know
A friend- he’ll put me up. He isn’t pleased. “I’ve walked
For miles- I’ve nowhere to stay!” We stand. “All right!
You’d better come in- and don’t waken the house. So what’s
It all about?” I tell him. He’s not impressed, goes to bed,
Taking pen and paper I now repay his hospitality:

My false friend tells me things that I should know
The terror in my rambling only fear of night
My lack of something called technique and feeling
Overwhelming reason why to him I should defer.

But have you seen a hare caught within a trap?
No technique or what you would call feeling
Yet the terror and pain flooding a tiny body
Makes me wince in my gross hemisphere.

This dark meandering within my resting time
When I catch the scraps of minutes when
I cast the books and pens and papers all aside
Attends no febrile muse of high domain.

There come a time, I think, when I must reject
The counsels of the learned and the sage
For time throws up a coursing track where
All their stratagems become a trap.

Where will I go now? Perhaps Australia, but no…no…
It beat me too. Quietly leaving through the glass door
At the front I walk to the shore. Remembering with pain
The lost years. I put it in a poem, the only one ever published.
Crown of sonnets, crown of thorns. Beaten and leaving,
My friends published it- favour or good riddance gesture?

I
TRAVERSING THE DUNE

“Drowning Tragedies Have Occurred Here”
We strike, tentatively, away from water.
Coarse grass closes on my foot. I fear
This place; a man saw a girl and caught her
Unaware at just this point. The dune
Has stood an age dividing Fairy Creek
From ocean waves while life, like the moon,
Has waxed and waned: a burgeoning or bleak
Retreat as circumstance rolled snakes eyes or sixes.
Pushing through the bush the senses blur
And then the foliage flows to form a rictus-
Pulls us through and into time we swirl
Where tyrant lizard stamped to win and lose
The Earth; exult and then, too late, accuse.

II
ALONG THE BEACH

Two factions, gulls, squat down; one in ooze,
The other sand prefers. The canopy
Breaks behind- a black bird arcs to use
The air, the morning under wing, slapping
Down our gazes as it traces in
The wind a portent of the bones the beach
Has hidden ‘til the rumours rolled within
The sea-tongue stripped away the skin revealing…
I did not know the beach had bones or was
So old. My son plays in a pothole twice
His size and seeks to know the why, the cause.
The wind whips my coat: I feel the ice.
Beyond the gulls are rising as a hand
Shakes the trees- the squat dune bleeding sand

III

AT NORTH BEACH PAVILION

This beach is home in summer for that band
Of sybarites who dwell inside the sun
And, surfing, dream of king-waves: timeless, bland
Rejection of our life- seen on the run.
The beach is washed away, a wreck of stone
And weed. The storms exist in time and place
But northwards the surfers run chasing foam
On unspoiled strands: sun on every face.
Schoolboys take their midday break in cars
Their fathers lend and carefully ignore
The desolation; think of girls in bars
And plan the cheap seduction placed before
Their willing eyes: the TV stations nourish
All our baser dreams so they may flourish.

IV

BATTERY PARK

Backed by high-rise flats and units: boorish
Architecture blots the sky behind.
Two cannon point to sea: did there perish
Cruising vessels in a former time?
I think not- every high park near the sea
By regulation, it seems to me, has cannon
Pointing bravely making phantoms flee,
Their bores with litter jammed and kids upon
Their roundness: candid snapshots for the album.
Gulls sweep down to eat discarded food
The council workmen throw to see the fun
As weaker birds are buffeted: a rude
But common spectacle- these gulls have fought
And thrived upon the scraps we leave to rot.

V

BELMORE BASIN

The north end graced by craft that most cannot
Afford (convict labour built the basin)
Best seen, surely, from the picnic spot.
A warning tells of fearful infestation-
Sharks! (they’d have understood the sign.)
We walk along and watch the trawlers run
In toward the southern, working end. A line
Of Norfolk Island pine has swept the sun
Back toward the dune; while out the harbour mouth
The spray, like lace, adorns a shore a million
Miles away. The gulls sweep down then out
As frosty flowers falling from chill
Hands…and all I know has left me- dazed
I turn and scan the basin; stand afraid.

VI

WOLLONGONG HEAD

The rocks here; fissured, whorled and splintered gave
Prefiguration to the land before
This city, poised below a frozen wave,
Stamped its uses- like a semaphore
Of silent signals radiating pain
And danger: land will not give up with ease
What aeons shaped and groaning made. In vain
We grasp the shadow, think the substance seize.
Endeavour Drive is patched with wind-blown sand.
I watch surveyors making measurements
While sand-wraiths whisper past unnoticed. Hand
In hand we walk, my son and I: we spent
The day exploring- now it nears its end.
Above, the lighthouse gleams and there we bend.

VII

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Occulting ten times a minute, sending
Light to mariners: avoid red sectors.
The reef and islands to the south sent
Men to liquid doom. The graven vectors
Etched in metal celebrate the voyage
Captain Cook assayed- he didn’t climb
Here: failure jarred his journal’s page
The sun sets, and for the first time
Today the wind drops. Tiny insects
Whir above the commemoration plinth.
A ghostly light on Fairy Creek reflects
And tarnishes the time the dune fought: since
From the water, binding close and near
It gave rise to a future human fear.

I borrow a two-man tent, a sleeping bag and fifty pounds,
Hitch a lift to Ballycastle and catch the boat for Rathlin Island,
Almost as inaccessible as Australia, and as bare. It awakens memories.
Out through Ouig, past the loughs I walk to Ushet Point reflecting
And remembering, hearing in my head the song I wrote upon returning:
The light reflects upon the waters of the sound as I sing:

Singing songs over coffee cups, trancing in the gloom,
Reading Nietzsche in a darkening room, Lord how it gets you down.
I wish I were a rolling wave approaching a winter shore
Where the moon consecrated the blood as the spay hits a windowpane.

Playing fool with the troubadours, laughing in an empty space.
Changing masks in a burning glass with a rigid facility.
I wish I were a scented breeze along a garden path
Where ladies parade and sing my praise, fed swans on a silver lake.

Dreaming down in the Southland, poised beneath a frozen wave,
At the carnival of Babel lost the voice to struggle through.
I wish I were a nomad fire scorching a frosty plain
Where shadows dance as fire, a lance, keeps at bay night again.

Sailing in through the spice-lands, watching as the curve fell north,
Under the shadow of Krakatoa, held my breath until we passed.
I wish I were a high peak scraping holes in heaven’s floor,
Sun above and clouds below, surrounded by prayers and poems.

But I go back. A week on Rathlin does me. I can’t be Joyce or Singe.
No, perhaps for me, naiveté, domesticity, and, yes, verbosity,
Is as close to high art as I will get. We meet, my wife and I:
She cries a bit, and so do I- not the stern stuff of heroes made.
Walking back to my room, resuming the life I left before,
I feel a dislocation and try to type the ghosts away:

It seems so strange, after days and days away,
To come back- as to a scene of murder.
First the slow survey. You recognise a pile
Of papers, written on and once sufficient
To hold at bay what you have since become.
It seems so strange, after days and days away.

My forensic skill increases- to read the clues,
Discarded whistles, mute bouzoukis, flaccid
Bodhran, banjos, bones and my guitars
Lie scattered in the room to which I come
To try to re-establish lost communion.

And can it be repaired, so much hope
For this one, last throw? Driven back
Impacted, retreating like a stone before a flood
And even the ossified heart sends out its signals
Help help help help help help help help.

And so my life goes on. The dole-man’s been, has to know
The reason why I haven’t signed. I’ll tell a lie tomorrow.
And reaching for my Russell, read again that magic prose
Made for dunderheads like me- explaining Western thought.
Then, taking down the Tao Te Ching, I read my favourite passages
And from them both I gain, once more, a reason why I write my poems:

Any way may lead to no end:
No way may lead to the One.

In the room a pale electric glow
Allows the cursory pen
To lead the line, direct the flow
Wherein a poem or tale is spun.

Further into darkness spinning round
Begins the night squalls

The table shakes
The words are written down

The house shakes
The wind is at the walls.

I climb the stairs, I’m tired now. My wife is sleeping in the
Other bed- no chance of her joining me tonight. I look in on the
Kids. Yes, they’re both asleep- I wonder did they miss me?
But sleep won’t come just yet. I reach beneath the bed and
Set down random thoughts on the pad I always keep there. A cat
Cries, and the gibbous moon outside inspires a nocturne:

The cat outside my midnight window
Rubs the moon Rubs the moon
This book of poems beside my pillow
Filled with gloom Filled with gloom
My wife beside me breathing
Over there Over there
My eyes inside their sockets seeing
All so bare All so bare

The light off now and late night thoughts: a tune swirls in my
Head. And round it goes. Words come. I compose sometimes like this.
And tomorrow? Well, I suppose I’ll wake late as usual- no work.
And try to hold myself together with words and songs. I have it
Now. The words won’t go away, or the tune. The advantages of being
Simple, I suppose. And tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll make the living poetry:

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,
I’m on my knees, I’m almost off the ground.
I’m on my way back up to a life
That you won’t blight
Send back the wreath, Mr Brown.

I read your sister’s poems on the lawn,
Down by the gasworks sang songs of your son.
And if it comes out that I agreed,
Don’t send for me-
Look to the road, I’ll be gone.

The job you gave me almost filled a need,
The problem was, my spirit atrophied.
Don’t think I’m not grateful, it’s not that.
But when I look back,
I didn’t breathe, I didn’t bleed.

If we should met again, Mr Brown,
Don’t ask me to laugh with you at the clowns.
I’ll laugh at you, at your expense.
And in recompense,
I won’t shed a tear when you’re down.

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,
I’m on my knees, I’m almost off the ground.
I’m on my way back up to a life
That you won’t blight
Send back the wreath, Mr Brown.