I was brought up on a diet of Beatles, Blues and Ballads.
(I once had a cat who loved to be sung to, and the sadder the song the better: he was very partial to John Dowland, but his favourites were Bruton Town and Waly, Waly . Morph used to scream in terror on the way to the vet’s, and if I sang either of these he would quieten down… possibly because he thought I was bonkers… anyway I made up a book for him,
From the Borders to the Blues, an anthology of sad songs;by Professor Metamorphosis Potts.)
Where was I? Beatles Blues and Ballads. I always liked a song with a story as a child, and make no bones about having no taste whatsoever, and no shame. My favourite Beatles numbers were She’s leaving home, and Rocky Racoon, and I knew by heart the words of Seasons in the Sun , and Where Do you go to my Lovely, (which I didn’t realise was funny at the time) and many other turgid popular ballads of the sixties and early seventies. I was saved from the plight of drowning in the syrup by folk music.
My very earliest musical memory is of my mum singing Love is Pleasing (a variant of Waly, Waly) and this memory found its way into my story Tante Rouge, where a busker plays Lord Gregory and sets Hannah thinking…. Mum claims to be tone deaf, but this isn’t true and she sings in tune too, but like me she can’t resist a story and is a lot more interested in the words than the music.
I think my dad must have had an Anne Briggs record because it is her version of Love is Pleasing that I learnt. Dad also introduced me to Ewan McColl, Alec Glasgow and a great many other politically minded folkies. And to Muddy Waters, BB King, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday… I can remember causing a meltdown at my ‘stuff the ‘O’ levels’ party when I was 16, segueing from Donna Summer’s I Feel Love to Billie singing Willow Weep For Me… what a way to find out how tolerant your friends really are! I did something similar at a leaving party when the fairly innocuous soundtrack suddenly dived into I’ll be glad when you’re dead you rascal, you… sung by Louis Armstrong, what a line.
My passion for folk continues, and I have threaded my way through generations of singers, The Copper Family, the Watersons, Shirley & Dolly Collins, June Tabor, Kate Rusby, and I am currently following Jon Boden’s A Folk Song A Day online.
It was Our Captain cried all hands by Shirley and Dolly Collins, and in particular the lines:
“You courted me a while just to deceive me,
Now that you’ve gained my heart you mean to leave me.
For there’s no trust in men, not my own brother,
So girls if you would love, love one each other.”
that sparked my short story ‘The Ballad of Polly and Ann’
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011