The Old Man here — Indeed it’s cold and wet outside, not ‘tall good for a long walk today, so I’m mucking about the database for the Infinite Jukebox here. Now, some might think it is indeed more than a bit queer that the Infinite Jukebox contains recordings of performers beyond count — but it is, after all, the Infinite Jukebox. I found a version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’ with Marianne Faithfull fronting, as her boyfriend had overdosed all those years ago. I also loved the other female fronted rock and roll I listened to this morning — ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, with Linda Ronstadt as the lead vocalist! Cool, really cool.
However, I was searching the Infinite Jukebox because I fondly remembered an Oyster Band album called English Rock and Roll — The Early Years. Yes, Oyster Band, not Oysterband. The band started life some thirty years ago as Fiddler’s Dram, later becoming the Oyster Ceilidh Band and eventually dropping the Ceilidh part of their name. As the name suggests, much of their music is bloody fine dance tunes which I really like on days like today!
If you are a fan of the present-day Oysterband, their rather sedate earlier sound might surprise you. Especially when compared to the band’s angry tone during the Thatcher years, when they would sing in ‘The shouting end of life’ that ‘Hacks that want to see me shuffle off the shelf / I hand them each a bottle, I say — Go fuck yourself!’ No, this is a far quieter, more traditional band that aficionados of good electrified English folk music will love, as almost everything, unlike later albums, is traditional material — only ‘A Longport Hymn’ (written by Alan Prosser) and the ‘Holligrave’ tune (written by Ian Kearey) are contemporary in composition. Oh, John Jones’ lovely voice is here, as is the voice of the soon-to-depart Cathy Lesurf of later Albion Band fame.
Indeed it has the aspects of the later band, but it feels much different than they do a decade or so later. Listening to it play in my office as it rains outside, I’m reminded of a time before Thatcher. Bloody bitch that she was, she made folk music political as a reaction against her evil reign. Here is a more innocent, pre-Thatcher Oysterband, one where saying ‘Go fuck yourself!’ would have been unthinkable. I miss that time, that sense of innocence. As the years pass, I find myself less interested in electrified English folk than I was when it started out some forty years ago. I want to be cheered up, not depressed!
Now let’s listen in as the ever so perfect tenor voice of John Jones sings the lyrics of ‘The Prentice Boy,’ a Cheshire folk song about a cobbler’s boy who runs away to join the Spanish army. And yes, do help yourself to a bottle or two of the rather good ale I found in the Pub this afternoon!