Levi Stubbs’ Tears

I think this was the first Billy Bragg song I heard. Billy was a lot younger then!

For those of you who can’t understand his broad Barking accent, here are the words:

With the money from her accident
She bought herself a mobile home
So at least she could get some enjoyment
Out of being alone
No one could say that she was left up on the shelf
It’s you and me against the world kid she mumbled to herself

When the world falls apart some things stay in place
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face

She ran away from home on her mother’s best coat
She was married before she was even entitled to vote
And her husband was one of those blokes
The sort that only laughs at his own jokes
The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway

Norman Whitfield and Barratt Strong
Are here to make everything right that’s wrong
Holland and Holland and Lamont Dozier too
Are here to make it all okay with you

One dark night he came home from the sea
And put a hole in her body where no hole should be
It hurt her more to see him walking out the door
And though they stitched her back together they left her heart in pieces on the floor

When the world falls apart some things stay in place
She takes off the Four Tops tape and puts it back in its case
When the world falls apart some things stay in place
Levi Stubbs’ tears…

The modern balladeers 2: Stan Rogers

The late great Stan Rogers wrote some wonderful ballads (=storytelling songs, remember?). Here is one of my favourites, a song that’s half a ballad, half a love song. When Marci and I were first married we spent five years in rural Saskatchewan and I had many cups of coffee in farm kitchens with a can of carnation on the table, so this song carries wonderful memories for me. It seems somehow appropriate for our wedding anniversary!

So here is Stan Rogers with ‘Lies’.

The modern balladeers: Ralph McTell

Having spent the summer posting traditional folk songs, I think I’m going to post a few examples of singer-songwriters who write contemporary songs in a traditional vein – that is to say, storytelling songs, which is what the word ‘ballad’ originally meant.

Let’s start with this lovely song from Ralph McTell. He is best known for ‘Streets of London’, but in fact has written dozens of wonderful ballads. This is ‘The Girl from the Hiring Fair’. By the way, this song meets one of my criteria for being a true folk song, which is that it has been sung by someone other than the author; Fairport Convention have been playing this song for years.