Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Cover Story – Dirty Old Town

“Dirty Old Town” is a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 that was made popular by The Dubliners and has been recorded by many others since.

The song was written in reference to Salford, then in Lancashire (now in Greater Manchester), England, and the place where Ewan MacColl was brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in Ewan MacColl’s Salford-set, 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard.

The song paints an evocative yet ultimately bitter picture of industrial northern England, and presages to some extent the Angry Young Man school of the 1950s.

When MacColl first wrote the song, the local council were unhappy at having Salford called a dirty old town and, after considerable criticism, the words of the song were changed from “smelled a Spring on the Salford wind” to “smelled a spring on the smoky wind”.

The Spinners made the first popular recording of the song and they sang “Salford wind”. This was hardly surprising as the lead singer on the track was Mick Groves, a Salfordian.

The song was therefore written about an English town; but because of the song’s later association with The Dubliners and The Pogues, many people tend to think of it as an Irish song, and as such, in Ireland the lyrics are popularly thought to refer to Dublin or Derry – a counter-part to the latter being Phil Coulter‘s “The Town I Loved So Well“.

My favourite version is by Rod Stewart.

 

To buy the music of Rod Stewart click HERE

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June 25, 2011 Posted by | Cover Stories, Folk, Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Haven’t had much reggae here recently so here is Marcia Griffiths and her version of one of Ewan MacColl’s greatest songs.

“The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” – Marcia Griffiths

The song was written for Peggy Seeger who later became his wife and is cherished as a MacCall song devoid of politics.

The song entered the pop mainstream when it was released by Peter, Paul and Mary (Album: See What Tomorrow Brings, 1965), and was later recorded by Roberta Flack, in 1972. The Flack version was much slower than the original: an early solo recording by Seeger, for example, clocked in at two and a half minutes long, whereas Flack’s is more than twice that length.

MacColl reputedly hated almost all the recordings of the song, including Flack’s.

His daughter-in-law is quoted as saying:

“He hated all of them. He had a special section in his record collection for them, entitled ‘The Chamber of Horrors’. He said that the Elvis version was like Romeo at the bottom of the Post Office Tower singing up to Juliet. And the other versions, he thought, were travesties: bludgeoning, histrionic and lacking in grace.”

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Cover Stories, Folk, Old Music, R&B, Reggae, Soul, Video | , , | Leave a comment

   

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