bread, beer and blood

It’s summertime, in my hemisphere anyhow, and oats and beans and barley grow and thus today’s song is John Barleycorn. This is as bloody a tale of murder as any border ballad. Little Sir John is brutally slain, dragged around, hacked apart, beaten with sticks and finally crushed between two stones. It dates from the 15th Century, was re-written by Robert Burns and has been sung by almost everyone at some time or other (my favourite version from The Imagined Village features Martin Carthy & Paul Weller (or Billy Bragg if you were lucky enough to hear it live; watch/listen and enjoy the twist at the end)). Their tune derives from the collection of Cecil Sharp. Fairport Convention sing quite a different tune, the one I know from school days as We plough the fields and scatter. And that turns the tale on its head and makes the hidden plain: no murder at all, merely the harvest-home.

Unless you consider The Wickerman to be a documentary.

This entry was posted in Billy Bragg, folk music, folk song, Imagined Village, John Barleycorn, Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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