We Sing United
We’re continuing to tell the stories behind the songs we’re singing this term. All the songs were chosen by the Green Heart Army in a vote of everyone’s favourites in Sing United’s back catalogue. All six of our Sing United shows are represented in the top 15.
Here is part 2 of ‘Meet the Songs’…
This Land Is Mine
Our first two songs featured in our “This Land Is Mine” show back in March 2019 at The People’s Theatre in Heaton, Newcastle. All the songs we sang were chosen to honour those who work the land.
Public Service Broadcasting – Take Me Home. The final track on their Every Valley album recording the fall of the Welsh coal industry
Public Service Broadcasting are a London-based band with a difference! They play mostly instrumental music. Lead songwriter J. Willgoose, Esq. plays guitar, banjo, strings, samplings and electronic musical instruments. Wrigglesworth plays drums, piano and electronic musical instruments. J F Abraham can be found on flugelhorn, bass guitar, drums and others including a vibraslap. They take samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material and set them over live instrumentals. Their productions allow us to learn lessons from our past history through music of the future.
The band’s 2017 album, Every Valley, documents the rise and fall of the Welsh coal industry. J Willgoose, Esq. explained the album draws parallels with similar “abandoned and neglected communities across the western world”.
The album was recorded in Ebbw Vale, a former steelworks town in South Wales. With many guest appearances by Welsh musicians, the final track “Take Me Home” featured the vocals of the Beaufort Male Choir.
Kate Rusby – The Recruited Collier. A song that formed part of the British folk music revival after the war.
Kate Rusby is an English folk singer-songwriter from Barnsley in South Yorkshire. Sometimes referred to as the “Barnsley Nightingale”, she is now one of the best known contemporary English folk singers. After learning to play the guitar, the fiddle, and the piano as well as singing, she released her breakthrough album in 1995. “The Recruited Collier” featured on the collaboration with her friend Kathryn Roberts and also on Kate’s compilation album Ten in 2003. Kate first learned the song from her mother who, in turn, had been taught it by a friend. Following the typical tradition of passing folk songs on from one person to another and through the generations.
The song itself…
The song first emerged as part of the post-war revival of British folk music. The exact date and credit for where the song originates remain a mystery. Though the song has been adapted and performed by many different songwriters and artists. There are claims that it was originally written by Robert Anderson and the now widely known version was remastered by A.L. Lloyd. The song tells the story of a young woman in despair as her lover, a collier, goes off to war. He was enlisted by the unscrupulous recruitment methods of 18th century British Army leaders. The army wasn’t a desirable profession with low pay, flogging and barbaric discipline.
Traditional methods of recruitment involved picking up homeless and destitute men. In an attempt to increase the quality of the average army recruit, colonels would lead tours of recruiting parties round towns and villages to fill their quotas. They would ply young colliers with liquor and induce them to join up when they were too drunk and confused to resist.
After singing “The Recruited Collier” in our ‘This Land is Mine’ show in March it was such a privilege to sing this beautifully poignant song once again in our “Lest We Forget” show.
Lest We Forget
Our next three songs formed part of our “Lest We Forget” show in November 2019 at the Whitley Bay Playhouse. All the songs we sang were chosen to fit with the theme to honour the service men and women who fought for us over many years.
The Young’uns – Cable Street. The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff.
English folk group, The Young’uns, hail from Stockton in County Durham. They won “Best Group” at the 2015 and 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Group members Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes first met in their youth listening to folk music in a local pub. The Teesside Trio are known for singing unaccompanied with songs ranging from traditional to contemporary. The band got their name from being nicknamed ‘the young’uns’ at Stockton Folk Club.
Their 2017 album Strangers celebrates inspirational people and includes the story of the Battle of Cable Street. It took place on Sunday 4th October 1936 in the East End of London. There was a clash between the Metropolitan Police and anti-fascist demonstrators. The police were sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosely. Sean Cooney wrote the song telling the story through the words of Stockton teen, Johnny Longstaff. They were approached at a gig by Duncan, Longstaff’s son, who told them about his father’s incredible life story. Johnny went on the Jarrow March and was one of over 100,000 people who stood alongside the Jewish people of London’s East End blocking the march route of Mosley’s fascists.
In the same year they released Strangers, they went on to pull together a unique folk performance called The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff. The songs in the show are brought together by excerpts of recordings of Johnny telling his story.
Alphaville – Forever Young. Song written during the Cold War.
Alphaville is a German synth-pop band who grew in popularity throughout the 1980s. They released “Forever Young” on their debut album of the same name in 1984. The song was a big hit in Scandinavia and European German-speaking countries. With greater success in the United States than the UK, it wasn’t the group’s highest-charting European hit, but it became one of the band’s signature songs.
The song was released at the height of the Cold War, in the middle of debates to install missiles against the Soviet SS-20 and intense political tension. The lyrics reflect on life growing up in fear of nuclear attack at any moment, “hoping for the best, but expecting the worst; are you gonna drop the bomb or not?”.
The band released the song several times, including a limited fan edition called “Forever Young 2001”. The CD was released to fans for free and the names of every fan who ordered a copy were printed on the inside cover.
In addition to numerous covers, “Forever Young” has also become wider known from its use in movies, TV shows and commercials.
George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth). Hit song from his solo career.
George Harrison was an English musician and singer-songwriter, most famous for being the lead guitarist of The Beatles. “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” was released as the opening track of his 1973 album Living in the Material World. The song gave Harrison his second US number 1. Amazingly it knocked Paul McCartney and Wings’ “My Love” off the top spot. This gave us the only time that two former Beatles have held the top two chart positions in America.
The song is one of Harrison’s most popular, agreed by both fans and music critics, with numerous well-loved slide-guitar solos from the man himself. He wrote the song at a time when he had committed to helping refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Harrison staged benefit concerts and also prepared a live album and concert film for release. Also at this time Harrison had devoted himself to Hindi spirituality that inspired his writing in this period. He wrote “Give Me Love” with great ease and he described the song as a “prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it”.
Every concert Harrison played as a solo artist featured “Give Me Love” and a live version appeared on his 1992 album Live in Japan. Many famous artists have covered the song including Sting, James Taylor and Elton John.
The final part of our Meet the Songs series will look at the songs we’re singing this term from our “Always On My Mind” and “Emergency Planet Earth” shows.