…he’s a false, deluded young man

Remember when album covers were fun? Take this one for example. Designed by an artist named, John Connor who used an “anamorphic projection” of the band members’ features.  It looked distorted until you held up the accompanying lyric sheet, which had special pinholes through which the picture (when viewed at an angle) looked perfectly correct.

Formed in 1969, when Fairport Convention bassist, Ashley Hutchings left that seminal band with the idea for a new group that combined traditional folk songs with rock and blues, Steeleye Span (the name comes from a character in the Lincolnshire song, “Horkstow Grange”) is still in business and remains at the vanguard of the longstanding British folk revival. Not that it didn’t take a while to get there.

It wasn’t until 1973, when they were opening for Jethro Tull in concert and had released their fifth album, Parcel of Rogues, that they finally had a hit. Sung a cappella in Latin, “Gaudete” reached Number 14 on the UK Singles Chart at Christmas time and provided Steeleye Span with its first Top of the Pops performance. And it wasn’t until the group’s eighth album, “All Around My Hat” in 1975 (with the really cool cover) that they began to gain a solid international following after reaching Number 143 on the American Billboard charts.  With English origins that stretch back at least to the 1820s, the album’s rollicking title track is Steeleye Span’s highest charting single (reaching Number 5 in the UK).

Like many such traditional songs there are numerous versions with perhaps the earliest featuring a Cockney costermonger (street vendor who sold fruit and vegetables) whose fiancée has been sentenced to seven years in Australia for theft.  He vows to remain true to her by wearing willow sprigs in his hatband  (a symbol of mourning) for “twelve-month and a day.” Other versions can be found in Canada, Scotland and in Ireland, where the protagonist is a Republican girl who swears to wear the Irish tricolor in her hat in remembrance of her lover who died in the Easter Rising.

Steeleye Span’s version features lyrics that are interpolated from at least two other songs, “Farewell He” offering a sermon-like warning to young girls on the faithlessness of young men; and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” which is an old U.S. military song (still used to keep cadence in marching) that was used in the John Ford film of the same name and includes the recognizable refrain “Far away! Far away! She wore it for her soldier who was far, far away.”

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 1 May

All Around My Hat

All around my hat

I will wear the green willow

And all around my hat

For a twelve month and a day

And if anyone should ask me

The reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love

Who’s far, far away

 Fare thee well cold winter

And fare thee well cold frost

Nothing have I gained

But my own true love I’ve lost

I’ll sing and I’ll be merry

When on occasion I do see

He’s a false deluded young man

Let him go farewell he

 The other night he brought me

A fine diamond ring but,

He thought to have deprived me

Of a far better thing

But I being careful

As lovers ought to be

He’s a false deluded young man

Let her go farewell he

And all around my hat

I will wear the green willow

And all around my hat

For a twelve month and a day

And if anyone should ask me

The reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love

Who’s far, far away

With a quarter pound of reason

And a half a pound of sense

A small spring of time

And as much of prudence

You mix them all together

And you will plainly see

He’s a false deluded young man

Let him go, farewell he

And all around my hat

I will wear the green willow

And all around my hat

For a twelve month and a day

And if anyone should ask me

The reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love

Who’s far, far away

 All around my hat

I will wear the green willow

And all around my hat

For a twelve month and a day

And if anyone should ask me

The reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love

Who’s far, far away

 All around my hat

I will wear the green willow

And all around my hat

For a twelve month and a day

And if anyone should ask me

The reason why I’m wearing it

It’s all for my true love

Who’s far, far away

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s