Sunday, March 10, 2013

Look Out for the Bus

Dear Muse,

Most Americans haven't heard of the English folk-rock band Steeleye Span. Outrageous, don't you think? But I guess it can't be helped. After all, how many other people grew up with an English folk-rock-crazy Boomer-generation dad who saved all his Steeleye Span LPs from the '70s, and played them over and over? (My dad is just weird - and cool - that way. He's also a good singer. Probably just as well: if he sang Steeleye Span terribly I would have instinctively blacklisted them.)

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

Steeleye Span's obscurity might also stem from the fact that it was a Revolving Door Band, and many bands of this type lose popularity when their well-loved band members step down and/or get replaced (which happened a lot with Steeleye Span). Hence Maddy Prior's bus metaphor.

Despite their being a Revolving-Door-Bus-band, Steeleye Span has some pretty catchy tunes. Much of what Steeleye Span sings entails ballads, traditional songs or jigs. (A refreshing change from everyday pop, jazz, alternative and country radio.) Combined with electric guitar = TOTALLY WICKED!!!

 (No, not that Wicked.)

Another plus about the band: their albums look epic. 

                                                                      Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

Mostly the songs are about elves, spirits, epic tales of nautical adventure ("The Victory"), treacherous maids who kill off unsuspecting men ("Little Sir Hugh"), or sympathetic murderers ("Sir James the Rose"). Though, to be honest, some of those murder-themed songs get into disturbing detail. Just look at these lyrics...

She took him by the milk white hand, led him to the hall
Till they came to a stone chamber where no one could hear him call
She sat him on a golden chair, she gave him sugar sweet
She lay him on a dressing board and stabbed him like a sheep

Out came the thick thick blood, out came the thin
Out came the bonny heart's blood till there was none within
She took him by the yellow hair and also by the feet
She threw him in the old draw well fifty fathoms deep

                                                                  - "Little Sir Hugh" (full lyrics here)

Morbid, right? But it's nonetheless enjoyable for that. As the Dixie Chicks and Stephen Sondheim have suggested (in songs like "Goodbye Earl" and "A Little Priest," respectively), there's nothing wrong with a little morbidity. (I'll get to Dixie Chicks in the next blog post...)

Anyway, try out the following recordings and see what you think. These are just a few of my favorites, including a Youtube video of their 1976 hit single "All Around My Hat". (Don't blame me if some of these become Ear Worms!! You have been warned.)

                                                                                      Onward to Dixie!

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