Welcome to this first in a weekly series in which I present music I like for you to enjoy over a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer). If you’re lucky you’ll be able to sit down with your drink, relax and listen. If you’re very lucky you’ll enjoy the music too.
I’ve stolen this idea from Kevin and Jenny of the Bartoy Blog - I hope they don’t mind: they’re on an indefinite break at the moment and I loved this feature there.
Opening this series is Matt McGinn, the late Matt McGinn (d 1977). Matt was from Glasgow (b1928) and shared the humour and left-wing politics of that age. A well-known folk-singer – Pete Seeger even took him to the States: to Carnegie Hall – he wrote, so the story goes, a thousand songs but as Billy Connolly lovingly relates “he couldna’ sing, no sense of timing and no sense of music at all”. Don’t let this worry you at all: he could write and he could entertain.
His politics and his humour is seen in his songs but there was also tenderness and this we see in the first piece:
Coorie Doon (aka A Miner’s Lullaby)
“Coorie” is a Scots word meaning “snuggle down” or “crouch down”. I used “coorie” with our kids when much younger when they wanted to snuggle in for a cuddle or just to get warm.
How typical of McGinn is this that even in a lullaby he links harsh working conditions with a baby sleeping.
With Fire and with Sword
Politics was McGinn’s driving force and he wrote many powerful protest songs. For me this is his best – “With Fire and with Sword” and this is also the only film of McGinn in action.
Strong stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Ballad of John MacLean
More politics here, the next choice telling the story, not surprisingly, of John MacLean – a Scottish working class hero from the time of the First World War. No more commentary from me is needed.
Apparently if there were any trade dispute, e.g. when the workers from the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) staged their work-in, McGinn would be there helping and singing.
After the politics it’s time for humour and there is plenty choice from McGinn and here we start with a classic.
The Jeely Piece Song (or the Jelly Sandwich Song)
In the tenements of Glasgow, kids were always (well almost) out playing. Mothers used to throw pieces out the windows down to their children. When the tenements were demolished to be replaced by high-rise flats this practice was impossible hence the song.
This isn’t fantasy: Mrs Carr’s parents both remember this practice.
Another children’s favourite now and the whole world looks for a lost red yo-yo.
The Effen Bee
Sometimes McGinn could sing down to the Glasgow humour as he does in this song about a beekeeper from the French town of Effen. Is there such a place?
Yes, I know that you know what is coming but I bet you smile anyway.
Nearly finished now and we listen now to humour with social commentary. The Gallowgate is the area of Glasgow in which McGinn was born and raised.
Magic Shadow Show
For all the politics and humour Matt could write beautifully and here he is in brilliant form. I’ve appended the lyrics below.
The Magic Shadow Show
In and out, above, below
Phanton figures come and go,
Just a magic shadow show
Come, love, watch with me.
It may be sad, it may be fun,
The leaves of life fall one by one,
The wine of life too soon is done
In this magic shadow show
A loaf of bread and you and me,
A jug of wine beneath the tree,
We will sit and we will see
A magic shadow show
A thousand blossoms of today
Will soon be scattered into clay,
Today becomes a yesterday-
Magic shadow show
Leave tomorrow and yesterday,
With old Khayyam come sip today,
Listen to my Rubaiyat,
Magic shadow show
Could you and I with fate conspire
Remould the scheme of things entire
Nearer to the heart's desire,
What a magic shadow show
Matt died in 1977 at the ridiculously young age of 49. What on earth would he have made of Maggie Thatcher who came to power in 1979. I bet he’s regaling the souls in heaven.
He is sorely missed here on earth. A rare talent - especially one who can’t sing.
Please drop by next week for another coffee and some music.