Thursday, 4 February 2010

Roll on the Day

A song I had forgotten about for many years suddenly resurfaced: “Roll on the Day” by Allan Taylor. 

I heard Allan  at Stirling Folk Club and, as was the norm, I bought his album and listened and listened and listened and was moved.

Allan Taylor wrote of this song:

“I wrote this song about an old man called Henry Johnson. I would occasionally visit Henry in his high-rise apartment in Leeds for what reason I'm not really sure; he seemed to derive little pleasure from my visit and I always left extremely depressed.

Henry was typical of men who have spent their working lives in factories and coal mines in that he had breathed so much bad air, coal dust and general pollution that breathing had become difficult and painful.

I would find him during the day trying to sleep sitting in an upright chair leaning against the wall, because that was the only way he could breathe. The nights were a torment to him; when he lay down he could not sleep as his breathing was so laboured.

He used to tell me how he would lie awake and say to himself, "Roll on the day, roll on the bloody day". For foreign readers I should explain that this expression has two meanings; the first, literal meaning is a way of wishing the day to come quickly. The second, less obvious meaning is a way of wishing for the day to come quickly, when it's finally over, which is in fact wishing for death.

Henry certainly wanted death to come quick as he would very often ask me if I could bring a revolver for him so he could shoot himself.

A few days after he died I sat at the piano and thought of the things he had said. The phrase "Roll on the day" kept coming back to me, and over the course of only a couple of hours the song was written.

I've performed this song regularly all over Europe, but the most poignant and powerful renditions, in terms of audience involvement have been in the Yorkshire and Durham mining areas.

To hear the voices of a hundred members of a folk club, singing with such passion about a problem they are intimately familiar with is indeed a moving experience.”

Listen to the song now and to the audience.  Unfortunately the video cuts the audience off before the end of the song.  Despite this I find this a wonderful performance.

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