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Cover Story: (12) Ewan MacColl's Dirty Old Town. Dubliners, Pogues or the Ian Campbell Folk Group?

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It is hard to believe that 68 years have passed since Ewan MacColl wrote perhaps his second best known song, Dirty Old Town. MacColl composed compellingly on many subjects, from the challenges of modern society to travelling people and the anti-social ways of landowners to the everyday lives of trawlermen, tunnel labourers and apprentice fitters.

He was a demanding character; our folk club in Bishop Auckland had to drop plans to book him at sight of his list of conditions about nature and composition of the makeshift stage and audience discipline. Which of many versions of Dirty Old Town would have won his approval? Some readers may know the answer. Bill Taylor (that's him above) offers his own preferences for the Cover Story series, Bill's appearances on these pages illustrating that they are open to guest contributors ...

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Cover Story: (11) Christy Moore or Mary Coughlan. Ride On and horses for courses



First, a spot of housekeeping
for the Cover Story series.

As sharp observers will already have noticed, "or" replaces "vs" in the headline. I shall get round to changing the previous 10 posts in the series since the purpose of the exercise is much more to draw attention to different versions of songs than to play artists off against one another.


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Folk free: Herman's Hermits, Tom Courtenay and an ode to Mrs Brown's Daughter

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Does the fact that Sunderland supporters adapted the first big Herman's Hermit hit,  I'm Into Something Good, make it - and the band - part of the folk tradition? You're right, it does not.
Bill Taylor - I must be quick to shift the blame and that's him above - admitted this was an 'audacious/outrageous new submission'. It didn't stop him submitting it ... but stand by for a more interesting read than you thought possible on the subject of another of their hits, Mrs Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter, and its origins. And to illustrate why I am no good at pub quizzes, if asked who had the hit, I'd have got it completely wrong and replied Joe Brown and the Bruvvers. Well, there could be innocent explanations for him singing such praises of a girl also called Brown ...

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Newport and Cambridge folk festivals: a marriage made in heaven?

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Not the Joan Baez we usually see - but this was from the 1965 Newport FF

From my old friend Claire Horton, a steadfast folk and roots publicist, comes news of an exercise in town twinning that may well outstrip the link forged by Bishop Auckland and the Parisian suburban town of Ivry-sur-Seine (my parents couldn't afford to send me on the school trips, but I did play badminton there much later while living in Paris). Two of the world's greatest folk festivals - Cambridge (UK university city, not Massachusetts) and Newport (Rhode Island, not IoW) - are coming together in what Claire calls a "historic twinning" that will herald a "unique new transatlantic artistic relationship".

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Cover Story: (10) Bert Jansch or Neil Young. Needle of Death


Who said folk music has to be cheerful? Some of the best songs from the tradition, and also from the pens of contemporary writers, tackle bleak subjects. Has a better song been written on premature death from drug addiction than Bert Jansch's Needle of Death?

Diehard Neil Young fans - and I would include my elder daughter, Christelle, who is a publicist and has worked with him - would probably offer The Needle and the Damage Done as a contender. Like Jansch's song, it was inspired (at least in part) by the death of a good friend from the same cause, in Young's case Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten.

Clips I have viewed of that song show Young in considerably clearer voice than we find on his much later version of Needle of Death. It is perhaps unfair to choose, by way of comparison, an obviously younger Jansch singing his own song. But Young fans positively queue up to acclaim his shakier delivery; "that quavering voice will go with me to the grave one day," one said in a YouTube comment.

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Cover Story: (9) Leonard Cohen or the Drifters. One last dance

Photo on 08-11-2016 at 18.51 #2



Cover Story - see all items in the series here - goes from strength to strength. My second guest contributor, Sue Nicholson, is - like Bill Taylor - someone I worked with decades ago in the little district offices of the Northern Echo, Evening Despatch and Auckland Chronicle above Bell's insurance company in Bishop Auckland. They were lively days, affectionately remembered (didn't Mr Bell raise a polite but firm protest when we mistook our office for a football pitch and a less polite but firmer one when a window was accidentally smashed?).

Sue volunteered this fascinating comparison of the Drifters' classic, Save the Last Dance For Me, pointing out that it was, for Leonard Cohen, the song he chose to close concerts on his final tour (what you see was recorded in Auckland in December 2013 - yes, that's the other Auckland) while the Drifters are captured in live performance in 1974 ...



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