Cover story

Cover Story: (28) The Croppy Boy. Anne Byrne or the Dubliners

Mustang - 1


Walking home
with my granddaughter from her primary school, we chanced upon a sight that fascinated her, appalled me.

Someone had just detached the nameplate of my favourite Indian (Nepalese if we are to be pedantic) restaurant in Ealing, west London and was at that moment dropping it unceremoniously into the back of a truck.

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Cover Story: (27) Seduction, witchcraft and sometimes savagery on Broomfield Hill - Bellowhead or Dr Faustus



    If this site were a little more erudite, we would probably talk a lot more about the Child ballads.



    The phrase itself evokes a rural scene in which, perhaps, an earnest Oxbridge don called Child humours farm labourers, factory workers, trawlermen, huntsmen and other toiling folk and records, one way or another, the songs they sing.


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Cover Story: (26) Joan of Arc. Leonard Cohen with or without Jennifer Warnes

Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. Is this the song, maybe one among many, that confounds my electronic (and previously slow-mail) friend Leon Rosselson, a master songsmith, and his stern view of Leonard Cohen? Read the linked piece at your leisure but the key extract is this: "The range of [Cohen's] subject matter is remarkably small. In fact, his interests as expressed in his songs can be narrowed down to one: himself. He had no imagination. He was incapable of making up stories, of inventing characters which are the warp and weft of song."

Rosselson's case against Cohen may or may not be coloured by a sharply differing outlook on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His broader point is that poetry makes for poor music; he suggests Cohen viewed songwriting as a lesser art, to the extent of making do with half-rhymes and line endings that don't rhyme at all ...

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Cover Story: (25) Blueberry Hill. Fats Domino or Johnny Hallyday and Celine Dion

Fats domino - 1

It is another of those off-piste moments for Salut! Live and the Cover Story series comparing the same song, different versions.

First of all, join me in saluting the memory and achievements of Fats Domino, who has just died aged 89. He was one of the artists whose work I most enjoyed when I started listening to music, and Blueberry Hill was among the first records I bought back then. It may still be in the loft along with greatest hits LPs by the Everly Brothers and the Shadows.

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Cover Story: (24) The Bells of Rhymney by John Denver. A welcome discovery

The little world of Salut! can be an incestuous place. The football corner of it, as many but not all readers will know, is Salut! Sunderland, the name giving newcomers a clue to the sad, troubled but - for those of us hooked - much-loved club whose occasional up and multiple downs occupy its thoughts.

In the most recent instalment of an exceptional series on the first time he saw each team Sunderland play (or their stadium), my friend Pete Sixsmith recalls watching and listening in horror as visiting supporters of QPR produced a drum and started to bang it. It does not appear until tomorrow (Friday the 13th no less), when it will be available at this link but has Pete declaring "I have a view on drums at football matches. You can probably imagine what it is" before wishing all manner of ills to those clubs with offending fans.

That, up to a point, summed up my view of John Denver. I was convinced that here was a man with a smooth voice and a repertoire stuffed with iffy songs. I mocked another good friend who is a great admirer of Denver's work, safe in the knowledge I would never relent, not even out of sympathy when the singer was killed in an accident while piloting his own light aircraft at the age of just 53 in 1997.

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Cover Story: (23) Mná na H-éireann (Women of Ireland). Kate Bush or Nolwenn Leroy

So many people have recorded the beautiful song, Mná na H-éireann, better known by its English title Women of Ireland, that it may seem a little shallow to discuss only two. But I have said previously that I believe the Cover Story series - now up to 23 and they can all be seen at this link - works best with no more than three (and I shall briefly but admiringly mention a third).

The song began life as a poem, written in the 18th century by an Ulsterman, Peadar Ó Doirnín, and was put to music, seriously beautiful music, by Seán Ó Riada, who died in 1970.

Several translations from Gaelic can be located but none is kind towards the English. The song is therefore unlikely to please anyone who believes the Crown always acted with decency, benevolence and justice towards the island of Ireland and resents any suggestion to the contrary.

The rest of us may sit back and enjoy a gripping melody and accept that the lyrics, from the tradition of depicting Ireland as a beautiful woman imploring patriots to resist the wicked English, represent a respectable point of view.

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