July 2020 Update: this article, one of a few I have posted about different version of a great Richard Thompson song, is consistently the one that attracts most readers to Salut! Live.
I therefore promote it to the top of the home page and am also offering links* to two other items on the same theme, ie the respective merits of various interpretations of Beeswing.
Oh, and thank you for coming here - and please leave a comment if you feel you have something to say.
There have been more than 40 separate items in the Cover Series series. You will find them all listed at this link - and this is the original Beeswing instalment ...
Can Salut! Live's Cover Story series stagger back into life? It can. Apologies for the dearth of updates. I have been on holiday in Corsica - massively recommended - and trying to earn a living (not recommended).
Today, I turn to a song that has been haunting me for days.
On the garage shelves where I keep hundreds of CDs, I came across Christy Moore's album, Burning Times. He's made better, but some tracks stand out. I'd nominate Magdalen Laundries, Hattie Carroll and, yes, Beeswing. I've been playing it over and again, ignoring iTunes's insulting attempt to categorise it as country and western.
* SEE ALSO:
Legend has it that Richard Thompson's beautiful lyrics were inspired by the supremely gifted but eccentric folk singer Annie Briggs, described thus at Wikipedia:
Briggs was notoriously wild at this time [end of the 1960s]. There are many stories from this period about her, such as pushing [Johnny] Moynihan and Andy Irvine out of a hay loft and, on another occasion, jumping into the sea at Malin Head, Donegal to chase seals.
In an episode of Folk Britannia (a documentary history of UK folk music aired in 2006) Richard Thompson recalled that he only ever encountered Briggs twice and on both occasions she was drunk and unconscious. It is often speculated that it was Briggs who inspired Thompson's song 'Beeswing'
Whatever the inspiration, there isn't a poor phrase or badly chosen word in Thompson's lyrics, each verse offering a poetic gem. The chorus runs:
She was a rare thing Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child She was running wild
She said as long as there's no price on love I'll stay
And you wouldn't want me any other way
But who sings it best? I am loathe to depart from the author. His version, or one of his versions, can be seen in the first of my clips ...
He delivers his own wonderful song in gripping style. I love it.
The way he makes his voice rise and fall, the emphasis, the warm texture, the complete understanding of each character's thoughts ... it might have been written for him. No contest for me.
But chapeau to Richard Thompson, a truly massive British songwriting (and guitar-playing) talent for songs that contains such magical verses as this ...
Oh the last I heard she's sleeping rough back on the Derby beat
A bottle of White Horse in her hip pocket and a wolfhound at her feet
And they say she even married once, a man named Romany Brown
But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down
And they say her flower is faded now, hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains you refuse
**** You can buy the Christy Moore album Burning Times, on which Beeswing appears, at this Salut! Live Amazon line