The trad band Ímar: “high energy music that you listen to with your whole body”
The first Fotheringay album: yours for £100

Song of the Day: Beeswing (Her POV), by Aine O’Boyle

Andrew Curry writes: There was some chat on our Facebook group a couple of weeks ago about Richard Thompson’s timeless classic, Beeswing. Thompson’s always denied that it was “about” the fine folk singer Anne Briggs, but much more recently he told the Financial Times writer David Honigman that he had Briggs in mind when he wrote it, along with Vashti Bunyan.

Bunyan, of course, literally walked away from the music business in the 1960s, walking from Kent to the Scottish Hebrides with a horse and wagon and settled in a croft on the remote island of Berneray. The ferry to Berneray was too small for the horse, which had to be left on North Uist.

IMG_5801(Vashti Bunyan at the door of the croft, on the cover of Just Another Diamond Day. Willem Alink/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

But Thompson told Honigman that he was much more influenced by Ted the tramp when living on a smallholding in rural Suffolk :

“This old tramp used to come round every three to six months,” Thompson recalled to me many years later in a London pub, “and he’d stay with us. He was a great old boy. He had amazing stories.” Ted, the tramp, dreamt of settling down in a caravan and putting down roots; he never did.

Honigman’s piece on Beeswing, originally written as part of an FT series, was included in a book called The Life of a Song: Volume Two, a collection of song ‘biographies’ that ranges from Greensleeves to Waterloo Sunset.

As part of that he dipped into some of the cover versions. He’s not a fan of Christy Moore’s version, which Salut! Live’s editor, Colin Randall, picked out at his choice when he wrote our Cover Story on Beeswing—our most popular Cover Story, as it happens.

In contrast, he likes The Futureheads‘ a capella version. Although Salut! Live is predisposed to like Sunderland bands, I’m not that fond of their decision to snip off the last verse, which for my money is critical to the way the song works.

But he also points to an intriguing version of the song by the young Donegal singer Aine O’Boyle. O’Boyle’s not really a folk singer, or at least, the songs on her YouTube channel cover an eclectic range of styles.

But in her respectful version of Beeswing she retells the song from the point of view of Beeswing, giving her a voice rather than having her as the object of male judgment and male regret. Once upon a time this would have been known as a “distaff” version, but I’m not sure that anyone understands what the word distaff means anymore.

Does it work? You can be the judge.


Colin Randall

I think this is an excellent conversion of the original. Didn’t a band called Cake do the same sort of thing with I’ll Survive?

Dave Budge

Colin, Cake covered I Will Survive but didn’t change the words or perspective. Can’t get think of any reworking of songs that have done that, but I’m sure there are.

Colin Randall

Memory playing tricks on me, Dave. Maybe it was just the aggression - “should have that f****** lock” unless I’ve misremembered that too - that made it seem that way

Tell Laura I Love Her also rings a bell. Was there not a “Laura” reply?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)