Live music for the first time in eighteen months or so! Down to Cecil Sharp House to see the folk legend Peggy Seeger, who is 86 next month. She was performing with her (and Ewan MacColl's) son, Neill MacColl. Ewan MacColl famously wrote 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' for Peggy.
Her selection tonight was pleasant, and fairly untaxing. Peggy's voice is doing fine. She has great good humour. And she still picks a mean banjo!
Never mind Bob Dylan's eightieth next week. It's Martin Carthy's 80th today. Happy Birthday Martin!
He is the grand old man of English folk song. I've seen him perform three times - at an Oxford college in probably November 1974, at Ann Arbor in late 2003, and at a folk club in Islington perhaps ten years ago. And I was also at the Topic Records anniversary concert at the Barbican a couple of years back at which he made a brief guest appearance.
The three earlier gigs were all small, intimate almost, with an audience of under fifty. That's the sort of venue best suited to Carthy's fine guitar work and soulful vocal style. I hope I'll get to see Martin play again.
I mentioned Dylan - Martin Carthy came across Bob on the latter's first visit to England in December 1962 and pointed him towards some key English folk songs which Dylan adapted and transformed in his own inimitable way.
Martin Carthy's TV appearance below, with fiddler Dave Swarbrick, dates from 1967:
Carthy is probably best known for his adaptation of 'Scarborough Fair' - yes, it was his adaptation not Paul Simon's! - and here it is:
One from the archives! A chance finding and topical because a particular person celebrates his 80th birthday this month.
That person is not, alas, Charlie Gillett - the broadcaster and authority on rock music who died in 2010. The photos above date from his Radio London days in the 1970s. I knew him much later when he had a weekly programme on the BBC World Service. A good guy!
No, it's Bob Dylan's 80th. And going through Colin Ward's monthly Anarchy - as you do - in the issue for May 1968 (what a month!), I came across this article Charlie wrote about Bob:
Oh, and Charlie's 80th would have been next February.
I never thought I'd write in praise of Socialist Worker - but here goes! It was, in its heyday - yes, that's rather a long time ago - the most effective and successful political paper the British far left has ever produced.
I've just bought as assortment of early copies of the paper - from San Francisco! (and full disclosure as to why on request) - which reminds me what a punchy, accessible paper it once was.
For several years in the early and mid Sixties, the International Socialists - they became the Socialist Workers Party in 1977 - published a paper called Labour Worker. It usually came out monthly and reflected the group's focus on working within the Labour Party and the Young Socialists.
And at the inception of the remarkable year of 1968, it sold just a few hundred copies an issue. But then, the IS only had a few hundred members, many of them students!
In March 1968, reflecting a change of approach, Labour Worker became Socialist Worker - and in September it turned weekly with a print run of 8,000.
Its editor was Roger Protz - who later edited CAMRA's even more successful Good Beer Guide - and he steered the paper towards a more demotic, vivid style of journalism aimed at the workers the movement hoped to recruit.
At first the weekly had just four pages and was priced at two pence - that's two old pre-decimal pence ... you could buy 120 copies for a pound. Even then, that was cheap!
The paper was sold in shopping centres and at factory gates. By 1974, following an upsurge of industrial militancy, it reached a peak print run of 46,000.
Just as the paper was achieving real success, it fell victim to a faction fight. Tony Cliff, the IS guru, wanted the paper to develop worker correspondents who wrote about their own lives and struggles, based in part of Lenin's pre-1917 Pravda. Roger Protz was forced out - Paul Foot, an accomplished campaigning journalist with the Daily Mirror, took his place.
But as the political temper subsided, so did sales. The paper survives - and there are not many left-wing titles which keep going for more than half-a-century - but its sales are probably no more than a few thousand.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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