For the last year I’ve been recording a folk song a week and uploading them to a site called 52 Folk Songs. As the name implies, my plan when I started it up was to keep going for a year. I’ve now reached week 52; over the last year I’ve uploaded something like 130 songs and taken up four different instruments* as well as the ones I played at the start**. Time for a bit of a breather, I think.
And there’s a beer connection. Well, sort of. As well as the 52 main weekly songs, I’ve been recording one or two extra songs a week, not all of them folk songs. This week the ‘non-folk’ selection was Ewan MacColl’s song Ballad of Accounting – a slightly unfortunate title, calling to mind somebody trying to be hearty and come-all-ye about double-entry book-keeping. Actually it’s not that kind of accounting. Not at all.
What did you learn in the morning?
How much did you know in the afternoon?
Were you content in the evening?
The song’s a challenge thrown down to everyone who was ever born without a silver spoon in their mouth. As if to say: This life of yours, what did you make of it? And, most importantly: People wanted to keep you down – did you let them?
What’s it got to do with beer? This. Verse four:
Did you ever demand any answers,
The who and the what and the reason why?
Did you ever question the setup?
Did you stand aside and let them choose while you took second best?
Did you let them skim the cream off and then give to you the rest?
Did you settle for the shoddy? Did you think it right
To let them rob you right and left and never make a fight?
Did you settle for the shoddy? That, for me, is exactly what CAMRA came to combat – shoddy beer; more precisely, shoddy substitutes for decent beer. Decent beer is what I believed in when I first heard of CAMRA, and what I still believe in now – decent beer for everyone. Which is also why I try to avoid getting drawn into the world of the £12 bottle and the £5 half; I don’t think there’s a future for beer in letting them skim the cream off, even if I can sometimes be one of the ones doing the skimming. With Tim Martin a Kipper and Right-Libertarians making themselves heard on the smoking ban, it’s easy to forget how left-leaning the real ale scene was in the early days of CAMRA. But I think the founding ideas of CAMRA had a real affinity with the Left: it was all about the drinkers (not the brewers) and it was all about all the drinkers, not just the tickers and cognoscenti. There was a campaign for real ale, because real ale needed to be fought for – and it needed to be fought for because big business wasn’t on our side: there was too much money to be made out of not selling it and not brewing it in the first place. I read this evening (in comments at B&B) that the CAMRGB (look it up) holds that “it is important that a brewer makes their beer how they choose” – after all, “if the consumer doesn’t like it they won’t drink it”. The capitulation to the business point of view is total. Presumably, if a brewer wants to reduce the quality of their beer and spend the money on advertising, that’s OK too – people wouldn’t drink it if they didn’t like it.
This has come out a bit more Mr Angry than I intended – I guess that’s what comes of doing Ewan MacColl songs.
So, anyway: 52 Folk Songs. Featuring 52 traditional songs, 42 other traditional… shall I start this again? Featuring 94 traditional songs, 34 non-traditional songs, and some others that I haven’t kept tabs on. Also featuring me singing and playing a bunch of different instruments. Lots of multi-tracking. Lots of songs you probably don’t know. All good stuff, apart from this one Dylan song which didn’t come out quite… er, never mind. Basically, all good stuff. Check it out.
*Melodica, zither, concertina, ukulele.
**Flute, recorder, whistle(s), drums.