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31 October 2017
The veil was thin, the night was dark, pumpkins were glowing and there was some silliness at the folk and blues evening. I had created some atmosphere and dressed up for the occasion as did some other guests. It’s one of the few times of the year when it’s ok to join in with the children, even if we then went on to sing songs about death, murder and gruesome things. I checked back to discover that it has been 11 years since Halloween actually fell on a Tuesday, but could not say whether that would have been a ‘Bells’ night, it may have been the one in-between.
As is customary, being host for the evening, I started the evening with ‘I am stretched on your grave’ a traditional song which was interrupted by my failure to connect the bouzouki to the sound system, being preoccupied with the Irish whistle that I played as an introduction. I moved on to Iris De Ment’s song ‘Let the Mystery Be’, an upbeat song about whether there is life after death. Apparently this is currently being used as a theme to a TV series, HBO’s mystery series ‘The Leftovers’.
Jane from Wadhurst, new to the venue, took the stage next playing bluesy high-action slide guitar and singing ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘When you’re Strange’. The guitar and sound system were somewhat at odds with each other, but in the end, all was well.
Following Jane with more bluesy vibes was Manus supported on bass by Paul. Manus gave us some of his distinctive guitar work also playing some slide tonight, very nicely complemented by the addition of Paul’s bass on ‘I’ll Put a Spell on You’. He followed this with another laid-back blues version of Ray Charles’s ‘Don’t let the Sun Catch you Crying’.
George and Mary were up next. They had gone the whole hog arriving in costume with wonderfully painted faces. I didn’t recognise George until I saw Mary. Her hair was a giveaway even though she had coloured it grey. Paul also supported them on bass. It’s very nice to hear a bit of bass. It really fills out the sound. They sang ‘The Road to Hell’ and Jesse Winchester’s ‘Ghosts’, with joyful lyrics moaning and wishing his haunting ghosts would die.
Clive went on to sing ‘The Witches Promise’, a Jethro Tull song and very appropriate too. Clive is very good at finding and singing songs which suit the changing seasons. He told a joke about his cat, jumping up onto the hob while he had left the kitchen to check out the contents of the pan, becoming a ‘Hob Goblin’, haha. With a different animal in mind, he went on to sing ‘Boris, the Spider’, a Who song.
Chris Martin had donned a mask and wig, with additional sunglasses, to join in with the Halloween theme. I daresay we would not have known it was him except that he was stationed at the sound-desk for most of the evening. ‘Who’s idea was it to wear this mask?’ was his comment from behind the false face having made his way through two of his songs: ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Sanity’. Chris has sung whilst wearing a mask before. The addition of air holes had not made this experience much better, it seems, but there is something weird about looking at someone whose face you cannot see.
Sylvie interrupted the sequence of singers by giving us a poem, and something of a quiz at the same time: ‘Droplets in this World of Time’, speaking of the immortality of the muse and the mortality of man. That’s deep, Sylvie. Within the poem were references to some immortals like Dylan Thomas, Mozart, Oscar Wilde, Enid Blyton, Elvis and Monet.
I think Simon followed Sylvie. It was a little hard to be sure, but a young man looking very like him took the spotlight next. He started with a ‘hippy ghoulish’ song by Jon Betmead, telling of how the clean white sheets became red with blood following a murder: ‘I locked her in my big-house til she lost all her mind…..’ . Simon thought the content was worrying and I think he’s right.
Putting his own gruesome and terror inducing content into a version of Stormy Weather, Simon continued with a song about glistening entrails, the dead rising from their graves being very vexing and something about raining toads. With a red moon in the sky it’s the apocalypse ……….. We were doing Halloween and Simon was giving us the End of Days. Scarey.
Another scarey sing-along followed as Frank Xerox sang Ghost Riders in the Sky, a cowboy ghost song which attracted the wailing of ghost riders in the audience. Covered many times and apparently among the top 100 Western songs of all time, it was written in 1948 by American songwriter and tv/fim actor Stan Jones with the full title of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend’. Frank continued with the song ‘Delilah’ made famous by Tom Jones. The name Delilah is associated with treacherous women because of the Bible story where she destroyed Samson. The song was written by Barry and Sylvan Mason with music by Les Reed in 1968 and it won the Ivor Novello Award for best Music and Lyrics in the same year. Following its great success for Tom Jones, it has become the anthem for Welsh Rugby Union. ‘I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more’. The audience participated and there was some demonic cackling (Helga?) at the mention of laughter. Madness and murder.
Lisa and Helga changed the tone completely, performing together, they sang ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ (made famous by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant), both playing guitar and with some lovely harmonies. Their second very beautiful song was a version of Sandy Denny’s ‘ Where does the time go’. Lisa brought her very personal style to the delivery of the lyrics and fingerstyle guitar and Helga added some fluid and sensitive flute.
Geoff, who is not a regular, stood up to sing ‘How to Save a Life’ which tells of drug addiction leading to death. This song by The Fray appeared on their debut album of the same name in 2006. ‘How did I go wrong, I lost a friend …. and I would have stayed up all night had I known how to save a life’. Sobering for sure. There may have been gremlins out to play. Certainly something affected the sound on Geoff’s guitar. He sang ‘Mack the Knife’ to follow. The song was a hit for Bobby Darin in 1959 but actually comes from ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’, known in English as the Threepenny Opera. The song was written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht and Elizabeth Hauptmann. The musical drama premiered in Berlin in 1928. It speaks about sharks teeth and blood in the water, bodies oozing life and ‘cement for weight, dear’. Oooooo, not nice.
Mike Aldridge began his first song by saying that Bob Dylan had taken credit for it, but the song was much older. ‘In my Time of Dying’ also known as ‘Jesus Make Up my Dying Bed’, is an old gospel song inspired by a passage from the Bible in Psalms 41.3. It was first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in December 1927 having been published at least as early as 1925. Dylan’s version recorded in 1962 did a lot to popularise the song. Led Zeppelin also claimed the song on their sixth album ‘Physical Graffiti’ in 1975. His second song, ‘Masochism Tango’ a Tom Lehrer song, suited the evening well: ‘Kick me once again …. If you smell something burning, it’s my heart …….. fracture my spine and say you’ll be mine …..’ sounding like a short horror film.
Keith Willson had waited for the last spot and only sang us one song. It was however, written about a real life murder which happened across the road from him when he lived in Brockley. The woman concerned had sent her man with £8 to buy weed in Deptford. Apparently he had a good night out (on £8?) and when he eventually came home she stabbed him to death. Very vivid.
Chris persuaded me to round off the evening with a final song, so I sang the traditional ‘Parting Glass’ which says goodnight but also acknowledges those who do not rise again. ‘Come fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all’.
I was very pleased that nearly everyone had chosen to sing songs that related to the theme of Halloween and especially those who went the extra mile and added costume and make-up. Very nice, it’s good to have things to laugh about especially in the midst of murder, death, witchy, scarey and ghosty things. Thank you everyone for making the evening so enjoyable, Simon for setting up, Chris driving the sound system and Clive being assistant sound engineer.
See you all soon, Ella
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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