Kist O Gold (1976)
[Trailer LER 2103]
Recorded and produced by Bill Leader
Artist : Dick Gaughan
Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
The Earl of Errol (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
The story of a little bit of aristocratic in-fighting, with each partner in the marriage blaming the other for their childlessness. At first glance it appears to be simply a typical piece of male chauvinism but there is more to it than that - the underlying conflict is not about sex at all but, as ever, about money, privilege, inheritance and property. The guitar was tuned DADGBE.
The Granemore Hare (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
A song about hunting from the point of view of the hunted. There is a whole tradition in Ireland of songs about animals possessing the power of speech and other magical attributes. I learned this from Tommy Sands.
Rigs O Rye (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
A very popular song at the time I started singing publicly. Can't recall now where I learned it but it is included in several collections of songs from the NE of Scotland and it is part of the core repertoire of many singers in that part of the world.
The Gipsy Laddies (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
Perhaps the most common and widely distributed theme in balladry. This version is a collation from several other versions - I think I started out with Jeannie Robertson's basic reading of it then over the years, as I heard verses in others which attracted me, I included them in one form or another. The guitar was tuned DAAEAE.
Lord Randal (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
Like The Gipsy Laddies, a very common theme. I learned this particular version from Bob Laing, sculptor living in Edinburgh.
Maggie Lauder / The Earl's Chair (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
In essence, Maggie Lauder, although written by a man, is a celebration of female sexuality; which probably explains why the overtly sexual nature of the song was overlooked by the bourgeois collectors who blissfully included it in collections from which they had excluded numerous innocuous others on the grounds of their 'coarseness. Although the autonomy of women was a natural element of older Scottish culture, in post-Reformation times the concept of a sexually aggressive and independent woman was beyond the grasp of most middle-class male intellectuals and so they would accept the song at literal face value. So there is a subtextual strand of subversive humour attached to this song. The Earl's Chair is simply a rather nice reel which seemed to flow naturally after the song. The guitar was tuned DADGBE.
Banks of Green Willow (Trad. arr. Gaughan)
This version of this popular ballad was learned from listening to Ewan MacColl, the supreme craftsman of ballad singing. Although I do not believe his application of theatricality will work for all singers, his techniques of study are useful reading for anyone who aspires to be a singer of the great ballads - read the appropriate section of his book, Journeyman.
51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily (words:Hamish Henderson/music:Pipe-Major James Robertson)
This was my first attempt at recording this. Two problems resulted in my returning to it 20 years later. The first was my comparative youth and the second was the limitations of analogue recording - there came a point when the tape hiss was louder than the fading guitar notes and so I had to sing the song faster than I would have liked. The digital technology of the 90s meant no tape noise so I could at last give the notes their full value, leaving them to decay almost to silence. In my late teens, this was very popular, sung as a rather jaunty march. One night in the late 60s, I heard it performed by the singer Nigel Denver, who seemed to add a poignancy to the song I hadn't heard before and this started my lifelong obsession with it. I have become increasingly aware of the elegiac nature of the piece and also its affinity with piobaireachd. I believe it to be a supreme example of the creation of new art within the aesthetics of traditional culture. The guitar was tuned DAAEAE.
The City of Savannah is one the loveliest hornpipes in existence, to my mind. I seem to recall having learned it from Aly Bain. 'Ril gan ainm' means literally 'reel without a name'. The guitar was tuned DADGBE.
Raglan Road (Patrick Kavanagh)
Learned from Al O'Donnell. I decided to sing this after Al took me on a tour of Dublin pubs, searching for the perfect pint of stout, which turned into a detailed explanation of all the references in the poem. If you want to understand any piece of Dublin literature (especially Joyce) get a native Dubliner to take you on a pubcrawl. The tune is Dawning of the Day which I believe is Scottish although this is disputed by Irish singers.
Johnny Miner (Ed Pickford)
Ed has written several songs which have become folk-club standards. The full relevance of this song became clear in the mass pit closures of the 1980s.
The Ballad of Accounting (Ewan MacColl)
I first heard this sung on an early Topic recording by the Exiles, a group of Scots living in London - although the lineup altered over the years, the early core was Enoch Kent, Gordon McCulloch and Bobby Campbell.
This was my second solo recording and was recorded in 1975 by Bill Leader who by this time had moved to Halifax and had an 8-track studio built in his house.
In the four years since recording No More Forever, I had spent a year with Boys of the Lough, lived in London, Newcastle, Hull and Accrington, toured almost constantly in UK, Holland, Belgium and Germany and finally moved back to Scotland.
I also gave up performing for the best part of a year, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way things were developing in the world of folk music. The folk clubs were beginning to split into little ghettoes with some becoming like mini cabarets, where 'entertainment' was the god and stand-up comedy (some of it resembling Bernard Manning in content) increasingly dominated. As a reaction to this, others became so antiquarian and regimented that they simply alienated visitors. Much of the campaigning idealism of the 60s had gone and that wonderful spirit of discovery which fired a generation was turning into cynicism.
But what wasn't obvious was that many of the best progressive comedians in the UK in the 70s and 80s would emerge from the folk clubs as would a great many singers and musicians who would gain a much wider popularity and have a great impact outside folk clubs. It is clear in retrospect that this period was simply a natural part of the evolution and out of it would emerge, at least among the Celts, a whole new wave of musical exploration.
John Prebble's trilogy on Scottish history, Glencoe, Culloden and The Highland Clearances had shattered 150 years of silence and 7:84 (Scotland) Theatre Company had blasted through Scotland with their astonishing The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil with its magnificent fusion of comedy, politics, satire, drama and traditional music - Hugh MacDiarmid's longed-for Scottish Renaissance had begun in earnest.
Before I had gone to London in 1971, I had worked together on occasion with both singer Bobby Eaglesham and fiddle player Chuck Fleming. Chuck had been a member of the ground-breaking JSD Band, had gone south to work with Bob Pegg and the band 'Trees'. In late 1971, I had done a tour in Holland with Chuck, fiddle player Tom Hickland from Belfast and singer Clive Woolf under the name of 'Firewater'. I then joined Boys of the Lough and those three were joined by (ex-Trees and Mr Fox) bass player Barry Lyons and by a Scots drummer called Dave Tulloch (who had worked with Clive in Cecil Sharp House) to form a band which they called Spencer's Feat. Clive then had a very serious stroke which took him out of playing and Bobby Eaglesham joined, with the band name changing to Five Hand Reel. Shortly after this, I was approached but this was during my period of temporary retirement and I declined.
A year later, Chuck decided to leave and I was totally frustrated with being solo and wanted to work with others again, particularly in trying new ideas. I joined Five Hand Reel and 3 days later we played our first gig with what was to be the permanent line of Bobby Eaglesham, Tom Hickland, Barry Lyons, Dave Tulloch and me, and began a three and a half year adventure which would involve 3 albums of which I am extremely proud, living in the back of a transit van, a lot of anguish, fights, blood, sweat and tears, getting conned and ripped-off heavily, and, I believe, some of the best and most exciting music I've ever been privileged to be part of.