Shotgun, Bastard and Dribble

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

International Talk Like A Pirate Day: Part 1

Original pirate material, yaaaargh listnin t' Thar Streets.

Yes, it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day again. It seems to come round earlier every year, doesn't it? Personally, I'm feed up to that back of my wooden teeth with the commercialisation of TLAPD. People seem to have forgotten the true meaning of TLAPD: talking like a pirate. Nevertheless, it's a good excuse for a few pirate related tracks.

Harry Cox is one of the most important figures in English folk music. During the great folk music collection boom of the early twentieth century, Cox was matched only by the Copper family as a source of songs.

This particular song, telling the tale of a mercantile ship that outwitted a bunch of pirates, was recorded in a pub by the BBC in 1945 (when Cox was 60 years old). Despite the now shaky voice, it's still a captivating performance.

Harry Cox - The Bold Princess Royal

Buy English Originals

More recently, whilst filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski were struck with the idea of recording contemporary singers performing sea shanties. The result was Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys. The sometimes radical reworking of songs has prompted harrumphs of inauthenticity from shanty purists; who presumably objected to Pirates of the Caribbean on the grounds that gave an inaccurate representation of the role of ghost-skellingtons in 17th Century piracy.

The Hollywood pull of the protagonists ensured that Rogue's Gallery had a stellar line-up. Big names include Sting (who provides an enjoyable version of Blood Red Roses) and Bono (who doesn't). There are also turns by younger artists (Rufus Wainwright and Jolie Holland) and established folkies (Martin Carthy and Richard Thompson). Standout tracks include Three Pruned Men's (actually Virgin Prunes) Bully In the Alley, Jarvis Cocker's A Drop of Nelson's Blood and this ditty by Nick Cave.

Fire Down Below was originally a pumping shanty; sung when sailors were pumping water out of the bottom of wooden ships and was, according to Stan Hugill the last shanty sung for real in 1929. Cave inserts cranky, scraping guitars and ramps up the sexual nature of the song. Although he usurps the euphemism somewhat by including a whole slew of decidedly salty language.

Nick Cave - Fire Down Below

Buy Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys

With the likes of Springsteen's Seegar Sessions and Joanna Newsom's Three Little Babes, I heartily approve of this trend for popstars singing traditional songs. Roll on Fast Food Rockers: The Steeleye Span Sessions.


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