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England

Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger: Items Of News



  • Items Of News
    • 1986 - Blackthorne BR1067 LP
  • Side One
    1. No More (Peggy Seeger)
    2. The Media (Ewan MacColl)
    3. True Love (Ewan MacColl)
    4. Tomorrow (Peggy Seeger)
    5. The Great Conspiracy (Ewan MacColl)
    6. If You Want The Bomb (Peggy Seeger)
    7. Un-Public Public (Ewan MacColl)
    8. Looking For A Job (Ewan MacColl)
  • Side Two
    1. Polonium 210 (Peggy Seeger)
    2. Don't Be Surprised (Ewan MacColl)
    3. Only Doing Their Job (Ewan MacColl)
    4. The Mother (Peggy Seeger)
    5. An Item Of News (Peggy Seeger)
    6. The Joy Of Living (Ewan MacColl)

  • Musicians
    • Ewan MacColl: Vocals
    • Peggy Seeger: Vocals, 5-String Banjo, Guitar, Appalachian Dulcimer, English Concertina, Bandolin
    • Steve Berry: Bass
    • Pete Cooper: Fiddle
    • Nick France: Drums
    • Calum MacColl: Supporting Vocals, Dulcimer, Guitar
    • Neill MacColl: Guitar
    • Peggy Seeger:
    • Firoz Sharup: Piano
    • Chorus: Sophie Cox, Calum and Neill MacColl, Eric Maddern, Virman Man, Sue Norwell, Irene Scott
  • Credits
    • Cover design: Irene Scott
    • Sound Engineer: Harun Coombes
    • Production: Calum and Neill MacColl, Harun Coombes
    • Recorded at Falconer Studios, London
    • © 1986 Blackthorne Records Ltd.

Sleeve Notes

  • Item: sb. A detail of information or news. O.E.D.
  • News: sb (pl). Tidings; new information of recent events; new occurrencies as a subject of report or talk. Late ME. (O.E.D.)
  • Comment is free but facts are sacred.
    • (C. P. Scott, MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, May 6, 1926)
  • Men say all newes are to be heard of at a Smythe Forge, a Barber's shoppe, or at a mill. (1589)
  • A master passion is the love of news.
    • (George Crabbe, 1754-1832)
  • As cold waters to a thirsty stone, so is good news from a far country.
    • (Proverbs XXV)
  • Ill news comes often on the back of worse.
    • (English proverb)
  • Bad news is always true.
    • (Spanish proverb)

What good news? Wars and rumours of wars? Epidemics, plagues, famine? The daily catalogue of rapes and murders? The fact that highly educated men and women who regard themselves (and are regarded by others) as individuals of enormous intellectual stature, earn their bread and butter, their Mercs and their Jags and their highly civilised way of life by creating and perfecting the means whereby human beings may destroy each other? The fact that they spread their talents over a wide field so that we, their fellow humans, may choose the manner of our dying? Shall it be by shredding? These missiles can carry explosive charges which can rip through nine-inch-thick steel-plate as if it was tinfoil. Or maybe peeling appeals to you more. The heat generated by even a small bomb is enough to peel the flesh off your body at a distance of two miles. Or there is radiation sickness — that way you can die and watch your children die too. If none of these are your cup of tea then there are nerve gases, all kinds of new developments are taking place in this field, terribly exciting and hush-hush. All kinds of terribly important and high-up people involved. And if nerve gases leave you cold (as they undoubtedly will) then there's the bacteriological things. Lots of goodies there. All those horrible diseases that used to ravage mankind can now be reintroduced at the touch of a button. And all because of those marvellously clever people, those charming folks who send their children to the best schools and who have such good taste.

That's more like it! We're used to it. It comes like Chaucer's "Smyler with the knyfe under the cloke", in the guise of the politician whose smile is like the tail-end of a snarl or like the one who's geriatrically boyish, crinkly, phonily-sincere, Honest-John-like grimace fails to conceal the naked malice of emasculation. It comes in the form of a rise in the cost of living, in the closing down of hospital wards and the axeing of social services. Bad news is when they lay you off at the end of the week and say "Sorry, but you've had it". Bad news is also called 'recession', 'unemployment', or 'redundancy', all of which amount to the same thing: not wanted on voyage, you're not needed any more. You're superfluous, you're the walking dead, the zombies. You're about to become invisible and pretty soon the plump, ageing schoolboys of government will have forgotten you. Except occasionally to round off a period or to hoodwink the TV audience when they will mouth a few hollow words of comfort: "You are not forgotten. Next year or the year after or the year after that... things will improve. You have our word for that." That's news.

So we have taken a few news items and set them to music, with our own free comment of course. Our slant on the news is rather different from many newspapers or from radio and TV. But it's propaganda! So it is, sir, Here's how the Oxford English Dictionary defines propaganda:

Any association, systematic scheme or concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine or practice.

So we are propagandist. We propagandise against racism, apartheid, war, nuclear proliferation, the destruction of the environment and the appropriation of our country's wealth by a privileged minority. And we leave you with this thought:

We may see the small value God has for riches by the people he gives them to.
(Alexander Pope, THOUGHTS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, 1727)

Ewan MacColl


Peggy and Ewan have been singing together since 1956 and they still tour America and Europe regularly. Ewan is a Scot (born 1915) who first attracted attention in the arts world through his work in Theatre Workshop, which he formed with Joan Littlewood. He is a playwright and writer and has worked in radio, television and film. He is perhaps known best for his song the First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Peggy (born 1935) is North American, of a professional musical family, with a classical musical training.

Between them they have made over 160 LP's of traditional and contemporary songs. They have written several books on the Travelling People of Britain. They have three children: Neill (27), Calum (23) and Kitty (14), all of whom have joined them on stage and on disc.

BLACKTHORNE RECORDS specialises in the work of Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl and is the first company to essue each of their new records.