The Banks They Are Rosy — At the peak of the Berlin crisis in 1961, European newspapers carried a photograph of a prominent American politician distributing ball pens to a crowd of Western Berliners. This unique contribution to world peace inspired this song. The melody is the well-known Irish song "The Banks of the Roses" and the words are by Ewan MacColl.
Rosalie — London, like nil large cities has its traffic problems. Native-born Londoners find it difficult to cope — how much more difficult it must be for the tens of thousands of West Indians, Africans and Commonwealth peoples, who every year swarm into the capital. The melody of this song is based on an African folksong.
March With Us Today — One of the first attempts at using a British tune for a peace song in march tempo, "March With Us Today" is set to an old galliard which the author came upon in a recorder instruction manual designed for school children. Written in 1961.
Lullabye For the Times — In 1961 the Committee of 100, dedicated to nuclear disarmament, initiated its first large civil disobedience campaign. This took the form of a series of mass sit-downs outside government buildings and foreign embassies. The most spectacular of these took place on September 17 when 100,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square in defiance of a government ban. The some 6,000 uniformed guardians of the peace, who had been specially brought from all the Home counties into London's West end, were kept busy carrying the thousands of limp, passive men and women to waiting trucks, buses and Black Marias. A number of the 800 who were arrested refused to pay the fines and served out one-three months of Jail instead.
No Agents Need Apply — This light-hearted piece is written in the spirit of pure malice, though it does not refer to any agent known to the authors. In fact, all the agents of our acquaintance, particularly those resident in London, are known to be fine, noble citizens, who spend all their spare time making sacrifices in order to further the cause of folk music. If an occasional folk artist gets trampled on in the rush this must be considered as a mere occupational hazard. Written in i960, (see the song No Irish need Apply — USA (c) 1800.)
The Printer's Trade — The British Printers union, one of the large unions pledged to a policy of unilateral disarmament, commissioned this song for use on the 1961 Aldermaston march.
The Ballad of Jimmy Wilson — In 1958, James Wilson, a Negro janitor, was sentenced to death in Alabama, having been convicted of the theft of $1.75" Petitions of protest flooded in from all over the world and these may have had some effect in getting the sentence reduced to life imprisonment.
The Big Hewer — British coalminers have many stories of an almost superhuman figure who is known by a variety of names (Temple, Tempest, Torr, Towers, and in Wales, Isaac Lewis). He is also known as "The Big Hewer", or "The Great Miner". This heroic figure is to the British coalfields what Paul Bunyan was to the logging camps of the United States, what John Henry was to the Negro railway builders. This song, written in 1961 for a documentary radio ballad, incorporates a number of current mining legends told about the Big Hewer.
Shoals of Herring — The events and chronology covered in this song are based upon the life of Sam Lamer, a fisherman and traditional singer of Winterton, Norfolk. The song was composed as part of a documentary radio ballad, "Singing the Fishing".
The Young Birds — In the summer of 1961, a transport plane carrying thirty-four Croydon (London) schoolboys crashed in Norway, killing the pilot and all the young passengers. This song is written in their memory.
Needle and Thread — The garment industry, particularly in London, has been difficult to organize. The large-scale tailoring factories of-Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Glasgow, etc., are organized with the same ease as, say, the automobile industry; but in London the work, for the most part, is carried out in small shops, many of them sweatshops, employing anything from half a dozen to two-hundred workers. A number of these workers are young people without a union traditional behind them. In i960, we were commissioned by the executive committee of the National Union of Tailor and Garment Workers ( N U of T and G W) to write a song which would appeal to these young workers and have the effect of recruiting them into the union. 'Needle and Thread' was issued as a paper record, distributed free of charge in chosen factories, and played inside the factories over public address systems. The result was a noticeable increase in union membership among young people.
Hey Ho! Cook and Rowe! — (Or The Landlord's Nine Questions) In i960, the local council of the Borough of St. Pancras raised the rents of municipal flats. Maty working people found it difficult to meet the increased financial burden imposed upon them by these rents and, under the leadership of two "desert rats" (Don Cook sued Arthur Rowe), they organized a rent-strike which in a matter of two or three weeks became a national topic of conversation. The council's bailiffs were sent in but were repelled after a preliminary skirmish and from that time on the rent strike took on the character of a military siege. The tenants barricaded the buildings with barbed wire, old pianos and junk of all kinds, and from sympathisers the country over came a constant supply of canned food. The television coverage provided Britain with one of its' most popular daily shows. An army of the police- finally batonned their way through demonstrators to find that their only possible point of entry was through the roof. A group of intrepid police officers effected an entry and were greeted with the offer of a cup of tea from the strikers' general staff.
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face — It is only in recent times that popular poets have become nervous about writing passionately on the subject of love. The authors of these songs set out to prove that simple emotions did not disappear with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. Written in 1957-
Come Live with Me — The opening lines of this song are easily recognizable as coming from the famous lyric by John Donne. The song was written in 1959 as an experiment, combining several musical forms and harmony schemes.
When I Was Young — Written in 1957. Words and Music by P. Seeger