EWAN MacCOLL and PEGGY SEEGER have been the main folk duo in Britain for nearly twenty years. Peggy's field is American folk music, and she accompanies herself — and Ewan — on the guitar, the 5-string banjo, the Appalachian dulcimer, English concertina and autoharp. Ewan's specialty is Scots songs and ballads. He also sings English material. Both singers have in their repertoires a number of contemporary songs, many of which they have written themselves. Their work outside the performance field stretches to film, radio and television work, advisory and research projects, lecturing and teaching, compiling anthologies, field recording and writing. They are accompanied on several tracks of this record by their sons Neill (18) and Calum (14).
"NO MORE RECORDING STUDIOS FOR US NEXT SUMMER!"
That was the firm resolution made, more often than not, in the course of a recording session. There would be a fifteen-minute break and we'd emerge into the sunlight feeling like a couple of slugs that had crept from under a stone. There and then, we resolved to enjoy the following summer before returning to the stale limbo of the recording studio.
It was a sequence of events which was to repeat itself annually for almost twenty summers. Of course we did realise fairly early on that we were the victims of a conspiracy. How else could we explain the fact that all our recording sessions coincided with a heat wave?
By 1973, we had reached breaking-point. That year we dug our heels in, refusing to succumb to the temptation to record. Instead, we began work on a book and spent the summer sweating over a typewriter. "Never mind," we said, "It'll be different next year!" But it wasn't. Our publishers were insisting on having the manuscript in their hands by mid-September. So all THAT summer we worked against the clock.
By the time the following summer arrived, we were well on the way with a second book and working flat out to get the bulk of the work.done before October, when we were due to begin a concert tour of Australia, where (sure enough) we spent long lovely hot days in air terminals, press conferences and radio and television studios!
You remember 1976? … Summer began in early April and, for four-and-a-half months, the days dawned with clear blue skies and the sun shone and shone and shone while we typed and wrote and re-wrote and re-typed and swore, "Never again! No more books, no more recordings during the summer months!" And this time we meant it. We really meant it.
Early in May, 1977, we completed our second book and also our recording commitments. We were free to enjoy the summer!! But, where the hell WAS the summer? The East wind, which had started to blow in mid-March, was still blowing in May — it continued to blow throughout June and the first two weeks of July. Our favourite TV weather-caster smilingly referred to it as a "cold snap" Later it became a "cold spell" and, after a month it became "an extended cold spell". After that he just mumbled and tried to pretend it wasn't really happening.
But it was happening, it was happening to us. Some of our friends, well-versed in climatological matters, attempted to convince us that we were Just experiencing a perfectly logical weather cycle. We knew better. The Joker who had pursued our recording sessions with heat waves for twenty years could be described as spiteful, perverse or even malign … but LOGICAL? Never!
Midway through July, we capitulated. Gave up. Or, perhaps as primitive peoples coax the elements with provocative, mimetic dancing, we convinced ourselves that by entering the airless, windowless sanctuary of the recording studio, we could charm the sun to shine. The songs on this disc chronicle our 1977 surrender.
Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl