Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie – Way over Yonder in the Minor Key – lyrics about individuality and self-belief.

Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie – Way over Yonder in the Minor Key – lyrics about individuality and self-belief.

Woody Guthrie
I’m an individual. There ain’t nobody who can write like me.
When I was a kid my favourite track was the Kinks – ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’. I still love it.
My blog is full of whatever takes my mind. If it’s in there it will come spilling out. I live to write.
My books are full of my knowledge and imagination. I give it full vent.
Woody Guthrie is one of my heroes. Not just because of the brilliant legacy of songs that he left us – which are devastatingly brilliant and unique. He invented the topical song story – protest song and social commentary. I love him for it. But I admire him as much for his stance.
Woody stood for something and never held back. He said what he believed. He lived the way he spoke.
Woody believed in equality. He lived with the poor and blacks and fought for justice, civil rights and equal pay. He stood on the picket lines and was defiant in the face of threat and violence. He took the blows.
He was a communist who believed that trade unions were the means for working people to gain a fair wage from selfish, exploitative bosses.
He painted ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ on his guitar. He believed education and reason would win over fascist views. He thought that violence creates more violence. You oppose fundamentalist ideology with reason and intelligence.
Fascism and fundamentalism by the likes of ISIS and creationists was bound to thaw in the heat of intellectual examination.
He was a great man
Billy Bragg was asked by the Guthrie Estate to take some of Woody’s lyrics and put them to music. The result was brilliance.
Billy is another of my heroes. He is ideologically sound, a brilliant songwriter, performer and warm individual. He cares.
I chose ‘Way over Yonder in the Minor Key’ because I liked the story and the picture it creates. Being an ugly kid yet full of gusto I could relate to the lyric. I had my tanglewood days too.
This song resounds with me.
Thanks Woody and Billy. Genius!

Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie – Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key

I lived in a place called Okfuskee
And I had a little girl in a holler tree
I said, little girl, it’s plain to see
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

She said it’s hard for me to see
How one little boy got so ugly
Yes my little girly that might be
But there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Way over yonder in the minor key
Way over yonder in the minor key
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me

We walked down by the Buckeye Creek
To see the frog eat the goggle-eye bee
To hear the west wind whistle to the east
There ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Oh my little girly will you let me see
Way over yonder where the wind blows free
Nobody can see in our holler tree

And there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me


Her mama cut a switch from a cherry tree
And laid it on the she and me,
It stung lots worse than a hive of bees
But there ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Now I have walked a long long ways
And I still look back to my Tanglewood days
I’ve led lots of girls since then to stray
Saying ain’t nobody that can sing like me
Ain’t nobody that can sing like me


Ain’t nobody that can sing like me

Jackson C Frank – An unsung genius.

Jackson C Frank – An unsung genius.


I note that Jackson has a new box set of everything that he had recorded. There is also a book about him. Though I can only see that as a Kindle version so far. I am waiting until it comes out as a book.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Jackson in 1965. A friend of mine by the name of Robert Ede played his album to me. I was smitten from the very first song.

Jackson played his ten songs with simple guitar backing in the contemporary Folk manner. The album was produced by Paul Simon before he hit the big time and featured Al Stewart on a few of the tracks as second guitar. What made it for me was the memorable melodies, the sad, thought provoking and interesting lyrics and Jackson’s voice.

I hadn’t heard anything like it before or since. Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Roy Harper were just getting their acts together and the contemporary Folk scene, following Dylan’s success and Donovan’s British contribution, was about to inflate.

Jackson was a huge influence.

He only really ever had one album. During those years in the later sixties it was always rumoured that there was a second, but there wasn’t. It seemed that the songs had dried up.

I caught him at a pub in Ilford High Street in 1970. He was outstanding. He sang all the songs. Afterwards we stayed behind for a chat and he was warm and friendly. That was the last anyone heard of him. He was meant to go for a guest appearance at a Roy Harper concert at St Pancras but never turned up.

He was a tragic figure who hated the limelight following considerable scarring due to a fire at his high-school in Canada in which he was badly burnt.

He came across to England on the QE2 and wrote the songs for that notorious album. He performed at Les Cousins and Bunjies as a regular and set up with Sandy Denny. Roy Harper was a big friend and wrote the song ‘My Friend’ for Jackson.

In 1970 his life went to pieces. He got married, divorced, lived on the streets, had his eye shot out and died as a down and out. There were more recordings done in the early seventies and some early demos have been uncovered. But for me that early album is the nub of all that was good in that contemporary folk scene. He was seminal.

So long Jackson!

Peggy Seeger – I’m Gonna be an Engineer – Feminist lyrics from the fifties.

Peggy Seeger – I’m Gonna be an Engineer – Feminist lyrics from the fifties.

In this time when so many are bringing up our daughters in pink tutus and fairy costumes to play with fairy castles and dream of being a princess it is all the more important to get our girls into maths, physics and engineering.

Females make up 50% of the world’s population yet in many cultures they are second class citizens, unable to vote, drive or sit with their male counterparts. We see Muslim men walking around in T-shirts, trainers and jeans while their women are coerced into medieval costume. We see girls education under threat.

This misogyny is not only repulsive; it is stupid. We need that female intelligence and those sensibilities informing the world.

The misogynism of the Abrahamic tradition is a great danger. We have to oppose it. Equality is freedom.

We need women in boardrooms, cabinets, laboratories and all walks of life; making their contribution at the highest level.

Until the obstacles are removed, the cultural indoctrination is removed, the cultural stigmas are removed, we will not have a fair world.

Misogyny needs challenging where-ever it is. Whether that is in the boardrooms and governments of the USA and Europe or on the streets of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan where women are treated appallingly.

Women’s Rights need fighting for.

This song summed up the sexist attitudes in America and Britain in the fifties. We’ve come quite a way but nowhere near far enough.

Peggy Seeger


When I was a little girl I wished I was a boy
I tagged along behind the gang and wore my corduroys.
Everybody said I only did it to annoy
But I was gonna be an engineer

Mamma said, “Why can’t you be a lady?
Your duty is to make me the mother of a pearl
Wait until you’re older, dear
And maybe you’ll be glad that you’re a girl.

Dainty as a Dresden statue, gentle as a Jersey cow,
Smooth as silk, gives cream and milk
Learn to coo, learn to moo
That’s what you do to be a lady, now.

When I went to school I learned to write and how to read
History, geography and home economy
And typing is a skill that every girl is sure to need
To while away the extra time until the time to breed
And then they had the nerve to ask, what would I like to be?
I says, “I’m gonna be an engineer!”

“No, you only need to learn to be a lady
The duty isn’t yours, for to try to run the world
An engineer could never have a baby
Remember, dear, that you’re a girl”

She’s smart — for a woman.
I wonder how she got that way?
You get no choice, you get no voice
Just stay mum, pretend you’re dumb.
That’s how you come to be a lady, today.

Well, I started as a typist but I studied on the sly
Working out the day and night so I could qualify
And every time the boss came in, he pinched me on the thigh
Said, “I’ve never had an engineer!”
“You owe it to the job to be a lady
The duty of the staff is to give the boss a whirl
The wages that you get are crummy, maybe
But it’s all you get, ’cause you’re a girl”

Then Jimmy came along and we set up a conjugation
We were busy every night with loving recreation
I spent my days at work so he could get an education
And now he’s an engineer!

He said: “I know you’ll always be a lady
The duty of my darling is to love me all her life
Could an engineer look after or obey me?
Remember, dear, that you’re my wife!”

As soon a Jimmy got a job, I studied hard again
Then busy at me turret-lathe a year or two, and then
The morning that the twins were born, Jimmy says to them
“Your mother was an engineer!”
“You owe it to the kids to be a lady
Dainty as a dish-rag, faithful as a chow
Stay at home, you got to mind the baby
Remember you’re a mother now!”

Every time I turn around there’s something else to do
Cook a meal or mend a sock or sweep a floor or two
Listening to Jimmy Young – it makes me want to spew
I was gonna be an engineer.

I only wish that I could be a lady
I’d do the lovely things that a lady’s s’posed to do
I wouldn’t even mind if only they would pay me
Then I could be a person too.

What price for a woman?
You can buy her for a ring of gold,
To love and obey, without any pay,
You get a cook and a nurse for better or worse
You don’t need a purse when a lady is sold.

Oh, but now the times are harder and me Jimmy’s got the sack;
I went down to Vicker’s, they were glad o have me back.
But I’m a third-class citizen, my wages tell me that
But I’m a first-class engineer!

The boss he says “We pay you as a lady,
You only got the job because I can’t afford a man,
With you I keep the profits high as may be,
You’re just a cheaper pair of hands.”

You got one fault, you’re a woman;
You’re not worth the equal pay.
A bitch or a tart, you’re nothing but heart,
Shallow and vain, you’ve got no brain,

Well, I listened to my mother and I joined a typing pool
Listened to my lover and I put him through his school
If I listen to the boss, I’m just a bloody fool
And an underpaid engineer
I been a sucker ever since I was a baby
As a daughter, as a mother, as a lover, as a dear
But I’ll fight them as a woman, not a lady
I’ll fight them as an engineer!

Loudon Wainwright iii – Hard Day on the Planet – lyrics about the state of the world with humour!

Loudon Wainwright iii – Hard Day on the Planet – lyrics about the state of the world with humour!


Few people can get a chuckle out of abject despair.

 A Hard Day On The Planet

The dollar went down and the President said
Who’s in charge, now? I don’t know, take your pick.
A new disease every day and the old ones are coming back
Things are looking kind of gray, like they’re going to black
Don’t turn on the TV, don’t show me the paper
I don’t want to know he got kidnapped or why they all raped her
I want to go on vacation till the pressure lets up
But they keep hijacking airplanes and blowing them up
It’s been a hard day on the planet
How much is it all worth?
It’s getting harder to understand it
Things are tough all over on earth.
It’s hot in December and cold in July
When it rains it pours out of a poisonous sky
In California the body counts keep getting higher
It’s evil out there, man that state is always on fire.
Everyone has a system, but they can’t seem to win
Even Bob Geldof looks alarmingly thin
I got to get on that shuttle get me out of this place
But there’s gonna be warfare up there in outer space
I’ve got clothes on my back and shoes on my feet
A roof over my head and something to eat
My kids are all healthy and my folks are alive
You know, it’s amazing but sometimes I think I’ll survive
I’ve got all of my fingers and all of my toes
I’m pretty well off I guess, I suppose
So how come I feel bad so much of the time?
A man ain’t an island John Donne wasn’t lying
It’s business as usual; some things never change
It’s unfair, it’s tough, unkind and it’s strange
We don’t seem to learn; we can’t seem to stop
Maybe some explosions would close up the shop
You know, maybe that would be fine: we would be off the hook
We resolved all our problems, never mind what it took
And it all would be over, finito, the end
Until the survivors started up all over again

A You Tube video of my friend Pete Smith and Gary Holmes – guitar duet with our photos of Scotland.

A You Tube video of my friend Pete Smith and Gary Holmes – guitar duet with our photos of Scotland.

The March of the King of Laois, Gary Holmes and Peter Smith

A beautiful guitar duet put to video with the photos Pete and I took from our trip around Scotland.


I love it!

Come On England – Merry Hell

I’m not a huge fan of Folk Music but I’ll make an exception for Merry Hell. They stand for the same sentiments that I espouse! They are for tolerance, freedom and against violence. They’re for bridges not walls – the helping hand not the mailed fist.

I like that.

This song came to my attention because it says all the things I like to hear. It is just what we need on this judgement day on Brexit. We aren’t a small-minded nation of racists, nationalists and violent extremists. We’re not about greed and selfishness. I believe that at heart we are a people who care, reach out and help and are prepared to stand up for the rights of our fellow men and women of whatever colour, race or creed.

I come from the beautiful country of England with its wonderful countryside and abundant nature. That is worth defending.

There is much worth defending. I too come from the Levellers and Diggers. Here’s to the heart of England! Drink to the spirit that will never lie down!

This is Merry Hell!!

Come On England – Merry Hell

Many miles I have wandered, on the paths of my homeland
By rivers, through woodland, and by the sea side
On streets I have seen those with greed and hate in their eyes       And those with their hearts and their hands open wide

All my life has been blessed by its thunderstorm summer times
By misty gold autumns, by fires in the snow
By Rainbows, by bluebells, by radiant spring times
In the wild windy meadows, where the dandelions blow

There are some who would change this fair home to a prison
To enslave the many, and bow to the few
The robbers, the racists, the breakers of faces
Who hide behind masks and the red white and blue

So stand up, come on England, live up to your history
Your heart can’t be held in a flag or a crown
Raise your tea cups and glasses, you bold lads and lasses
And drink to the spirit that will never lie down

For I come from the land of the diggers and levellers
The fighters for freedom and our national health
The beaten mistreated but never defeated
The builders and guardians of the true commonwealth

Only lovin’ can save us, only givin’ will raise us
So welcome all travellers to sweet liberty
And raise all your voices to defend our democracy
For equality, justice, and community

So stand up, come on England, live up to your history
Your heart can’t be held in a flag or a crown
Raise your teacups and glasses, you bold lads and lasses
And drink to the spirit that will never lie down

So stand up, come on England, live up to your history
Your heart can’t be held in a flag or a crown
Raise your teacups and glasses, you bold lads and lasses
And drink to the spirit that will never lie down

And drink to the spirit that will never lie down

Pete Seeger – Talking Union Blues

Where would we be without unions? I tell you where. We’d be working the gig economy to put bloated profits in the hands of the wealthy owners. We’d be on low pay with no benefits, long hours and no holidays – like they are in the States!

The USA managed to convince people that unions were socialist – a bunch of commies – so US workers have the worst conditions, shortest holidays and poor pay. The richest country in the world chooses to put its money in the hands of a small elite.

I’ve been a union man all my life and still am. Without unions we are abused and downtrodden. The union gives us the strength for fair negotiation.

This great song from Pete Seeger says it all.

Pete Seeger – Talking Union Blues

Now, if you want higher wages let me tell you what to do
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you.
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
But if you all stick together, boys, it won’t be long.
You get shorter hours, better working conditions,
Vacations with pay. Take your kids to the seashore.

It ain’t quite this simple, so I better explain
Just why you got to ride on the union train.
‘Cause if you wait for the boss to raise your pay,
We’ll all be a-waitin’ ’til Judgment Day.
We’ll all be buried, gone to heaven,

St. Peter’ll be the straw boss then.

Now you know you’re underpaid but the boss says you ain’t;
He speeds up the work ’til you’re ’bout to faint.
You may be down and out, but you ain’t beaten,
You can pass out a leaflet and call a meetin’.
Talk it over, speak your mind,
Decide to do somethin’ about it.

Course, the boss may persuade some poor damn fool
To go to your meetin’ and act like a stool.
But you can always tell a stool, though, that’s a fact,
He’s got a yaller streak a-runnin’ down his back.
He doesn’t have to stool, he’ll always get along
On what he takes out of blind men’s cups.
You got a union now, and you’re sittin’ pretty,
Put some of the boys on the steering committee.The boss won’t listen when one guy squawks,
But he’s got to listen when the union talks.
He’d better, be mighty lonely
Everybody decide to walk out on him.

Suppose they’re working you so hard it’s just outrageous
And they’re paying you all starvation wages.
You go to the boss and the boss would yell,
“Before I raise your pay I’d see you all in hell.”
Well, he’s puffing a big seegar, feeling mighty slick
‘Cause he thinks he’s got your union licked.
Well, he looks out the window and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree:
He’s a bastard, unfair, slavedriver,
Bet he beats his wife!

Now, boys, you’ve come to the hardest time.
The boss will try to bust your picket line.He’ll call out the police, the National Guard,
They’ll tell you it’s a crime to have a union card.
They’ll raid your meetin’, they’ll hit you on the head,
They’ll call every one of you a goddam red,
Unpatriotic, Japanese spies, sabotaging national defense!

But out at Ford, here’s what they found,
And out at Vultee, here’s what they found,
And out at Allis-Chalmers, here’s what they found,
And down at Bethlehem, here’s what they found:
That if you don’t let red-baiting break you up,
And if you don’t let stoolpigeons break you up,
And if you don’t let vigilantes break you up,
And if you don’t let race hatred break you up,
You’ll win. What I mean, take it easy, but take it!


Younger Generation

When we were young we were so blasé about taking risks. We thought that living safe humdrum lives was the ultimate of boredom. We wanted excitement, adventure and risk.

That’s not so easy when it comes to allowing your children the freedom to experiment. We have seen the risks, seen friends die, seen the outcomes. The dangers are now clear.

But how do we find a good balance? Kids have to have freedom to grow yet we want to keep them safe.

This song focusses it for me.

“Younger Generation”

Why must every generation think their folks are square?
And no matter where their heads are they know Mom’s ain’t there
Cause I swore when I was small that I’d remember when
I knew what’s wrong with them that I was smaller than

Determined to remember all the cardinal rules
Like sun showers are legal grounds for cutting school
I know I have forgotten maybe one or two
And I hope that I recall them all before the baby’s due
And I know he’ll have a question or two

Like “Hey pop can I go ride my Zoom?
It goes two hundred miles per hour suspended on balloons
And can I put a droplet of this new stuff on my tongue
And imagine frothing dragons while you sit and wreck your lungs?”
And I must be permissive, understanding of the younger generation

And then I’ll know that all I’ve learned my kid assumes
And all my deepest worries must be his cartoons
And still I’ll try to tell him all the things I’ve done
Relating to what he can do when he becomes a man
And still he’ll stick his fingers in the fan

And “Hey pop, my girlfriend’s only 3
She’s got her own videophone and she’s a taking LSD
And now that we’re best friends she wants to give a bit to me
And what’s the matter Daddy, how come you’re turning green
Can it be that you can’t live up to your dreams?”

The Best Acoustic Guitarists in the Universe! (A personal set of favourites).

This is interesting. I do like a guitar played in an interesting manner. I did exclude all my favourite black acoustic Blues singers from this list. I’ve already dealt with them. So this is predominantly my contemporary folk artists.

Having said that I start with the wonderful Django Reinhardt. He’s a gypsy music player but was simply too good to leave out. How he played with that badly mutilated hand was unbelievable.

So I will go on with the wonderful Nick Harper whose playing, upside down chords and incredible range is not only technically amazing but a joy to listen to. So much skill and power.

Then we have Davy Graham who really set the whole wonder of contemporary guitar playing into the modern age. He brought back middle Eastern rhythms and styles into Folk and was an incredible performer.

The mid-sixties was lit up for me with two great guitarists in Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. I was lucky enough to get to see both of them up close. They were great apart and complemented each other brilliantly together.

Roy Harper, while not being technically as brilliant, took the instrumental into other directions. For a while, in his early career, it looked as if this instrumental aspect would be developed more. He was very innovative. But his forte was lyrics and it never happened.

From the States I was particularly taken with John Fahey and Stefan Grossman, both of whom I got to see a bit in the sixties.

More recently we have maestros like Leo Kottke with his amazing techniques.

Who are your favourites?

The Greatest Folk Singers (And Singer Songwriters) of All Time!! (At least the ones I like!)

I suppose I got into Folk Music in two ways. I was introduced to it through the country Blues and I was simultaneously saturated with first Dylan and Donovan and then the sixties contemporary Folk scene.

I liked guitar playing and good lyrics. It brought both together.

This is a list of my favourites:

Woody Guthrie

Pete Seeger

Bob Dylan

Phil Ochs

Anne Briggs

Richard and Mimi Farina

Bert Jansch

Paul Simon

John Renbourn


Roy Harper

Jackson C Frank

Nick Drake

Al Stewart

Ralph McTell

Davy Graham

Stephan Grossman

John Fahey

Norma Waterson & Martin Carthy

John Martyn

Joni Mitchell

Buffy St Marie

Joan Baez

Leonard Cohen

Richard Thompson


Peter La Farge

Huddie Ledbetter

Big Bill Broonzy

Tom Paxton

Townes Van Zandt

Arlo Guthrie

Sandy Denny

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee