Here, as and when, we are adding some information or tales about the music we play, places and stories that have inspired them, other songwriters whose work we enjoy and cover.
To start with you can see from some of our song titles how we draw on East Anglian repertoire, landscape, stories for much of our material.
‘Fakenham Fair’. Tim writes: For years I thought this song was written by Peter Bellamy; he sang it unaccompanied on his 1968 album Mainly Norfolk where in the sleeve notes he wrote ‘“Yarmouth Town“ and “Fakenham Fair”, straightforward Good-Time songs, were both learned from Pete Bullen of Norwich who had them from his grandfather.’ This I have only recently learned thanks to the good old internet in general and the Mainly Norfolk website in particular, which is an invaluable online resource for traditional British music. The song is known to me from Norfolk and Norwich folk club singarounds going back to when I started attending such events in the 1980s. For me it’s particularly associated with Quentin Logan who has been singing it as long as I’ve known him, and to my mind still does it best. The folk music community being what it is, debate as to the origins of Fakenham Fair still rumbles on and this thread on Mudcat Café is very illuminating about the both the song and the mindset of folk music aficionados.
‘Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth’
‘The ballad of Norwich Gaol’. One of the very best songs (we think) from Peter Bellamy‘s wonderful East Anglian folk opera from 1977, The Transports. We played a pub gig in Norwich and introduced this song. A shout went up from a group drinking round a table. ‘I’ve just got out, I’m celebrating!’ called a young man to all. He was still dressed in his standard-issue grey trackies, and was indeed celebrating with some pals his release from Norwich prison that day.
‘Big sky in the east’. A song by Tim about leaving Norfolk, going to London, it not working out, coming back ’10 years older, 10 years wiser’.
‘I walk by night’. A new song by Tim, based on the brilliant autobiography of the self-styled anonymous ‘King of the Norfolk Poachers’, I Walked By Night, first published in 1935. George lent Tim his lovely old copy after they’d shared many drinks one night, ending up with taking some of his Norfolk books down from the shelves for the two of them to enthuse over. George had bought it secondhand in Fakenham in 1984, so it says inside. (That’ll be when he was living in a winter let in Wells, after he’d graduated, trying to learn he double bass and write the Great Norfolk Novel. Unfinished. By him, anyway.) Tim, naturally, devoured the book and then wrote this song.
‘Bricks of Burston.’ A ballad, being Tim’s take on the Burston School Strike (1914-1939). From the Burston School Strike website: ‘The longest strike in history was not staged by miners but by minors—the children of a small village in Norfolk….’
‘Hev yew gotta loight boy’. Part of our very popular short suite of songs in loyal tribute to Norfolk musical hero the Singing Postman. Altogether now!
‘Come along a me’. Another Singing Postman classic brought to loving new life by the PHB.
‘The ghost of Allan Smethurst’. When we played this song of Tim’s one night at The Harnser in Cley-Next-The-Sea, a cry of pleasure and recognition went round from the audience: the lyrics namecheck the villages of both Blakeney and Cley itself…. Someone said, smiling, ‘Well, it’s not very often we get a song sung about us in the village pub!’ We aim to please. (BTW Allan Smethurst is AKA The Singing Postman.)
‘The wherryman’s wife.’ This song was part of the inspiration for the original play with music At the Turning of the Tide, first performed in a free 2018 summer tour of broads and riverway locations around Norwich and Norfolk. The play is by Crude Apache Theatre Company, and the music was by yours truly, the PHB.
‘The ballad of Wayland Wood.’ The story of The Babes in the Wood, the subject matter of this song, is a supposedly true Norfolk one from the area around Watton, specifically the village of Griston. An anonymous 20-verse ballad about it, called ‘The children in the wood (or, The Norfolk gentleman’s last will and testament)’, was published by Thomas Millington in Norwich in 1595. (Ours is considerably shorter.) Today the babes are commemorated in the village sign of Watton. You can read a little more about the Wayland Wood (sometimes locals call it ‘Wailing Wood’) story here.