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This weekend I’ll be…drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and cursing the Koch brothers… March 12, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

Here is a very welcome and now regular, “This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to” from Yourcousin, whose selection this month is taking a topical turn…

Coming off of the news in Wisconsin I could do with some songs about the union. I sincerely hope that a reinvigorated union movement here in America results in much, much more than bloated coffers for the Democrats. I’ll quote a Billy Bragg line I learned years ago and used in the toast at my wedding reception, “may the poor take courage and rich take care”…

Which is an abbreviated version of another song about his old man. Look for a reappearance around father’s day.

Speaking of reappearances, here’s OCMS with a modern remake of Union Maid

Here’s an old timey version with Woodie Guthrie. [Speaking as a union man who is married to a union wife (indeed a union officer) I can attest to the truth about having a union spouse adding happiness to the homelife.]

No song collection of genuine union songs (especially with an American emphasis) would be complete without Utah Phillips. I know, I know, some might think I should have said Pete Seeger. Now God bless that man but when it comes to songs about unions, he’s got a few, but when I want the real deal I go elsewhere.

But in fairness to old Pete, I’ll finish this post with the anthem of American Labor. Though in fairness to its author (Ralph Chaplin) it was meant to be and ought to be the anthem of a democratic, militant, and global labor movement.

Feel free to add other songs in the comments. Though as a PS I must add the Strawbs.


1. Joe - March 12, 2011

That Billy Bragg line is actually a Leon Rosselson line from his song The World Turned Upside Down, about the Diggers. I only know the Billy Bragg version which is brillant. I actually sang it last week at (Des Geraghty’s) Clé Club, downstairs in the Flowing Tide on Abbey St. They did a night of songs of struggle to mark 25 years since the Wapping dispute.
It’s on every Wed there from about 8.30. A great night for leftie folkies – an eclectic mix of old hands from WP/Dl/Lab, CP, BICO, SF. All swopping songs without rancour.


Mark P - March 12, 2011

If Des Geraghty was running it, I’m surprised that the theme of the night wasn’t about putting all that divisive working class struggle behind us. Has anyone done a folk song about slow progress towards liberal aspirations through a common European framework yet?

(Sorry, just thought I’d add some of that missing rancour).


Joe - March 12, 2011

Good man Mark. Funny, when I was writing about all the oldies who go to the Clé Club, the thought did strike me – wot! No Trots!
Youse don’t really do enjoyment do yis?…


Mark P - March 12, 2011

I’m not sure that having Des Geraghty sing folk tunes at me is something I’d class as enjoyment, Joe.

I’m actually a bit surprised that there weren’t Socialist Party people at this. There’s a bunch of them who are into labour movement balladeering, much to my occasional irritation.


Marxman - March 13, 2011

Des Geraghty’s ‘…a night of songs of struggle…’ What struggle? The class-struggle he abandoned 30 years ago!
Was his first song dedicated to Tómas Mac Giolla called, ” My flight from Socialism ”
I wonder did he finish off by asking everyone to join hands (come on SF, hold hands with WP)and sing, ” The Red Flag ” but with the words altered to, ” The working-class can lick my ass, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last. ”
Maybe he’s trying to salve his treacherous conscience! ‘…All swopping songs without rancour..’ Joe get him to swop wallets with the poorest person in the next gig!


Bartholomew - March 14, 2011

Joe, there’s a great version of the Digger song by Dick Gaughan on the album ‘A handful of earth’:

Youtube also has a TV version from 1982:

Gaughan also sings another terrific Rosselson song, ‘Stand up for Judas’:


2. EamonnCork - March 12, 2011

Fair play Your Cousin, as the son of an old folkie, and a lover of this music myself I thoroughly approve.
Also fair play to Joe for the Rosselson reference. Rosselson is a fantastic songwriter who’s far too little known. I think, for example, the song Palaces of Gold, written as a response to the Aberfan disaster, is a masterpiece. (And one I thought of whenever I read about the dire conditions in the likes of Croke Villas and Fatima Mansions which the residents are doomed to remain in because of the failures of public/private partnership). Palaces of Gold is actually on Youtube. If I wasn’t an incompetent, I’d link it here.
You’re probably familiar with both of these works already Joe, but anyone whose interest in the Diggers is piqued by The World Turned Upside Down should watch the film Winstanley, which the BFI brought out on DVD, and read the book with the same name as the song written by the great historian Christopher Hill.
I sound a bit like that Amazon, people who liked that would also like this function. Apologies. But well done YC.


ejh - March 12, 2011

Mark Kishlansky made an attempt to debunk Winstanley in a recent London Reviwe of Books, albeit not one that I found particularly compelling.


3. Michael Carley - March 12, 2011

If we’re getting into recommendations, try Rob Johnson:


4. Ramzi Nohra i - March 12, 2011

All good. I suppose “the Molly maguires” could just about count as an union song.


5. Budapestkick - March 12, 2011


6. Captain Rock - March 12, 2011

Dropkick Murphy’s version of Florence Reese classic


7. yourcousin - March 12, 2011

This was meant to be the third Utah Phillips video.

In the middle of writing this post my toddler who is potty training peed on the area rug and I got distracted. Funny how things like that can happen.


Love that line, “one big union that’s our plan, the IWW’s your only man…”. As of now the kid is dancing to “all of you facists bound to lose” which is uplifting on one level, but being that he’s dancing in order to avoid putting his diaper back on I’ve got mixed feelings.

I kind of figured that Billy Bragg might have knicked the line, but that’s where I learned it. Thanks for the background info.

Appreciate the hat tip,


Joe - March 12, 2011

YC. Just to be clear, Billy didn’t nick the line. He sang Rosselson’s song. And sang it superbly.


8. Pax - March 12, 2011

David Rovic, the commons

Black flag flying


9. Shane - March 12, 2011

No songs or drink for me as the mother in law is calling! I’ll take to the fields with the dogs – much better company.
As you enjoy your tins and flagons spare a thought for me, an innocent man outlawed from his own home!
I’ll have a chat with my loyal hounds and assure them that we shall overcome. But something tells me that the old dear doll will see me down.


10. alastair - March 13, 2011

The Strawbs number is actually an anti-union piece – parodying the excesses of the day. The original intent seems to have been lost in time.


WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2011

Well spotted. It’s a cultural appropriation by the left… 😉

I see that some of the Strawbs were less than chuffed by its success given its provenance. Most entertainingly they played a series of dates in Canada at union halls I think during that tour.


yourcousin - March 14, 2011

I’ve heard that argument before, but seeing as how that the members of the Strawbs deny that charge I would call bullshit on that one.


WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2011

Isn’t a case that you’re both right. That originally some of those writing it intended as a parody, whether gentle or not, but that others in the Strawbs never saw it as such. That’s the impression I get from the Strawbs website – a place I had never in a million years thought I’d visit. 😉


alastair - March 14, 2011

Kinda hard to see anything but satire in the lyrics tbh:

When we meet in the local hall
I’ll be voting with them all
With a hell of a shout
It’s out brothers out
And the rise of the factory’s fall.

So though I’m a working man
I can ruin the government’s plan
Though I’m not too hard
The sight of my card
Makes me some kind of superman.


WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2011

Just to be clear I intended to write…

“Isn’t it a case that you’re both write…”

The ‘it’ fell off my keyboard. I agree. They’re pretty sarky which no doubt was the intention, but I also agree that some Strawbs played it straight.


Garibaldy - March 14, 2011

Are you sure that’s what you intended to WRITE? 😉


WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2011

oops… writing on the brain. 😦


Jack Jameson - March 14, 2011

I was an active trade unionist in London at the time and I thought it was originally an anti-union number turned around and used by trade unionists.
For what it’s worth, here’s what it says on Wikipedia (with all the caveats about Wiki):
The writing credits are given to Richard Hudson and John Ford, but the song may be an adaptation of the Woody Guthrie/Almanac Singers’ song “Union Maid”. The lyrical resemblance is striking although it is set to different music.

The song was included on the album Bursting at the Seams but is not considered typical of the songs on that album. Indeed, the track was originally recorded without a contribution by band leader Dave Cousins and was to be released under the name of “The Brothers”…

The song was unofficially adopted by the trade union movement, and it is widely considered to be a proud folk anthem for the working man. Although the lyrics may be read as somewhat sarcastically anti-trade union, the members of the band have stated many times that it wasn’t meant to be sarcastic or parodic.


11. EamonnCork - March 14, 2011

The British At Work on BBC2 at 9 o’clock on Thursday night looks like it might be interesting, it’s apparently going to deal with the trade union battles of the sixties and seventies. What’s the betting The Strawbs get a run out?


12. Terry McDermott - March 14, 2011

I’d always heard that it was an anti-union song, that was embraced by trade unionists with gusto. Jimmy Saville was a bit of a perv, wasn’t he?


WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2011

A bit creepy to put it mildly.


13. This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Harald Grosskopf, Synthesist « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 19, 2011

[…] the last few weeks, bar the piece from Yourcousin, have seen music from the early 1980s in this slot. And why stop now when we’re on a […]


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