Word The Cat

Word the Cat

Radio Ballads Part One

Posted by Chris on March 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

–Thanks to everyone who linked to or commented on this month’s mix–

Between 1957 and 1964 Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker produced eight radio ballads for BBC Radio. The radio ballad was a new form of programme that spliced together interviews and music in a way much denser than usual BBC programming. The programmes also marked one of the first times where regional accents were allowed to be heard on the radio (other programmes would use voice actors to play the parts of people in interview). The programmes were issued on LP in the 60s by Decca and have recently be re-issued on CD by folk label Topic. They’ve been used in classrooms and re-broadcast several times since.

The first programme was called ‘The Ballad of John Axon’ and told the story of a Stockport railway driver who died while warning the signalman that his train was out of control. He was awarded the George Cross for bravery posthumously.
The programme featured interviews with his wife and workmates and as well as telling the story of the accident gave the railwaymen an opportunity to talk about their lives and profession. In these two tracks the fireman on John Axon’s train talks about the journey on the morning of the accident and what he and John Axon were planning to do when they got off work. The songs around the interview are sung by Ewan MacColl.

The rain was gently falling… 3mb

Come all you British loco men… 5mb

This programme was a great success and MacColl, Seeger and Parker were soon comissioned to make another. This time was the subject was the construction of Britain’s first motorway: the M1 or as it was called then the London-Yorkshire motor highway. The programme (‘Song of a Road‘ – broadcast in 1959) was a major leap from ‘John Axon’. Rather than interviewing a handful of people, MacColl, Seeger and Parker interviewed thousands. The BBC also exercised more editorial control on this programme as it was deemed to be an issue of national importance. In points it is more documentary- like. The most compelling parts, however, are when subjectivity creeps back in and we hear the migrant work force responsible for much of the construction telling their stories.

What made you come into this game?… 9.5mb

Just a Road 3.8mb

Despite being a bit of a muddle, ‘Song of a Road’ was well received and MacColl, Seeger and Parker would go on to make six more programmes on the subjects of: coal mining, herring fishing, polio sufferers, teenagers, boxers and Britain’s nomadic peoples. Here’s a track from ‘The Big Hewer’ 1961′s programme on mining communities in South Wales, Derbyshire and the North East of England.

Deep down in a man’s heart… 6mb

No Comments »

Leave a comment

XHTML: Permitted tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Word the Cat...