THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
"The trouble with folk clubs is" I was once informed "There are too many folk songs sung in them". That opinion was by all accounts expressed by a singer from the North East; quite possibly apocryphal certainly repeated at least third hand, but it still did the rounds. These days you would be damned lucky to get to hear one folk song in a session at a so called folk club but that is an argument for another time. What I am saying here is how often a purveyor of very good, straight down the middle traditional folk songs becomes better known for their rendition of a "non-folk song".
My friend George Proctor who got me involved with Birtley and Felling folk clubs (as well as introducing countless other to the music on Tyneside) had an enviable list of songs from all parts of the folk revival but without doubt his most requested item all the years I heard him play was "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". Our club organiser Bob Gilroy found fame with his animated rendition of "The Butcher Boy" but there are many who would know him better from his performances of "The Ballad of the Drunken Diver" or "Kaw - Liga". Another North Eastern singer/songwriter Ian Mills well known for his quite risqué parodies was also know to stun audiences into rapt silence with his, quite straight, version of "Whiter Shade of Pale".
In the early seventies it would be most unusual if the encore from the booked guest artist wasn't a rendition of some rock'n'roll number or some spoof on a popular song of the day. I am reminded specifically of Dave Burland's impression of Martin Carthy singing "Blue Suede Shoes", Tony Rose with "The Three Bells" or Peter Bellamy's Norfolk version of "Wha'd I Say"
Which all leads up to explaining why the newsletter from a club (celebrating its 27th Birthday) which has been described as "too traditional" should be pretty well made up of a debate concerning a song by Half Man - Half Biscuit called "All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit". Paul Mansfield, the culprit, has been singing the song on occasions at the club and it appears to have found favour with the audience, many of whom might recall the days of more innocent forms of entertainment after school before the days of computer games or whatever has superseded them. Personally Scalextric was too high tech. for me but Subbuteo certainly was part of my growing up and to be even more basic our first pitch was an ex-Army blanket with the goalmouth and by lines chalked on it by my dad; one set of strips were red and the other blue so I predate Paul by a few years.
I do recall Dukla Prague from the early sixties (61/62) when they were over in UK for one of the European tournaments of the day and any team from that far away was considered exotic. One of their strips, home or away, would have gained you much kudos; unlike today when with a push of a button Amazon will deliver you one within 24 hours.
So as we set out our stall for our 27th Birthday Party on Sunday night can we expect another rendition of this now famous song?
Come along and find out.
Letters to the Editor
Your reference to Dukla Prague piqued my interest. I worked in the Czech Republic in the mid 1990s, principally in Zlin in Moravia and in Prague on a series of consultancy contracts. Whilst in Prague, I went to see a game at Bohemians against Slavia Prague and subsequently Bohemians away against Dukla. The fans were clearly devoted to their club. As you may know, both Bohemians and Dukla have had a 'czechered' history since those days. Bohemians broke away from the Bohemians sports club (which also included ice hockey, handball etc.). Fortunately, the latter continued to own the ground. In the early 2000s, an 'investor' came along who ended up taking money out of the club rather than putting it in. He was a Czech Owen Oyston (a dodgy character who I expect you know of - of Blackpool notoriety). When this Czech chancer's shenanigans came to light he left and the football club went into liquidation. The liquidator sold anything of value including the Bohemians club name and their kangaroo crest (which commemorates a friendly played by an Australian touring team which they played in Prague between the wars and the gift to Bohemians of a kangaroo which became a popular attraction at Prague zoo). A fourth division team not only bought the name and logo but also managed to replace the defunct Bohemians in the top division! The Bohemians fans then decided to create a phoenix club which they named Bohemians 1905. The phoenix club managed after several promotions to get back into the top flight and there was at least one season when Bohemians 1905 played against the masquerading Bohemians in the first division. Eventually the imposters got relegated and the usurpers reverted to their previous name. Bohemians
1905 have survived since their resurrection and currently sit mid table at the winter break just above Dukla.
I saw Bohemians at Dukla's new ground last August with Dukla winning 2 nil and deservedly so. I was in the away section and had a good conversation with two Bohemians fans. I learned that Bohemians should be pronounced Bohaymians! Not a lot of people outside 'Bohaymia' know that including a lot of (now former) 'Bohaymian' hippies!
As to Dukla, as I expect you will know, it was considered to be the army team, named after the Dukla pass (in Slovakia) where many Czechoslovak partisans tried to disrupt the German defence against the oncoming Russians towards the end of WWII. Dukla used to play in a huge stadium which was also used for mass gymnastics back in the day. Dukla was then moved to, I think, Pribram (a town north east of Prague but which plays under the Pribram name). Dukla was then reformed, having retained their name, logo and colours (much as AFC Wimbledon (after the relocation of 'MK Dons'). The new Dukla plays in a different stadium that has a fine view over the city. The stadium was and still is an athletics arena. Perhaps you have visited one or other or both?
How did your allegiance to Dukla Prague come about?
Sparta, as you will know, is the top Prague team but Viktoria Pilzen is currently the most successful. However, it is good that Dukla and Bohemians survive in the top division with the support of their loyal fan bases.
My main continental European team is Arminia Bielefeld, currently in German Bundesliga 2. This stems from Bielefeld being Rochdale's twin town which I first visited in 1968. I have seen them play many teams (most recently a 2 nil win away at Kaiserslautern) and am a member of the Munster branch of the Arminia Bielefeld supporters club. I will be watching my first love, the Dale, tonight at Doncaster Rovers. We are flirting with relegation back to Division 2 so could really do with a result.
Well, that's enough about football (for now) but will be happy to share reminiscences when next we meet. All the best for 2018 on and off the pitch!
Up the Dale!
I hope you don't mind receiving emails from hither and thither, but as what I think might be termed the original perpetrator of the FK Dukla 'incident', and as Dave has indicated to you that he has shared your email address with me, I thought I might as well reply direct.
The content in the newsletter is a cryptic reference to my performance of All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit, a song I have sung a number of times at Tigerfolk and at The Second Time Around folk club at Beeston. In a case of 'imitation the sincerest form of flattery', another local singer, 'Ilkeston Dave' tells me he has also taken up my version of the song, which utilises a chorus that is a non-repeated phrase in the original, and omits the last few lines.
It was written by Birkenhead new-wavers Half Man Half Biscuit and first appeared as the B-side of their single The Trumpton Riots (1986). As the titles suggest, the band had/have a wry obsession with various aspects of popular culture - on the Eastern European football front, they also recorded a track titled I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved fan. The band were also reported to have turned down a potentially career-changing appearance on Top of the Pops because it clashed with a home match of their beloved Tranmere Rovers (in the days when Tranmere played on Friday to avoid clashing with Liverpool or Everton).
A further dimension to the phenomena surrounding this song is the dispute about whether the mainly-maroon or the mainly-amber shirt is the traditional away shirt. The UK retro shirt company TOFFS markets the amber shirt as the away one, but FK Dukla were sporting all-yellow with red trim the one occasion I saw them play (home against Sigma Olomouc in 1986) and I think the colour combination is that way round currently too. I own one of the maroon with amber sleeves type. Football souvenir retailers in the Czech Republic are doubtlessly bemused by the whole thing, but, according to my Czech-based informant Stuart, have learned to play the English tourist market as any good businesses would.
I hope this has cleared up any mystery about John's article.
Sunday 4th February 2018
Brian's links to our club go right back to its founding and he was probably the first person to get in touch when we decided to organise a memorial night for Roy Harris. Birthday parties are for inviting old friends and this year we're very pleased to have Brian as our guest of honour. Perhaps I should say that we are honoured as well; Brian is recognised as one of the leading performers of, and authorities on English Folk Song; witness his work on the project to bring the New Singing Penguins to life a year or two back. There just isn't room here to go into all the projects and collaborations in which Brian has been involved; follow the link to his website to catch up. It's nice to know that he still counts as a local lad (if Glossop isn't straining the definition of local).
Sunday 7th January 2018
It was a very select few gathered for the first sing of the New Year. Apologies received covered everything from the weather and sickness to car breakdowns, but off we went, renewed and refreshed.
As anticipated new beginnings were a strong theme but there were also old traditions, ancient ball games, morris dancing and of course alcohol was much to the fore with several wassails. Music Hall contributions on the benefits of brown stout and the cost of Spanish Root (?). Brown ale and the inevitable results of. Songs to welcome the spring, and warnings to young maids about frolicking when it arrives and what happens if they do, then the medical problems of the male variety resulting from being a poor judge of character!
I must mention Paul Mansfield who started a major discussion about ‘Levidue’ I now know as a New Year carol. He also took the opportunity of advertising the web site ‘Mainly Norfolk’ many, many times, but apparently it is a good source of information.
We had a rare and pleasant visit from Heather Horner who we hadn’t seen in this neck of the woods for many a year. It was great to catch up.
So we had a very pleasant evening, a roaring fire, lots of time to chat, mostly about songs and singers and useful information on various sources. A good variety of songs, tunes and stories. All in all a very good start to the new Tigerfolk year and, the great thing about it is that there’s a lot more to come. I’m really looking forward to it.
Clearing out my wardrobe isn’t something I do very often but it does happen. But to the extreme right of the rail is a hanger with white shirt and white trousers, red neckerchief, baldrick and mancibles. Next to it another hanger weighted down with a tatter coat created out of strips of multi-coloured fabrics. These are never considered for removal when the mood is on me for a clearance. For, as you might well have guessed, the aforementioned is my old Morris kit (My hat and bells are on a shelf and although the hat is worn the bells have long been retired). If they are lucky they come out once a year for Leicester Morris annual feast and if I’m lucky, I can still get in them. Over the last couple of years, however, they have seen the light of day on more than this one occasion and this happened on the Friday before Christmas when they were worn with much sorrow when we gathered to bid farewell to Geoff Halford.
My first memory of Geoff was on a Tuesday night in 1965 in an upstairs room in some outbuildings, the old hayloft, at the Victoria in Leicester where he was MC at the folk club there. A small, slightly built figure dressed in check shirt, Harris Tweed jacket, green lovat trouser and tie with his right hand cupped round his ear singing Johnny and Jumping Joan. Either singing unaccompanied or with one of his concertinas he was my introduction to traditional song but I never had any inclination to sing myself until I moved away 18 months later but that is another story.
It was some 8 years before our paths would cross again, I had come back to Leicester and for some time had an inclination to dance the Morris(This almost happened in Leeds but before this could happen I was transferred back to the north-east). On a Wednesday night in the early autumn I was at a folk club when a certain Roger Grimes came in and announced that Leicester Morris Men were looking for new members. A week later there I was all nerves and confusion back face to face with Geoff Halford who was the musician for the side. I found that I had two left feet when it came to double stepping, hook legs, capers etc. but miraculously with the patience and guidance of Geoff and Roger, I eventually mastered them all, well……...ish. From that day to that Friday before Christmas “The ‘Iggler”, as he was known to the lads, was a good old dependable friend. Lots of beers, dances, laughs, malt whiskies and songs have I had the privilege of sharing with him.
Stories abound of the scrapes and situations we found ourselves in over the years but there is one reminiscence I will share with. In the mid-nineties, myself and “The Wing Commander” (If you have an hour or so to spare I will tell you about him, preferably with a glass in hand, we will need it) thought it a good idea to approach Geoff with the view of him recording a CD. We thought he might be a bit reluctant but none of it, straight there with songs and tunes he wanted to record he was and so away we went. After everything was sorted and the recording made I called round his house with the first copy. We sat side by side just listening in almost reverential silence, with only the odd comment being passed between tracks until the final notes of the Bower Processional faded and then, as was his way, Geoff just uttered “Ay that’s alright”. Nothing flash about this grand singer and musician. A treasured memory indeed.
I am not the first to write words along these lines and I won’t be the last but people like Geoff will be with us as long as we keep singing their songs, playing their tunes and telling their stories and, you know, that’s just what I intend to do.
And Finally....................................since we have said so much about Paul's song it is only fitting that we publish a set of the words and show an url as to where you can find it being performed.
There was one in the gang who had Scalextric
And because of that he thought he was better than you
Every day after school you’d go round there to play it
Hoping to compete for some kind of championship
But it always took about fifteen billion hours to set the track up
And even when you did the thing never seemed to work
It was a dodgy transformer again and again
A dodgy transformer again and again
It was a dodgy transformer again and again
A dodgy transformer that cost three pound ten
So he’d send his doting mother up the stairs with the stepladders
To get the Subbuteo out of the loft
He had all the accessories required for that big match atmosphere
The crowd and the dugout and the floodlights too
You’d always get palmed off with a headless centre forward
And a goalkeeper with no arms and a face like his
And he’d managed to get hold of a Dukla Prague away kit
‘Cos his uncle owned a sports shop and he’d kept it to one side
And after only five minutes you’d be down to ten men
‘Cos he’d sent off your right back for taking the base from under his left winger
And come to half time you were losing four-nil
Each and every goal a hotly disputed penalty
So you’d smash up the floodlights and the match was abandoned
And the dog would bark and you’d be banned from his house
And your travelling army of synthetic supporters
Would be taken away from you and thrown in the bin
Now he’s working in a job with a future
He hands me my Giro every two weeks
And me I’m on the lookout for a proper transformer …errr
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIGERFOLK!
SEE YOU AT THE STUMBLE INN!