Traveller's Tales

Talking of field recordings, I'm grateful to my friend Jamie for sending this archive recording of my playing at the Newbury Bypass anti-road campaign in 1996.


I can't remember who the other musicians were, though I'm pretty certain Olly (also singing and playing mandolin) was one.

The song is 'Traveller's Tale' by the Space Goats, written by their hammered dulcimer player, Krismael. I'd misheard the lyrics so they should be 'I am a young traveller' rather than 'I am the gallant traveller'. Read into that what you will.

As should probably be obvious, I'd not long been singing or playing the mandolin but I made up for a lack of technique with sheer rumbustious enthusiasm. In any case, this was music made with a specific political purpose – both to provoke the authorities and to entertain the protesters in the trees –and not to be listened to at home. It was therefore quite a surprise to be brought face to face with my younger self, and on first listen I felt a mixture of fond nostalgia and squirming discomfort.

But, as I've said before, there's something powerful about field recordings and their ability to capture moments in time. And now that I've listened a few times, and got over my initial embarrassment, the contrast between the optimistic lyrics of the song and the cold snarl of the chainsaws strikes me as especially poignant.



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