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Tag Archives: Steeleye Span

What do you listen to when you write or read? Or do you need dead silence? Do you have recordings you associate with particular books? I like to have music to write too, but I find it distracting when I read, although I was raised in a house where all the major activities took place in one room, and I learned to either block out or blend in the music.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. I’ve blogged before about how fond I am of opera, and I find the human voice very…inspiring, particularly when it comes in the form of Thomas Hampson, who is tall (6′ 4″) and unbelievably good looking with great blue eyes. And, oh yes, he can sing too, everything from Wagner to lieder to Annie Get Your Gun. (Pause to wipe off drool.)

This next one is a crossover album that actually works–mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter with Elvis Costello. Now I think Elvis Costello is sort of weird and I don’t much like his singing voice, but this collaboration was his idea and I thank him for it every time I listen to it (which is very frequently. This and an Ella Fitzgerald album were the greatest hits of Dedication). She sounds like an opera singer only in a good sort of way–great breath control, and the occasional amazing high note that comes effortlessly out of nowhere. Just gorgeous.

I don’t think this is the Steeleye Span album I have in mind (note to daughter: please return my Steeleye Span!)–I haven’t seen it in so long I can’t remember which one I own. A bit of pure nostalgia here–SS was one of the folk-rock bands around in the late 60s/early 70s. I didn’t realize how skilled they were until I came across their lyrics and realized what a genius their vocalist Maddy Prior was with the words and phrasing.

And, Rachmaninov to die for. Krystian Zimerman (sorta cute in a tortured artist way) is my favorite pianist and this is my greatest hit of the moment. I’m writing an erotic historical, and alternate between this and the Messiah as inspiration, something I can’t explain.

Tell us about your favorite background (or otherwise) music!

And here it is, a photo taken at great personal cost (at least two mosquito bites) of the latest growth in the back yard. I don’t know whether it’s edible and I doubt whether I’ll try to find out.

So with my brain in the backyard, my mind in 1797 Bath, my memory falling down a hill somewhere (I can’t remember where), and my bank balance on its way to the IRS … here’s what I’ve been up to.

I went on Tuesday to see Steeleye Span, an appearance on their 4oth anniversary tour. Eeek. The line for the men’s room was longer than that for the women’s room, probably because of all those dodgy prostates. I counted three people who didn’t qualify for AARP membership (one of whom was my daughter–this concert was a birthday present. My daughter and I did a guest interview recently at MamaWriters which was fun). Steeleye Span was one of the folk rock bands in England started, uh, forty years ago, their main contender being Fairport Convention (although band personnel switched between the two).

Going to see a band you’ve followed, on and off, for a few decades is rather alarming. It leads to all sorts of thoughts about mortality and aging, and a live performance is quite different from recordings which give you a studio (edited, pristine) moment in time.

I didn’t want any sort of nostalgia trip or mourning for my lost youth or any of that stuff but I felt time was running out. Would they sound as good?

Thankfully, yes, they sounded amazing. And, oh, the Regency tie in. Their repertoire contains a lot of eighteenth century material. One of their most recent recordings, Bloody Men, has a whole group of songs, Ned Ludd, which begins with a setting of Inclosure by John Clare (and I’m listening to it right now):

Ye commons left free in the rude rags of nature
Ye brown heaths beclothed in furze as ye be
My wild eye in rapture adores every feature
Ye are dear as this heart in my bosom to me

And the same album has a version of a wonderful, raunchy traditional song, Bonny Black Hare, which proves that yes, in Regency England, they Did That Sort of Thing:

I laid this girl down with her face to the sky
I pulled out my ramrod and my bullets likewise
Saying, Wrap your legs round me, dig in with your heels
For the closer we get, the better it feels

As I said, my brain appears to be in the backyard (and mind in the gutter), but where’s yours today? What music are you listening to?

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