Will Cornell from USA writes…
Hey I was looking over that ninebattles.com site you contribute to, and did a search for Shirley Collins but there doesn’t appear to be anything there. Maybe she’s not considered ‘rock’ enough, but she WAS from Hastings apparently and her legacy is simply HUGE. I really didn’t know much about her until a few years ago when I got a “Folk Box” on Topic from overseas–it’s a box set of the best Brit/Celt Folk from about the 50s until the late 90s. She had a few cuts with Davey Johnston (sp?) and Ashley Hutchings (who she was married to for a while) and I thought her voice sounded a bit “off”. But then I got some Ashley comps and the more I listened the more I was fascinated.Then I found out about “Anthems in Eden” and her using David Munrow’s Early Music Consort, and I had to have it since I’ve been collecting whatever I can from his short career. 30 seconds into listening to this CD (it’s part of “The Harvest Years” 2 CD set, and budget priced) I realized this was going to be something special. And apparently it was. This was one of those albums like the first Velvet Underground LP where it may have only sold X many copies but everyone who bought it went out and formed a band. In Fairport Conventions case, it was one of the main influences that pushed them into creating “Liege and Lief”–their 4th album that really put Brit folk and early music influenced rock and roll, on the map for the first time. (“Anthems” is extra cool for me personally since it contains absolutely NO guitar at all. May be the only “ most influential-to-rock-n-roll “ album to make that distinction.)I was even more surprised to find Shirley was a girlfriend of Alan Lomax when he lived in “exile” in the UK during his suspected “Commie” phase. When he was allowed back over here without hassle from the FBI, she accompanied him on his recording trips for the Atlantic series of LPs called “Sounds of The South”–which among a great many other things, discovered such artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell. These albums also were hugely influential. You can kind of sense what he did in the opening scenes of that movie “Cadillac Records” where the guy playing Lomax records Muddy Waters outside Muddy’s shack down in Mississippi from the trunk of a car. I don’t think anyone played Shirley in that scene, but then she was part of a trip Lomax took around 10 years after Lomax and his father discovered Muddy.She may never win any Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognition (nor will Jackie DeShannon, another rant of mine, so Shirley’s in good company) but as Hastings Sussex musical notables go, I would venture to bet Shirley’s got a huge history to rival no one else.
Will Cornell….Love the hurdy gurdy in the midsection of this tune. One of the cuts that finally pushed me into buying one myself…..
Will Cornell on Fairport Convention….Fairport were performing in the early 70s at some college campus here in the USA….doing their big beat version of some 16thCentury tune like “Matty Groves” ….some a-hole in the crowd kept yelling “Boogie” and “Play some rock n Roll!” and Richard Thompson stopped everything and walked up to the mic and said: “This IS Rock N Roll….British Rock N Roll!”
Will Cornell…the new Blowzabella CD “Strange News” contains not one but two cuts that update songs contained on Shirley Collins’ “Anthems In Eden”, so her influence (esp that LP) continues uninterrupted!