SCARBOROUGH FAIR

Latest update on 15/01/2016

Artist: Gordon Heath & Lee Payant
Author: traditional
Label: Elektra
Year: 1954

American mixed coloured gay folk couple living in Paris since 1948. On their second 10-inch record Encores From The Abbaye. That was the name of their club behind the abbey church of St. Germain des Prés. An evening there was bound to certain rules: one request per table and once that request was honoured, the candle on the table was blown. The last candle burning was for the last song of the evening. Applauding was considered too loud, let alone yelling or foot stomping. Appreciation here was shown with decent finger clipping. Both their version and A.L. Lloyd's used the melody from Frank Kidson's Collection Of Traditional Tunes (1891), noticing: "As sung in Whitby streets twenty or thirty years ago". That brings us in the 1860s or '70s. Whitby is the town north of Scarborough along the Yorkshire coast. Scarborough Fair used to last for 45 days in a row.

Covers:

1956:

A.L. Lloyd [on double album The English And Scottish Popular Ballads Vol IV; same melody as Heath & Payant (see note)]

1956:

Audrey Coppard [on Folkways; the first using the Simon & Garfunkel melody]

1957:

Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger [on Riverside lp Matching Songs of the British Isles and America]

1959:

Shirley Collins [on second album False True Lovers]

1963:

Bob Dylan [elements in both Girl From The North Country and Boots Of Spanish Leather, both written in Rome after leaving London and Martin Carthy; his arrangements were original enough to deserve Carthy's approval]

1965:

Martin Carthy [taught this to Dylan and to Paul Simon, when they both came to England; Dylan adapted correctly, Simon copied rather literally; he once even credited Scarborough Fair all to himself; that's why Martin and Paul were on non-speaking terms for 35 years; it was Paul who broke the ban, inviting Martin to join him while touring in London; there Carthy was introduced as "a great influence on us all"; as for Audrey Coppard's side of the story, no-one seemed to care]

1965:

Marianne Faithfull

1966:

Simon & Garfunkel [on lp Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme, which is part of the lyrics to Scarborough Fair & in '68 in film The Graduate; self credited the Martin Carthy arrangement]

1966:

Julie Felix

1968:

Sergio Mendes

1968:

Nana Mouskouri [as Chèvrefeuille que tu es loin]

1968:

Sandie Shaw

1968:

Andy Williams

1969:

Brainbox

1969:

Buffoons

1970:

Osmond Brothers

1973:

Sea Level [with Chuck Leavell]

1975:

Harry Sacksioni

1989:

Stone Roses [as Elisabeth My Dear]

1994:

Lennon Sisters [the older sisters and nieces of the members of Venice]

2003:

Venice

Song collector Francis James Child called this The Elfin Knight (Child #2). In his English And Scottish Popular Ballads considered to be among the most widespread old ballads around. Seamus Ennis recorded a version in '54 as Strawberry Lane sung by Thomas Moran from Drumrahill, Co. Leitrim (Ireland). He corrupted 'parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme' into 'every rose grows merry betimes'. That version opens the Lomax series Classic Ballads Of Britain And Ireland Vol. 1. All these herbs used to symbolize something: rosemary stood for perseverance, thyme for fecundity. According to Martin Carthy all herbs mentioned were closely associated with death. Combined they might work as a charm against the evil eye. Sir Walter Scott suggested that young girls on their way to Scarborough Fair carried a mix of said herbs for protection.

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