Down by Blackwaterside

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Down by Blackwaterside (also known as Blackwaterside, Blackwater Side and Black Waterside), (Roud 312, Laws O1 and Roud 564, Laws P18)[1] are traditional folk songs, provenance and author unknown, although they are likely to have originated near the River Blackwater, Ulster.[2]

Synopsis[edit]

The song tells the story of a woman who has her heart broken "down by Blackwaterside" when a suitor breaks his promise of marriage that he made to trick her into having sex with him. The morning after her suitor mocks her for believing that he would marry her and tells her to go back to her father. He tells her she has only herself to blame for having sex before marriage. She realizes he will never return and berates herself for believing his lies.

Roud 564 Variant[edit]

The Roud 564 variant of the song was popularized by a BBC Archive recording of an Irish Traveller, Mary Doran [3] recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle on either the 24th of July or the 1st of August 1952.[4] During the same recording sessions her husband Paddy Doran[5] and Winnie Ryan[6] also performed versions of the song.

Mary Doran's version was taught to the singer Anne Briggs by A. L. Lloyd.[7] Anne Briggs in turn taught it to singer/guitarist Bert Jansch. It appears on Jansch's 1966 album Jack Orion as Blackwaterside.[8] Early in 1965, Briggs and Jansch were performing regularly together in folk clubs[9] and spent most of the daytime at a friend's flat, collaborating on new songs and the development of complex guitar accompaniments for traditional songs.[10] Anne Briggs has noted that "Everybody up to that point was accompanying traditional songs in a very [...] three-chord way. [...] It was why I always sang unaccompanied [...] but seeing Bert's freedom from chords, I suddenly realised—this chord stuff, you don't need it".[11] Blackwaterside was one of the first songs that they worked on.[10] Briggs belatedly recorded the song on her eponymous 1971 album (by which time she was playing a guitar accompaniment), though Jansch had recorded it 5 years earlier on his 1966 Jack Orion album. It is not known when Jansch started singing the song in the folk clubs, but certainly before the recording of Jack Orion.[9] The story of Jansch learning the tune from Briggs is retold in Ralph McTell's "A Kiss in the Rain."[12]

Recordings[edit]

The Irish Traditional Singer Paddy Tunney recorded versions of both songs. A well as the traditional singers the two songs have been covered by numerous artists including Isla Cameron, Anne Brigg], Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny, Show of Hands, Oysterband, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, particularly during the folk music boom in Britain in the 1960s.[13]

A number of the artists in the recordings listed below have issued the same version on multiple albums. Only the first one of each version appears below.

Album Singer Year Variant Notes
The Irish Edge Paddy Tunney 1966 Roud 564 named Blackwater Side
Jack Orion Bert Jansch 1966 Roud 564
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 1969 Black Mountain Side, Roud 564 Instrumental
Anne Briggs Anne Briggs 1971 Roud 564
The North Star Grassman and the Ravens Sandy Denny 1971
Home Fire Ron Kavana 1991
Blackwater Altan 1996
Folk Music Show of Hands 1998 Combined with The Train
The Voice of the People Vol. 10 Paddy Tunney 1998 Roud 312 Recorded in 1965 as Blackwaterside
Rise Above Oysterband 2002
The Flax in Bloom(The Voice of the People) Paddy Doran 2014 Roud 564 Recorded in 1952

Comparisons with "Black Mountain Side"[edit]

Main article: Black Mountain Side

Al Stewart, who had arrived in London in early 1965, followed Jansch's gigs closely[14] and learnt what he thought was Jansch's version of "Black Waterside." However, he believed mistakenly that Jansch was using DADGAD tuning whereas he was using in fact 'drop-D' tuning. At the time, Stewart was recording his own debut record and had engaged Jimmy Page as a session musician. According to Stewart's account, it was he (Stewart) who taught Page 'Blackwaterside' (the DADGAD version) during a tea-break.[15] This may even have been Page's first acquaintance with DADGAD.[15]

In spite of this difference, Jansch's record company sought legal advice in consultation with two eminent musicologists and John Mummery QC, who was one of the best-known copyright barristers in the United Kingdom, following the release of Led Zeppelin. [8] Ultimately, however, no legal action was ever taken against Led Zeppelin, although it was likely that Page had borrowed from Jansch's piece because it could not be proved that the recording in itself constituted Jansch's own copyright, as the basic melody was traditional. Nevertheless, Jansch said that Page "ripped me off, didn't he? Or let's just say he learned from me."[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Roud Index Search for Blackwaterside". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Peter Kennedy's Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, no. 151, p. 351
  3. ^ Sleeve notes (by A. L. Lloyd) to Anne Briggs' 1971 album Anne Briggs
  4. ^ "Roud Index search on Mary Doran". Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Details of recordings in accompanying booklet to 'The Flax in Bloom - The Voice of the People'
  6. ^ Kennedy p. 351
  7. ^ Harper, Colin (2006). Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (2006 edition). Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6.  p. 4
  8. ^ a b c Mick Wall (2008), When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin',' London: Orion, p. 56
  9. ^ a b Harper p. 162
  10. ^ a b Harper p.161
  11. ^ Harper p. 161. Part of an interview with Anne Briggs.
  12. ^ "Ralph McTell's "Somewhere Down the Road" review". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  13. ^ Harper, Colin (2006). Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (2006 edition). Bloomsbury. p. 138. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6.  p.3
  14. ^ Harper p. 199
  15. ^ a b Harper p. 200