Steeleye Span


 

 Terry and Gay Woods departed Steeleye Span shortly after the release of their debut album, Hark! The Village Wait (1970). While recording the album, the five members were all living in the same house, an arrangement that produced considerable tensions particularly between Hart and Prior on the one hand and the Woods on the other. Gay and Terry were replaced by veteran folk musician Martin Carthy and fiddler Peter Knight in a longer-term lineup that toured small concert venues, and recorded two albums - Please To See The King 1971)) and Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again (1972).

Shortly after the release of their third album, the band brought in Jo Lustig as their manager who would bring a far more commercial sound to their recordings. At that time, traditionalists Carthy and Hutchings left the band to pursue purely folk projects.

Please to see the King

 The second album by Steeleye Span, released in 1971. A substantial personnel change following their previous effort, Hark! The Village Wait, brought about little substantial change in their overall sound, except for the lack of both drums and a second female vocal. The band even reprised a song from their debut, "The Blacksmith", with a similar, but more electric, arrangement. Re-recording songs would be a minor theme in Steeleye's output over the years.

The title of the album is derived from the "Cutty Wren" ceremony. A winter wren in a cage is paraded as if it were a king. This rite was carried out on December 26, Saint Stephen's Day, and is connected to early Christmas celebrations. The song "The King", appearing on the album, addresses this, and is often performed as a Christmas carol. Steeleye returned (post Ashley Hutchings) to this material on Live at Last with "Hunting the Wren" and on Time with the song "The Cutty Wren". The custom of Wrenboys is mostly associated with Ireland, but it has been recently revived in England.

 

All songs appearing on the album are traditional. "The False Knight on the Road" is one of the Child Ballads (#3), and concerns a boy's battle of with the devil in a game of riddles. Hart and Prior had already recorded a version of the song on their album 'Summer Solstice'. "The Lark in the Morning", one of their more popular songs, has the same title as a different song about a lusty ploughboy, though there are strong similarities. This version was collected by Ralph Vaughn Williams. "Boys of Bedlam", a variant of Tom o' Bedlam, is told from the perspective of a member of a lunatic asylum. Carthy and Prior open the song by singing into the back of banjos, producing a muffled effect. The band uses the earliest printed version of the song, from Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy by Thomas d'Urfey. Melody Maker made this their folk album of the year. Music journalist Colin Irwin in his book In Search of Albion describes it as one of his favourite folk-rock albums. It reached number 45 in the UK album charts.

 

Please to see the King

Steeleye Span 

The Album 

external internet links

1825-1896
False Knight On The Road
is Child Ballad #3
 
 this biography can be found on our Hark! The Village Wait website
 
 a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child