Darkness, More Darkness, Magic and Noel Edmunds

black shuck

It does seem slightly ludicrous at this time of year when I can still wear a T Shirt out of doors that Christmas imagery still dwells on the mythical white snow which I cant ever recall seeing on Christmas day.

The main thing I can remember about winter in the 1970’s was how dark Norfolk was. I couple of miles out from our bungalow in the suburbs and there would be nights when I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I can remember walking home late at night and barely being able to distinguish the road from the verge which meant it took ages to reach the neon glow of the outskirts of Norwich.

Obviously it was colder then but the dark and freezing countryside harboured another hazard namely Black Shuck. Black Shuck of course was the giant dog ‘with eyes like saucers’ which patrolled the Norfolk countryside terrifying anyone who might be out on such a night.

Local lads The Darkness told the tale in their aptly title song from their ‘Permission to Land’ album.

In a town in the east
The parishioners were visited upon
By a curious beast
And his eyes numbered but one and shone like the sun
And a glance beckoned the immediate loss
Of a cherished one
It was the coming of the

(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck

Flames licked round the sacred spire
And the congregation’s last line of defence
Was engulfed in fire
As the flaming priest stepped into the firing line
On the business end of a beam of despair
God, he took his own life
During the coming of the

(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck

A nimbus of blue light surrounds a crimson paw
As he takes another fatal swipe
At the Blytheburgh Church Door

(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a fuck

Woof!

And on a dark dark night in Norfolk folk music began to make sense.

I don’t really know how I ever got to hear folk music beyond my mate Chris’s Dubliners collection so I can only assume that it was occasional exposure via John Peel. Folk music is a very broad church, I can quite easily listen to a folk music program (especially a regional one) and like virtually nothing on it but what I do like about folk is its tendency to get dark and a bit magical.

There’s a strand of folk music that deals with the magical and the mystical. Where people can take the form of animals, horrible old women turn into beautiful princesses and magical spells are part of everyday life. This is where folk can sail very close to prog.

So in the dark of a Norfolk countryside these stories made a great deal of sense. One of my favourite songs about the magical end of folk is ‘Seven Hundred Elves’ which I’ve only ever heard by Steeleye Span but their version is good enough for me. It’s from their 1974 album ‘Now We Are Six’.At this point critical interest in the band was at an all time high, firstly they had added a drummer and secondly Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull was the producer which explains the sound of the record which with the odd angular riff is starting to sound distinctly Tull like.

steeleye span now we are six

I had made myself familiar with the record, not because I had bought a copy of course but because I had recorded a radio show which showcased the Album. The host or the aforementioned show was no less than Noel Edmunds. These days Noel is some sort of mystical puppet master hosting a show which as far as I can ascertain is all about people opening boxes but in 1974 he was one of the biggest DJ’s going and this was the time when hosting the Radio One Breakfast show made you the 4th most important person in Britain.

So I had the show on my reel to reel recorder and I soon became adept at fast forwarding over Noel’s blather so I could listen to the songs again and again.

What I like about Seven Hundred Elves apart from the dark riffing (slow it down and it’s Black Sabbath ) are the lyrics where Seven Hundred Elves invade a farmers land in a fairly matter of fact way a bit like a modern traveller convoy. The twist in the tale is that the Elves themselves are in fact eco warriors who invade the land because the farmer had been cutting down the forest.

What I didnt realise at the time was that Noel had done me a bit of a favour by featuring the highlights of the album which means I missed out on some of the filler,’Now we are Six’ has about five good songs but also includes ‘Thomas The Rhymer’ which is more sword and sorcery and ‘Two Magicians’ which is about shape-shifting.

So here is a great clip of them playing ‘Seven Hundred Elves’ from an ancient BBC special. Introduced by guitarist Bob Johnston, who looks like he’s been standing too close to the herbal bonfire, in his best ‘Antiques Road Show’ voice.

Next week I will be delving further into 70’s folk….you have been warned !

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2 Responses to Darkness, More Darkness, Magic and Noel Edmunds

  1. Thanks for posting this (though the video link is disabled). “Seven Hundred Elves” is absolutely brilliant and an excellent entry point to English Folk-rock.

    PS. That Darkness lyric is very funny.

    Like

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