Weird and wonderful tune names

Weird and wonderful tune names

We had someone from the PRS visit our local session the other night and asked us to list as many of the tune names we could think of so she could check out the copyright on them. It really just encouraged us to play as many tunes with weird and wonderful names…..what’s everyone’s favourite "weird named" tune?
The first few I can think of initially are Spootiskerry & Gander in the Pratie Hole. Any more we should learn for next time?

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Just rip through all the tune names in the tune section. 90% of them have weird names, and that’s before you get to all the A.K.A’s. Some of them however, are not so weird once you know the stories behind them.
What is the ‘PRS’ by the way? Good luck to her checking out the copyrights. But why? What is her agenda?

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I just found out what the PRS is, and I have to ask;- why should sessioners want to help them?

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And remember that if there is a breach of copyright, it is the licensee of the premises that gets charged. Why cooperate?

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well I suppose there’s the vague chance people like Mike McGoldrick, Dave Richardson or Phil Cunningham might make a few pennies if their tunes are played - but as 95% of the tunes are likely to be ‘trad arr.’
sessions aren’t really fertile ground for PRS inspectors

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I recently found a Finnish tune, ‘Lipan Matin Nahkahousut’, which translates to Mati Lipa’s Leather Trousers. This made my partner (a Finn) laugh as she couldn’t help but imagine an old Finnish man in fetish wear.

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Just don’t tell them the names of the tunes and then they will have to become members of "The Session" and participate in the discussions asking us to identify the tunes. Do these PRS people get paid for this?

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Spootiskerry is not so weird and wonderful if you’re from Shetland 🙂

But really, I’m more interested in the PRS inspection! You actually had someone turn up at a session and ask for tune names? I’ve never heard of that happening before. Slightly concerning??

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In agreement with gobby here ! Tell them nothing. They can work it out themselves im sure , eventually 😎

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Colm Sands had the right idea: ‘Whatever you say, say nothing!’

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Why the hostility towards these inspectors? My understanding is that they are actually working FOR the musicians/composers so they get rightfully paid for their compositions. I mean, if you manage to compose a tune good enough that people will play it in sessions around the world you deserve to get paid!

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Well I simply don’t understand it Ketil. I mean, what if they find even one tune in (say) 20 that has a copyright. Do they get their sixpence and go home? How does this job even pay?

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No hostility , just like not useing self checkout …
Regarding tunes , we have this huge lexicon of music all gifted to us by previous generations , none of whom were paid ( i would assume) . composers today stand so high because they stand on the shoulders of those musicians . Gifted this wealth of material we then want to be paid for ours ?!

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@Gobby this is worth a read on the role of the PRS in the UK. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRS_for_Music

The organisation’s job is to ensure that artists whose music gets played/performed in public or recorded get compensated for that. If a broadcaster uses a piece of music in a programme then it gets reported to the PRS and they pass on a payment to the composer. In the UK, businesses are also required to have a licence if, for example, they play music for customers. But I would say it’s really unusual for them to turn up at a trad session asking about tunes played as the potential income stream must be tiny. It’s worrying though because it’s easy to imagine a business owner shutting down a session after one of these visits.

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Thanks for the info Aberfoyle Whistler. We don’t have such ‘policing’ in Australia so I have trouble grasping it. Anything seems to go in the pubs over here. We must owe millions to Credence.

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Here in Norway all establishments that want to play music either live or through soundsystems need to pay a license to TONO (I guess as your PRS). This goes for everyone; pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, supermarkets and so forth. As with all licenses not all do pay, so some sort of inspections are needed. TONO does a remarkable job trying to ensure that the copyright owners gets paid for their efforts. I support this! When I play gigs I report the songs and tunes we play to TONO. I believe if everyone did this all musicians would benefit from it.
I dont mean that every sessioneer should report every tune played in every session, but if the pub already play music (on soundsystem) they should already pay the license.
@Will. I am not sure what you mean by ; "composers today stand so high because they stand on the shoulders of those musicians". Dont you think composers today should get payed for their works? Because they also play traditional music? I don’t get it..

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The purpose of such visits is so that the PRS can shake down the pub for a licence, which in many cases in the UK they don’t have for live music.

While I agree with the underlying intent that the copyright holder should get paid ultimately from such licence fees, I think we’re being a bit naive if we think that anything is actually flowing to the family of Vincent Broderick, say, as opposed to Taylor Swift.

I’ve made the point before, so at the risk of being tedious, I’ll make it again: probably the majority of what gets played at a session on any given night is in fact still in copyright, and I’d gently suggest it is a little mendacious to pretend it’s all ageless tradition.

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But it does work! At least here in Norway. I composed a tune (as in one 🙂) two years ago. I registered the tune and reported the 4 or 5 times my band played them on live gigs last year. This year I recieved about 80 euros for this. Not a huge amount, but that is one tune played for a live audience a few times. If only I had 20-30 tunes and frequent gigs!!

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Yes, performance venues and broadcasters report back exactly what was played to the PRS so they do get the relevant fees for that, but for blanket licences that would cover a pub session there is no reporting.

As an aside, it’s worth noticing that this changes what is performed. As Ketil says, if you’re gigging regularly, it’s financial sense to perform your own compositions, which is why a lot of young bands especially play reams of self-composed music.

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‘the majority of what gets played at a session……..is still in copyright’ ? so every time someone plays ‘The Kesh’
or [god save us] ‘Drowsy Maggie’ someone somewhere is supposed to be making a buck out of it???

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Tune titles in foreign languages cannot really be called ‘weird’ per se, just unfamiliar-sounding. ‘Spootiskerry’, for example, is topographic name from Shetland, which, to any resident of Shetland or speaker of Shetlandic (variously regarded as a variety of Insular Scots, a non-standard dialect of English or a language in its own right), it would not necessarily be any weirder than ‘Mullingar’ to an Irishman, ‘Northampton’ to an Englishman or ‘Dijon’ to a Frenchman. Their unfamiliarity can, however, be pleasing or amusing.

Someone mentioned a Finnish tune above. A tune I have introduced to my local sessions is ‘Konstan Paremppi Valssi’. Apart from the fact that I like the tune, I enjoy telling people what it is called (Finnish is a wonderfully satisfying language to pronounce, even though I cannot string a sentence together in it). The title translates to "Konsta’s Better Waltz", after its composer, Konsta Jylhä, who presumably, at the time that the tune was named, had only written one other waltz (I happen only to know one other waltz by him, but that does not mean he did not compose many more of them).

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Maybe PRS sent out some new-hire trainees and gave them the most difficult and least-rewarding assignment as their first test.

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On the original topic, I’ve always been intrigued by a tune in O’Neill’s called ‘Johnny with the Queer Thing’.

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I like the whore among the nettles, the leg of a duck and the mad skeletons of st pancras (i think thats the name anyway).

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Wow, this thread got hijacked quickly! We’ve had enough discussions about music licensing that I won’t add my two cents here, other than to say I’m really surprised about Ketil being paid around 80 Euro for his compositions being performed. All of my recorded compositions are licensed, and I should get royalties for them, but I don’t expect to ever see a single penny…

Back to the original topic at hand. One of the things I really love about this music is the variety of names for tunes (sometimes the same tune), and it can add some flavor to the music, and also creates some curiosity about the back story of the tune. Some of my favorite "weird" tune names that I play include:

Bang Your Frog on the Sofa
The Banshee’s Wail over the Mangle Pit
I Buried My Wife and Danced on her Grave
Come Back with my Bloody Car
The Eel in the Sink
Floating Crowbar
Flying Crowbar
The Fly Fishing Reel (ha!)
Fort of the Daft Woman
Good Morning to your Nightcap
Guns of the Magnificent Seven
Mayor Harrison’s Fedora
The Porthole of the Kelp
Sailing into Walpole’s Marsh
The Smell of the Bog

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I like old, weird titles - you know, the ones that have come out of the mists of time, and probably weren’t weird when they originated. I really don’t like self-consciously weird - often ironically so - contemporary titles. But then, I’m weird that way, I suppose.

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> so every time someone plays ‘The Kesh’

Well, as we said, no-one is tracking the specifics in any case; but yes, I encourage you to spend an evening noting down every tune you play and tracing its origins. You’ll be surprised how many remain in copyright.

As for the Kesh, as I understand it it’s earliest known trace is 1919 so it’s perfectly conceivable there is a valid copyright out there.

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@calum . The kesh , also known as the spring well and tear the callies seems to be first found in Petrie’s 1855 compendium of Irish tunes then later in the 1909 O’Neils.
So as the Irish copy-write expres after 70 years so thats 1949 .
The first notated record of a tune does not indicate when it was composed, just that we have extant evidence of it at that date. Seeing how the tradition is aural and these are transcriptions of tunes as played in the tradition the likelihood is that it predates the first notated setting by a number of years .

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Boil the Breakfast early 🙂 always makes me chuckle when I hear the name!

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Ah sure, I’ve had the same problem at my local session. I wrote a tune called “The Rivendell Jig” and some other local sessioners took it up and started playing it. I registered it with APRA and even when presented with the paperwork I didn’t receive even a cent. They keep playing it, almost as if to annoy me. I would rather no one played my tune than not make anything off it. Anyone have any ideas how I could spread it to America or Ireland and get some sessions playing it? If anyone can introduce me to local musicians please let me know.

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Shetlandic? What?

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"We don’t have such ‘policing’ in Australia".
I’m sorry Gobby but we do.
http://apraamcos.com.au/music-customers/
Even if you have the radio turned on in a pub you need a licence; and believe me, they will harass you until you comply.

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I was going to say the same David. APRA is our version of the PRS. Traditional songs and tunes are public domain, but it becomes grey when say a band records one and lists its composer as "Trad arr. <Band name>". Then the discussion can become are you playing the trad version or <Band name>’s arrangement?

Tunes with names like Paddy Fahy’s No 56789 would probably attract attention.

I’ve always liked the name "Jenny got a clinking coming from the races". I remember Seamus Ennis discussing possible meanings for "a clinking".

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"If I Ever Marry, I Am a Son of a Whore", a jig.
Just find it an interesting title because most trad tune titl I know of have fairly tame language. And also the obvious.. who you marry doesn’t change who your parents are…
Also like "If It’s a Bundle of Sticks, I’m Your Girl".

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The Boy’s Lament for his Dragon; as weird and wonderful as you’ll get? (Unless you think "The 72nd’s Farewell to Aberdeen" is more weird and wonderful?)

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Tell the PRS agent that first you played "gan ainm", followed by "gan ainm". Then "gan ainm" and "gan ainm". Etc.

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> The kesh , also known as the spring well and tear the callies seems to be first found in Petrie’s 1855 compendium of Irish tunes then later in the 1909 O’Neils.

Thanks, I’ll freely admit my knowledge of the early history of the Kesh is not all that great. I don’t want to get hung up on this particular tune, though.

> So as the Irish copy-write expres after 70 years so thats 1949 .

Seventy years after death - so for a fairly ridiculous example, say the Kesh was written by a talented twelve year old in 1855, who went on to live a long and happy life and died aged 92; so the copyright would expire in 1855 - 12 + 92 + 70 = 2005. I’m not for a moment suggesting that is the case, of course, in this particular example, but I am trying to illustrate how long the reach of copyright can be. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to learn there are tunes in O’Neill’s with extant copyright, for example.

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I don’t really know why people don’t want to give the PRS tune names. If the venue owner is going to contest that he doesn’t need a music license because you don’t ever play any copyright material the legal fees will cost him way, way more than the cost of a license.

But the real reason the inspector was there was probably just to gather a sample playlist, to help them distribute royalties more fairly and ensure the composers of more obscure music like ours get their fair share. For each pub gig or session there is about £10 of royalties up for grabs. PRS keeps a database of sample playlists for various different types of gig and music usages. Where there is a gig and they don’t know what was played they average out the sample playlists for that type of gig and distribute the royalties accordingly.

And Ketil is right, if you are a PRS member you can make the system work for you by submitting your own playlists for your gigs. If you submit a playlist then the £10 royalties are distributed between the rights holders concerned. If you play one of your own tunes and all the rest is trad you get the whole £10, if you play five of your own tunes and five copyright pieces by others you get a fiver and the other composers get £1 each.

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"Shetlandic? What?"

I think it is a recently coined name, modelled on ‘Icelandic’. But it reflects the fact that it differs significantly from any variety of mainland Scots and greatly from Standard English, being, in its broadest form, largely unintelligible to most English speakers.

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A piece entitled Carolan’s Variations on the Scottish Air "Cock Up Your Beaver" is composition no. 204 in the oeuvre of Turlough O’Carolan.[wikipedia]

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When I was in Lerwick some years ago the speech of the locals reminded me of Norwegians or Swedes speaking English [with a big dose of Scots] which makes perfect sense as the Vikings settled there for centuries.

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About place-names that seem normal to the people who live there but "weird and wonderful" to outsiders, it’s hard to beat the community in my native West Virginia named Big Ugly.

(The Big Ugly Community Center’s Facebook page)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Ugly-Community-Center/452808368097787

Which generates local newspaper headlines like "Big Ugly Woman Injured In Crash".

I do like the old "weird and wonderful" tune-names but when modern composers go out of their way to make up purposely strange names for their tunes it strikes me as forced, artificial, and trying a bit too hard.

I’m more used to the Highland pipe ones than the ITM sessions ones. Some recently composed GHB tunes with purposely weird titles that have been played and recorded at the World Pipe Band Championships include

Bass Face
The Egg And The Fiddle
The Radar Racketeer
Edwyn’s Didji Place
Kizbaum’s Frenzy
Sleepless in Santa Rita
Boxing With Cyclops
Friends & Blends & Wild Weekends
Last Tango In Harris
Electric Chopstick
The Calypso Piper
Shovel Tongue
Legless in Lisburn
Planes & Trains & Underground Lanes
The Phantom Phiddler (yes that’s how they spell it)

To us Americans the way that people in the UK can get copyright control over old tunes and songs seems strange, because here in the USA anything published before 1928 is Public Domain. Anybody can copyright own arrangement, but the melody itself in PD.

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> To us Americans the way that people in the UK can get copyright control over old tunes and songs seems strange

There’s no difference in the law, as far as I understand it, apart from when copyright laws took effect. As far as the business of "trad. arr." goes, it’s simply a convenient legal fiction to receive publishing royalties. If anyone in the UK were to start a legal case arguing that such arrangements were not really genuine arrangements with the legally required creative input, such a case would win quite easily, I think, but it’s in no-one’s interest to do so.

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>>"To us Americans the way that people in the UK can get copyright control over old tunes and songs seems strange, because here in the USA anything published before 1928 is Public Domain."

As I understand it copyright law in the US has recently changed to bring it more in line with the rest of the world. Copyright expires after 70 years from the authors death, (or 95 years from publication if the work was published posthumously or the author is unknown) and out of copyright work is free for anyone to use. The issue of copyrighted arrangements is also the same both sides of the pond. You can only own copyright ‘original work’, but if you make changes or additions to a tune that are distinctive enough to be considered ‘original work’, then they are copyright. But an arrangement copyright doesn’t stop anyone else using the tune.

The reason trad tunes turn up so often on recordings with an arrangement credit isn’t about trying to protect the work from others copying it, it’s just about how money is distributed. If you work up an arrangement of a tune for your band and record it, if it is listed as ‘trad’ there are no writers’ royalties, all the money from the recording goes top the producer, who distributes some of it among the musicians - you get paid your share for playing on the recording, but nothing for the hard work of arranging it beforehand. If you take a credit as arranger then you get the writers’ royalties (or a cut of them if the original tune is in copyright)

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Speaking of weird and wonderful tune names, "Larry O’Gaff" has an interesting alternate name: "Making Babies By Steam". At our local Sessions, one of the fiddlers likes to play Larry O’Gaff. This fiddler is a retired schoolteacher who also plays old time folk music and bluegrass.

Laurence

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@Laurence - "Making Babies By Steam" - now that is a weird title!

It was a track on an old cassette of Andy McGann and Ian Brady, and the print was so small I misread it as "Making Babies By The Stream", which might have made more sense!

I’ve always been puzzle by that title.

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I named a tune I wrote "Irish Wristwatch" just for entertainment when people try to repeat it.

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Phantom Button - I like it!

Better than "red leather, yellow leather" !

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"I’ll Break Your Head for You" (reel).
Thanks a lot…

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just had this one in response to my slide i.d. enquiry - ‘Mind yourself of the Turkeycock or the Turkeycock Will Bite You’ - priceless!

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Anyone remember "Frunobulax?"

https://thesession.org/tunes/7331

And it’s a cracker! We should revive it. Or, rather "vive" it… the tune was born of a member here, after all, named in situ of an old discussion about something or other that involved Frank Zappa’s Live at the Roxy album. Good old days.

Cheers.

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I like to play "I Buried My Wife and Danced On Her Grave" and "Pull the Knife and Stick It Again" as a set because the titles are so fittingly weird together 🙂

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Ah, The Honey Mooner’s - Close to the best US comedy ever. Thanks Postie.

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The person who brought "Larry O’Gaff" to the local sessions and taught us how to play it moved here from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois where he used to participate in the local sessions there. This man’s primary weapon of musical destruction was the flute and he played banjo, guitar, and bagpipes as well. When he retired, he moved to Arizona because he didn’t like the weather here.

Laurence

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kkrell thank you for posting the link to the explanation for Making Babies By Steam. This explanation reminded me of some of the so-called "SteamPunk" stories I have read.

Laurence

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At the local sessions, there is a female fiddler who likes to play "Frieze Britches" which is also known as "I Buried My Wife And Danced On Her Grave".

Laurence

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I know a jig called "Pull the knife out and stick it back in again."

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Well, how about the slightly more cheerful "I Married My Wife And I Lay On Top Of Her" ?

Or, "I Closed my Eyes And Kissed Her, And When I Woke My Teeth Were Gone".

OK, not real tune names, but they could be. In fact, they should be!

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Did You Wash Your Father’s Shirt?
Tell Her I Am.
Gander in the Pratie Hole.
Skin the Peeler.
Corney is Coming.
Touch Me if You Dare.