Rubber Folk

Rubber Folk

The Mike Harding Show on BBC radio 2 this week is dedicated to the superb Beatles album Rubber Soul which came out 40 years ago. Harding got top folk artists to specially record all the songs. Hear them:
I think some work really well, 1st prize going to June Tabor singing In My Life unaccompanied.
What do you make of it?

Re: Rubber Folk

Hey - some of us came here to get away from the Beatles.

And George Best.

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i really liked the cara dillon one, but most of it wasn’t much different to the beatles versions

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Hey kuec, thanks for posting this, I’m glad I didn’t miss it.

I was there when this LP came out first time round, but I really enjoyed listening to this new slant on the songs & of course liked some more than others.

I especially liked Paul Brady’s take on ‘You Won’t See Me’ & I thought Chris While’s version of ‘Nowhere Man’ was just brilliant.

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I don’t suppose that this programme could have been broadcast in any other slot, but is it folk music, by any stretch ? ( Not that I’m complaining, mind, being so old one of my boasts is that I saw the Beatles live ( first national tour, 1963 )).
I reckon Rod Stewart deserves as much respect for his folkiness, listen to his early solo albums, lots of loose and acoustic bits, PLUS, was driving along one day, heard Radio2 play an obscure Rod Stewart track, guitar soloist was Richard Thompson or I’m a frog’s uncle.

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Another pop star with audible folk roots would be Mark Knopfler.-
As Harding points out the folk boom was on in 1965 with Peter, Paul and Mary et al. As he says Rubber Soul is probably the Beatles folkiest album. Indeed the cover versions don’t sound all that different to the original. Is part of the Beatles’ success due to the fact that their music is/was not too different from trad song patterns? Has anybody claimed yet that their “Celtic” roots (surely John Lennon had some and I reckon the others had as well) have anything to do with their music?

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Oh dear……..This is what I sent to BBC website:

It sounded like an interesting idea. I really wanted to like it, I really did, and I tried, because a true musician must try to embrace all kinds of music, but I’m afraid it shattered my illusions and confirmed all my worst fears and prejudices about folk performers.

For a start, a great deal of what made the Beatles songs so good were the chord progressions and subtle counter-melodies. Many of the folkies failed to notice this or at least failed to pick it up. For example, Paul Brady missed out a vital chord in “You Won’t See Me”, which turned a great tune
into a mediocre one. He was not the only one to do this, but I think his grated most as he is usually so good.
Some renditions were simply embarrassing - Jim Moray and Martin Simpson tried to wrench the songs into their own personal style - it really did not work, especially the latter - it was absolutely cringe making.

Ralph McTell fared a little better, with his French approach to ‘Michelle’, but it still lacked that certain (ahem) je ne sais quoi! Likewise the somewhat turgid efforts of Waterson Carthy to perform Norwegian Wood.

My main reason for listening, though, was to hear my lovely friend June singing “In my life”. Usually she has the power to make my hair stand on end. Not this time, unfortunately. I could have wept, and not with emotion as I have done with some of her other songs. It simply did not work, and I’m
not sure why. I think it might have been because this song just does not suit an unaccompanied voice. June’s is the best unaccompanied voice there is, and if she can’t do it then no one can. It did not do her or the song justice.

Only one of the Folkie covers had a spark of something - it was John Tams’ “Girl”. Having heard most of the others by that time I was thinking “Nobody will be able to do this well” but I had a pleasant surprise. He had captured the chords and spirit of the original without trying to reproduce it. That’s the only one I would want to hear again.

To hear Mike Harding going on about how the folk covers were as good as if not better than the originals made me want to throw up. Apart from the fact that it was so far from the truth, he was talking in the pseudy reverential tones of Jazz Club (Nice!) Come on Mike, get a grip..

The saddest thing for me was that even the really top folk singers and musicians failed to capture the essence of Beatles music. So maybe the original idea was not so good after all - although I have to admit that anything is worth a try.

What next? Punk tackles the classics?!"

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Sorry - must disagree with you there ‘tigerpig’.

It was indeed an interesting idea & I really enjoyed some of it..

You say “and confirmed all my worst fears and prejudices about folk performers.” - which makes me wonder why you bothered listening to this prog at all?

You had to come to a unique prog like this with an open mind, surely?

Do you not think that brilliant guitarist Paul Brady is smart enough to work out all the chords for a simple song, so if one was missing from his version, then it was missing - for a reason! Duh

I don’t think the artists were expected to reproduce the essence of the Beatles music at all, were they?

If they had been trying to top the originals they would surely have been on a hiding to nothing, right from the word go.

I liked the idea of them all doing the songs ‘their own way’, that for me was the whole point of the exercise.

I have to admit freely that I am not a big fan of much of the English Folk scene and I’m afraid artists like The Watersons & June Tabor just leave me cold, they just don’t light my fire or push my buttons - sorry, but I kept an open mind & really do think it was interesting to hear all these great songs, with completely new versions.

I would like to thank Mike & his team at the BBC for being brave enough to stick their necks out on this one - brave move indeed, given the slagging they were obviously inviting from hardend Beatles fans & out & out Folkies alike. Not to mention all the prejudiced trad heads who mostly wouldn’t even like it, before they had even heard it!

Please let’s not discourage this sort of adventurous spirit.

I say - three cheers for trying something completely different.

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Ptarmigan, I do agree that it was a good idea (read my first para again!) and things like this should always be encouraged. All I’m really saying is that it didn’t work for me, and I was trying to understand why. I don’t normally listen to Folk on 2 , not my scene any more, I, like you, don’t enjoy watersons etc. and I can’t stand the reverential self-congratulatory commentaries about how wonderful all the brit folk performers are. Never listen to jazz progs for same reason.

June is a personal friend so I listened for that reason. Nobody is perfect.

Take your point about Paul Brady, you are quite right. But I still don’t have to like it! And don’t you ‘Duh’ me!

In a nutshell - thought it would be interesting - it was, very. But I was disappointed it wasn’t better - I expected it to be, felt it should have been, given the quality of a lot of the perrformers.

Never mind. The world has not ended.

Music exists to be messed with; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t - most of it is down to personal taste. I really don’t want to be told what is good and what isn’t - like having bloody shakespeare rammed down my throat at school (But of course if I tell people what is good/bad, that’s different heh heh, joke)

I look forward to folkies trying to tackle other stuff. Will they be able to do for The Beach Boys what The Nice did for Sibelius?

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I’m with you, FT. For the most part. Certainly the first half of the programme was near unbearable, and Mike’s gushing was inappropriate.

That said, I did like a few of the tracks. Didn’t catch who sang it, but “what goes on” was rather nice. The Cara Dillon number was okay, and so was ‘“girl”. The last track wasn’t too bad either. Mind you, I don’t know the originals of those too well - except for ’girl’.

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Aye FT, I see from your bio that we are both old enough to have enjoyed the original, first time round.

I’m not trying to start a big rammy, just explaining why I enjoyed listening to it, although most folk who have posted here, for the most part, didn’t.

I think, from the info posted above, it would appear that everyone, who has named the tracks they liked, has chosen different tracks from other folk, so there is an interesting mix of tracks which worked for various listeners.
I’d say that justify’s the experiment, if nothing else does.

You obviously can’t please everyone, all of the time, & I was such a great Beatles fan all through the 60s that I really came to this prog. expecting to hate it all, but of course I have moved on since then.

If I had listened to this prog in say 1967, I probably would have hated the whole thing, but thankfully my musical tastes have matured since then.

I still think it was very brave of the artists to put their necks on the chopping block for this project.

Oh yeah, sorry bout the Duh! - I’ve been watching too much ‘Simpsons’ recently & probably listening to my primary school students too much - I guess.