Sea shanties were part of my life, growing up – my Gran was an enthusiastic singer of these songs, so my memories of them go back about as far as my memories go. Shanties are working songs, creating a rhythm to support the various bits of team heaving and hauling a sailing ship required. Any kind of singing will also help you keep sane when faced with tedious jobs – deck swapping, mending things. When working on boring, repetitive, necessary things, a song will make the difference between being a happy person, and being a miserable resource.
I wrote a sea shanty recently. It wasn’t something I’d ever really thought about before because I don’t spend a lot of time on boats. As a fairly landlocked person, it’s never seemed like something I should be writing. But then it struck me that Hopeless Maine needed a shanty. I’ve been making a lot of things this year that develop and expand on the life of the fictional island, and that’s given me time to explore the details of daily life there.
Being an island, sealife is a key part of the Hopeless diet. However, the sealife is also hungry, and dangerous. The rocks, currents, winds and waves tend to force boats in, so those folk who fish don’t go very far, and spend a lot of time trying not to get themselves drowned or smashed. Or eaten.
In normal sea shanties, chaps make a lot of macho, grunty ‘ho’ and ‘hey’ noises and the odd ‘wuuuh’ to punctuate the song. Hopeless just isn’t that sort of place, which is why, in the chorus, Mr Brown is making more of a groaning noise. And if that leads you to think that we must have a rather odd sort of home life… yes, yes we do.
August 1st, 2017 at 1:50 pm
Really clever, and what a fun and good-looking family you all are! The humor in this reminds me a lot of G.K. Chesterton’s famous work song for chartered accountants: “Up, my lads, and lift the ledger, work and ease are o’er. Hear the morning stars all shouting, Two and two are four!” Wouldn’t it be great if there was a work song for every profession and occupation?
August 2nd, 2017 at 6:53 am
Ooh, I like that idea! I may poke about in it and see if any other silliness emerges. I am aware of knitting shanties….
August 3rd, 2017 at 8:52 am
Do you know the work if Stan Hugill? He was the last Cape Horner and did a collection of shanties, Shanties of the Seven Seas. Worth a look. I find shanties good for mopping the floor and hoovering, especially the ones for hauling lines.
August 3rd, 2017 at 9:48 am
I know the name, but failing to attach anything to it right now…
August 4th, 2017 at 1:50 pm
Fab 🙂 I love the chorusey repeaty bits. The ‘watch your rocks boys watch your backs’ and ‘heave away haul away’ bits tap into the rhythm/tradition whilst you’ve added your own quirk with the sea monsters. Did this come to you easily?
August 7th, 2017 at 10:28 am
it just turned up 🙂
August 12th, 2017 at 10:31 am
[…] Songs from a Strange Island – a mix of material written for the Hopeless Maine project, (like the Hopeless shanty) and things that inspire us (gloomy and magical folk music for the greater […]