Lately, my four-year-old daughter has been wanting to listen to the title song of the Mekons Ancient and Modern album. Yes, I know that in some states it’s a crime to let a child listen to real music.
The song (in case anyone out there doesn’t know) is an epic tale in four sections, with four different singers (technically, many more than four singers because the fourth section is sung by a choral group. “Ancient and Modern” is a song that does what a good work of art is supposed to do, slide past the thinking-brain and into the subconscious.
It would be nice to know who the voices are (as a parent, I’m supposed to know everything, and having to tell a four-year-old “I think that’s X…” is most embarrassing. But the band’s liner notes aren’t very revealing. The first vocal is, I think, accordion player Rico Bell. I’m less sure of his voice because he doesn’t sing as much as the other members. Next is a spoken part by either violin player Susie Honeyman or bass player Sarah Corina—it’s definitely not Sally Timms. I’ve never heard either of them speak and can’t place the accent. Honeyman is from Glasgow, but the accent doesn’t sound like Glaswegians I know, mainly writer-friend Neil Williamson. The third part is easy, founding-member Tom Greenhalgh. The song ends with vocals by the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus—also obvious, because they’re credited [updated below].
A note on the arrogance of reviewers. Here someone says “The song begins with Jon Langford….” and here: “The three vocalists—Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh and Timms”. I also found a reviewer who said the song faltered toward the end, but at least he didn’t add to his lack of taste by attempting to identify the singers. Were these people really so certain? Or is it because they know that the main singers are two men and a woman, so any men and women have to be from among those three? They could spend a little more time listening before they begin the pontification process.
And in closing, having mentioned Glaswegian Neil Williamson, I’d like to tell people about the ebook version of his very fine but out of print debut short story collection, The Ephemera, now available in the various ebook formats from infinityplus.The ebook edition has four additional stories plus notes on all the stories. I recommend that those of you who posses the modern ink-substitute called an e-reader get yourselves a copy.
From a source involved with the proceedings: Lu Edmonds starts, then Jon Langford and Rico Bell join in, Susie Honeyman talks, Tom Greenhalgh sings, Sarah Corina talks, Tom Greenhalgh sings again, then everyone and the choir finish. Reviewers: see, it’s not hard to find things out!