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John Anderson My Jo

[ Roud - ; Ballad Index FSWB155A ; DT JOHNAND1 , JOHNAND5 ; trad., attributed to Robert Burns]

Isla Cameron sang John Anderson in 1962 on her and Tony Britton’s Transatlantic album Songs of Love, Lust and Loose Living.

Ian Campbell sang John Anderson unaccompanied in 1968 on his Transatlantic album of poems and songs from Robert Burns Tam o’ Chanter. This track was also included in 2005 on his Castle anthology The Times They Are A-Changin’. He noted:

John Anderson (from Merry Muses of Caledonia) is one of those songs for which Burns wrote two quite different sets of words. The “respectable” version was one of the great drawing-room songs of the nineteenth century and persists in popularity today, but I love this moving and beautiful bawdy version and weep for the prurience which kept it under lock and key for so long.

Gordeanna McCulloch sang John Anderson unaccompanied in 1971 on The Clutha’s Argo album Scotia!. They noted:

This is a very old song indeed, there being a version of it in Bishop Percy’s famous folio manuscript, which dates from the mid-Seventeenth century. The present version is much to be preferred to the polite song composed by Burns—an opinion which would very likely have been endorsed by the poet himself.

Marie Little sang an anglicised version of John Anderson My Jo in 1973 on her eponymous Trailer album Marie Little.

Alison McMorland sang John Anderson, My Jo on the 1980 album My Song Is My Own, which accompanied the 1979 book of women’s song of the same title. The book has the comment:

Both this and the previous song appeared in [Robert] Burns’ clandestine The Merry Muses of Caledonia. It seems likely that he had a hand in polishing up this version of John Anderson but the song appeared in earlier songbooks in 1744 and 1768.

Mary Macmaster sang John Anderson My Jo on Sileas’ 1986 album Delighted With Harps. They noted:

This is the ‘uncensored’ folk version from Robert Burns’ The Merry Muses of Caledonia. The singer laments the declining sexual prowess of her husband.

Elspeth Cowie sang John Anderson in 1998 on Chantan’s Culburnie album Primary Colours. They noted:

From Robert Burns’ Merry Muses, the bawdy versions of many songs he collected or wrote, most of which were not thought genteel enough for the female clientele of his editor. We call it “Mrs’ Anderson’s blues”.

See also the abstinence song John Anderson My Jo (Roud 6050; G/D 3:600), John Anderson My Jo in Herd’s Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. (Roud 8716, first line ’Tis not your beauty nor your wit), and Robert Burns’ celebration of fidelity and affection, John Anderson My Joe (Roud 16967).


Alison McMorland sings John Anderson, My Jo

John Anderson, my jo, John,
I wonder what you mean
To lie so long i’ the morning
And sit so late at e’en?
You’ll blear a’your een, John,
And why do you so?
Come sooner to your bed at e’en,
John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
When first that you began,
You had as good a tail-tree
As any other man;
But now it’s waxen wan, John,
And wrinkles to and fro,
Andoftrequires my helping hand,
John Anderson, my jo.

When we were young and yauld, John,
We’ve lain out-owre the dyke.
And O! it was a fine thing
To see your hurdies fyke;
To see your hurdies fyke, John,
And strike the rising blow,
Twas then I liked your chanter-pipe,
John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
You’re welcome when you please;
It’s either in the warm bed,
Or else above the claes.
Do you your part above, John,
And trust to me below,
I’ve two gae-ups for your gae-down,
John Anderson, my jo.

When you come on before, John,
See that you do your best;
When I begin to hold you,
See that you grip me fast;
See that you grip me fast, John,
Until that I cry ‘’O!”.
Your back shall crack, or I do that,
John Anderson, my jo.

I’m backed like a salmon,
I’m breasted like a swan,
My womb is like a down-cod,
My waist you well may span;
My skin from top to toe, John,
Is like the new fa’n snow
And it’s all for your conveniency,
John Anderson, my jo.