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Palaces of Gold

[Leon Rosselson]

Leon Rosselson sang his own song Palaces of Gold in 1968 on his Transatlantic album A Laugh, a Song, and a Hand-Grenade and in 1975 as title track of his LP Palaces of Gold; the latter recording is also on his 1990 anthology CD RosselSonGs.

Martin Carthy sang Palaces of Gold on his 1976 album Crown of Horn and as the B-side of his only single, Bonny Lass of Anglesey. This recording was also included in 1993 on The Collection and in 2001 on The Carthy Chronicles. He noted on his original album:

Leon Rosselson wrote Palaces of Gold when the news came out about the pit heap disaster at Aberfan and feelings that had been floating around for a very long time overflowed.

This video shows Roy Bailey singing Palaces of Gold accompanied by Martin Simpson at Loughborough Folk Festival in 2008:

Jon Boden sang Palaces of Gold as the 9 April 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He commented in his blog:

An amazing song this, written by Leon Rosselson, whose lack of national treasure status is shameful. Ian Giles sings this and it was always a big song at the Half Moon. I also recently saw Roy Bailey perform it, which was something special.

Lady Maisery sang Palaces of Gold in 2013 on their CD Mayday. They noted:

[…] Palaces of Gold by Leon Rosselson is also a cautionary song, this time warning future generations that the rich and privileged in society will always be protected as long as a stark class divide is allowed to exist. It references the Aberfan disaster of 1966, in which the collapse of a colliery spoil tip killed 144 people and was officially attributed to the negligence of the coal board who failed to protect the small working class village of Aberfan, South Wales. As current ‘austerity’ policies are drastically affecting working class communities across the UK, we fell that the song remains particularly relevant.

This video shows Lady Maisery at Shepley Spring Festival on 18 May 2013:

Ken Wilson and Jim MacFarland sang Palaces of Gold in 2017 on their CD Here’s a Health to the Company!. They noted:

Written by Leon Rosselson after hearing the news about the pit heap disaster at Aberfan in 1966.

Nancy Kerr sang Palaces of Gold on her 2021 CD of songs by Leon Rosselson, The Poor Shall Wear the Crown.


Leon Rosselson sings Palaces of Gold

If the sons of company directors,
And judges’ private daughters,
Had to got to school in a slum school,
Dumped by some joker in a damp back alley,
Had to herd into classrooms cramped with worry,
With a view onto slagheaps and stagnant pools,
Had to file through corridors grey with age,
And play in a crackpot concrete cage.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Buttons would be pressed,
Rules would be broken.
Strings would be pulled
And magic words spoken.
Invisible fingers would mould
Palaces of gold.

If prime ministers and advertising executives,
Royal personages and bank managers’ wives
Had to live out their lives in dank rooms,
Blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers.
Rot on the walls and rats in the cellars,
In rows of dumb houses like mouldering tombs.
Had to bring up their children and watch them grow
In a wasteland of dead streets where nothing will grow.

I’m not suggesting any kind of a plot,
Everyone knows there’s not,
But you unborn millions might like to be warned
That if you don’t want to be buried alive by slagheaps,
Pit-falls and damp walls and rat-traps and dead streets,
Arrange to be democratically born
The son of a company director
Or a judge’s fine and private daughter.


Transcription by Wolfgang Hell, put up by Garry Gillard, who made changes.