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Blow the Man Down

[ Roud 2624 ; Ballad Index Doe017 ; trad.]

Songs of American Sailormen The Seeds of Love

The halyard shanty Blow the Man Down was sung in classical style with alternate solo (by Harry H. Corbett) and chorus lines on A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl's 1954/5 LP The Singing Sailor. It was reissued in 1957 on their Topic album Row Bullies Row and on their Wattle album Shanties and Fo'c'sle Songs, in 1958 on their Stinsol album Haul on the Bowlin', and in 1963 as title track of their Topic EP Blow the Man Down. It was also included in 1984 on the French compilation album Chants de Marins IV: Ballads, Complaintes et Shanties des Matelots Anglais, and in 1993 on the Topic collection of sea songs and shanties, Blow the Man Down. The latter album's notes comment:

Hoisting the yards was often a long, heavy job. Accordingly, the halyard shanties were likely to be long, rambling songs. They were usually made up of alternate solo and chorus lines. The crew would rest on the rope while the shantyman sang his solo line and then take a good pull (sometimes two) as they bawled the refrain. Blow the Man Down is a classical halyard shanty that originated in the ships of the Black Ball Line. It is led here by Harry H. Corbett in true Liverpool style.

Bob Grant accompanied by John Graham sang Blow the Man Down live at the Towersey Village Festival on the August/September bank holiday weekend 1968. This recording was released in the following year on the festival anthology Festival at Towersey.

The Young Tradition sang Blow the Man Down on 17 November 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio. The concert recording was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968.

Bob Hart sang Paradise Street (Blow the Man Down) on 8 July 1969 at home in Snape, Suffolk, to Rod and Danny Stradling. This recording was included in 1998 on his Musical Tradition anthology A Broadside. Rod Stradling noted:

A sea shanty equally popular in North America as in England, and whilst it's appeared in dozens of books, Roud list almost 30 named singers among his 66 entries.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang Blow the Man Down in 1973 on their album Across the Western Ocean. They noted:

Another very popular shanty, the refrain of which has been married to several different texts, Blow the Man Down was used primarily for work on the halyards, (or “halliards”) on the long, slow task of hoisting the heavy yards and the courses of canvas sail. Our version is again taken from Hugill, though Colcord and Doerflinger each print several variants. The verses recount some of the treatment accorded to the sailors on the packet ships, perhaps only slightly exaggerated by the shantyman.

John ‘Fud’ sang Blow the Man Down in 1976 on the Collector anthology of songs and chanteys from the days of commercial sail, Steady As She Goes.

Matt Armour sang Blow the Man Down on The Shanty Men's eponymous 1978 Greenwich Village album The Shanty Men.

Stan Hugill sang Blow the Man Down on board the Cutty Sark on the evening of 11 June 1979 during the Greenwich Festival. This concert was release in the same year on his Greenwich Village album Aboard the Cutty Sark. A live recording from the Festival of the Sea 1980 at the National Maritime Museum, San Francisco was included in the same year on the Folkways anthology Sea Music of Many Lands: The Pacific Heritage. A 1998 live recording from Mystic Seaport was released in 1998 on his CD In Concert at Mystic Seaport. A live recording from “Douarnenez 88” was included in 1992 on his Le Chasse-Marée CD Chants des Marins Anglais.

Jim Mageean and Johnny Collins sang Blow the Man Down live in Friesland in 1983 on their Greenwich Village album Strontrace!, and Johnny Collins sang it in 1996 on his CD with Dave Webber and Pete Watkinson, Shanties & Songs of the Sea.

Roy Harris sang Blow the Man Down live in 1997 at The White Lion folk club in Wherwell, Hampshire. The concert recording was released on 1999 on the WildGoose album Live at The Lion.

Maddy Prior & the Girls (Rose Kemp and Abbie Lathe) sang a short version of Blow the Man Down with just three verses on their 2002 album Bib & Tuck.

Phil Beer sang Blow the Man Down in a recording from a (then) forthcoming album on the BBC anthology Folk Awards 2009.

Walking with Ghosts with Jackie Oates sang Blow the Man Down, including a sound sample from Harry H. Corbett from 1954 (see above), on the 2011 CD Fresh Handmade Sound: From Source to Sea.

Amsher sang Blow the Man Down on their 2014 CD of songs collected by George Gardiner in 1905-09, Amsher Sings Hampshire Songs.

Hughie Jones sang Blow the Man Down in 2014 on his Fellside CD Maritime Miscellany.

The Salts sang Blow the Man Down in 2015 on their CD She Rises.

Lyrics

Harry H. Corbett sings Blow the Man Down

As I was a-walkin' down Paradise Street
    Timme way, hay, blow the man down!
A flash looking packet I chanced for to meet
    Oh, gi' me some time to blow the man down!

Chorus (after each verse):
Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
Timme way, hay, blow the man down!
Blow him right back to Liverpool town
Oh, gi' me some time to blow the man down!

She was bowlin' along with the wind blowin' free
She clewed up her courses an' waited for me

She was round in the counter and bluff in the bow
So I hold in all sailing, cryin', well enough now

Where she did hail from I really can't tell
But I gave her my flipper, we're both bound for hell

Come all you young sailors, take warning by me
Never take a young Liverpool gal on your knee

Boh Hart sang Paradise Street (Blow the Man Down)

As I was a strolling down Paradise Street
    Hey, ho, blow the man down.
A neat little packet I chanced for to meet
    Oh give me some time to blow the man down.

Of the port that she came from I cannot say much,
But by her appearance, I'd say she was Dutch.

Her flag was three colours, her masthead was low,
She was round at the counter and rough at the bow.

She was rolling along with the wind blowing free,
She clewed up her courses and waited for me.

I hailed her in English, she answered me clear,
“I'm from the Blue Anchor, bound for the Shakespeare.”

I tipped her me flipper and took her in tow,
Then yard-arm to yard-arm, away we did go.

She then took me up to her lily-white room,
And the whole of that evening we danced and we spooned.

Now me shot-locker's empty, me powder's all spent,
But there's plenty of time, boys, left to repent.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sing Blow the Man Down

Oh, as I was a-strolling down Great Howard Street,
    Way, hay, blow the man down,
A handsome flash packet I chanced for to meet,
    Oh, give me some time to blow the man down.

This charming flash packet, she said unto me:
There's a dandy Black Baller just ready for sea.

So I packed up my sea-chest, and I signed on that day,
And with that flash packet I spent my half-pay.

And when that Black Baller was ready for sea,
Oh, it's then that we went on a hell of a spree.

There's tinkers and tailors, and soldiers and all,
They ship as prime seamen upon the Black Ball.

It's “Foretops'l halyards!” the mate he will roar,
And, “Lay aloft smartly, you son of a whore.”

Yes, it's larboard and starboard an deck you will sprawl,
For Kickin' Jack Williams commands this Black Ball.

As soon as you're clear over old Mersey Bar,
The mate knocks you down with the end of a spar.

And as soon as the packet is well out to sea,
Then it's cruel, hard usage of every degree.

So it's blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down,
With a craw of hard cases from Liverpool town.

Maddy Prior & the Girls sing Blow the Man Down

Now when the Black Baller is clear of the land
    Timme way, hay, blow the man down!
The bosun he gives out the word of command
    Gimme some time to blow the man down!

Lay aft there, lads, to the break of the poop
Or I'll help you along with the toe of me boot

Chorus:
Blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
Timme way, hay, blow the man down!
Blow him right back to Liverpool town
Gimme some time to blow the man down!

It's larboard to starboard, on deck we will sprawl
For kicking Jack Rogers commands the Black Ball

Chorus

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Blow the Man Down.