B&C CB 164 (single, UK, October 1971)
Barclay 61.561 L (single, France, 1971?)
Rave On /
Philips 6000 051 (single, New Zealand, 1972)
Mooncrest MOON 50 (single, UK, 1976)
[Sonny West / Bill Tilghman / Norman Petty]
This is a really interesting a cappella version of the Buddy Holly rock'n'roll classic of 1958, harmonies and all. Apparently this was a joke originally, thought up by the rest of the Steeleye Span Mk. 2 to amuse Ashley Hutchings, as was told by Tim Hart:
Oh yes, it was done as a joke for Tyger - Ashley, as he's now called. He was the most purist folkie of us, being a rock'n'roller, and Maddy and Martin and I were in the car driving somewhere and we thought we'd do it as a joke for Ashley, and he thought it was quite good fun and said “Yes, keep it in,” and then the record company thought it might be a good novelty single.
In the early Steeleye Span set this was a bit of light relief and its impact is hard to imagine today: Having heard loud electric settings of traditional songs, the audience was expecting something more “folky” as the group gathered round the microphones for an a cappella number. Instead, they heard a rock'n'roll classic, and you could see the smiles widen as recognition set in.
But the joke went on: the song was released in October 1971 as Steeleye's first single with bum harmonies, the verses sung thrice, and with what were seemingly scratches on the record. (The scratches were reproduced on stage, including a memorable version on the BBC radio programme “Peel's Sunday Concert” recorded on September 15, 1971 and broadcast on September 26, 1971.) The B-side of the single contained Reels and Female Drummer. Unfortunately, it missed hit success despite some radio play. This original single version was re-released on CD in 2001 on the Martin Carthy 4 CD retrospective The Carthy Chronicles.
Several “improved” - as it is said in the Rave On sleeve notes - i.e. de-joked versions appeared in 1974 on the Mooncrest compilation Rave On, in 1991 as a bonus track to the reissue of the 1971 album Please to See the King, in 1995 on the Chrysalis 2CD Steeleye sampler Spanning the Years, and in 1999 on the CD A Rare Collection 1972-1996 (where the liner notes incorrectly claim it to be the original single version). Strangely enough, all these tracks have been cut to two passes of the verses, while there is a de-scratched version with all three passes on the 1976 Mooncrest single Rave On and on the Buddy Holly tribute CD of 1992, Buddy's Buddys.
Finally, the 2006 CD reissue of Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again included all three versions plus the BBC live recording mentioned above.
Another live version, from Steeleye's big 25 years party at The Forum, London on September 2, 1995, has the impressive chorus of Bob Johnson, Maddy Prior, Martin Carthy, Rick Kemp, Gay Woods, John Kirkpatrick, Tim Hart, Tim Harries, Ashley Hutchings and Peter Knight. On this occasion, the verses were even sung four times. The recording of this concert was released on the CD The Journey.
Sorry, I can't show the lyrics here as I don't have the copyright owners' permission to publish them. But please feel free and ask me to send you the song's lyrics.