Steeleye Span: Cam Ye Oer Frae France (1973)

 |   |  1 min read

Steeleye Span: Cam Ye Oer Frae France (1973)

As with Fairport Convention (which included Richard Thompson), Steeleye Span were in the vanguard of the British folk-rock movement of the late Sixties. Unlike Fairport however, Steeleye Span didn't move as often and as far from the roots of folk and frequently drew on Francis Child's text The English and Scottish Ballads for inspiration and source material -- a book which has more recently influenced Fleet Foxes.

But Steeleye Span rocked these lyrics up.

This impenetrable Scottish song -- full of arcane allusions, satirical metaphors and symbols, odd dialect and witty or grossly offensive aspersions -- is a Jacobite attack on the Hanoverian king George I in London and his entourage (whores, hangers-on) . . . and of course advances the cause of the exiled James III.

To fully decipher it you will probably need help (try here) -- but maybe you don't need to.

What makes this work as a bruising attack are the brittle stabbing guitars, and the throbbing, menacing bass and martial drums. It just sounds threatening.Parcel_of_rogues

Some may find the octave leap by Maddy Prior a little unusual at first, but repeat plays reveal this to be a frighteningly good adaptation of song which is 300 years old and -- for Scottish ears only perhaps? -- a still relevant attack on the army of cultural occupation in the homeland.

Cam Ye O'er Frae France (folk) rocks. 

This comes from Steelye Span's fine Parcel of Rogues album.

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

Dee - Apr 10, 2013

That is gorgeous, I have never heard of this band but can't wait to hear more. Music (and poetry) have a long tradition of conveying metaphorical political meaning amongst other messages, and this is no less important now when literacy levels are so much higher. Music circumvents the brain and reaches directly into the soul!

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

David Bowie: It's Hard to be a Saint in the City (1975)

David Bowie: It's Hard to be a Saint in the City (1975)

Bruce Springsteen's song It's Hard to be a Saint in the City holds a very important place in his history. It was one of the songs he played at an audition for John Hammond at CBS which got him his... > Read more

Mr and Mrs Mattis: I'll Never Move Again (date unknown, 1970s?)

Mr and Mrs Mattis: I'll Never Move Again (date unknown, 1970s?)

Here is a real mystery single: on the Narrow Way Gospel "label" out of Jamaica (crudely hand-printed, with a quote from Isaiah) comes this oddity which is clearly Jamaican singers but has... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

YOUSSOU N'DOUR; RETURN TO GOREE, a doco by PIERRE-YVES BORGEAUD (Roadshow DVD)

YOUSSOU N'DOUR; RETURN TO GOREE, a doco by PIERRE-YVES BORGEAUD (Roadshow DVD)

Goree is the island off the coast of Senegal through which thousands of slaves passed on their way to Middle Passage and, if they survived, various parts of the "New World", notably the... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JO ANN CAMPBELL: Another case of the singer not the song

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JO ANN CAMPBELL: Another case of the singer not the song

If you were to believe standard histories of Fifties rock'n'roll, women were marginal figures at best and, in some books, non-existent. The great Wanda Jackson often gets a... > Read more