COP26: What’s This?

November 2021 saw the global climate talks known as COP26 held in Glasgow.

The COP26 Coalition organised decentralised mass mobilisations across the world, bringing together movements to build power for system change – from indigenous struggles to trade unions, from racial justice groups to youth strikers.

This is my contribution. he words are by Steve “Protest Family” White and I set them to a tune of my own devising. It was great to go some collaborative songwriting like that, and great to have such a great songwriter as Steve on tap to call on!

I was also pleased with the edit in the “It’s a Wonderful World” introduction.

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Then as part of the day of action I was privileged to perform the song in Barkers Pool Sheffield…

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COP26, what’s this?
COP26, what’s it gonna fix?
COP26, just more politics
And we’re running out of time.

This flooding is brought to you by Microsoft
This wildfire by Sainsbury’s and our friends at Sky
This drought by Unilever and some others we forgot
We’re saving the planet
One multinational at a time

Your speech is sponsored by “blah, blah, blah”
Your blind eye by corporate environmental crime
It’s greenwash, we know what you are
You’re not saving the planet
And were running out of time

You’ve got the tarmac, but we’ve got the glue
You’re stuck on the motorway, and we’re stuck on it too
You can stick your air source heat pump scheme,
‘Cos that just will not do
You’ve got the tarmac,
but we make the glue!

Pity the Downtrodden Landlord

Written by Fred Hellerman and dedicated to my previous landlord Lee and Amelia Hall, who having had more then £100K out of us over ten years and subsequently selling the property for more than half a million quid refused to give us the deposit back because they wanted us to pay for dry cleaning the curtains and rehanging the doors.

They did get seventy quid back becasue I had hung pictures on the walls. I hope they don’t choke on it.

Please open your hearts and your purses,
To a man who is misunderstood.
He gets all the kicks and the curses,
Though he wishes you nothing but good.
Well he wistfully begs you to show him,
You think he’s a friend, not a louse.
So remember the debt that you owe him,
The landlord who lends you his house.

So pity the downtrodden landlord,
And his back that is burdened and bent.
Respect his grey hairs,
Don’t ask for repairs,
And don’t be behind with the rent!

Now, you’re able to work for a living,
And rejoice in your strength and your skill,
So try to be kind and forgiving,
To a man whom a day’s work would kill.
You can work and still talk to your neighbors,
You can look the whole world in the face.
But the landlord who ventured to labor,
Would never survive the disgrace.

When thunder clouds gather and darken,
You can sleep undisturbed in your bed;
But the landlord must sit up and hearken,
And shiver and wonder and dread;
If you’re killed, then you die in a hurry,
And you never will know your bad luck,
But the landlord is shaking with worry,
“Has one of my houses been struck?”

Now when a landlord resorts to eviction,
Don’t think that he does it for spite;
He is acting from deepest conviction,
And what’s right, after all, is what’s right.
But I see that your hearts are all hardened,
And I fear I’m appealing in vain;
Yet I hope my last plea will be pardoned,
If I beg on my knees once again.

The Labouring Man

My banjo arrangment of a traditional English song I heard on a Critics Group album.

The song dates from around the time of the Napoleonic Wars but it’s central message hasn’t aged a day. You can read more about the song here –

You Englishmen of each degree,
A moment listen unto me:
From day to day you all may see
The poor are frowned on by degree.
To please you all I do intend,
So listen to the lines I’ve penned;
By them, you know who never can
Do without the labouring man.

In former days, you all must know,
The poor man cheerful used to go.
Quite clean and neat, upon my life,
With his children and his darling wife.
And for his labour it was said,
A fair day’s wages he was paid.
But now to live he hardly can—
May God protect the labouring man.

There is one thing we must confess,
When England find they’re in a mess,
And has to face the daring foe,
Unto the labouring men they go
To fight their battles, understand,
Either on sea or on the land;
Deny the truth we never can,
They call upon the labouring man.

Some for soldiers they will go,
And jolly sailors do we know,
To guard Old England day and night,
And for their country boldly fight.
But when they do return again
They’re looked upon with great disdain;
Now in distress throughout the land
You may behold the labouring man.

When Bonaparte and Nelson too,
And Wellington at Waterloo.
Were fighting both by land and sea,
The poor man gained these victories!
Their hearts are cast in honour’s mould,
The sailors and the soldiers bold.
And every battle, understand
Was conquered by the labouring man.

The labouring man will plough the deep,
Till the ground and sow the wheat,
Fight the battles when afar,
Fear no dangers or a scar;
But still they’re looked upon like thieves
By them who bide at home at ease,
And everyday throughout the land
They try to starve the labouring man.

Now if wars should rise again,
And England be in want of men
They’ll have to search the country round
To find the lads that plough the ground,
Then to some foreign land they’ll go
To fight and dub the daring foe;
Do what they will, do what they can,
They can’t do without the labouring man.

When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire

When the Old Dun Cow Caught Fire is a music hall song written by Harry Wincott in 1893, and is most associated with Harry Champion. It’s also become a real folk club Standard.

I’ve arranged it for banjo playing in a two-finger thumb lead style. The banjo is my mid nineteen-thirties Clifford Essex Clipper, strung with nylon strings and tuned to fCFAC which is open G but tuned down by two frets.

Some pals and I in a public house
Was playing dominoes one night
When all of a sudden in the potman runs
With a face all chalky white
‘What’s up?’ said Jones ‘Why you silly old fool,
Or have you seen old Aunt Mariah?’
‘Me Aunt be buggered,’ then the potman cried
‘The bleeding pubs on fire.’

‘On fire!’ said Brown, ‘What a bit of luck!
Come along with me ‘ shouts he.
‘Down in the cellar, if the fire ain’t there,
We’ll have a fair old spree.’
So we all goes down ‘long with good old Brown
The booze we couldn’t miss,
And we hadn’t been there ten minutes or more
When we was just like this.

And there was Brown, upside down
Licking up the whiskey off the floor
‘Booze, Booze, ‘ then the firemen cried
As they came knocking at the door
‘Don’t let ’em in till it’s all mopped up’
Someone said to Mackintyre
So we all got blue blind, paralytic drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire.

Old Johnson flew to a port wine tub
And he gave it just a few hard knocks
He then starts taking off his pantaloons
Likewise his shoes and socks
‘Hold hard’ said Brown, ‘If you want to wash your feet
There’s a barrel full of four ale here
Don’t put your trotters in the port wine Jack
When there’s more old stale beer’

Just then there was such a dreadful crash
Half the bloody roof gave way
We were almost drowned with a fireman’s hose
But still we were all gay.
For we found some sacks, and some old tin tacks
Shoved ourselves inside
And we sat there getting bleary-eyed drunk
When the old Dun Cow caught fire
At last the fireman got inside
And found us all dead drunk
But like true heroes there they stood
They did not do a bunk
They saw the booze upon the floor
And gave a sudden yell
They took their helmets off and then
Upon their knees they fell.

‘At last! At last!’ the firemen cried
‘At last we know the news’
‘Come on! Come on! ‘ us lads all cried
‘Come on and have a booze.’

Jazzbo’s Holiday

A splendid piece of English ragtime written by Tarrant Bailey Junior in 1927.

Played by Russ Chandler (banjo) and Simon Armstrong (guitar).

Changes by Alan Price

This is my arrangment of the song “Changes” written by Alan Price as part of the sountrack to the 1973 movie “O Lucky Man!” directed by Lindsey Anderson and starring Malcolm McDowell.

It’s set to the old Salvation Army tune “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.

Everyone is going through changes
No one knows what’s going on
And everybody changes places
But the world still carries on

Love must always change to sorrow
And everyone must play the game
Here today and gone tomorrow
But the world goes on the same

Old Blue

Just a bit of fun!

This is Clifton Hicks two finger arrangment of “Old Blue” played on my circa 1890 flush fret minstrel banjo.

I didn’t really video it with a view to making it public so the quality isn’t that great, but it’s a fun tune and I added a verse of my own to bring it up to date.

Clifton is a wonderful banjo player and historian and you can see his stuff here –

For No One by The Beatles

I like to introduce this song by saying I find most of my tunes on old records but in this case rather than a crumbly old 78 the old record in this case the old record was called “Revolver”..!

It’s a really simple arrangement of an under-regarded classic.

Life in the East End of London

I found this song on a 78. It’s an old one, pre first world war I think. It was in bad condition and very hard to listen to, but I thought I could hear something quite interesting in it.

The references to “rich and poor side by side” for example. As well as that I liked the reference to Epping, a small town just outside of London that I know very well.

I dug the sheet music out of the British Library and was pleased to find an additional verse of social commentary that’s quite unusual in a music hall song. This song was written by Arthur West in 1891. It’s more Dickensian than anything too radical, decrying the injustice of the world but not suggesting there is very much to be done about it. But it’s still quite unusual in this sort of song I think.

It’s a pictorial journey around the East End of London. I don’t know how much of it is authentic to the authors experience or was just taken from the news of the day, but I thought it was quite unusual to have a song of this type point up the injustice and poverty of the city.

The resonances with the present day East End were so striking I wrote an additional verse to bring it up to date.

“Donah” is old fashioned slang for “girlfriend”.

Thanks to Natasha Munoz for her help in making the video, which we made in the same streets referred to in the song.

You can download the score here.


“Life in the East of London”

By Arthur West, 1891. Additional verse by Russ Chandler 2017.

If you want to see the bustle of our East-end London life
Tis a matter very easy, soon you’re in the busy strife.
“Here you are, sir, Mile End Road sir, Jump up here along with me”
O’er the bridge and through the city off you rattle speedily

Hear the busman’s merry banter with the cabmen on the way,
“Now then old-un, Come pull up there, Ain’t you had a fare all day?”
Up through Fenchurch Street he takes you, and before long you get down,
Amid the scenes you’ve come to visit in the wild, wild East of Town.

There you see the busy throng,
How they push each other along,
Some with a jovial laugh and song,
Some with woe quite undone.
Who shall ever stay that tide?
To the end it will abide,
Riches and poverty side by side.
That is life in the East-end of London.

See the coster with his barrow, loudly shouting “Buy, buy buy!”
“Fine and large, who’ll buy a marrow?” sells his lot feels bloomin’ dry.
Goes into a pub, close handy, but he knows the one to choose,
Stops until he’s chucked out singing rorty songs and full of booze.

Then on Sundays he and others take their donahs for a drive,
And to seat behind one gee-gee they can manage twenty five!
Off to Epping, good old Epping, late at night come home again,
No one knows which is his donah, each one shouts a different strain…

“When the Bloom is on the Rye”,
“Drink up boys and never say die!”
Never is the fun done.
“Gipsy Maid” must harmonise,
with “Two lovely fine black eyes”,
“Happy go lucky the coster boys!”,
That is life in the East-end of London.

Mark the Jew there, old clothes selling, swears the coat’s a perfect love.
“Fits you where it touches, does it? So help me fits you like a glove”.
See the loafing drunken ruffian, children clinging to his knee,
“Come home father, we’re so hungry, do come home to mother please”.

See the chickaleary joker, does the dipping, knows his game,
See the outcast on the pavement, once so pure now lost to shame.
See the heartless wealthy sweater, fat and sleek and knows his book,
The upon his toil-worn victim let us cast a pitying look…

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch, in poverty,
Every night and day is she,
For her starving children three,
Harder work by none done.
Stitch, Stitch, Stitch, while bread they crave,
Doomed to die the sweaters slave,
Her only rest is the paupers grave,
Such is life in the East-end of London.

Walk up Brick Lane to Shoreditch High Street, squint your eyes and try to see,
The barista in the coffee outlet, can I get a chai latte?
Commutes for hours from distant suburbs or drowning in the flood of wealth,
A tide of glass and steel and concrete that blazes light but eats itself.

See the cleaner from the hotel, dreams of home across the sea.
See the broker in his Merc can sell you authenticity.
See the coster’s pub still standing, but lunch is a week of the living wage,
And the endless stream of data mongers, “reach out” and “scrum” and quietly rage.

Still you see the busy throng,
Still do the work but no place to belong,
Still the market, the bus, the lost ones,
Still the sweater strutting.
Who shall ever stay that tide?
To the end it will abide,
Riches and poverty side by side.
That is life in the East-end of London.

We Are Waltham Forest

This performance was part of a campaign to protest cuts to the National Health Service in 2013.

The song was written by Steve White from my band, Steve White & the Protest Family. He doesn’t usually write on commission which is a shame because he did a great job!

The performance is from the top of the market in Walthamstow.