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Friday, May 7, 2010

50. "The Bells of Rhymney" by Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians

I'm going to skip past the unlikely fact that it's Hitchcock again, because so many other factors shaped the way I performed this song. They might give you an idea of how many odd circumstances and decisions go into the simplest interpretations I post here, which, if taken it its logical conclusion, sheds some light on the mind-pummeling amount of things that shape any performance of any song. But some particularly kickass things happened here.

As soon as this showed up I knew I had another cover with an asterisk on it. This is Robyn's cover of a song written by Pete Seeger, but more specifically an extremely faithful reproduction of The Byrds' popular rendition thereof. I was thus charged with creating a cover of a cover of a cover. My first thought was to sing this as a duet with Gen, who loves The Byrds as much as I do-- which is a lot-- but unfortunately she's basically lost her voice and just couldn't do it. So I was pondering doing a radical revision of this, the jingle-jangle version having been done numerous times and also being a second (if not first) nature way for me to do it while I was looking up the lyrics, when I discovered that the name of the town with the silver bells-- I'd always heard it as "Gwye", which seemed Welsh-sounding and tallied with the previous town being Cardiff-- was actually "Wye". And Wye is the name of our daughter Eden's band, in that case derived from a combo of a nods to the Who, the general British Invasion propensity for misspelled band names, and
the spelling of Pye Records, home to the early Kinks material. Finding a connection to The Byrds was cool. So I did a little more mucking about online.

First thing I found out was that Wye is not in Wales, but Kent. But that information came along with a citation of the song's lyrics as being "traditional" and including... a third verse I'd never heard before! In fact, sporting as it did the lines "They have fangs, they have teeth", it seemed like the kind of thing Hitchcock would've included if he'd known of it. Tracing it a little further back, I discovered that the words were neither traditional nor penned by Seeger, but adapted by him from a poem by (yes) a Welsh poet named Idris Davies. Of course, all people with the surname Davies are completely awesome, as are all Welsh people.

By this point my mission was clear: reinstate the lost verse into the otherwise Byrdsian version I was pretty well equipped to produce. So here it is.

Personnel: Rex


  1. They really do excel.

  2. The River Wye really does go through Wales and its Welsh name is actually Avon Gwy:
    - Mike Godwin