Once upon a time ….
… there was a beautiful young girl named Kate Bush, whose talent was startlingly evident even in her early teens. One day she thought she heard Something Like A Song, someone in the garden, a piper. Was it the Greek god, Pan? She called him by every name she knew, but he wouldn’t answer. Let's follow where the piping seems to lead ...
A wood. There is always a wood. At first, everything seems harmless. A bird suddenly darts through the branches, its broad wings and fierce expression identify it at once as a goshawk. It’s hunting, but its prey isn’t what you might expect, for it’s a shapeshifter. Soon it will transform itself into a man, seduce a lady, and leave her with a beautiful child to care for. Listen to the words of Mr Fox’s song, The Gay Goshawk.
Deeper into the wood. It’s beginning to get dark, and you’re getting nervous. You sense that you’re not alone. As the moon rises, a Werewolf announces its presence, in a song by UK Decay. Terrified, you begin to run. Can things get any worse?
Well yes, they can. If anything’s more frightening than the dark, it’s somewhere there’s no night at all. According to The Incredible String Band’s terrifying Swift As The Wind, it’s from such a place that a pitiless a god of war has arrived, replacing the darkness with the shadowless light of a thousand suns. He must see you, surely. But he has universes to conquer, and he’s decided to give our galaxy a miss, for now, anyway. Phew!
Darkness returns, but least the werewolf seems to have gone. You reach a clearing in the wood, where to your surprise, there are a lot of very lifelike statues of both humans and animals. Rather too lifelike. Just in time, you spot a lady whose head is covered with hissing, watchful snakes. It’s Medusa, and you shouldn’t hang around. Van Der Graaf Generator tell us about her as you carefully skirt the clearing, avoiding her eye.
Now you’ve reached the edge of the wood. It looks like marshy land lies ahead. A Will O’ The Wisp seems to lead you onwards, courtesy of the wonderful Miles Davis. The music tells you to be careful, it’s not a friendly spirit. You tell yourself it’s just marsh gas anyway, and pick your way through the boggy ground until you reach the other side.
You see a cottage, and the couple who live there invite you in, but they seem grief-stricken. Richard Dawson relates the story of their child, who as a desperately sick baby was cured by a Hob, or hobthrush, a species of hobgoblin, who later extracted a terrible price.
You rest there briefly, but you don’t want to impose on their hospitality for too long. You set off and find yourself in even deeper and darker woods. You’re exhausted, and it starts to rain heavily, in fact, as Katzenjammer tell us, it’s pissing down. You meet a stranger who offers to carry you. Will you remember the lesson you should have learned from the previous song, or is it Hey Ho, On The Devil’s Back? Remember, the price of your lift is your entire family.
Ah, you didn’t accept the Devil’s offer after all. Wise choice. Daylight returns and you emerge from the woods to find yourself on the sea shore, where Joanna Newson is singing about her strange discontent. Some time ago she’d been pulled from the sea, but she’d lost any memory of her previous life. She was given the name Colleen, but is she really a shape-shifting selkie, a seal that can take human form?
Oh no! What’s this coming out of the water? It’s The Creature From The Black Lagoon! Colleen, your wish to dive down to the bottom of the sea is about to come true, and sooner than you think! Dave Edmunds explains, but you think it’s wisest to retreat.
Soon you’re back in the woods but now they don’t seem so menacing. There’s a sound of hoofbeats and you see a richly dressed lady approaching on horseback. She’s the Queen of Elfland and she wants you to go along with her. After all that’s happened so far, should you really do that? Well, yes you should, because she will show you visions and teach you wisdom, just as she did to Thomas the Rhymer all those centuries ago. Steeleye Span tell the story.
Returning from Elfland, you feel at peace with the world. You stop to listen to Sigur Rós, as Jónsi sings of Staralfur, a little elf that he sees staring at him when he closes his eyes to sleep. It seems to run towards him, but doesn’t move. It’s clear that it means him no harm, but is inviting him to set his imagination free.
You’re approaching civilisation, but first there is a rickety wooden bridge to cross. Your heart sinks, because you know what’s likely to be living under it. Sure enough, a massive troll emerges. What price will he ask for crossing his bridge? Luckily, Tony Joe White and his mates also arrive, and it turns out that what the troll really wants is a go on Tony’s guitar. You see, Even Trolls Love To Rock’n’Roll.
Animals and More A-List Playlist:
1. Kate Bush - Something Like A Song
2. Mr Fox - The Gay Goshawk
3. UK Decay - Werewolf
4. The Incredible String Band - Swift As The Wind
5. Van der Graaf Generator - Medusa
6. Miles Davis - Will O’the Wisp
7. Richard Dawson - Hob (not on YouTube)
8. Katzenjammer - Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back
9. Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band - Colleen
10. Dave Edmunds - The Creature From The Black Lagoon
11. Steeleye Span - Thomas the Rhymer
12. Sigur Ros - Staralfur
13. Tony Joe White - Even Trolls Like To Rock’n’Roll
The Beastly B-List Playlist
1. Led Zeppelin - The Battle of Evermore
2. Roy Harper - The Green Man
3. The Impressions - Isle of the Sirens
4. Babymetal - Megitsune
5. Damh the Bard - Morrigan
6. Trees - The Great Silkie
7. Blue Oyster Cult - Godzilla
8. The Grateful Dead - Direwolf
9. Bryan Ferry - The Lambton Worm
10. Cadaver Club - Afraid of Me
11. Judee Sill - The Phoenix
12. Lou Reed - Last Great American Whale
13. The Waterboys - The Faery’s Last Song
Guru's Extra Wild Wildcard Pick:
Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts with a song about a Russian river mermaid who’s both seductive and deadly …
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Troll! (but no trolling): songs about mythical beasts and creatures. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.