Bert: The Life and Times of A. L. Lloyd
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Folk singer and folk music collector, writer, painter, journalist, art critic, whalerman, sheep station roustabout, Marxist, and much more - this is the story of A. L. (Bert) Lloyd's extraordinary life.
A. L. Lloyd played a key part in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s, but that is only part of his story. Dave Arthur documents how Lloyd became a member of the Communist Party, forceful antifascist, trade unionist and an important part of left-wing culture from the early 1930s to his death in 1982. Following his return from Australia as a 21-year-old, self-educated agricultural labourer, he was at the heart of the most important left-wing movements and highly respected for his knowledge in various fields.
Dave Arthur recounts the life of a creative, passionate and life-loving Marxist, and in so doing provides a social history of a turbulent twentieth century.
folk music as all the early collectors, whom they had accused of cultural imperialism and of having a lack of understanding of the ‘folk’. Both revivals – pre-war and postwar – were very selective in their cherry picking from popular culture, and both were intent on using it for their own ends. They were all on a political mission and felt that they knew what was best for the folk, and appear to have little sympathy for what real working-class people actually liked if it didn’t fit their
versions of our national folk songs in class. Over the next five years or so, I became aware that a sizeable chunk of the repertoire out there on the folk scene, being sung by Anne Briggs, Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy and just about everyone else, owed something to the collecting, interpreting, or just tweaking of Bert Lloyd. In my old band Fairport Convention, as our interest in the tradition grew, Folk Song in England was regularly consulted as the standard work, and when we started electrifying
of several songs that he’d known, which he’d acquired and put into his exercise books. Some of these texts were, apparently, very close to the Patterson versions and Bert thought they might well have been learnt from print. Some Australians might ask, ‘but learnt from print by whom? Bert or his supposed informants?’ In various interviews Bert is quoted as saying that he acquired around 500 songs while in Australia. Yet, apart from the twenty-five or so recorded titles and a couple sent to Ron
University interviewed him.’ The reporters were Michael Rosen and Tony Coombs and their interview was published in the university magazine Isis in February 1966: ‘… he wrote out 500 songs from the sheep shearers and farmers, because he wanted to “take them into his head”. He has still got the exercise books he wrote them down in.’ Mike Rosen later claimed he had in fact not seen the elusive books. He was merely, as usual, repeating what Bert told numerous interviewers to be the case.11 There are
firing guns in the air and laying about them with sticks and sabres. The whaler-men fought back with their fists, aided by piles of ship’s crockery thrown at the police by those men who had stayed on board ship. They also lowered nets over the side to pull up the injured. Several men were slashed with swords and canes, and one man lost an ear. Some were arrested and were bailed out by the captain the next morning, before the ship sailed for Durban to meet up with her catcher boats, and head down