Week 50: The grey goose and gander, When I set off for Turkey, A hard rain’s a-gonna fall

This week’s songs are a load of nonsense. I think nonsense is a great neglected tradition in English poetry, and nonsense songs like the first two of these are a big part of it. Also, they’re fun.

The grey goose and gander (sung here with vocal harmonies) is a silly song from nineteenth-century Yorkshire. It’s a lot of fun, particularly when sung (in the words of the man who collected it) “in the kitchens of quiet publichouses”, or indeed in the side rooms of busy ones.

When I set off for Turkey (sung here with drums, concertina, recorder, some more concertina, flute, G whistle, zither and ukulele) is an exorbitant song of lies and boasts, each line sillier and more unbelievable than the one before. Which you could also say about the arrangement.

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall, lastly, is a long song (presented here in a short form) which takes the “and another thing” form of songs like the previous one and infuses it with the visionary urgency and rage of a lot of Dylan’s earlier work. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with nuclear war, and I still think it’s a hard rain that’s gonna fall.

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