PERFORMER: RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON
SONGWRITER: RICHARD THOMPSON
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1974
COMMENTS: Linda here sings the sprightliest little jig you ever heard in the voice of Sally, the titular beggar girl. We're getting out to the fraying ends of my knowledge to explain the European folk music traditions that this comes from, but Richard wrote a hell of a cheerful, bright catchy original song with considerably more melodic and musical development than you would typically expect from most folk music.
Listening to the bouncy vocal melody and the very curious words, you might not notice at first the outstanding nuance of the arrangement. As a Richard Thompson afficianado might expect, he adds a whole second layer of melodic development in his guitar commentary running underneath all of it.
Also, though, the mandolin has another whole statement going on which adds much to the perhaps deceptively cheerful sound of the record, as does the accordian. In short, this record qualifies as "chamber music" under the Walter Rimmler definition.
The rest of the song, the melody, beat and accompaniment make this quite an outstanding song, but the lyrics really make this a must have record. They sketch quite an arresting character study, with a good bit of detail of the life, times and attitude of little Miss Sally.
Sally turns out to be quite the nasty little bitch, not the nice cheerful plucky urchin that you might expect from the tune or from most artistic portrayals of such characters. She expresses little but contempt for the person she is addressing. "Cause I love taking money off a snob like you."
Besides the bracing bitterness of her words, she lays out numerous curious attitudes and details as she describes herself dancing "with me peg leg a wigglin' at the knee." She strikes an interesting note as she describes the range of her travels, and the extent of her journeys. "I travel far and wide to do the work that I do." She seems to think that begging for change in the street is productive labor, as if she is a traveling business man.
Her attitudes constitute one of the best encapsulations I've seen of Nietzche's classic idea of Christian resentment. "Oh the poor they shall be rich, and the rich they shall be poor/ That's according to Saul when he laid down the law/ And I'd much rather be rich after than before."
Even in her bitter bilousness, she does not lack a saving vigorous sense of cynical humor, which comes out various ways in her analysis of her market, as it were. "If the words of my song do your conscience alarm/ Just remember generosity is like a lucky charm/ If you give me your money it will do you no harm."
RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON PHOTOS - FAIRPORT CONVENTION PHOTOS
DVD Review: Tony Palmer's Film of Fairport Convention & Matthews Southern Comfort
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