Joe Stead – The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Twenty Four - September 2002.

Issue 24. Two years of Ramblings!

Kimber’s Men have had a productive year and August was a great month. Our new CD “See you when the sun goes down” has now been released to coincide with invitations to perform at both the Maryport Festival and The Tall Ships Festival of the Sea in Portsmouth. We seemed to make a big impression at both events and our CD sales at the Tall Ships Festival were phenomenal. We should and must thank Shep Woolley for his support and faith in us. To put icing onto the cake the RNLI have also agreed to distribute the Kimber’s Men CD from 2003 onwards. The RNLI only take on two new CD’s each year and as they have already accepted ‘Valparaiso round the Horn’ in 2002 it is indeed an honour and a reflection on the quality of the new CD that they have already elected to take the Kimber’s Men CD next year.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a charity which saves lives at sea. It provides, on call, the 24-hour service necessary to cover search and rescue requirements out to 50 miles from the coast of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. There are 229 lifeboat stations and their lifeboats launch more than 6,300 times a year, rescuing on average over 6,400 people. They are manned by highly trained volunteer crews, and every penny required to maintain the lifeboat service is raised from voluntary contributions. The Institution is proud of its independent status, and is seeking to save more lives through its Sea Safety campaigns and rescue work in other areas, such as large expanses of inland water, beaches and on the Thames.

The RNLI depends entirely on voluntary contributions and legacies for its income and is registered Charity No. 209606.

Any reader interested in purchasing a copy of the CD, “See you when the sun goes down,” should send a cheque for £12 to
The Ship’s Doctor,
Providence Place,
Sowerby Bridge,
Yorkshire. HX6 1BA.
Please make the cheque payable to Joe Stead. The price includes post and packing and a donation of £1 to the RNLI. So buy a CD and save a life! The compact disc has 25 tracks and lasts for just over 77 minutes. So you are getting value for money and some.

If you live in America you can contact
Bud Manning @ >
Wooden Ship’s Music @ >

We already have one review of the album by Pete Fyfe that can be read on the internet at

Here is what Pete had to say

Kimber's Men - See You When The Sun Goes Down (A Private Label APL8)

A while ago Joe Stead released a fine CD of Sea Shanties. Here he extends his repertoire joined by a cast of like-minded shanty men Neil Kimber, John Bromley and Roger Hepworth. I had the pleasure of seeing the group performing at both Maryport Sea Festival and the Tall Ships Race and remember how much they impressed me. So it seems fitting that this recording has done nothing to diminish my regard of their resonant tones (particularly the bass!). Discussing their performance of shanties and sea songs with my mate Shep Woolley, we both came to the same conclusion that if you're going to sing either do it with an element of 'entertainment' and you have more chance of being widely accepted by a general audience. Kimber's Men fill this position excellently and then some by including songs such as Gordon Lightfoot's 'Ode To Big Blue' along with more standard fare such as 'Blood Red Roses' and 'Rio Grande'. Ok, so some of the songs might not be at the right speeds but to be perfectly frank who wants to remember them as they were? I know I'm more than likely being controversial but let's give Kimber's Men a resounding thumbs up for bringing an element of enjoyment (not heard since the heyday of the Spinners) that has sadly been missing for a while.
Pete Fyfe


I read with interest your remarks on women in the sea shanty field. I'm glad that you've gotten in touch with your inner self, and are able to express your true feelings about this. As I spent a great part of the '70's hanging around the folklore department of the University of Pennsylvania (thanks to Teresa Pyott of the Liverpool Judies, who was the administrative assistant there), I heard many of the same arguments that you brought up. I also remember an incident at a festival, in which the Liverpool Judies and a British duo were onstage during a shanty workshop. One of the men, who has since mellowed out a bit, loudly remarked into the microphone that "Americans shouldn't sing British music, and women must never sing sea shanties!". He then turned his back on us -- on stage! -- whenever it was our turn to sing.
Let me see if I can break some of this down, before I get lynched again. MUSIC, AND THE MAKING THEREOF, MAKES US FEEL GOOD. Does it matter what kind of music we choose to sing, or should we not sing a particular kind of music just because we're not of that culture/sex/occupation, etc.? I remember hearing early Joan Baez records, and those of us who were faithfully trying to reproduce every note were stymied at what to do about singing a "man's" song. Should Maddy Prior be prohibited from singing "The Weaver and the Factory Maid"? Boy, I hope not!
One of my earliest memories was of my father taking me to the Philadelphia Convention Hall to see the international festival, and the impact that the Balkan group had on me. I loved the heavy, flowing dresses of the women, and was mesmerised by their singing. Most of these folks were not first-generation immigrants, but many were descendants (and I'm sure that some had no personal connection to the culture whatsoever, but just loved the music and dancing).
Now, as you know, my grandmother was English, so I feel that I have a "right" to sing English music. I don't, as you also know, sing it in England when I'm there on tour - I tend to sing all of the American versions that I know of English folk songs.
As far as sea shanties are concerned, we're destroying the shanties by singing them on land (I have also heard that it is bad luck to do so; sleep on THAT!). These were WORK songs, not sung for fun. I have presented educational sea shanty programs through a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts, and also through the Philadelphia Folksong Society's Odyssey of American Folk Music, and have performed in schools and at festivals and museums, explaining what the songs were about, the jobs that they accompanied, and encouraged the audiences to sing along--much like you do. After "performing" those songs for decades, I finally got the chance to be the "shantyma'm' (if you will) aboard the tall ship Elissa. Boy, what an eye-opener that was! It's very different to sing at a work pace, after singing the songs at concert pace all those years. I highly recommend to every shanty performer that they try to get the chance to experience it!
Many ships' crews - even today - include women, so why shouldn't a woman be able to lead the shanties, provided she has a loud voice and can set the cadence?
Also, we must remember that sea shanties are folk music, and subject to change without notice. What makes it "ours" is its ability to change with our culture. Many of the origins of the shanties were lost, as the American sailors jumped ship and signed on with English vessels to avoid harsh treatment, while the British sailors switched to Yankee vessels for better pay. I could not sing about a "big buck nigger" in the classrooms here and expect to get out alive, let alone get paid!
Being a member of the Philadelphia Folksong Society, this cross-culture argument has been going on for years, both in person and in print, so this is deja vu all over again.
And, finally, we're not out to musically castrate you. It's just that - well, damn it, why should you guys get to have all the rowdy fun?
Heave away, me bully boys! Batten down the landlubbers!
--Caryl P. Weiss
Admiral in the Texas Navy

Re Reading songs
The Coppers have used a book for generations, so it has traditional justification.
As a songwriter, I'm always anxious to try out my latest, and so I usually have to read it because I haven't yet got it down. This sometimes happens when I decide to revive an old song (ie one written more than a week ago) 'cos my short-term memory is going fast.
I don't think I ever read the words of traditional songs, even if I've just begun to sing them at home.
Karl Dallas,

Hi Joe,
Just wanted to say, volume 23 was bloody brilliant!
Keep safe, well and happy,
Ray Burgess

Hi Joe,
Haven't been in touch much recently so I thought I'd drop you a line.
We're just coming into spring over here - warm weather, cows are calving, lambs are gambolling, trees are in bud; makes you feel life is so worthwhile, makes you feel good to be alive. I was sitting outside the house, looking over the fields and basking in the afternoon sunshine watching the deer run around on the opposite side of the valley and I thought how lucky I'd been in my life and how good it was to have a good woman to share my life with: I thought about marriage and came to the conclusion that to have a happy, successful marriage you really need just four ingredients:

1. It is important to find a woman who cooks and cleans.

2. It is important to find a woman who makes good money.

3. It is important to find a woman who likes to have sex.

4. It is important that these three women never meet.

Be lucky,

Hi Joe,

Your woman / man geography joke prompted me to dig this one out.


You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

AMERICAN CAPITALISM (or Enron-capitalism):
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of
credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute
debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all
four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of
the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island
company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights
to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says
the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to
buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No
balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and
produce 20 times the milk.
You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market
them world-wide.

You have two cows.
You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and
milk themselves.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
You break for lunch.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 12 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.
You charge others for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the
newsman who reported the numbers.

You have two cows.
That one on the left is kind of cute...

The Washington Post publishes a yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for various words. The following were some of this year's winning entries:

1. Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your night-gown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanour assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.

13. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.

14. Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your Soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.

Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce, and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth?
One goose, two geese. So why not one moose, two meese?
One index, two indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?
Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Pete Seeger, by the way, has recorded an abbreviated version of this latter script on a CD.

Any fool can see with floods in Britain, Germany, and China amongst others, whilst Africa starves in a desert of no rain and no food that mankind is destroying itself and the best part of the world with it. We all know it is happening – so let’s go and bomb Iraq. And while we prepare ourselves for this outrageous act of aggression and inhumanity ponder upon the words to a wonderful song written by Mick Ryan called ‘I am the Foe’.

I am the foe
The symbol of all evil, the one who’s deeds give justice to your cause
I am the foe
The servant of the devil, pitiless I kill without a pause
I am the foe
I rape I burn I plunder, whatever falls within my grasp I steal
I am the foe
The good I tear asunder, the weak and helpless die beneath my heels

I am the foe
I shame the one who nursed me, no human heart beats love within my breast
I am the foe
I love to hear you curse me, across the barren land that we contest
I am the foe
I fight for no good reason, relentless guiltless numberless I stand
I am the foe
Your quarry when in season, I’ll destroy you for the merest scrap of land

I am the foe
I fight for every nation, for every creed I speak for every tongue
I am the foe
I am your own creation, so kill me if you can I am the one
I am the foe
The one who's death deserving, the one who falls beneath your fatal blow
I am the foe
I hate the side your serving, and Ill kill you if I can for you’re my foe.

And on that happy note I’ll leave you. For those of you who have supported me and read this script for 24 months. Thank you and well done!


Keep smiling and keep singing.