Sunday, December 28, 2008

Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die

A wonderful folk song which at once points out the futility of Prohibition, explains how beer is made and hints at cult whereby the king must die to promote the fertility of the land:
And little Sir John's in the nut-brown bowl,
And he’s brandy in the glass;
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
Proved the strongest man at last.

The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle nor pots,
Without a little barleycorn.
John Barleycorn Must Die exists in many versions: this one was brought to Traffic by their flautist Chris Wood after he heard it sung by Mike Waterson.

This video was recorded live at Santa Monica in 1972 and the song is also the title track of Traffic's greatest LP.


HE Elsom said...

I loved the Traffic version when I was a teenager, but it's not really a folksong, is it? There's far too much Golden Bough in there -- I'm sure it was written by an early twentieth-century pagan with pretensions, or at least, the "king must die" bit was interpolated in an existing song about beer.

Anonymous said...

No doubt you are aware of the Winwood solo version?