Wednesday 23 December 2009

The Battle of Brentford

"Captain Lilburne, well, he rode after us all sir, he grabbed our colours, and bid all those with weak hearts to march back to London, but calling on those with the spirits of men and the gallantry of soldiers to follow him back to Brentford ..." Nope, not an account of a heated local derby at Griffin Park, The Battle of Brentford is instead part of an ambitious musical project, Freeborn John, put together by the Rev Hammer. The dramatic work is based on the story of John Lilburne, the 17th century agitator, who was a key figure in the English Civil War, which the Battle of Brentford formed part of on 12 November 1642. Lilburne was captured by royalist troops after the battle, and became the first prominent Roundhead to be seized. The Rev Hammer's Freeborn John features members of The Levellers and New Model Army (indeed Justin Sullivan narrates this track), and for once their participation is wryly appropriate given the subject matter. The project prominently features Maddy Prior, one of the great English pop figures. Another great English pop figure was Marie Lloyd, queen of the music halls and a distant relative according to my grandad, whose most famous 'character' numbers included the immortal I'm One Of The Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About A Bit, which sadly turned out to be her swan song. Here is a later rendition by Doreen Harris with Leon Cortez and his Coster Band ...

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