I’m singin’ a song of the Big Bang, boys,
And how it done for me…
Oh, once I worked for IBM.
Once I was the crème de la crème.
But now I work no more for them.
Not since the Big Bang came, boys.
Not since the Big Bang came.
The City of London is rich in traditional folksong, but this year’s drastic change of regulations at the Stock exchange seems to have produced a new burst of creativity. The tape recorders of our musical field researchers have caught many a new variant on old themes, such as this folksong recorded in a wine-bar near the Bank.
Young Jeremy was a jobber,
‘E ran around the floor.
Buying shares before their worth,
And selling ‘em for more.
‘E’ ‘ad a house in Epping,
And a Volvo painted green.
But now he ain’t got nothing at all,
‘Cos his work’s done by machine.
Young Jeremy’s a cleaner now,
Sweeping the Stock Exchange floor,
And all around, the machines go ‘click’,
Doing what he done before.
The full version runs to many more verses that that, of course, detailing how Jeremy made a fortune before the collapse came, and spent most of it on valuable wines as an investment, and there are some poignant verses which depict him, penniless and debt-ridden, getting pitifully drunk on some of the greatest clarets known to man. This feeling of impending doom, of the end of a golden age, runs through all current folksongs sung in the City, including this one heard in a first-class carriage on a train to Guildford.
As I walked out one midsummer’s day,
I met a fair maiden a-coming my way,
Trying to carry a large cardboard crate,
And bending and straining beneath its weight.
“Tell me, fair maiden, can I be of aid?”
“Oh yes, you can, sir,” replied the fair maid.
And so unsuspecting I bore to my room
The Amstrad computer which promised my doom.
So listen all brokers who work in the City,
Don’t trust a young maiden, no matter how pretty,
Who comes with a large cardboard box to your floor.
Pretend to be out and lock up your door.
Quite why love and the Big Bang should be mixed together is not certain, but lots of folksongs bring them together, as this fragment illustrates:
Oh, I loved a girl who worked next door,
And we strolled arm in arm on the Stock Exchange floor
But now her work’s all done by machine,
And I’m in love with a flickering screen.
All these, of course, are urban folksongs. The idea of a rural City of London folksong is almost a contradiction in terms, but we did come across one very unusual exception, brought about by the short-lived involvement of some investors in agriculture, the Ballad of the Pension Fund. Here’s just a taste:
It was a great pension fund
And they bought a farm in the Lincoln Wold,
For to grow the wheat for the folk to eat,
But now they’re gone and the farm is sold.
We don’t want ‘ee, pension man
Go back to Lunnon again!
Your hair’s too short and you don’t talk proper –
Get ‘ee back, and buy and sell copper!
We consider it a vital task to gather this traditional material before it is all lost, and many of these songs can be heard on our new LP. The Moreover City Folksong Sampler Vol 23, The Big Bang. Of them all, perhaps the most poignant is this last one, heard sung in a City tube station by a man once reputed to earn £20,000 a week.
I sing a song of Guinness,
And a song of ITT.
But I sing no thanks to the merchant banks
Who brought me penury.
I sing a song of dollars,
And the odd commodity.
I will sing a song about anything,
If you throw me 20p.
I sing here in the station,
For a busker now I be.
Singing away the livelong day,
Since the Big Bang came to me.
Moreover , The Times, November 1986