ARTHUR DAVE & ARTHUR TONY
HEARKEN TO THE WITCHES RUNE
Original Issue: 1970 Trailer (LER 2017)
Margot-meter: 4 moons / 5
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from Electric Eden:
...one of English folk's great lost recordings...they are abroad in the thick of night, squinting out of the midnight shadows, as if about to disrobe for a black mass. This collection of the magical ballads they were steeped in at the time - Alison Gross, The Standing Stones, The Cruel Mother - has the raw spontaneity of what they might have been like if incorporated in magic ritual.
Anyone of a certain age, exposed to BBC children’s television during the ’70s will recall Toni Arthur: the enthusiastic, polo-necked co-presenter of toddler show Play School and its all-singing, all-dancing big brother Playaway, plus the folksy round-Britain travelogue series Take A Ticket To. But would parents have been so keen on exposing their little ones to the acoustic guitar-wielding wrangler of Big Ted, Humpty and their stuffed chums, had they known that Toni had recently attended naked pagan ceremonies conducted by Britain’s self-styled ‘King of the Witches’?
Dave Arthur first met Toni in the 12 Stringer, an after-hours espresso bar he was running in central London as a refuelling stop for the red-eyed refugees from Soho’s early ’60s nocturnal club scene such as Davy Graham and Wizz Jones. When Toni wandered in one night, she was enrolled in a nursing course at London’s University College, but had been an exhibition scholar at the Royal Academy since the age of 9. ‘He played American folk songs,’ she recalls, ‘Carter Family stuff mainly, with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” being top favourite. Intrigued by this totally unheard music, I sang with him. I remember him asking why I didn’t sing the tune. I said I preferred making the harmonies, and that was it. Love!’ They married shortly afterwards and moved to Oxford, where they both found work in the university bookshop. While Toni peddled science and medicine textbooks, Dave beavered away in the basement arts department, building up a formidable stock of printed folk song and folklore writing. Around this time a friend gave them a pile of tapes of English old-time music, and the couple were transfixed by the voices of Harry Cox and the Copper Family.