Royal Oak

from by Broadside Electric

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A pleasant day's sail spoiled only by a little fire and drowning. The protagonists of this song clearly have more guts than brains (being willing to fight when outnumbered ten to one) but, unlikely as it seems, they emerge victorious. We found the words in the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, in a version collected in Surrey in 1912. Tom wrote a new melody very loosely based on the original, which was deemed too ungainly.

Barham Down is an English Country Dance whose tune appears in Playford, as well as on a wonderful recording by Bare Necessities.


As we were sailing all on the seas,
We hadn't sailed months but two or three,
Before we spied ten sail of Turks,
All men of war and full as big as we.

"Pull down your colors, you English dogs!
Pull down your colors and do not refuse.
Oh, pull down your colors, you English dogs
Pull down or else your precious lives you'll lose!"

Our captain being a valiant man,
And a well-bespoken young man was he:
"Oh, they'll never say that we died like dogs,
But we will fight with them most manfully!"

"Go up, you lofty cabin boys,
And mount to the mainmast topsail high,
For to spread abroad to King George's fleet
That we'll run the risk or else we'll die!"

The fight began about six in the morning,
And on to the setting of the sun.
Till at the rising of the next morning,
Of those ten ships we couldn't see but one.

For it's three we sank and three we burned,
And three we caused for to run away,
And one we brought to Portsmouth harbour,
For to let them know that we had won the day.

If anyone should then enquire
If any want to know our captain's name,
Captain Wellfounder is our commander
But the Royal Oak it is our ship by name.


from With Teeth, released August 17, 1999
Words: trad. English; Music: Tom Rhoads); with Barham Down (trad. English)

JD: drums, backing vocals, finger cymbal; AK: whistle; TR: vocals, citterns, electric guitar; JS: bass; HZ: violin



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Broadside Electric Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Broadside Electric is a five-piece electric folk band from Philadelphia, PA (US). They have earned a reputation for thoroughly original arrangements and painstaking research into traditional English, Celtic and Eastern European music. Broadside Electric has been at turns called “Pennsylvania’s answer to Steeleye Span” and “folk music’s answer to death metal.” ... more

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