I first came across this nursery rhyme in an illustrated book when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I’d never heard or read or seen anything quite like it before. I think it marked a certain loss of innocence, a dawning realisation in my young mind that the world could be a dark, dark place. It has stayed with me all these years and from time to time I find myself humming the tune.
Now it occurs to me that the story is the kind of thing that would give children the heebie-jeebies. If it had been written in the 21st century, you can imagine that the people who police such things would deem it inappropriate to tout it as a children’s ditty. Especially with that title which doesn’t sugar-coat how the story plays out.
Here’s my friend and sometime collaborator, Mikey Kirkpatrick of Bird Radio, taking it to some place very murky indeed. It hasn’t escaped my notice that with a name like Bird Radio, this folk song was crying out for Mikey to cover it.
“Who Killed Cock Robin?” Bird Radio by chiaraambrosio
And Disney’s sanitised version of it in the 1935 film where it’s been transformed into a love story that has a happy ending because the shooter was Cupid just doing his thing.
Nobody seems to know the exact origin of the song. Wikipedia gives various sources of how the tale might have come about but there’s no definitive answer. I’m drawn to the Robin Hood version myself. Yes, it’s a bit convenient that the victim shares the same name but can it be any coincidence that it’s set in a forest and everybody is lamenting his demise?
- That the rhyme records a mythological event, such as the death of the god Balder from Norse mythology, or the ritual sacrifice of a king figure, as proposed by early folklorists as in the ‘Cutty Wren‘ theory of a ‘pagan survival’.
- That it is a parody of the death of William Rufus, who was killed by an arrow in the New Forest (Hampshire) in 1100.
- That the rhyme is connected with the fall of the government of Robert Walpole in 1742, since Robin is a diminutive form of Robert and the first printing is close to the time of the events mentioned.
- More recently internet speculation has associated the rhyme with Robin Hood, largely, it seems on the basis of a shared name.
One good thing about listening to the radio, as I’ve been doing today, is the chance of stumbling across gems like this. Always good to hear something new. Or more accurately, something old dressed up in different clothes. Love the steady beat and sparkly jazz horns on the The Pioneers reggae cover of Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Brought a slice of sunshine into this snowy day, I can tell ya!
I stumbled across this via the LOTRProject. I love it because it made me smile. Surely, some hectic moments in life call for it? Bring on the eagles!
Back in the 90s, I worked for the record label Acid Jazz based in Soho’s Greek Street. It’s safe to say that the label, if its roster of artists and pre-occupations were anything to go by, was very influenced by the Mod aesthetic and lifestyle. It certainly felt a bit like the place Mods went to grow up and fed my addiction to vinyl – I spent a good portion of my weekly wages in the second-hand record shops in Soho.
And it wasn’t just the artists. The people who worked there, particularly the men, tended to have variations on Bradley Wiggins’ feather haircut and I recall many a conversation with work mates about the significance of Farah trousers and Ben Sherman shirts, Lambretta scooters and jazz music. And suits. Particularly Italian suits.
While I worked there, I never got to see head honcho Eddie Piller wear a suit. Back then he was all denim on denim, Addidas trainers and a long ponytail. This little vignette makes up for that. It’s fronted by the man himself looking his dapper best in a lean suit (“Always, sometimes, never”), directed by my good friend and super storyteller, James Maycock and produced by Manifesto NYC.
The great thing about this little film is it works like a tiny pocket guide to what made Mod and Soho such good bedfellows. And I have to say Eddie takes to the role of presenter like the proverbial duck to water.
Although this post and the previous one – SOOD #52 – might belie this claim, I’m not in the habit of finding pictures of animals being all cutesy entertaining.
But come on!
How often does one get to see a real life polar bear getting on down to some disco inferno? Photographer Steve Kazlowski says that this juvenile male polar bear appears to be sublimely co-ordinated precisely because he was rather uncoordinated in his attempts to balance on his hind legs in order to get a good look at the human beings passing in front of him.
Why spoil it though? I prefer to think he was wining to some Lee Scratch Perry.
It’s likely you’ve seen these images before but once more for posterity: