So how do you explain to the kiddie winkies that long, long ago – in the 1970s – the folk music scene harboured asylum seekers and political refugees who could take to the stage and pack their set with songs and stories of The Working Man?
Do you think they’ll believe that a folk group could bring out an album sponsored by the Scottish Trades Union Congress to be sold only through trade union branches? And that public demand led to its general release? Well, that album was I Am the Common Man recorded by The Laggan.
The Laggan had an unpretentious stage presence and the lineup of Arthur Johnstone, John McDermott and Tony and Billy Paton took no prisoners in their performance. And there’s no hidden agenda on the album; these are songs which reflect the life – however short, however wretched – of the workers of the world, whether that world be centred round the Australian troops in Gallipoli, American trade unionists, Scottish weavers or the International Brigade in Spain.
Arthur Johnstone’s clear, strong and passionate voice was always – and still is – one of the best in Scottish folksong and from the opening track of The Work o’ the Weavers, through The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, A Man’s a Man, Joe Hill and the marvellous final seven-minute track of Jarama/Bandiera Rosa – this is vintage stuff.
Lochshore have done us a great favour by reissuing I Am The Common Man, so take another listen to these songs of justice, equality and solidarity from a group who stated their message loudly and clearly for all to hear. Excellent.
Our thanks to Alan McIntosh Brown of The Living Tradition
To purchase a copy of the album, click here.