To say I’m pleased to present this song and interview with Michael Tanner would be a big understatement. So I’ll forgo describing my own personal excitement and just say it’s a real honour to feature this première by Plinth. One Night As I Lay On My Bed which will appear on the upcoming Shirley Collins compilation being released in conjunction with the new feature documentary The Ballad of Shirley Collins, a lyrical response to the life and work of this musical pioneer and folk legend.
Michael spared Folk Radio UK some time to talk about the song and his love for Shirley Collins’ work:
‘I currently live in Lewes, mainly due to working with Shirley Collins almost a decade ago on a project that was never realised. I’d loved her work for longer still, and can trace that love right back into one special chord change on ‘I Drew My Ship’. I wasn’t an ardent folkie at this point but learned a lot about all things music and minimal from the few light plucks and raps along the fretboard in 0:28 of that particular song. How to change colour and mood of a piece with a devastatingly simple chord change. I think her choices as an instrumentalist, alongside Dolly of course, are what initially drew me in and even now, during her renaissance, get overlooked. Many can sing a song but that stripped-back, heady medievalism, imbued with a very plaintive, direct delivery…Completely intoxicating. I could close my eyes and time travel. That day trip to Lewes and spending the afternoon with Shirley was completely magical, and convinced me to move here at the first opportunity. I still see her often, attempting to be a normal person amongst us mere mortals. On dropping off a birthday card the other day, she was introduced to my Mum and gave her a big hug – that’s Shirley.
‘I chose ‘One Night As I Lay On My Bed’ for it’s little incongruous flourishes in relation to her other work. I love the chip shop delivery of the words “Mum and Dad” in a song that’s hundreds of years old. The dreamy psaltery breakdown of the verses involving rich reverb, tape pitching and studio trickery were also quite uncommon on a Shirley release, but are so effective and completely lend themselves to the story. I opted for more of an Eastern style arrangement of the piece, with help from Emma Morton (Lutine) who is Sussex born and bred, which also felt strangely important. Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides) is just perfect at channeling that mournful, Vaughan Williams-esque when a viola is placed in her hands. It all came together quite easily, and whilst not something I’m sure Shirley would approve of 100 percent, I at least felt like we took our own path to get there.
‘All three of the main participants in this song were, independently of each other, at Shirley’s Cafe OTO movie fundraiser. Goes to show how much we’ve all been influenced by her work, and how recent months have only felt like a launch pad for her to influence many, many more. We all hope the forthcoming film will continue to shine light on this exceptional talent. She really is the true queen of England.’
The Ballad of Shirley Collins film was launched with a successful Kickstarter campaign in July 2014 which we had the pleasure of supporting. If you missed out you can still take part and claim any of the rewards on offer (including the album, final movie and more) by visiting http://www.shirleycollinsmovie.com/