This record is one of a set of three Topic E.P's which are re-issues of the Sea Shanties formerly listed in the Topic Catalogue as T7 and T8. The reissues are TOP 98, TOP 99 and TOP 100 and notes by A. L. Lloyd about the twelve songs on them are in a booklet inside the sleeve.
These songs have the hardness of teak and the roughness of canvas: Some are work songs — shanties — shaped to help men to haul together on the ropes or shove together on the windlass when working the ship. Others are diversionary songs — forrbitters — sung off-watch. when the men might be gathered round the foc'sle lantern or, in fair weather, up on deck of a tropical evening, maybe, sitting on the bitts or sprawled on the fore-hatch.
The great days of sailor-singing were in the first two-thirds of the 19th century when the really fast sailing ships were evolved. Competition between shipping companies meant that skippers were expected to drive their men to get every possible knot of speed out of their craft. Singing helped the work to go faster. "If the men don't sing right, the ship don't move right". was the axiom, and a good shanty-man was always sure of a job on a clipper.
Roughly. shanties are of three kinds: halliard shanties for hoisting heavy yards; short-drag shanties for taking in slack or hauling on sheets and braces; capstan shanties for such jobs as heaving the anchor and warping in and out of dock. These jobs, and the shanties that accompany them, have their own distinctive rhythms. (though in fact a certain number of shanties might be used indiscriminately for hauling or capstan work). The sea has more than its share of romanticisers, and the view is often expressed that it would be hard to find anything more truly British than a good old sea-shanty. In fact, however. many of our greatest shanties were evolved during the growth of the cotton trade. when the song-idiom of British seamen mingled with that of the Negro stevedores of the cotton ports of the American South, and produced one of the most engaging hybrids in the whole of musical folklore.
A. L. LLOYD.