A Folk Rock band that formed in England in 1969, which, along with Fairport Convention, was one of the pioneers of the British version of Folk Rock.
Tropes associated with Steeleye Span include:
- Abhorrent Admirer: the she-creature who practically rapes Good King Henry; the titular Allison Gross, "ugliest witch in the north country" who does not take rejection kindly.
- Bawdy Song: This is English folk song, don't forget. Take your pick... "The Two Magicians" is a good one.
- Bedlam House: "Boys of Bedlam," an adaptation of the song "Tom O'Bedlam."
- Big Applesauce: The band's cover of the shanty "New York Girls." This featured guest performer Peter Sellers on ukelele and Goon Show voices.
- The Cameo: David Bowie guests as saxophone player on the band's version of "To Know Him Is To Love Him".
- Conspiracy Theories: "Little Sir Hugh" is based on a seven-hundred-year-old medieval legend (that of the fictional St. Hugh of Lincoln) about the Blood Libel, the assertion that Jews stole away good Christian children for nefarious purposes. The band edited out the anti-Semitic aspects of the song.
- Double-Meaning Title: The album Now We Are Six; in addition to being an A. A. Milne reference, it's their sixth album and it came when the band added their sixth member.
- Epic Rocking: "King Henry" from Below the Salt comes in at about 7 minutes. And it rocks out without drums.
- "Allison Gross", which last for 5 and a half minutes, is another example. If you never believed drumless, guitar-driven folk-rock could sound loud, harsh, and abrasive, you will now.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: 1975's Now We Are Six was the first album to feature drummer Nigel Pegrum, the new sixth member of the band.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: "Long Lankin" is the story of the (extremely) bloody murder of a baby and his mother; the title character of "Child Owlet" is pulled apart by horses, with the results detailed over the final two stanzas:There was no stone on Elkin MoorNo broom nor bonny whinBut's dripping with Child Owlet's bloodAnd pieces of his skin.There was no grass on Elkin MoorNo broom nor bonny rushBut's dripping with Child Owlet's bloodAnd pieces of his flesh.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Drink Down The Moon", the sort of English folk song Puritans would not have appreciated at all, and which needed to have its principal theme slightly disguised. The same applies to slice of thinly disguised paganism like "Seven Hundred Elves", and the occasional hint of Celtic dissidence, which the English state and church would not have appreciated. And you thought folk music was twee and safe?
- Gypsy Curse: Alison Gross, a woman who might safely, but inaccurately, be described as "homely", dumps a real haymaker of a curse on the man who spurns her advances, with scorn and insult, three times. three times pays for all, as wit chcraft says...
- Historical-Domain Character: Bonnie Prince Charlie in "Prince Charles Stuart."
- Intercourse with You: Drink Down The Moon, eight minutes of robust rural English sex, disguised as ornithology. "The Two Magicians", in which a wizard and a witch get it on. "Spotted Cow" and "Bonny Black Hare", where finding animals leads to finding fun times (the latter with a gun/penis metaphor). "King Henry", in which good old loving turns a monstrous hag into a beautiful woman. "Royal Forester", who uses his (alleged) title to sleep with a woman he finds. "The Ups and Downs" and "The Gentleman Soldier", both dealing with a woman sleeping with a soldier who then leaves her. And that's just songs where the main characters are actively getting it on.
- Indeed, the song "Spotted Cow"'s other appearance in English literature is in the early chapters of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, where it presages the later events of the novel.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Saucy Sailor" is (on paper) a rollicking comic tale about a sailor who tries to woo a girl, gets rejected, but then mentions that he's got money, whereupon she accepts him — whereupon he rejects her and cheerfully swaggers off saying he'll marry someone else. The first half of Steeleye's version (the half with the words) is set to an eerie and rather menacing backdrop, and the second half is a sad little melody played on the piano with ghostly wordless vocals.
- Mood Whiplash: "Jack Hall" is a cheerful, rousing, upbeat song about...a murderer headed for the gallows. Likewise "Sir James the Rose", about a murderer on the run who gets a bloody comeuppance. Then there's "Dance with Me", a jolly jig about an elf princess who gaily tries to persuade a knight to dance with her - and then, when he refuses, strikes him an almighty (and possibly lethal) blow.
- Obfuscating Disability: The traditional folk song "The Beggar":Sometimes we call at a rich man's hall,
To beg for bread and beer.
Sometimes we're lame, sometimes we're blind,
Sometimes too deaf to hear.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Four Nights Drunk"
- Peter Sellers: Guests on "New York Girls", playing the banjo and supplying vocal interjections as Henry Crun, Minnie Banister and Major Bloodnok of The Goon Show.
- Revolving Door Band: Maddy Prior compared Steeleye to a bus, with members (even including herself at one point) getting on and off. Indeed, the band were aware of this; on Now We Are Six, there is a jokey rendition of "The Camptown Races" in the voice of a West Indian bus conductor that alludes to this.
- Robin Hood: "Gamble Gold (Robin Hood)"
- Start My Own: Ashley Hutchings formed Steeleye Span after leaving Fairport Convention, another British Folk Rock band which he had also co-founded.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: "Female Drummer", "There Was A Wealthy Merchant"
- Terry Pratchett: The album Wintersmith is based on the Discworld novel of the same name. Sir Terry himself guests on "The Good Witch", reading the passage from the book about cackling.
- The Span's version of the old English ballad The Two Magicians directly inspired the account of the magical duel between witch and wizard in Equal Rites. And "The Ups and Downs" inspired "The Ins and Outs" in Monstrous Regiment. There is a Steeleye Street in The Compleat Ankh-Morpork in acknowledgement of the connection.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: On the Dodgy Bastards version of "Boys of Bedlam", and "Bad Bones" on the same album.