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Music / Steeleye Span

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The band in 2009.

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.

Studio Discography:

  • Hark! The Village Wait (1970)
  • Please to See the King (1971)
  • Ten Man Mop or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again (1971)
  • Below the Salt (1972)
  • Parcel of Rogues (1973)
  • Now We Are Six (1974)
  • Commoners Crown (1975)
  • All Around My Hat (1975)
  • Rocket Cottage (1976)
  • Storm Force Ten (1977)
  • Sails of Silver (1980)
  • Back in Line (1986)
  • Tempted and Tried (1989)
  • Time (1996)
  • Horkstow Grange (1998)
  • Bedlam Born (2000)
  • They Called Her Babylon (2004)
  • Winter (2004)
  • Bloody Men (2006)
  • Cogs, Wheels and Lovers (2009)
  • Wintersmith (with Terry Pratchett) (2013)
  • Dodgy Bastards (2016)
  • EST'd 1969 (2019)

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.
  • Back from the Dead: The carline wife's sons in "The Wife of Usher's Well". However, just when everyone's having a good time celebrating their joyful return, the oldest decides that that's enough of that:
    For the cock does crow and the day doth show
    And the channering worm doth chide
    And we must go from Usher's Well
    To the gates of Paradise.
  • 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".
  • Christmas Songs: Their 2004 album Winter features a number of traditional carols.
  • 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.
  • False Rape Accusation: In “Child Owlet” the titular character refuses to cuckold his uncle so his aunt claims he forced himself on her, prompting the aforementioned uncle to painfully execute poor Child Owlet.
  • 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 Moor
    No broom nor bonny whin
    But's dripping with Child Owlet's blood
    And pieces of his skin.
    There was no grass on Elkin Moor
    No broom nor bonny rush
    But's dripping with Child Owlet's blood
    And pieces of his flesh.
  • The Grim Reaper: the narrator of "Shaking of the Sheets".
  • 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 witchcraft says...
  • Historical Domain Character: Bonnie Prince Charlie in "Prince Charles Stuart."
  • Hypocritical Humor: There's a very dark example in "Edward". The title character repeatedly lies about where the blood on his sword came from. He eventually admits that it's his brother's, who he slew... for lying.
  • 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"
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: On the Dodgy Bastards version of "Boys of Bedlam", and "Bad Bones" on the same album.
  • Would Harm a Child: The murderess of "Little Sir Hugh", "Long Lankin", "The Cruel Mother"... The latter at least gets sent to Hell for her crime.