The Black Velvet Band

Drawing by Suzy Varty

Memory does funny, even weird, things sometimes.

I woke up this morning…

That sounds like the beginning of a Blues number, doesn’t it?

“Well, I woke up this morning
Blues hangin’ round my head.
Yes, well, I woke up this morning
Blues hangin’ round my head.
Felt so awful, I might as well be dead.
Yeah.”

Sorry. I’m rambling. I get a bit like that sometimes. Age, you know.

Maybe that should be my Blues name: Rambling Pete Lathan, purveyor of Blues to the good folk of the North East!

Oh! Sorry again! Back to the matter in hand.

I woke up this morning, singing (in my head) The Black Velvet Band, a folk song found all over the UK. I, however, was singing The Dubliners’ version, Irish accent and all. The group first recorded it – so Wikipedia tells me – in 1967 but the song was a staple in the late 60s/early 70s when I, along with most of my friends, was a regular frequenter of a number of NE folk clubs.

That was a phase that passed and the song faded from my mind.

Then, in 1997 (thirty years later – spooky!), we were taking a show to Germany and some German friends took us to the Altstadt in Düsseldorf, to an Irish bar where there was live music and the (genuine Irish) band played The Black Velvet Band. Two of us – me and Paul Tague, a Scotsman who was Technical Director of the Customs House in South Shields – joined in lustily (to the total embarrassment of our Musical Director!).

Hey! That could be the start of a joke, couldn’t it?

An Englishman and a Scotsman go into an Irish bar… (Supply your own punchline)

From the North East

Then, yet again, I forgot all about the song, only to wake up singing it this morning 25 years all but a couple of months later. But not only that, I looked online for the Dubliners’ recording and realised that my mind was recreating that performance exactly!

And that, my friends, is really weird, for half the time I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday!

Her eyes they shone like diamonds
I thought her the queen of the land
And her hair it hung over her shoulders
Tied up with a black velvet band.

Here’s a Dubliners’ recording of the song.

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