CARNIVALS, KIDS, DRUMS AND DEVILS
by Norman Warwick
Perhaps because THE (Lanzarote) CARNIVAL season IS now nearly OVER, I have found myself humming a lovely little tune I remember from my childhood, The Carnival Is Over is a song written by Tom Springfield (Dusty´s brother), for the Australian sixties folk pop group the Seekers. It is actually based on a Russian folk song from circa 1883, adapted with original English-language lyrics. The song became the Seekers’ signature recording, and was subsequently customarily employed to close their concerts after its success in late-1965.
At its 1965 sales peak, the Seekers’ single was selling 93,000 copies per day in the UK with sales of at least 1.41 million copies in the UK alone. It also stopped The Who from getting to No.1 with “My Generation“. The single spent three weeks at No.1 in the UK Singles Chart in November and December 1965.
The song also topped the Australian charts (for six weeks, from 4 December 1965),] and reached No.1 in the Irish Charts for two weeks.
The main tune of “The Carnival is Over” is adapted from a Russian song about the Cossack ataman Stenka Razin which became popular in Russia in the 1890s. The original poem of “Stenka Razin” was written in 1883 by poet and Povolzhye region ethnographer Dmitry Sadovnikov. The text of this poem, with minor changes, was set to the music of a popular Russian folk melody by an unknown author.
It told about an episode of the 1670–1671 Russian Peasant Uprising in which Razin allegedly killed his captive, a beautiful Persian Princess whom he had just married. Razin throws the Princess into the Volga river from his boat, in a gesture addressed to his disgruntled jealous comrades who accuse him of “mellowing down” after just one night spent wit
The song gave the title to the famous 1938 Soviet musical comedy Volga-Volga. It was performed by the Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra (balalaikas and domras) during their 1967 tour of Australia. It is played to symbolic effect by the band in a cafe in the 1988 film The Unbearable Lightness of Being after Soviet tanks have crushed the Prague Spring.
The American folk singer Pete Seeger wrote an English language version of “Stenka Razin” called “River of My Country” in the 1950s. This song was included in his album Love Songs for Friends and Foes (1956). The lyrics were not a translation of the Russian song, but were newly composed by Seeger himself, while maintaining the motif of the river.
Tom Springfield was introduced to the song “Stenka Razin” at the Joint Services School for Linguists during his National Service (1952–54). The school was known as “the Russian course”, and its purpose was to train conscripts in intelligence techniques. Springfield joined the school’s Russian choir, and they sang “Stenka Razin” together (in Russian) as part of the course. Springfield adapted the folk song melody in two significant ways. He altered the time signature from 3/4 to 4/4, and he added a chorus, allowing him to expand the Song structure to AABABA from the simple AAA structure of the original. His decision to base his third song for the Seekers on the haunting Russian melody proved to be “a gold mine”. Early in 1965, Springfield travelled to Brazil, where he witnessed the Carnival in Rio.
This provided the basis for his new lyrics, including the Commedia del’arte characters Pierrot and Columbine, who feature in the chorus. The song depicts “the joys of love” experienced by Pierrot and Columbine – when they have to part, the carnival is over.
The German band Boney M. released their own cover version of the Seekers‘ song in 1982 under the title “The Carnival Is Over (Goodbye True Lover)”. The song featured Liz Mitchell on lead vocal, and included a new original verse by producer Frank Farian and lyricist Catherine Courage to introduce Reggie Tsiboe as a vocalist following the departure of Bobby Farrell from the band.] Despite reaching No.11 in the Swiss charts, the single was widely considered Boney M.’s first flop.
Farian attempted to remedy this failure by producing a number of shorter versions, culminating in a release for the Japanese market in which Reggie Tsiboe’s interpolated verse was eliminated. This can be found on “Their Most Beautiful Ballads” (2001) – it had no more success than previous versions.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds also covered the Seekers’ version of “The Carnival is Over” on their 1986 album “Kicking Against The Pricks“. This was the third album released by the Australian rock band. Remarking on the song selection on the Album, Cave said:
Some songs had just kind of haunted my childhood, like “The Carnival is Over”, which I always loved.
Me, too, Nick, and as my reader knows, it doesn´t take a devil to poke me with a stick to force me to create new playlists but that would almost perfectly described what has prompted the playlist below which, for now, I shall call Lots Of Music For Los Diabletes
and will explain my reasoning in a final paragraph bringing together (Lanzarote) Carnival and the Devil.
In 1985, Alison Moyet released her own version of the song as a non-album single. It reached No. 2 in the UK and remained in the charts for ten weeks. A music video was filmed to promote the single, which was directed by Vaughan Arnell and Anthea Benton.
Moyet’s version was recorded following the success of her debut album Alf. When CBS suggested releasing a fourth single from the album, Moyet spoke against the idea and suggested she record a cover of “That Ole Devil Called Love” in order to give fans something new. Speaking to the BBC in 2004, Moyet commented on the song: “After my versions of “That Ole Devil Called Love” and “Love Letters” did well, there was definite pressure for me to become some sort of jazz diva.”
“Old Devil Moon” is a popular song composed by Burton Lane, with lyrics by Yip Harburg for the 1947 musical Finian’s Rainbow. It was introduced by Ella Logan and Donald Richards in the Broadway show. The song takes its title from a phrase in “Fun to Be Fooled”, a song that Harburg wrote with Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin for the 1934 musical Life Begins at 8:40.
(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” is a 1963 single by Elvis Presley (left) which was written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum and Florence Kaye. It was published by Elvis Presley Music in June 1963. The song peaked at No. 3 in the US on the Billboard singles chart on August 10, 1963
When It was published by Elvis Presley Music
the song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100, It was included in Elvis’ album of the same name, released in March 1964.
The Devil In Her Heart, byThe Beatles appeared on the 1963 album. ‘With the Beatles’, was the first album I ever owned, given to me as a Christmas present by my dad´s sister, my Auntie Marlene. She and my dad had obviously communicated because that was the Christmas that dad bought our family´s first stereo, (though I think I recall the album as being in mono?)
Okay, so there isn’t the tiniest sliver of hell going on here, but any girl with the devil in her heart must be watched. This George Harrison-sung nugget from With the Beatles was written by Richard Drapkin, and originally recorded as ‘The Devil in His Heart’ by girl group the Donays. The Fabs heard it, loved it, and reworked it as one of their own. We might add that John Lennon & Paul McCartney add some trademark sweet as can be backing vocals to seal the deal. The Beatles (right) are shown set in stone !
“Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones (left) was first heard on their ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ (1968) album.
It has all the ingredients for our up our best Devil Songs list! It turns out all you really need to make such evil magic is three or four chords. You just have to know how to put them together properly, and few have done so as wonderfully as the Rolling Stones. As near perfect a record as you can get, “Sympathy” works on all levels. The mood captured is pure gold, the playing is stellar, and the lyrics flawless. It’s hard to conceive how Mick Jagger went from “I was ’round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain” to “She’s so cold like an ice cream cone” in just over a decade.
“Friend of the Devil” was taken off the 1970 American beauty album byGrateful Dead. This sprightly little number sits nicely in our list of Top 10 Devil songs. The Dead’s much-loved acoustic period ranks among their finest work, and this is a real highlight of the album. The old blues tradition of calling out the devil lives in the Robert Hunter lyric here. “Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me 20 bills / I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills / I ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there / He took my 20 dollar bill and vanished in the air.”
“Devil Gate Drive” is a song by American singer Suzi Quatro. It was Quatro’s second (and final) solo number one single in the UK, spending two weeks at the top of the chart in February 1974. According to ukcharts.20m.com, she only reached number one again, in the UK, 13 years and 26 days later (as part of the Ferry Aid band in a charity version of the Lennon–McCartney song “Let It Be“).
Written and produced by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, “Devil Gate Drive” was the second number one in a row for the “ChinniChap” writing and production team, following the success of “Tiger Feet” by Mud. The single was re-recorded for Quatro’s 1995 album What Goes Around as the opening track. The track was the B-side to the re-release in 1987, when “Can the Can” became a minor hit.
A vocal extract was used on Orbital’s “Bigpipe Style“. The song was featured on the show Happy Days, during season 5, on the episode “Fonzie and Leather Tuscadero, Part II”. Quatro played Leather Tuscadero on the show.
Devil Woman released by Cliff Richard in 1976 was an uncharacteristic song for Cliff Richard, but it clicked at the time, as films about supernatural horror like The Exorcist and Carrie were popular. In the song, a man gets jinxed by a black cat with evil yellow eyes, and he goes to a fortune teller, who might be a witch, to break the spell. But it turns out she put the spell on him in the first place.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a song written and performed by the Charlie Daniels Band and released on their 1979 album Million Mile Reflections. The song tells a story about the Devil‘s failure to gain a young man’s soul through a fiddle-playing contest. The song begins as a disappointed Devil arrives in Georgia, apparently “way behind” on stealing souls, when he comes upon a young man named Johnny who is playing a fiddle, and quite well. Out of desperation, the Devil, who claims to also be a fiddle player, wagers a fiddle of gold against Johnny’s soul to see who is the better fiddler. Although Johnny believes taking the Devil’s bet might be a sin, he fearlessly accepts, confidently boasting that “I’m the best that’s ever been.”
The Devil plays first, backed by a band of demon musicians. When he has finished, Johnny compliments him (“Well, you’re pretty good, old son.”) and takes his own turn, in which he refers to, but does not perform, four old-time songs—the third one identified not by title, but by an excerpt of its lyrics:
- “Fire on the Mountain,” the name of an early 19th-century fiddle tune, and also the name of Daniels’ 1974 album,
- “The House of the Rising Sun,” a traditional American southern folk song,
- “Chicken in the bread pan pickin’ out dough,” which was famously used in Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys‘ song “Ida Red,” and
- “Granny Will Your Dog Bite.”
Realizing he has been defeated, the devil lays his golden fiddle at Johnny’s feet. Johnny then invites the devil to “c’mon back if y’ever wanna try again” before repeating his claim to be “the best that’s ever been”.
I hope, readers, that you might have tolerated my opening this piece with a reflection The Carnival Is Over, given that here in Lanzarote we have just closed a crackjing carnival season with processions emanating from Arricife and taking routes up and down the island. all marching bands, costume dress, loud music, fireworks and, somewhere in all that, the burning of the sardine on the beach in Arrecife.
You are probably wondering though why my editor, Miguel, has allowed me to ramble so far off track with all these dongs of devilment.
I need just a paragraph to put it all in context. With our friends, Superintendent Sidetracks and DCI Detours, we visited Teguise on an evening about a month ago now. We were our way across town to The Santo Domingo where we were to see a classical music concert. The Super was walking at the head of the file when a scamp or an imp or a rascal or a Devil ran out in front of him and growled and showed his claws ! Our friend, though had not reached the level of Super by being a scaredy cat, and so was calmness personified in the face of the (minor) menace that had affronted him, and merely asked him / it who he was and where he had come from and what he wanted. Not a sound did the brightly clothed assailant make, but instead ran away into the shadows
My wife told the Superintendent he was her hero, but he brushed off the compliment,…´oh, just call me Super´!
We couldn´t figure out though what it had all been about and The Super was very miffed that the stranger had not answered his questions, but we had places to go and things to see and wives we had lost somewhere along the way.
Suddenly though they were at our side and chattering excitedly about a crowd of creatures they had seen scuyrrying through town, and gave us a description of size and clothing remarkably akin to the image we had been confronted by.
However these apparitions or whatever they were had dispersded and dfisappeared down the alleyways avenues of the city, and although we were mystified by them, these unexpected incidents wers soon forgotten and we thought little more about it The Superintendent took us into a restaurarnt nearby and questioned the owners and staff if they had seen anything toward, but they seemed reluctant to answere and allowed everything to become lost in translation
It was a month later, and the carnival season had been and gone, before we finally came to realise what it had all been about, and that was only because we saw an article, with photos in Voz magainze, explaioning the phenomenon.
´More and more parents come together each year to accompany their children, usually in an appropriate costume in a tradition that sees ´parents monitoriong their ´little Devils,ás they enjoy a license to run after the residents and the many visitors to Teguise Tourist visitors in particular and some local residnets too, perhaps. are perplexed when devilish children approach them shouting of “Elegua,” with his traditional clothing and the swag-bag tied to his stick. And without doing any harm, some try to get as close as possible while explaining the meaning of the Devil and allowing themselves to be photographed “yes, with their faces covered by the mask”.
As the tradition of the Teguise Cultural Association marked, when the month of February arrived, the Devils of Teguise made an appearance on Saturdays and Sundays along the cobbled streets of the Historic Site of La Villa. (Teguise).
On Sunday afternoon, among the adult Devils was also the president of the Cultural Association, Víctor Padrón, who not only informed everyone interested in the history of this cultural heritage, unique in Lanzarote and the Canary Islands , but also advised all children, who are increasingly participating with their parents.
Anyone who is interested in being part of the Los Diabletes family has to be over 18 years old and, most importantly, fully comply with each of the rules contained in the current statutes. Children, young people and adults are very excited about the next event. It will be the first Friday of March at 8:00 p.m. in the Plaza de los Leones, where the “Traditional Carnival” will take place and where Los Diabletes play a very important role.¨
There is something mystical and magical and medieval about the streets of this town that was once the capital of the island, with its churches and convents and large houses and a castle dominating its horizon. Only a few years ago my wife, Dutton the Button, and I witnessed street gang fights, in the pitch black of night illuminated only by the lit clock at the top of the church tower
As the gangs finally chased each other out into the safety of the mountains, we saw a young and beautiful female form standing on her verandah in her night attire, leaning over and whispering down to the cobbles below, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo. And there leaning calmy against a tree and offering up words of love to her was Romeo !
This town that the lava had flowed around four hundred years ago when the volcanoes erupted, with its narrow, cobble streets that marauding and invading Moors had once turned into battlefields of death so violently that one of the main cross-ways is still referred to as Calle de Sangi had, in the month of February 2023, faced a few nights of mischief and mayhem
The devils who created an extra exciting ingredient for Carnival (much in the way as Trick Or Treat does to Halloween in the UK), deserve to be celebrated in music,
So let´s call this play list
LOTS OF MUSIC FOR LOS DIABLETES
The Carnival Is Over by The Seekers
That Old Devil Called Love by Billie Holiday
That Old Devil Moon by Frank Sinatra
You´re The Devil In Disguise by Elvis Presley
The Devil In Her Heart by The Beatles
Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling stones
Friend of The Devil by Grateful Dead
Devil Gate Drive by Suzi Quatro
Devil Woman by Cliff Richard
The Devil Went Down To Georgia by Charlie Daniels Band
Every carnival procession of 2023 had a Queen, as show by our cover image at the top of this page of the leader of the procession in Puerto Del Carman.
And what else have I forgotten to mention,…..oh yes, the drums with their rata ta tat, their b b b booms and their n n n noise and the piercing whistles of their musical conductors.
So you get the picture? Queens, Carnivals, Kids, Devils and Drums,….bright lights, loud sounds and dancing girls.