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There is a house in New Orleans
August 19, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God I know I'm one.


My mother was a tailor

She sewed my new blue jeans

My father was a gamblin' man

Down in New Orleans.



Now the only thing a gambler needs

Is a suitcase and trunk

And the only time he's satisfied

Is when he's on a drunk.



Oh mother tell your children

Not to do what I have done

Spend your lives in sin and misery

In the House of the Rising Sun.


The Pirate Bay has a torrent file with 339 covers of "The house of the rising sun" (Excluding one played with Tesla coils).

More about oral historian & folklorist Alan Lomax (His YouTube archives were posted here before).

An interview with Ted Anthony, author of “Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song.. Also, wikipedia.
posted by growabrain (51 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

 
The earliest known recording (the third link) is amazing.
posted by brony at 1:44 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Looks like there's a newer version of that torrent as well, with 401 different covers. Great post, I have always loved this song.
posted by addyct at 1:45 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Awesome post!!!
posted by pearlybob at 1:52 PM on August 19, 2012


[Moved some of this inside because it was driving people nuts. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2012


So much great listening. The best part is how old some of the recordings are with such great quality.
posted by Nackt at 1:56 PM on August 19, 2012


Eric Burdon's voice is scary on that kid's face. [Head explodes while trying to imagine waking up one day with the pimples of a 13-year-old and the growl of an old man.]
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:02 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Has anybody read the Anthony book? It looks interesting.
posted by Rangeboy at 2:15 PM on August 19, 2012


Stay away from me, boys, 'cause I'm in my sin.
posted by Diablevert at 2:20 PM on August 19, 2012


A few more:
Haley Reinhart (American Idol version)
Tim Palmieri (solo acoustic version)
The Radiators (gumbo version)
posted by euphorb at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2012


Well, you could always ship this post if you don't like it.

Dolly Parton's version.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2012


Sinn Sisamouth (pre-genocide Khmer garage rock version)
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


A post like this is actually very useful in one way: it can rescue a good song. It's a common experience - a decent, or even great song gets debased and abused so thoroughly by countless horrible covers and interpretations that you come to hate it; and to hate it is unjust and unfair to the original song. Going back to what animated the song to begin with can have a salutary effect. The House of the Rising Sun is such a song for me - I hate it, because I've been forced to listen to many artless covers through the years - drunk frat boys strumming guitars, earnest hacks busking, mawkish warbling like hot irons scraping your nerves.

It is entirely irrational to hold all this against a song - and entirely rational to try to overcome it. But just because it's irrational doesn't mean it's easy to overcome. I'm hovering over the links, bracing myself as if preparing to dive head on into icy water.
posted by VikingSword at 3:07 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


is the first link the house or a house in New Orleans?
posted by stbalbach at 3:37 PM on August 19, 2012


And for those of you who might stumble upon this thread four months from now, "HotRS" works as Christmas music, too.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2012


According to the wiki link, it is not known for certain if the house existed for real, and that adress was one of the three that could have been it.
posted by growabrain at 3:58 PM on August 19, 2012


One of my favorite things about New Orleans is how many places claim to be the "Original" House Of The Rising Sun.

For present and future Mefites who may eventually find themselves in New Orleans, no, there is no original house of the rising sun. It's a folk song, not a jingle.

You could probably make a case for a neighborhood or a street, based on the history of when the song appeared, where it sprung up, race/ethnicity of the original singer(s), etc. But beyond that? It's a folk song, not a commercial for a B&B.
posted by Sara C. at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The google map leads to 1614 Esplanade Avenue, which is the NOLA Art House, a live/work studio space in the Treme neighborhood.
posted by Sara C. at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2012


I couldn't last for more than a few seconds of that Haley Reinhart version but it did send me off on a YouTube journey which, quite frankly, has enriched my life.
posted by fullerine at 4:23 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a relief. I came in here thinking (fill-in your favorite version's singer) had died.
posted by hal9k at 4:29 PM on August 19, 2012


Nina Simone has always had a sublime touch when re-arranging standards. This is no exception, love it.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:54 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think John Otway's version is quite in the same vein (or league) as these, but it's definitely one-of-a-kind.
posted by StopMakingSense at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2012


Eric Burdon's voice is scary on that kid's face. [Head explodes while trying to imagine waking up one day with the pimples of a 13-year-old and the growl of an old man.]

My favourite part of that (I want to say video, but I guess promo film is the right term) is the charmingly rudimentary choreography: "Okay, Alan, you stand here; Hilton and Chas, line up sort of behind him. Now sing, Alan, and walk around a bit. Yes, you guys follow him. Okay, when Alan does the organ solo, sort of look at him for a bit, then keep walking: Alan in front and the other guys following hm like ducklings. Beautiful."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:55 PM on August 19, 2012


My favorite version is the Dave Van Ronk one, which inspired the Bob Dylan/Animals series of folk-rock takes on the song.
posted by drlith at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nina Simone's version is sublime.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:24 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Josh White cover is definitive.
posted by gingerest at 6:38 PM on August 19, 2012


Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:49 PM on August 19, 2012


Odetta is my favorite. These early recordings are fabulous. This is a very enjoyable post. There ought to be a special category for such grand slam, comprehensive posts as this and Alice's Restaurant.
posted by Anitanola at 6:53 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:04 PM on August 19, 2012


This is a very enjoyable post. There ought to be a special category for such grand slam, comprehensive posts as this and Alice's Restaurant.

Not to blow my own trumpet or anything* but I've offered up a few of those myself...

Twist and Shout!
Got My Mojo Working!
Wabash Cannonball!

...and a few more here and there!

*hey, I'm a drummer, after all
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:28 PM on August 19, 2012


That Josh White cover is definitive.

While taking into account that a statement like "that Josh White cover is definitive" really only means "for my tastes, that Josh White cover is definitive", I'd say that the lasting beauty and significance of a song like Rising Sun is that there are so many versions, from so many genres and so many points of view, that there is, in fact, no *definitive* version. The song itself is supreme, and all the interpreters are just laying their offerings upon the altar.

And I also say that as a huge Josh White fan!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently there was a hotel 'The Rising Sun where rouge pots were uncovered in a dig.

Beneath the Rising Sun: Frenchness and the Archaeologyof Desire
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:55 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


FWIW the song first surfaced in Appalachia.

There's no evidence that anything about it has anything to do with any real place.

We're talking about a group of people who turned Nottingham into Nottamun, ringlets to mingles, and Noah to Nora.

This is sort of like wondering who the "real" Barbara Allen was.
posted by Sara C. at 10:11 PM on August 19, 2012


Aaaaaaand I now kind of want to make an FPP about lyrical shift in Appalachian folk music.

Wildwood Flower is especially egregious. Half the lyrics are nonsense syllables or random filler words that make no sense, despite the fact that, hearing the prosody/rhyme-scheme, it's obvious what the word is really supposed to be. It's as if it spent a century or so being reinterpreted by non-Anglophone singers.

Then again, if the banjo is an African instrument interpreted by European luthiers, I guess any given English folk ballad could have exactly such an influence.
posted by Sara C. at 10:23 PM on August 19, 2012


if the banjo is an African instrument interpreted by European luthiers

If by "European luthiers" you mean "immigrants to America of European origin" then yes, that's not off the mark. The banjo as we know it today is most definitely the great-grandchild of various skin-covered string instruments originating in Africa* and recreated early on in America by black slaves. The instrument gradually became more and more refined and standardized and became what we today call the banjo.

But Europeans had virtually nothing to do with it, unless, again, you mean European immigrants to the New World.

*Here's a related FPP of mine from a while back: The Banjo's great-great-grandaddy
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:45 PM on August 19, 2012


Wildwood Flower is especially egregious. Half the lyrics are nonsense syllables or random filler words

Gosh, I dunno... I never thought of the lyrics that way. They are very poetic, for sure, in the sense that the flower and the person (narrator) become fused in the song, but that just seems like a fairly sophisticated poetic device, and definitely not "nonsense" or "filler". Especially considering that the first two fanciful, flower-intensive verses are relating a dream. Apart from the fanciful dream-induced flower imagery/analogy, then, the song is nothing other than a tale of love betrayed, a very common song theme indeed!

Here are the lyrics:

Oh, I'll twine with my mingles and waving black hair
With the roses so red and the lilies so fair
And the myrtle so bright with the emerald hue
The pale amanita and eyes look like blue.

Oh I'll dance, I will sing and my laugh shall be gay
I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway
When I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay
All portion of love had all flown away.

Oh he taught me to love him and promised to love
And to cherish me over all others above
How my heart is now wond'ring no mis'ry can tell
He's left me no warning, no words of farewell.

Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his flower
That was blooming to cheer him through life's dreary hour
Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour
He's gone and neglected this pale wildwood flow'r.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:59 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uh, yes, Europeans in the Americas.

Kind of like the Africans in the Americas who brought the instrument over in the first place

What else would I be talking about?
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 PM on August 19, 2012


Flapjax - I've seen different lyrics for Wildwood. For example instead of an emerald hue, it's "emerald dew", which makes no sense. Also instead of "the pale amanita", it's the pale "and the leader", which ?????

Your version makes sense except for the mingles thing. There's a little more about alternate versions here.
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 PM on August 19, 2012


I also just noticed that the original 1861 version doesn't have that atrocious "All portions of love" bit, which I always hear as "abortions of love". Instead, it's "All visions of love", which, again, actually makes sense if you listen to the words.

Hence, again, why I'm confused about how the song got so damn garbled. Noah to Nora and Nottingham to Nottamun make sense if you assume that the people handing it down might not know their bible or where Nottingham, England, is. Wildwood is just fucking bizarre.

Especially since it was written in 1861 by a person whose name we know! It actually didn't spend centuries getting twisted around by non-Anglophones. Folk singers are just weird.

OK, rant/derail/folk-gasm over.
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 PM on August 19, 2012


What else would I be talking about?

I don't know. You might've been talking about "Europeans". You *wrote* "Europeans" which, generally speaking, means people residing in Europe. French people, German people, whatever. But my comment clearly allowed for the likelihood that you did in fact mean "Europeans in America", so, hey, no big deal, right? No need to get defensive, no need for the "uh, yes" and all that! :)

For example instead of an emerald hue, it's "emerald dew", which makes no sense. Also instead of "the pale amanita", it's the pale "and the leader", which ?????

Your Wikipedia link has a simple explanation: "This appears to be a 'mondegreen' - i.e., a case of misheard lyrics giving rise to altered lyrics."

When we're talking about English ballads that are a few hundred years old, transported to Appalachia and learned through generations in a largely oral tradition, it's kind of a miracle that there aren't far more mondegreens than there are!

Your version makes sense except for the mingles thing.

It's always good to keep in mind that old ballads often use words in ways that are no longer common. So, regarding "the mingles thing":

Mingle: a mingled mass; a mixture, 1548.
Examples: mingle of divers sorts, 1621; mingle of thankfulness and dread, 1811.

Listening to and studying old English/Scottish ballads that have lived on in the New World allows us a nice opportunity to learn about etymology, and you do yourself a disservice to quickly write off usages that you don't understand as "nonsense".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:36 PM on August 19, 2012


On non-preview, thanks for the info about the tune being written in 1861. I thought it was older.

But, yeah, once again... mondegreen. It's really not that bizarre. Just misheard lyrics. Happens all the time, right up into the present. people are always mishearing and repeating their misheard lyrics.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:38 PM on August 19, 2012


I know what mondegreens are and that words get misheard all the time.

I just don't think I've ever heard a song with so many, where the original words are the logical choices and you have to really reach to come up with the alternate version.

It's like the anti-Occam song.

Hence my lifelong fascination with it.
posted by Sara C. at 11:42 PM on August 19, 2012


Isn't the word "mingle" used as a noun nice? I think we should bring back that usage!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:42 PM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what "Rising Sun" is a mondegreen of, was my original point.
posted by Sara C. at 11:43 PM on August 19, 2012


where the original words are the logical choices and you have to really reach to come up with the alternate version.

Well, just cause I think all this is really interesting, let me venture into that one a bit: "emerald dew" seems to me a rather *happy* mondegreen, in the sense that it's still poetic, and is not, in fact, nonsensical. I mean, dew that's settled on grass, for example, could be called "emerald dew", and the pronunciation of "emerald hue" and "emerald dew" are pretty near identical.

Now, about "the pale amanita" vs. "the pale and the leader"... yeah, meaning-wise, there's just no way I can think of to make that fly. But we might consider that, as the name of a flower, it's really very likely that some singer along the line just... didn't know that flower. had never heard of it or heard the bame. Maybe the blossom is native to some region the singer didn't live in. I know it's the first time I, personally, have ever heard of it, for example!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:54 PM on August 19, 2012


Oops: "bame" = name.

A typo in a comment about mondegreens seems appropriate, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:56 PM on August 19, 2012


But wait! The mystery is solved! EMERALD DEW!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:58 PM on August 19, 2012


Second song I ever learned to play on the guitar. Always hated it. It's just that the chords were easy.
posted by Decani at 1:41 AM on August 20, 2012


House of the Rising Sun: yet another thing that Decani HATES. Hah!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:53 AM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now, mother, tell your children, not to do what I have done...

... except for those times I cleaned up my room and did my homework on time. They should do those things.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:31 AM on August 20, 2012


Frijid Pink
posted by Fred Wesley at 10:43 AM on August 20, 2012


According to the wiki link, it is not known for certain if the house existed for real, and that adress was one of the three that could have been it.

If that's not New Orleans in a nutshell...

/oustider
posted by Token Meme at 12:46 AM on August 21, 2012


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