And it's my plan if some great man, Dies with a broken head, Sirs, With much bewail I does detail, His death before he's dead, Sirs!
January 6, 2013 1:10 AM   Subscribe

You wouldn't think so from its trendy shops and restaurants today, but Seven Dials was once one of the worst slums in London. Intended as a smart residential area when its construction was completed in 1710, this cartwheel of streets between Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden quickly declined to become an over-crowded refuge for the city's thieves. It was here that London's thriving trade in gallows ballads made its home.
A collaboration across more than 100 years, from the jobbing hacks writing ballads and selling them at the foot of the gallows to the historical investigation of the British Library's broadsheet collection by MeFi's own Paul Slade, to modern rock, folk, and blues musicians, and then to your ears. [via mefi projects]

Previously on MetaFilter:
Planet Slade
Murder Ballads 1 2
posted by carsonb (9 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Murder ballads! Reminds me of German Moritaten, a similar genre on the topic of which I really should try to compose a post. Also, totally mining this for RPG background ideas.
posted by Zarkonnen at 4:09 AM on January 6, 2013

You wouldn't think so from its trendy shops and restaurants today, but Seven Dials was once one of the worst slums in London.

I have the opposite problem: I read far too much Victorian literature as a child and as a consequence I would certainly have presumed that Seven Dials was a noisome ghetto filled with whores, Fagins, pickpockets, and wandering violet-sellers. I have a similar issue with other places: when visiting New York in the mid-80s I proposed a trip to Times Square to take in a show; more recently I suggested that we take the kids to Coney Island. Is there a cure for chronic presentiment? I have will needed one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:52 AM on January 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Somehow, there's a Decemberists song that's applicable here.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:05 AM on January 6, 2013

First of all, thanks to carsonb for liking this enough to kick it over to the front page. Much appreciated.

You're not the first to mention The Decemberists in connection with this project, DisreputableDog. South County's George Gierer cited them (alongside Led Zeppelin and Louis Armstrong) as one of the influences brought to bear in writing his own band's Nathaniel Mobbs song.

I don't know The Decemberists' music, though their Wikipedia page suggests I might like them very much indeed. Which album should I buy first?
posted by Paul Slade at 7:02 AM on January 6, 2013

Which album should I buy first?
Picaresque. The Engine Driver was the first song of theirs that I heard, and it's a doozy.
posted by lumensimus at 8:07 AM on January 6, 2013

I thought that said "thriving trade in gallows blades," and i was like, geez, they must be exporting them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:44 AM on January 6, 2013

This looks fantastic, and I'm really looking forward to listening to the ballads. Thanks for posting it.

(Also seconding Picaresque as a great album. I also love Her Majesty the Decemberists, but Picaresque has a number of songs that blew my mind in a good way.)
posted by immlass at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2013

I've now bought Picaresque from Amazon, so thanks to lumensimus and immlass for that recommendation.

In other late-breaking news, South County has just posted this video (SLYT: autopaly) of the band performing their own Nathanial Mobbs song: "Live at The Basement, Dec 2012".
posted by Paul Slade at 6:03 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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