Soon May the Wellerman Come
January 19, 2021 10:11 PM   Subscribe

Sea Shanty TikTok is the perfect expression of masculinity for 2021. In shanties, we find something both extremely manly and subversively tender.” Wikipedia entry on the “Wellerman” shanty. Full lyrics and more available here, on The Longest Song wiki.
posted by darkstar (85 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
YouTube’s Resident Music Nerd Adam Neely gives his “Vox-ass explaining sea-shanties using music-theory*” take on the subject.

* the harmonic style of 18th century European musicians
posted by wabbittwax at 10:29 PM on January 19 [11 favorites]

Thanks for reminding me, I've gone several hours today without humming the "Wellerman" to myself...
posted by Harald74 at 11:11 PM on January 19 [15 favorites]

That video in the first link of the two guys in the car (as the driver gradually succumbs to the music) is delightful.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 11:25 PM on January 19 [7 favorites]

I will say that hearing the Wellerman song makes me want to jump in with the lyrics to Do You Know the Muffin Man during the chorus :)
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 11:29 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]

Mass online choir does one hell of a zoom call:
Leave Her Johnny
posted by bartleby at 11:32 PM on January 19 [8 favorites]

I'm back from reading the article, and just want to say that I also love the clip of the two guys in the car.
posted by Harald74 at 11:35 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]

The Wellerman has been stuck in my head for the last two weeks and I had *just* managed to shift it out...
posted by ninazer0 at 11:48 PM on January 19 [7 favorites]

Hoping for hornpipes
posted by clew at 12:04 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

That video in the first link of the two guys in the car (as the driver gradually succumbs to the music) is delightful.

It scared the crap out of me once I realized the guy filming the video is also driving the car.
posted by jmauro at 12:37 AM on January 20

He's not, it's just flipped.
posted by tavella at 12:41 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

FTA: It's worth remembering that, for sailors, singing also helped stave off the mind-breaking monotony of being out on the open ocean, alone save your crew in the middle of nowhere on your stupid, creaky wooden deathtrap.

Wow. So perfectly captures the emotion.

There can never be enough ShantyTok. Thank you for posting this!
posted by cynical pinnacle at 1:45 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

The video that wabbitwax provided in the first comment is really great. Talks a lot about how various sea shanties were designed to help with specific group tasks on the ship by providing a specific rhythm to work to. They did more than just stave off the monotony (though I have no doubt they helped with that too).
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 1:53 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

When I first saw the ShantyTok video and read about the masculinity of these songs, the way these shanties helped with monotonous work, fostering camaraderie and so on, I immediately recalled The Song of the Volga Boatmen (sung by the Red Army chorus). "Rated M for Manly" as one of the commenters say.

This is also a work-song, sung by the poor serfs who were pulling these huge barges from the banks of the Volga.

I also like that people started posting simple folk songs from other cultures. Check out this twitter thread: "I see your sea shanties and raise you Ukrainian folk." Come for the folk, stay for Aramaic hymns, Romanian war songs and all the riches of the East.
posted by kmt at 2:14 AM on January 20 [9 favorites]

I have been humming this for days now. Days.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:08 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I am Sea Hawk, I am, I am

[lights ship on fire]

posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:06 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]

posted by Coaticass at 4:30 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

if i get killed during the weekly among us session with the boys, i respond by singing* the wellerman on the voicechat until the round is over.

*muttering about sugar, tea, and rum may not actually meet threshold of singing.
posted by LegallyBread at 4:34 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

Just as an aside, when Sea Hawk talks about lighting ships on fire, he's mostly talking about 'ships.
This is extremely, painfully, hilariously clear when they wind up in that one bar. Where everyone knows him.
It took me a little while to get the joke but it's solid gold.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:39 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

I'm not in agreement with the Wikipedia article writer on the 'Wellerman' being an employee (that would have been a related meaning, but not the one meant in the song). In the song, the 'Wellerman' is the resupply ship itself (c.f. East Indiaman, merchantman, lobsterman, etc. - here's an AskMe I posted)
posted by pipeski at 4:45 AM on January 20 [11 favorites]

I never noticed that before, but you're right. It's hilarious. Solid gold.

The sad, whiny version of his self-obsessed shanty never fails to generate a laugh.

I am Sea Hawk, I am, I am.
Want to take a guy for granted, then I am your man.
Unappreciated in all I do, why can't they see I'm very cool?
Guys back me up, I'm very cool! [sobs]
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:56 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Lots of people have been talking about TikTok "Wellerman" as helping people celebrate the idea of getting through the tough times of a pandemic as part of a wider community. In that context it is worthwhile remembering that we are mostly bemoaning having already watched all of Tiger King, and grown tired of banana bread - when the original singers were a crew who were spending a week or so in a south Pacific storm cutting apart a tongue the size of an SUV - with the prospect of a cup of tea only being a dream.

My personal sea shanty discovery of the week: David Coffin - seen leading a barn storming rendition of "Role the Old Chariot Along" that you should not miss - is Authur Rubinstein's grandson.
posted by rongorongo at 5:06 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]

Soon may the Biden-man come
To bring us sugar, vaccine and rum

I'm not saying that I sang "Soon may the pupperman come to bring us kibbles and pat our tums" to the puppies at lunchtime but I won't testify under oath that I didn't.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:17 AM on January 20 [25 favorites]

One thing I missed this year was the sea shanty festival that my town holds each year. Its 3 days of every available indoor and outdoor space being turned into a stage for roaming shanty groups from all over western Europe to perform to audiences from a dozen up to hundreds. Its essentially a chance to drink outdoors and listen to a dozen variations on Bound for South Australia. I always think of it as being sunny every year though experience of living in Cornwall suggests this is highly unlikely in reality. Fingers crossed we are out of the woods enough by June. It is absolutely not a Covid safe environment.
posted by biffa at 6:17 AM on January 20 [8 favorites]

They are planning on having the sea shanty festival this year, I thought some of you might enjoy fantasising about sitting out in the sun, by the harbour, on the Friday evening ahead of a long weekend of music, and possibly drinking.
posted by biffa at 6:48 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

biffa, Portsmouth New Hampshire does a similar sea shanty festival, and it’s one of my absolute favorite events. Northern New England is not generally a friendly or welcoming place (it takes a few years for folks to start even nodding at newcomers to town), but for those few days, there’s enthusiasm and joy expressed to every person who comes along and adds their voice. It’s just a delight. And it feels so fitting to me that this communal art form around struggling through hard times is having such a moment right now.
posted by amelioration at 6:57 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I was a member of a pirate band for ten years and three albums, singing sea shanties and drinking songs at festivals and private events all up and down the east coast. But I walked away a couple years ago when I found myself deep in dysphoria-induced depression and anger, and the toxicity and backwardness of some of my crewmates, and of the pirate community as a whole, finally became too much for me to bear. I'm content to leave sea shanties to the TikTok kids now. They seem more worthy than we ever were.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:04 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

Our little kids are obsessed with these, with the unfortunate side effect that my 4yo now wants me to shave my belly with a rusty razor. I have thus far resisted this request.
posted by phooky at 7:07 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

I'm not in agreement with the Wikipedia article writer on the 'Wellerman' being an employee (that would have been a related meaning, but not the one meant in the song). In the song, the 'Wellerman' is the resupply ship itself (c.f. East Indiaman, merchantman, lobsterman, etc. - here's an AskMe I posted)

It's actually just Peter Weller
posted by jason_steakums at 7:14 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]

I immediately recalled The Song of the Volga Boatmen (sung by the Red Army chorus).

Not to be confused with The Song of the Vostok Boatmen, which is an even bleaker tune if the stories are to be believed.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:18 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

The original single singer version, then joined one by one by other singers is in this article, adding the bass is an amazing difference. Also some singers join an online game to charm players.
posted by lemonade at 7:37 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

This is all very excellent!

There is an extremely popular series of quasi-historical video games called "Assassin's Creed." Different installments of this game take place in a wide range of historic time periods and geographic locations, from ancient Greece to 900 AD England. Several years ago, they released one that was basically "Pirates of the Caribbean" (called Black Flag) which included a lot of seafaring and naval battles. During travel sequences, you could have your crew sing various historic sea shanties, or have them tell tall tales.

Makes me wonder if that was what sparked a general interest in sea shanties among the Online Kids Today™
posted by SoberHighland at 7:45 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I was playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey recently and here is similar singing from the ancient Greek ship's crew there. There is one song which makes me wonder whether they kept the tune from BF and translated the lyrics into Greek.
posted by biffa at 7:49 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

If you haven't, check out the album "Sea Music" by Dan Zanes. My kids loved it back in the aughts, but I loved it more. "It's all for me grog!"
posted by ubi at 8:00 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

I don’t know why it is, but I always feel a bit left out and let down when something I’ve always been into becomes The New Big Trendy Thing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:15 AM on January 20 [7 favorites]

I deeply enjoyed this rant about sea shanty random popularity.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:13 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

This has been amusing me mainly because Spotify decided a while back (like a year or two ago) that sea shanties (and other pirate- and nautical-themed songs) were something I clearly loved, and starting filling my Discover Weekly and Daily Mix playlists with them. Wellerman has been a staple.

Here's one I've been particularly fond of lately (definitely not a shanty, admittedly): The Cumberland Crew, performed by Smokey Bastard.
posted by Four Ds at 9:37 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]

A friend put together this excellent edit that shows how the collaboration evolved over time - feel free to skip to the 3 minute mark if you've seen the most popular version enough times already: Nathan Evans Wellerman Family Tree — shantytok mashup/supercut on YouTube.
posted by simonw at 10:58 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]

The fun of shanties is really in singing along with a group, which I think is why listening to recordings is always a bit disappointing. Worth mentioning that many cities, especially port cities, have groups that do regular Shanty Sings (or at least, did, before COVID), and they're very welcoming to all comers. It would be amazing if this TikTok fad translates into more interest in this tradition. Here in Seattle, they meet aboard historical boats when weather permits.

In those circles, you'll often hear the name Stan Hugill. He was the "last working shantyman", a raconteur and author of several books, including Shanties from the Seven Seas, an encyclopedic reference of many songs. Here's a recording of Stan lecturing and singing, unfortunately with 1990 VHS audio quality.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:41 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]

For your listening enjoyment: cortex's C++ Shanty.
posted by mpark at 11:45 AM on January 20 [3 favorites]

For a wide selection of sea shanties - some of which are Very Rude Indeed - may I suggest Hal Wilmer's two Rogues' Gallery collections. Contributors include Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan, Loudon Wainwright III, Eliza Carthy, Keith Richards, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, Bryan Ferry, Gavin Friday, Bill Frisell, David Thomas, Lucinda Williams, Robyn Hitchcock, Beth Orton, Iggy Pop, Macy Gray, Patti Smith and Chuck E. Weiss.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:15 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

The fun of shanties is really in singing along with a group

Just once in my life, I’d like to have as much fun as the late, great Stan Rogers is having in this video.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:28 PM on January 20 [6 favorites]

I'm not saying that I sang "Soon may the pupperman come to bring us kibbles and pat our tums" to the puppies at lunchtime but I won't testify under oath that I didn't.

posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:17 AM on January 20

Well, I have definitely sung this variation at least a half-dozen times today when walking into the kitchen, and I don’t even have puppers, so...
posted by darkstar at 5:53 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Thanks all, my infant son has suffered through a few stanzas today of "soon may the diaperman come to change our nappies and clean our bums"
posted by saturday_morning at 7:24 PM on January 20 [8 favorites]

“Someday when the nursing is done
We’ll take our nap and go”
posted by clew at 8:14 PM on January 20 [3 favorites]

(Regrettably, I didn’t spot the earlier thread when making this new one. Many thanks to MartinWisse for posting this original FPP, and to Coaticass for pointing it out!)
posted by darkstar at 9:00 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

This History of Sea Shanties article has the following excerpt:
The differences [in work rhythms] can be hard to pick out today, but it seems that a well-chosen song could make a "great difference" to the job at hand.
The sailor's songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind, having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually sung, by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in —and the louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed almost to raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a great distance, ashore.

A song is as necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a soldier. They can't pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, like "Heave, to the girls!" "Nancy oh!" "Jack Cross-tree," etc, has put life and strength into every arm.

We often found a great difference in the effect of the different songs in driving in the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other; with no effect;—not an inch could be got upon the tackles—when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humour of the moment, and drove the tackles "two blocks" at once. "Heave round hearty!" "Captain gone ashore!" and the like, might do for common pulls, but in an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, "raise-the-dead" pull, which should start the beams of the ship, there was nothing like "Time for us to go!" "Round the corner," or "Hurrah! hurrah! my hearty bullies!"

— Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana Jr, [1840]
Dana Point in Southern California is named for this author, as it is the place he notably was lowered down on ropes to help shift hides that had gotten stuck on the hillside while casting them down for collection.
posted by darkstar at 10:53 PM on January 20 [5 favorites]

>the perfect expression of masculinity for 2021.
It's not for me, so I'll take the hit this gatekeeper language has on the imperfect masculinity I practise. We can take the positive sentiment it does have: this sets an example of masculinity that's positive and has few down-sides and thank MartinWisse and darkstar for these FPP's,
posted by k3ninho at 11:53 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

Jeez, if y'all are just getting to sea shanties now, wait til you catch up to Ievan Polkka. Aka Cat Vibing to Park Bench Drummer [Club Remix]
posted by bartleby at 1:29 AM on January 21 [5 favorites]

A sea shanty playlist - is an interesting place for internet rabbit holes.
For example we have Unleash the Archers' mad-metal cover of Stan Roger's Northwest Passage.

Also the "Mingulay Boat Song" (Longest John's version) - which was written about the Scottish island of Mingulay - inhabited for a couple of millennia before being abandoned in 1912 (ironically about 20 years before the song was written) - here is a modern drone fly by of the island.
posted by rongorongo at 2:13 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]

Aka Cat Vibing to Park Bench Drummer [Club Remix]

Was hoping to see actual cat, was not disappointed.

It occurs to me that this art form, mixing video to combine musical performances from multiple people who may never have met in person, is THE quintessential pandemic art form. From orchestras and bands and choirs all performing in their aggregated individual performances, to the TikTok multilayered shanty Duets. It had been done before the pandemic, but nothing like what has happened in the last year.

Many of these projects are inspiring, simply by virtue of the medium, in which disparate people are brought together in harmonious accord. The medium actually is the message, conveying that art knows no boundaries, and meaningful, inspiring, joyous, human connection can overcome even quarantine.

I feel like someone better suited to it could describe what I’m getting at: how skilled and collaborative music-making, from a distance, during a pandemic, can be so profoundly moving.
posted by darkstar at 8:15 AM on January 21 [4 favorites]

Wow, "Cat Vibing [...]" is my jam. Whatever that genre is, I need it mainlined.

For pre-quarantine layered compositions, I can't recommend Kutiman enough - he's been making found music with youtube videos for (cries) 11+ years, eg: Mother of All Funk Chords

I went down the sea shanty hole years ago to the point that when I read the words "sea shanty" I get the aforementioned David Coffin "Roll the Old Chariot Along" stuck in my head.
posted by some chick at 10:40 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

Whatever that genre is, I need it mainlined.

Well if it's just the particular song, you could always get the girls together outside the sauna and practice.
Or you could put on your wellies and cat ear sun hat and go show off your high quality leeks.

But if you were really looking for something to add to your playlist to get you hyped for a Cardio run, might I suggest taking a detour into full-on
Goth Midsommar (wait for it).
posted by bartleby at 2:47 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

The Misbehavin Maidens are a pirate-themed filk group with a few of their songs riffing on older folk or nautical tunes - and a lot of their content is various shades of NSFW.
But this one's clean: Space Shanty
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 3:06 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]

And I forgot to mention that when lockdown started, The Longest Johns sang a folk song with lyrics changed to fit the current need: Flatten the Curve.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 3:09 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

As for ShantyTok, Vox is not amused.
posted by darkstar at 6:45 PM on January 21

I feel like Evans' accent is key to why it got popular, it gives the song a bit of an old-timey vibe to American ears. The luke_the_voice bass is also key, if you watch the family tree video, someone else had tried adding a bass line before but it was not anywhere near as smooth. There's a reason that they remain constant through all the later variations, instead of other people recording their own base versions.
posted by tavella at 9:16 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]

OMG yes, you have just written the comment that has been going through my mind for the past day, and which I’ve been debating whether I should post. Evans’ accent and the first bass line really set it up perfectly. Thank you!

I’ll also add a few other factors that made the most common version I’ve seen (with the five guys) particularly viral-worthy: the most recent participant lends not only his baritone voice, but a charmingly self effacing comment in the text (no one will hear his voice, but it helps to add a “gentle thiccness”). And he definitely pulls the nautical theme together with the cable sweater and his red beard.

The second bass voice (dude in the red “Austin” shirt) definitely gives the whole thing a more “shiver me timbers” kind of deep resonance that makes it especially moving. And it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s kinda easy on the eyes. :)
posted by darkstar at 9:52 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]

Just to credit all the folks that are in that version I referred to...

Shanty-man initiating the sequence: @NathanEvanss
Second crewman (first bass line): luke_the_voice (evidently not on Twitter)
Third crewman (tenor): @AS1oan
Fourth crewman (second bass line): @BobbyBwaters
Fifth crewman (baritone): @jonnytmstewart

I do like some of the other versions, particularly the one with the alto singers and violins mixed in. But it’s this version, with the group of five singers, that I find most archetypally compelling.
posted by darkstar at 10:05 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]

And now, thanks to @Alexrjpaterson, The Wellerman Animated.

(Found via the aforementioned @jonnytmstewart Twitter)
posted by darkstar at 10:14 PM on January 21

Evans does sing it very well so it's not just his accent, don't want to diminish his credit. But it does have a slightly exotic air and sounds like what a lot of Americans would expect on an old-time sailing ship.
posted by tavella at 10:15 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]

Fact I've been mulling over, maybe this is its moment: in 1897 the US Supreme Court decided that ' "Seamen are [...] deficient in that full and intelligent responsibility for their acts that is accredited to ordinary adults" [...] and therefore were not subject to the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment that prohibited involuntary servitude. ' (_Shanghaied in San Francisco_, Pickelhaupt, 1996). The California Legislature objected, so did organized labor, so did a lot of seamen!, but it wasn't overturned until 1915.

And it enabled -- protected -- just huge grift on the sailors.
posted by clew at 5:38 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]

Wow, that’s amazing, clew. I’d never heard about that.

I’ve been thinking about the meaning behind the Wellerman shanty whaling song. From comments I’ve read, an argument could be made that the song is actually a jab at the indentured servitude a lot of whalers in the early 1800s experienced.

The argument is basically that shore whalers, those “tonguers” responsible for butchering the whales that were brought to them from the whaling ships — and many of them were Maori — were usually greatly indebted to the “company store”.

The Wellerman ships weren’t just bringing supplies, but that the “sugar and tea and rum” was what was used as pay these shore whalers. And since they were never paid in actual money, they were never able to buy their way out of debt, nor able to pay for a trip to go home even if they could.

So the song (and this is more believable if you listen to the last couple of stanzas) is all about how the Wellerman is just perpetuating their servitude. And the final phrase, “One day, when the tonguin’ is done / we’ll take our leave and go” is a sort of wry lament at being caught in this involuntary servitude.

That’s a pretty dark interpretation, and I’m not sure to what degree it’s the right one. But your comment certainly has me reconsidering it, when involuntary servitude of sailors was supported by the prevailing legal systems of the day.
posted by darkstar at 8:57 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

It would explain why the tune is so sad.
posted by clew at 9:00 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

(Or is that just me? Is there a common rollicking version?)
posted by clew at 9:01 PM on January 22

The song certainly has a potentially somber overtone. But before I was expecting to hear that, it seemed like a pretty engaging adventure tale and I had no sense of it being sad.

It’s like one of those optical illusions, where if you look at it with one set of expectations, it looks like one thing, but if you change what you expect to see, suddenly you notice something else.

But it is still an affecting song with either interpretation.
posted by darkstar at 9:07 PM on January 22

That said, because the nature of the incessant physical labor on board a ship in the 1800s was, itself, a kind of living hell even for sailors who did it voluntarily, a whaling song carries a certain undercurrent of exhaustion, danger and deprivation, even when it’s not intended to be sad.
posted by darkstar at 9:15 PM on January 22

Confession: I've joined the tiktoks for good now (after dabbling disappointedly before) in order to layer treble over sea shanties. It is helping to fill that vacancy in my heart left by the suspension of choir activities over ten months ago due to Covid. Highly recommend. It's such a pleasure to be able to sing "with" musicians I admire and learn from music theory and history* tiktok.

Speaking of which...
David Coffin - seen leading a barn storming rendition of "Role the Old Chariot Along" that you should not miss
...ALSO has a tiktok and it is grand! I didn't know that bit about his grandfather, fascinating. He is notably the leader of the title song in the recent film, Blow the Man Down.

* For those who like that sort of thing, history twitter and history tiktok convened to inspire renditions of an Ancient Greek sea shanty, both in its original form and in translation. I am not bold enough to directly admit to being involved, but.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:08 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]

Related to the YouYube video above of the Cat Vibing, here is a piano mix accompanying the park bench performance by a Bilan Goregen. In this video, the piano accompaniment scales from beginner to expert.

And yes, the cat is vibing in this one, too.
posted by darkstar at 1:25 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]

Good news! (for the what, dozen? people who have an Oculus mixed reality rig)
Levels for the bass-boosted mix of Wellerman are now available in Beat Saber.
You may want to install the sword cosmetic mod, and go full Pirate Queen.

No vibing cat, but here's what Ievan Polkka (the swinging leek dance edit) looks like from inside the goggles.
posted by bartleby at 1:15 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

Evans does sing it very well so it's not just his accent, don't want to diminish his credit. But it does have a slightly exotic air and sounds like what a lot of Americans would expect on an old-time sailing ship.

Generations of Scottish inventors never seem to have come up with bagpipes which are compatible with a life on salt water - The Real Mackenzies give a good indication of what would have happened if they did.
posted by rongorongo at 2:24 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]

Also: BBC Documentary - with choirmaster Gareth Malone - about sea shanties. Featuring lots of footage of bearded dudes of a certain vintage - but also demonstrating the notion of how to use a shanty to co-ordinate hauling operations on a square rigger. You might all be balancing on a boom thirty feet above deck in a gale and you have need somebody who can belt out the shanty loud enough for everybody to hear in the storm - you don't all get to the next beat of the song until everybody has hauled in yard of sailcloth. As a sailor you would only use a specific song for specific work purpose: never as something to perform ashore for example - so many survive only by accident of being committed to early recordings.

A shanty book to get you started with the music.
posted by rongorongo at 1:38 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

While I was out for my walk this morning I found myself mentally composing a version for masochists:

Soon may the Wellerman come,
To tweak my nipples and smack my bum,
Later, when we've had our fun,
He'll pack his tools and go.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:33 AM on January 25

Rewritten with a lot of immunology details by acapellascience
posted by clew at 11:36 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Appropriate for a viral video! :)
posted by darkstar at 7:17 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

Vocal coach Big Brian provides some commentary on various Tik Tok sea shanty collaborations. He also some words for you - the person of great or minimal musical talent, who is adding your own contribution. I like his take on not just the technicalities of the performers - but also what this sort of collaboration means just now.
posted by rongorongo at 11:18 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]

Looking forward to the TikTok hornpipe craze.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:51 PM on January 26

Heh, Evans himself comments on his accent being a draw:

Why did this song connect?
For one, my accent helps. American followers love my accent.

posted by tavella at 12:09 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]

8 bit Wellerman - but of course!
posted by rongorongo at 9:20 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]

OMG now I want to play that game!!

Only not with killing whales, but with fighting off kraken. And trying to deliver sugar and tea and rum to workers on a remote island, or rescuing marooned sailors, etc. maybe inventory management of sugar, tea and rum as a game mechanic!
posted by darkstar at 11:02 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

GCU Sweet and Full of Grace - apparently, the Trailer Park Boys were on a similar wavelength - Kittyman
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 1:59 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]

Bass singer David Larson talks about sea shanties - he notes that some of the oldest - like My Mother Told Me - pre-date Wellerman by 800 years; people have been doing this stuff for a while. (Fellow bassist, Geoff Castellucci, explains how to reach for those super-low notes.)
posted by rongorongo at 2:28 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

The Longest Johns are creating a community choir to record a version of Wellerman (much as they did for this recording of Leave Her Johnny Leave her). Over 3,000 entries so far. You have until Monday to prepare your video. Here are the instructions.
posted by rongorongo at 4:09 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

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