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Traffic — John Barleycorn
Album: John Barleycorn Must Die
Avg rating:
7.5

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1876









Released: 1970
Length: 6:18
Plays (last 30 days): 1
There were three men came out of the West,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn must die.

They've ploughed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn was dead.

They've let him lie for a very long time,
Till the rains from heaven did fall,
And little Sir John sprung up his head,
And so amazed them all.

They've let him stand till midsummer's day,
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John's grown a long, long beard,
And so become a man.

They've hired men with the scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They've rolled him and tied him by the way,
Serving him most barbarously.

They've hired men with the sharp pitchforks,
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he has served him worse than that,
For he's bound him to the cart

They've wheeled him around and around the field,
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn oath,
On poor John Barleycorn.

They've hired men with the crab-tree sticks,
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he has served him worse than that,
For he's ground him between two stones.

And little Sir John and the nut-brown bowl,
And he's brandy in the glass;
And little Sir John and the nut-brown bowl,
Proved the strongest man at last.

The huntsman, he can't hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker he can't mend kettle nor pot,
Without a little Barleycorn
Comments (265)add comment
Bought the CD not so long ago shortly after acquiring The Low Spark of High Heel Boys.

This song, at least in the beginning, reminds me of Donovan.   

Winwood was so versatile.    Was a fan of Steve Winwood back then, even more so now.
 Cueburned wrote:

Utopia vs Apocalypse is the main event. 
Plague vs Hubris is just the opening act.    
 
perfect comment on the "drivel", thanks!

 miahfost wrote:
Nothing like some agrarian utopia drivel to start your day amidst the Covid-19 apocalypse.
 
Utopia vs Apocalypse is the main event. 
Plague vs Hubris is just the opening act.    
 SpinyNorma wrote:

As does The Imagined Village, with Paul Weller on vocals.  Nicely punchy re-work
 

Ooh, i'll have to look for that.   Paul Weller's voice 
Am I the only one who thought Cat Stevens sang this song?
Nothing like some agrarian utopia drivel to start your day amidst the Covid-19 apocalypse.
What an outstanding rendition of a VERY old English folk tune.   Some medieval allegory is still well understood in the 21st century.
Just ran into this thing and now there's a glass of whiskey by my side.
 memoryboxer wrote:
Jethro Tull does a rather nice cover of this.
 
As does The Imagined Village, with Paul Weller on vocals.  Nicely punchy re-work
 VH1 wrote:
This sounds like Jethro Tull with a very bad toothache! {#Drunk}
 
Because there is a flute?  Please.
Jethro Tull does a rather nice cover of this.
I've given it four minutes but forgive me, I just have to go and play with the traffic now.
 WeAdmire wrote:
A great song well sung but there are many versions and I don't think that was Traffic from their album of the same name.  It's still a 9 though...
 
I too thought it was not the original off that album because I remembered it being more forceful.. so I checked two different 'videos' on YouTube and they are both the same as this one.

Until I ever get to hear my friend's original vinyl album then I will never be 100% sure.

So until then... we will just have to accept that our memories are false.
A great song well sung but there are many versions and I don't think that was Traffic from their album of the same name.  It's still a 9 though...
Excellent
Great band at it's best on this one. Love the album.
Still amazed how this beautiful arrangement of an English Folk ballad wound up the title track on a pioneering jazz fusion album. So glad it did.
This song is making me thirsty.
Fabulous!
 Boy_Wonder wrote:
Me again!

Monday morning.... grey.... working from home, just turned the puter on, clicked on RP and this was playing.... the day will go well!
And tickets for Van the Man tonight to round things off

 
Wow... four years older (less a day) since I posted the above, but the song is still as good as ever.....

Still raining, though.


This sounds like Jethro Tull with a very bad toothache! {#Drunk}
The Wikipedia link is to.... traffic. The stuff I encounter every day on the way to work. LOL.
Always Amazing to hear this.  Traffic and Steve Winwood are glorious.
Why do I send in money to RP via auto pay twice a year? Oh yeah...this. And everything else on RP. Thanks Bill!
Gives me a new appreciation for beer.
Rolling on the floor.
 willmcnaught wrote:

I concur! {#Cheers}

 
I concur also{#Notworthy}
Got shivers listening to this - doesn't happen often 
 RSF wrote:
Great song. Great album. Great band.

 
I concur! {#Cheers}
 jdbuxtox wrote:
Cheers, inspiration... Cerati, cuantas sorpresas, que metarelato maestro...
 
Fuerza natural! 
Cheers, inspiration... Cerati, cuantas sorpresas, que metarelato maestro...
I didn't even know Traffic had done this.  Stunned (pleasantly) to hear it on RP.

Thought it sounded like the Strawbs.
I used to listen to this album when I was a teenager in 1970 in my friends house.  He used to buy albums on a Saturday morning and then play them to me that afternoon without showing me the cover and I had to try and guess who it was.  Made you really listen and so it is very redolent of that era for me :)
 Merritt wrote:
I could go a very long time before needing to hear this song again...
 

 
Oh, do behave.
This song is so freakin cool. Thank god for the 1970s and the HUGE spectrum of RnR. 

I guess after this song we will hear some Led, or Dead, or Dylan, or Hendrix, or The Band, or Yes, or Floyd, or Allmans, or Stones or Steely Dan, or Fleetwood Mac, or CSNY? 

It's only RnR, but I like it.   

 
 Giselle62 wrote:
I was just, like, wow, this is sort of like building a Christian church on a pagan site. The two songs seem similar to me, anyway (I'm all into this Olde English stuff right now.).

 
This is a very, VERY old song with many variations and references to vegetation deity traditions, some of which became incorporated into the story of Jesus.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn:

John Barleycorn is a British folksong. The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting. 

Kathleen Herbert draws a link between the mythical figure Beowa (a figure stemming from Anglo-Saxon paganism that appears in early Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies whose name means "barley") and the figure of John Barleycorn. Herbert says that Beowa and Barleycorn are one and the same, noting that the folksong details the suffering, death, and resurrection of Barleycorn, yet also celebrates the "reviving effects of drinking his blood."

 A Scottish poem with a similar theme, "Quhy Sowld Nocht Allane Honorit Be", is included in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568 and English broadside versions from the 17th century are common. Robert Burns published his own version in 1782, and modern versions abound. 


Great song. Great album. Great band.
giselle62 got it right, all religions come from earlier, earthier times, patchworked, quilted, assuming the mantle, reworking ancient themes, the best practicing peace and welcoming attitudes. Remind me again, which ones are those?
Lovely arrangement  the flute is wonderful
 Merritt wrote:
I could go a very long time before needing to hear this song again...
 

 
I was thinking the exact same thing.
Great track - hadn't heard it for over 30 years. 
I could go a very long time before needing to hear this song again...
 
One of my all time favorites... Wonderful arrangement{#Roflol}
Summer's Cauldron => Grass => Eleven Small Roaches => John Barleycorn

Sonic Bliss! Aural euphoria! Multi-sensory delight!

hmmm...  looks like it's time to empty the ashtray and refill the pint glass.
Soon as I get home, I'm gonna have a nice tall glass of John's finest.
ThePoose wrote:
RIP Nicola 'Jim' Capaldi---stomach cancer certainly sucks.
 
Sad to hear. I somehow missed that he passed away 2005 already. His 1980's albums were some of my favorites in musically dark times, unlike Winwood's output of that period.

One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar.

I remember buying Traffic albums back when it was unheard of to have only 3 or 4 songs on a side.  It was heretical.  It was polarizing.  It was also mind opening and wonderful.

Days were when major groups took major chances.  Now . . .

don't ask.
Like a bad fart this song, lingers on for far too long!!{#Moon}
Nice little Picardy Third at the end... :-)
RIP Nicola 'Jim' Capaldi---stomach cancer certainly sucks. 

Dave_Mack wrote:

And Jim Capaldi.

 


 ronniegirl wrote:

Stevie Winwood.

 
And Jim Capaldi.
 helgigermany wrote:
Who is singing?
 
Stevie Winwood.
 helgigermany wrote:
Who is singing?
 
Steve Winwood.
yoh digger, is net schlecht. 
 mistabird wrote:
ist ja echt classe, so ein alter schöner Schinken {#Daisy}
 
das haben jetzt wieder alle verstanden!
ist ja echt classe, so ein alter schöner Schinken {#Daisy}
Who is singing?
Love this song!
When my son was little, probably 4 or 5, he really loved this song. I'll have to play it to him and see if he remembers it.  
Me again!

Monday morning.... grey.... working from home, just turned the puter on, clicked on RP and this was playing.... the day will go well!
And tickets for Van the Man tonight to round things off
100!!
Very nice...very nice. Shared the station while this played and they both fell in love. Congrats! You gained two more fans!
don't forget the hops and
saddle me harse i'm on down to the lion rose for a pint
Try this link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt6DkJRx0ZI&feature=related an argentinian composer (now deep in coma due to a stroke). Don't know if this was intentional but it sounds just the same as the riffs of this Traffic song.
4:00 PM on a friday afternoon right now, might be enjoying a glass or two of barley corn in a bit.
This song is high in fiber! {#Chef} Rated a 10!
sehr schönes Teil{#Daisy}
I definitely prefer the comments to the song.
10!
 A morning of work with echoes of barleycorn behind my eyeballs. This ironic playing soothes, tho' but a little...
 On_The_Beach wrote:

OK, we get it, you're a dick.

 

{#Lol}
 MiracleDrug wrote:
waits for the last note...

wait for it

wait for it

okay {#Puke}
 
OK, we get it, you're a dick.

waits for the last note...

wait for it

wait for it

okay {#Puke}
Looking forward to the day the Hip-hop scene "borrows" this for one of their ditties (Diddy's).
I love it when this song plays just to reread the comments. Easily some of the best in the RP archive! You people are damn funny.{#Clap}
I was just, like, wow, this is sort of like building a Christian church on a pagan site. The two songs seem similar to me, anyway (I'm all into this Olde English stuff right now.).
Here's the John Barleycorn lyrics:
There were three men come from the West
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three made a solemn vow:
"John Barleycorn must die."

They plowed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
'Til these three men were satisfied
John Barleycorn was dead.

They let him lie for a very long time,
'Til the rains from heaven did fall,
When little Sir John raised up his head
And so amazed them all.

They let him stand 'til Mid-Summer's Day
When he looked both pale and wan;
Then little Sir John grew a long, long beard
And so became a man.

They hired men with their scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee;
They rolled him and tied him around the waist,
And served him barbarously.

They hired men with their sharp pitchforks
To pierce him to the heart,
But the loader did serve him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.

They wheeled him 'round and around the field
'Til they came unto a barn,
And there they took a solemn oath
On poor John Barleycorn.

They hired men with their crab-tree sticks
To split him skin from bone,
But the miller did serve him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.

There's little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
And there's brandy in the glass,
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last.

The huntsman cannot hunt the fox
Nor loudly blow his horn
And the tinker cannot mend his pots
Without John Barleycorn.


I'm kind of hoping you'll play this on the 23rd for Equinox. I recently heard another song that had a similar theme—-but it was about Jesus:

Now the green blade rises
from the buried grain,
wheat that in the dark earth
many days has lain;
love lives again,
that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid him,
Love whom hate had slain,
thinking that never
he would wake again,
laid in the earth
like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

Forth he came in quiet,
like the risen grain,
he that for three days
in the grave had lain,
quick from the dead
the risen Christ is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are wintry,
grieving, or in pain,
Christ's touch can call us
back to life again,
fields of our hearts
that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.

.
Bring out yer dead!
 johnjconn wrote:
This song must die
 
Ain't gonna happen.

 Sasha2001 wrote:
One of the funniest sequences of comments for any song on RP. You guys have ruined a perfectly nice song for me - can't take it seriously now. What the hell is a "nut-brown boy" anyway?
 
It's a "nut-brown bowl" from which they drink the ale.  Personally, I prefer a pint glass.

Oh noes the "rock" flute!  I can count on one finger a song I like with rock flute in it, and this ain't it.
 
 miahfost wrote:
And the tinker rode his mule and the sun hath shone upon the field and something about a barley corn and noodle noodle noodle.
 

...but of course there are other interpretations as well...
 miahfost wrote:
And the tinker rode his mule and the sun hath shone upon the field and something about a barley corn and noodle noodle noodle.
 



One of the funniest sequences of comments for any song on RP. You guys have ruined a perfectly nice song for me - can't take it seriously now. What the hell is a "nut-brown boy" anyway?
I like the Steeleye Span version better, check it out!
Check out the version by Oysterband and the Big Session—they picked up the tempo by about 30% and rocked out.

if this were by three no-names, the rating would be more like 3.5
 spigolli wrote:
Methinks the lore of the performers hath caused the citizenry to bequeath an unduly high rating to such a mediocre performance.
 
Forsooth! Thine satirical utterings hath forced mead through my nose! 
And the tinker rode his mule and the sun hath shone upon the field and something about a barley corn and noodle noodle noodle.
Methinks the lore of the performers hath caused the citizenry to bequeath an unduly high rating to such a mediocre performance.

 Proclivities wrote:

Maybe because this song is about 400 years old.
 
 {#Roflol}classic!

{#Yes} Propayne wrote:
Flute solo!

Me likes. 
 


Giselle62 wrote:
i used to find this very scary yet compelling when i was a kid, didn't know what it was about then—-pagan.
It actually turned my kiddie ears on to jazz, which I had until then considered to be moldy and lifeless. Had it all wrong, and thought I was all right.

 Art_Carnage wrote:
Why do I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a really bad ren-fair?
 
Maybe because this song is about 400 years old.

Great! Just what I need right now. Sláinte!
ths is perfect. takes you back

Flute solo!

Me likes. 
I love this - very Sherwood-Forest-ish.  I could have happy dreams, falling asleep with this in my headphones... {#Daisy}
A:  Knock Knock.
B:  Who's there?
A:  Buzz-kill.
B:  Buzz-kill who?
A: (cues up this song, wins contest)

I like this song and album a lot.  The songs were a little different and gave the album a varied sound.  Winwood was a great talent from his days in Spencer Davis.
 Art_Carnage wrote:
Why do I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a really bad ren-fair?
 


Not to nit-pick, but a "really bad ren-fair"?  Are you saying there are other types?   


I can't elaborate on the experiences I had listening to this album.  Exquisitely delightful....I may have it played at my funeral.  {#Meditate}
It's warms me cold heart that there's a place for songs like this in a time where the media noise won't allow anything outside the norm :) Yay!
This song must die.........
 fredriley wrote:
F*ckin' long, innit?

Nearly 30 minutes of sub-4 songs. Things have to pick up soon. In the meantime, thank Apple for iTunes...
 

You qualify for the post-of-the-month price!

In the "most-silly" section!

F*ckin' long, innit?

Nearly 30 minutes of sub-4 songs. Things have to pick up soon. In the meantime, thank Apple for iTunes...
 ksua wrote:
The Steeleye Span version is a lot better!!!!!!{#Smile}
 
i'd forgotten all about them ...
Why do I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a really bad ren-fair?
 Giselle62 wrote:
i used to find this very scary yet compelling when i was a kid, didn't know what it was about then—-pagan.
 
We were scared of getting drunk. Now... not so much. For me, anyway. {#Drunk} {#Whipit} {#Dancingbanana_2} {#Cheers} {#Puke}{#High-five}

Back in the day Traffic was everybody's second favorite band, and this is a great song, but it tends to go a little long.
i used to find this very scary yet compelling when i was a kid, didn't know what it was about then—-pagan.
 unclehud wrote:

I think you're right about the "profits first" attitude of most of the music/film/art conglomerates these days, and right about the fact that the profit motive will squelch explosive periods of creativity.  I think you're wrong to assume that many of us RP listeners believe New Culture is inferior to Old Culture.  Grunge, rap, and house music are New Culture, notwithstanding your opinions of their value, and are here to stay because they generate profits.  That doesn't mean I give up my love of Traffic, the Stones, or Mountain; and it doesn't mean I can't Rage Against the Machine or enjoy Cake and Thievery Corporation.
Sorry, didn't mean to get all pompous and stuffy.  Perhaps dancing bananas will balance things:   {#Bananajam}{#Drummer}{#Dancingbanana}

 
I don't think your comments are pompous or stuffy.  I like Traffic - particularly this song.  I have just observed that some listeners seem to believe that the history of popular music began and ended in the 1960's. I didn't mean to imply that a majority of RP listeners believe that.  Thanks for the bananas by the way.


Love this whole album and this version of this piece.  Such vivid lyrics...Anon sure was a great songwriter!
 Proclivities wrote:
Well, probably not in the same ways as then.  Recording artists aren't really allowed to have explosive periods of creativity like they were back then.  The music industry (and the film industry) are first-and-foremost, subjugated to the production of profits.  Creativity is not really as important a part of production as it was forty years ago.  Your statement is somewhat of a subjective, self-fulfilling prophecy; if one believes (perhaps out of nostalgia) that any new Culture is innately inferior to that of the past, then one can never make a fair comparison.  Personally, I love much of the music from that period as well, but it's difficult to even hypothetically compare different periods.
 
I think you're right about the "profits first" attitude of most of the music/film/art conglomerates these days, and right about the fact that the profit motive will squelch explosive periods of creativity.  I think you're wrong to assume that many of us RP listeners believe New Culture is inferior to Old Culture.  Grunge, rap, and house music are New Culture, notwithstanding your opinions of their value, and are here to stay because they generate profits.  That doesn't mean I give up my love of Traffic, the Stones, or Mountain; and it doesn't mean I can't Rage Against the Machine or enjoy Cake and Thievery Corporation.

Shall we wait to see how the internet affects conventional methods of music dissemination and marketing?  A struggle of survival between the RIAA establishment and the internet underground like RP and direct downloads?

Sorry, didn't mean to get all pompous and stuffy.  Perhaps dancing bananas will balance things: 
  {#Bananajam}{#Drummer}{#Dancingbanana}


I absolutely HATE this song......................It SO depresses me.
Relatives of John Barleycorn die every football Saturday at my house.
"Beer is proof that God loves us." Ben Franklin
No apology from me. 10
Gee, I just wanted to say that I love this song...
 Mugro wrote:
I wonder if we will ever again have an explosive period of creativity in rock & roll as in 1967-1972. Methinks not.
 
Well, probably not in the same ways as then.  Recording artists aren't really allowed to have explosive periods of creativity like they were back then.  The music industry (and the film industry) are first-and-foremost, subjugated to the production of profits.  Creativity is not really as important a part of production as it was forty years ago.  Your statement is somewhat of a subjective, self-fulfilling prophecy; if one believes (perhaps out of nostalgia) that any new Culture is innately inferior to that of the past, then one can never make a fair comparison.  Personally, I love much of the music from that period as well, but it's difficult to even hypothetically compare different periods.

I can't help but think of Tenacious D when I hear this kind of thing... we are searching now for the "Pick of Destiny"!
thanks for this one....{#Good-vibes}