Saturday, September 6, 2008

Work: The Life Cycle of a Coal Mining Town

One could conceivably create a musical about coal miners and the towns they lived in, using existing music.

In Act One, the coal company finds coal, and creates a new town where none existed before. Two songs eloquently describe the conditions in which the miners live and work. Autopsy IV has already done an amazing job of presenting these here and here

In Act Two, the miners form a union to try to improve their lot. There is a strike and this song is used during a strike montage sequence.

Sting: We Work the Black Seam


(Sting wrote We Work the Black Seam as an expression of solidarity with striking coal miners in England.)

During the strike, a few of the miners become desperate, and return to work before the strike is over, becoming strike breakers, or “scabs”. This song is used to convey the conflict between them and the miners who remain on strike.

Steeleye Span: Blackleg Miner


(After Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span is the best known of the British folk-rock bands. Over the years, many musicians have been official or unofficial members of both bands..)

In Act Three, the mine becomes played out. The coal company closes the mine, leaving behind a town with no further reason for being, and leaving the former miners and their families to fend for themselves. Sadly this actually happened far too often. This song closes the show.

Michelle Shocked: The L&N Don‘t Stop Here Anymore


(Michelle Shocked created the concept of “folk-punk” to describe her music. I believe that this is her first appearance on Star Maker Machine. I hope it won’t be her last. For another excellent version of this tune, seek out the one by Norman Blake.)

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