The World, The Flesh & The Devil - Mark Automaton

Waterden WDCD007

CD Cover Art


1. The Wife of Usher's Well
2. Caffeine & Paracetamol
3. Polly Vaughan
4. Drunken Maidens
5. Lady Isabel & The Elf-Knight
6. The Flying Dutchman
7. Monster Science
8. Blackwaterside

9. Quicksand
10. Demon Lover
11. Murder On Meon Hill
12. The Mistletoe Bough
13. Shadwell Stair
14. The Cockerham Devil
15. The Laidley Worm


The Wife of Usher's Well, Lady Isabel & The Elf-Knight, Demon Lover and The Laidley Worm are all drawn from F. J. Child's The English And Scottish Popular Ballads. The thing I find handy about the Child ballads is that most of them were documented as lyrics only, leaving disrespectful experimentalists (like me) free to rearrange their musical settings at will.

Caffeine & Paracetamol is a very personal view of the crutches we all seem to need to get through modern life - the title details my own drugs of choice.

There is a theory that the unfortunate eponymous protagonist of Polly Vaughan was possessed of supernatural powers, and was shot by her would-be fiancé while she was actually transformed into a swan, rather than just mistaken for one. I don't know whether that defence would hold up in court, though.

Drunken Maidens is a much-recorded traditional Anglo-Irish drinking song that goes to prove that so-called "ladettes" are by no means a modern phenomenon (although I did re-write the third verse to update it a bit).

The legend of The Flying Dutchman, a ship that was forever doomed to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, was the inspiration for the Wagner opera of the same name. This version, however, is several hours shorter and refreshingly free of caterwauling sopranos.

Monster Science, presumably written circa 1830, is one of 72 songs from the period of the Industrial Revolution collected in Jon Raven's book Victoria's Inferno. It was obviously intended as some sort of Luddite anthem, although it's interesting to note that even today there are plenty of people who view Science per se as a Bad Thing.

Blackwaterside is another much-recorded song, performed in the past by (among others) Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch, Linda Thompson, Anne Briggs and A.L. Lloyd. Led Zeppelin also used it as the basis for Black Mountainside. I just like the tune (and it's easy to play on the dulcimer).

Being an admirer of David Bowie since the early 70s, I thought it was about time to tackle one of his works, so Quicksand is my interpretation of (arguably) the best song on (undoubtedly) his best album.

I wanted to have a go at writing a broadside-style murder ballad, so I chose the true story of the unsolved murder of Charles Walton, killed near the village of Lower Quinton on 14th February 1945. Murder On Meon Hill was the result. In a separate musical experiment, all of the sounds on this track (apart from the vocal and acoustic guitar) originate from traditional Malaysian instruments, which I think gives it something of an other-worldly feel.

The two poems included in this collection, Thomas Haynes Bayly's The Mistletoe Bough and Shadwell Stair by Wilfred Owen, have both previously been set to music, but the arrangements used here are my own compositions. Poor old Bayly, one of the lesser Romantic poets, has been much derided for his "drawing-room ballads", but I think this re-telling of a well known urban legend has quite a deft touch.
Although he is best known for his war poetry, Shadwell Stair reminds us that Owen was a poet who went to war, not a soldier who happened to write poetry.

The Cockerham Devil tells the story of how Old Nick is outwitted by the local school master. Of course, that would never have happened where I went to school, as all the teachers there were already in league with the Devil.

Play MP3Shadwell Stair Play MP3Drunken Maidens