My Seafaring Lassie

shiver me timbres, ye dogs of the C, the bouncy C
PDF | Midi Mp3

A mock sea shanty that is VERY easy to play, especially on the ukulele (guitarists get stuck with the barred F chord). So if you’ve been hesitant about actually taking some of these Viper pieces on a test drive, this could be a good place for you to start. You can even ignore the Gsus4 and just play a G if you want (and skip the C with a B in the bass). And, voila! it’s just the four doo-wop chords: all heart, all soul. Honestly, in performance, it should sound like a song everyone knows, but not overly well.

I’d actually written most of this pre-Viper, when I was 24 and in the midst of leaving my liver in Libertyville. But I was never able to figure out a good 2nd verse until Ann Hanlon and I moved back to the U.S. from Turkey, and until we did so as the only two passengers on a trans-Atlantic cargo ship, and until I got the idea to just list cities we’d either visited on the way home or that I’d read about in the outdated collection of National Geographics (is there any other kind?) that they had on board. Hail Valencia! Hail Valdez!

For reference, here’s a rare solo Viper version from my last show with The Paint Branch Ramblers in Accokeek, Maryland, just before I moved to Milwaukee in 2008. This is a good example I how I initially conceived of the song as something I would teach the audience to sing as we went. Join in with the “Yo Ho Ho”s.

The Viper, “Seafaring Lassie,” Accokeek, MD, December 2008

Next, with the full Orchestra, from July 2010. There’s a couple of nice moments here worth pointing out, starting from the very end. Early on in the life of the song, we’d started tacking on an ending in which, based on a dream he’d had, Rob Henn would sing the line: “and she’ll smile on the Bard of Armagh.” Though Tommy Makem, who sang with the Clancy Brothers, was known as “The Bard of Armagh,” Rob is pretty sure he didn’t know this before he had the dream. And a Google search as of this minute in which I’m typing confirms that no one but Rob Henn has ever uttered the exact line “and she’ll smile on the Bard of Armagh.”

The second moment of note comes earlier, in the open fugue section, in which Edward Burch starts singing the lyrics from the “Love Boat Theme” (Charles Fox / Paul Williams) in a Shane MacGowan voice. I joined in, and enjoyed it as a lovely unscripted moment. But then I found the script! It was actually written into the arrangement as early as 2002, as you’ll see in the image under the audio.

The Viper & His Famous Orchestra, “My Seafaring Lassie,” live at Mike n’ Molly’s, Champaign, IL, July 2010

Finally, I’ll include a very rare version from a Viper & His Famous Orchestra rehearsal from what appears to be 2014 held in Riley Broach’s living room in Palatine, IL.

It cuts off before it ends. But it starts with me two rooms away from everyone else, listening to John Peacock play the theme on the melodica, then wandering into the full band mix, with a kind of nice feel all around — and because I’m carrying the little TASCAM recorder in my pocket, you can actually hear and feel the Viper POV.

The Viper & His Famous Orchestra, rehearsing “My Seafaring Lassie,” Palatine, IL, September 2014
The Viper & His Famous Orchestra plays “My Seafaring Lassie” at the Great Performers of Illinois Festival in Millennium Park, Chicago, IL (Bean just offstage, laughing, on the left), July 2009. Kip Rainey devised a harmony that worked best with a Lincoln mask.

the kind of music your great-great-great-grandparents warned your great-great-grandparents about