At The Present Moment

by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger

Where have you been all the whole day long, Son,come tell it unto me: I've been to the school learning how we are ruled, A lesson in democracy , mother dear; A lesson in democracy. Bow came the blood on your right shoulder, dear? Son, come tel1 it unto me: I was bashed on the head by a cop, and it bled, He was teaching social history, mother dear, He was teaching social history. Why do the tears come streaming from your eyes? Son, come tell it unto me: As we tried to pass, the cops released their gas Instructing us in chemistry, mother dear, Instructing us in chemistry. Why do you crouch like a bent old man? Son, come tell it unto me: The cops got me down and they booted me around A lesson in anatoiny, mother dear, A lesson in anatomy. Where did you leave your little brother John? Son, come tell it unto me: They've got him in a cell and they're teaching him well, The meaning of authority, mother'dear, The meaning of authority.
Early every year the seeds are growing Unseen, unheard they lie beneath the ground Would you know before their leaves are showing That with weeds all your garden will abound? If you close your eyes, stop your ears Shut your mouth then how can you know ? For seeds you cannot hear may not be there Seeds you cannot see may never grow In January you've still got the choice You can cut the weeds before they start to bud If you leave them to grow high they'll silence your voice And in December you may pay with your blood So close your eyes, stop your ears, Shut your mouth and take it slow Let others take the lead and you bring up the rear And later you can say you didn't know Every day another vulture takes flight There's another danger born every morning In the darkness of your blindness the beast will learn to bite How can you fight if you can't recognise a warning? Today you may earn a living wage Tomorrow you may be on the dole Though there's millions going hungry you needn't disengage For it's them, not you, that's fallen in the hole It's alright for you if you run with the pack It's alright if you agree with all they do If fascism is slowly climbing back It's not here yet so what's it got to do with you? The weeds are all around us and they're growing It'll soon be too late for the knife If you leave them on the wind that around the world is blowing You may pay for your silence with your life So close your eyes, stop your ears, Shut your mouth and never dare And if it happens here they'll never come for you Because they'll know you really didn't care
When I was a little girl I wished I was a boy I tagged along behind the gang and wore my corduroys. Everybody said I only did it to annoy But I was gonna be an engineer. Mamma said, "Why can't you be a lady? Your duty is to make me the mother of a pearl Wait until you're older, dear And maybe you'll be glad that you're a girl. Dainty as a Dresden statue, gentle as a Jersey cow, Smooth as silk, gives cream and milk Learn to coo, learn to moo That's what you do to be a lady, now. When I went to school I learned to write and how to read History, geography and home economy And typing is a skill that every girl is sure to need To while away the extra time until the time to breed And then they had the nerve to ask, what would I like to be? I says, "I'm gonna be an engineer!" "No, you only need to learn to be a lady The duty isn't yours, for to try to run the world An engineer could never have a baby Remember, dear, that you're a girl" She's smart --- for a woman. I wonder how she got that way? You get no choice, you get no voice Just stay mum, pretend you're dumb. That's how you come to be a lady, today. Well, I started as a typist but I studied on the sly Working out the day and night so I could qualify And every time the boss came in, he pinched me on the thigh Said, "I've never had an engineer!" "You owe it to the job to be a lady The duty of the staff is to give the boss a whirl The wages that you get are crummy, maybe But it's all you get, 'cause you're a girl" Then Jimmy came along and we set up a conjugation We were busy every night with loving recreation I spent my days at work so he could get an education And now he's an engineer! He said: "I know you'll always be a lady The duty of my darling is to love me all her life Could an engineer look after or obey me? Remember, dear, that you're my wife!" As soon a Jimmy got a job, I studied hard again Then busy at me turret-lathe a year or two, and then The morning that the twins were born, Jimmy says to them "Your mother was an engineer!" "You owe it to the kids to be a lady Dainty as a dish-rag, faithful as a chow Stay at home, you got to mind the baby Remember you're a mother now!" Every time I turn around there's something else to do Cook a meal or mend a sock or sweep a floor or two Listening to Jimmy Young - it makes me want to spew I was gonna be an engineer. I only wish that I could be a lady I'd do the lovely things that a lady's s'posed to do I wouldn't even mind if only they would pay me Then I could be a person too. What price for a woman? You can buy her for a ring of gold, To love and obey, without any pay, You get a cook and a nurse for better or worse You don't need a purse when a lady is sold. Oh, but now the times are harder and me Jimmy's got the sack; I went down to Vicker's, they were glad to have me back. But I'm a third-class citizen, my wages tell me that But I'm a first-class engineer! The boss he says "We pay you as a lady, You only got the job because I can't afford a man, With you I keep the profits high as may be, You're just a cheaper pair of hands." You got one fault, you're a woman; You're not worth the equal pay. A bitch or a tart, you're nothing but heart, Shallow and vain, you've got no brain, Well, I listened to my mother and I joined a typing pool Listened to my lover and I put him through his school If I listen to the boss, I'm just a bloody fool And an underpaid engineer I been a sucker ever since I was a baby As a daughter, as a mother, as a lover, as a dear But I'll fight them as a woman, not a lady I'll fight them as an engineer!
Let’s pretend: the sky is blue, the sea is always calm; The burning sky’s a sunset, not napalm; The morning breeze is pure and sweetly fresh - But isn’t that the smell of putrefying flesh? Let’s pretend that we are walking under southern stars, The burning eyes of night in Africa; The tender perfume’s wafted on the air - But isn’t that a murdered Negro hanging there? Let’s pretend: we’re on a lonely beach, just you and I ... They’re soaring gulls, not bombers, in the sky; And death is just a half-remembered dream - But isn’t that the sound of burning children’s screams? Let’s pretend that life is just a movie, let’s pretend; And everything will come right in the end; The concentration camp moon’s overhead - And mind that you tread carefully among the dead!
My Son 04:06
Uncle Sam 03:43
Hello Friend 02:38
Hello friend, I see you're a stranger. Where do you come from? Hello friend, something in your face reminds me of the sun: But the northern light is thin against the darkness of your skin. Hello friend. I'm glad that you could come. When you talk, I hear the echo of the places you have been; When you walk, colours all around you fluttering in the wind; When I listen to your song, I feel you really do belong; Am I the stranger, the one who's just come in? I think I know what made you come here but what made you want to stay? Will you go if the weather and the welcome seem too cold and grey ? Do you feel you'll never find all the warmth you left behind? Never mind—I hope you want to stay. Did you find new friends to help you? Can you earn a living here? Do you mind the smoke and grime around you and the warning loud and clear? Or did your troubles just begin with the colour of your skin? Never mind—I'm glad to see you here. Did you come to climb a mountain and end up in a hole? Have you won [he right to join our people signing on the dole? Can you be happy here amid suspicion and the fear. Or will you run, and never more return? Hello friend, all of us are strangers in this green and pleasant land. Once again battle ranks are forming and we need a friendly hand. Yours the fear and ours the shame, but our goal is just the same, In the end this will be OUR native land.
Tall & Proud 02:18
Our boys are standing tall out there Full of guts and pride Except the ones who can't stand up The ones who went and died Knew a guy was crazy keen To have a piece of land Now he's got six feet of earth In far-off Vietnam Poor wayfarin' stranger Rambling through the town Draft board sent him overseas And laid that poor boy down Our boys are standing tall and proud And some are lying flat The honoured guests at barbecues Where only worms get fat Joe Baker talked of raising wheat Under Kansas skies Now shoots of rice are growing From the sockets of his eyes Knew a guy from Fresno A Chicano poor as dirt Now he's lying in a ditch With a medal on his shirt Our boys are standing tall and proud Sons of Uncle Sam Bringing the 'merican way of life To backward Vietnam Big Bill, a black from Harlem Demanded equal rights He got 'em when they buried him With half a dozen whites Knew a certain traveller Came from Arkansas Travelled straight into his grave In Nixon's dirty war Our boys are standing tall and proud Rifles in their hands Wondering why the hell they're fighting In this foreign land To help United Steel survive Kovalski fought and bled The shareholders are doing fine But Joe Kovalski's dead Black kid from Atlanta Serving Uncle Sam Died for General Motors In the fields of Vietnam Knew a guy from Texas Name of Billy Doyle Died in the Mekong Delta Defending Standard Oil The white man drafts the black man To fight the yellow guy To defend the red man's land he stole Way back in the by and by Our boys are standing tall and proud Piling up the dead And with every peasant hut they burn The east glows deeper red
Big Cigars 03:44
There’s a little sun-drenched island in the Caribbean Sea, It used to be like paradise, all fun and gaiety; You could take a plane from Florida, just ninety miles away, And live there like an emperor for fifty bucks a day. Chorus: Happy days at an end ... Uncle Sam, the poor old sod, ain’t got a friend. There were servants cheap and plentiful, the natives were in debt; But for sportsmen on vacation there was faro and roulette; And if you fancied other sports you flashed a dollar bill And regiments of whores were there your pleasures to fulfill. (chorus) The government took orders from the local C.I.A. And always served the interests of the good old USA; The natives they all knew their place and did what they were told, Hotels were air-conditioned and the beer was always cold. (chorus) One day in nineteen-fifty-six, the year was almost run, Ten-thousand U.S. citizens lay browning in the sun, When a certain hairy Cuban, regardless of the risk, Lit a big cigar and burnt those U.S. arses to a crisp. (chorus) Well, the gangsters and the bankers, all the con-men and the crimps, The corporation lawyers, all the bully-boys and pimps, Shouting, ‘FREEDOM!’ and ‘DEMOCRACY!’ (and other thrilling cries) Flew back to God’s own country like ten-thousand blue-arsed flies. (chorus) One by one, Batista’s outposts were attacked and overrun, By a band of compañeros led by him they call The Man; He lit a big Havana as they rested at the halt, Then through Oriente Province went just like a dose of salts. (chorus)
We don’t pretend we’re perfect but we have endearing features, We’re honest and we’re always kind to God’s four-footed creatures; Dogs and horses, hamsters, rabbits, little furry things - Lousy Europeans can’t appreciate the pleasure that a little kindness brings. We’re a nation of animal lovers. When Greeks were being tortured then we always held our peace, We used to like to spend our summer holidays in Greece; Cats and ponies, budgies, moths and hairy caterpillars - Lousy Europeans can’t appreciate the pleasure that these little creatures give us, We’re a nation of animal lovers. When there’s hangings in South Africa we just avert our gaze, But we’re tender-hearted to a fault with alley cats and strays; Remember how the nation nearly had a nervous spasm, Breathlessly anticipating giant panda’s pleasure in a cuddly orgasm, We’re a nation of animal lovers. When there’s rioting in Brixton we’re impressively impassive, But be cruel to a horse and our reaction then is massive; Guinea pigs and painted terrapin, tropical fishes - Lesser races cannot understand the simple fact that it would meet with all our wishes If there were no human beings.
Che Guevara 02:59
The hunt is over, the hounds are weary The hunter's home and laid him down Wild and free was Che Guevara Till torn and spent, they brought him to the ground. The stars are lost in the fields of darkness Hunters' moon stalks the empty night Like a palmer, walks Che Guevara Bearing songs to sow the world with light The way is dark and beset with danger The road may end in a prison cell A guiding hand is Che Guevara To lead us past the place at which he fell. Brave men show the way and brave men follow The Earth bless heroes when a hero dies A hero's hero is Che Guevara Meeting death with morning in his eyes. In jungle earth, the hunters laid him No stone to mark the lonely grave Then farewell, comrade Che Guevara We will clear the trail that you have blazed
Angela Davis 03:33
Disc of sun in the belching smoke, Blazing huts where children choke, Burning flesh and blackened blood, Charred and blistered like smould’ring wood. Chorus: O brother, O brother, did you weep? O sister, O sister, can you sleep? Wall-eyed moon in the wounded night, Touching poisoned fields with blight, Showing a ditch where a dead girl lies: Courted by ants and hungry flies. (chorus) Scream of pain on the morning breeze, Thunder of bombs in the grove of trees, Hymn of rubble and powdered stone, Anguished flesh and splintered bone. (chorus) Programmed war, efficiency team, Punch cards fed to thinking machines, Computered death and the murder plan, Total destruction of Vietnam. Chorus: O brother, have you got no shame? O Jesus, they’re killing in my name!
The Dead Men 03:30


released September 14, 1973

Engineered by Mike Cooper
Recorded at Pan Sound Studios


all rights reserved



Ewan MacColl London, UK

This site is maintained by the MacColl family, aiming to make Ewan's catalogue available to download.
Ewan MacColl is known to most as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. His art reached huge numbers through the folk clubs, greater numbers through his recordings and untold millions through the radio. ... more

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