At The Present Moment

by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger



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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Track Name: Student Edward
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.
Track Name: Song Of Choice
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
Track Name: I'm Gonna Be An Engineer
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!
Track Name: Let’s Pretend
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!
Track Name: Hello Friend
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.
Track Name: Tall & Proud
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
Track Name: Big Cigars
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)
Track Name: We’re A Nation Of Animal Lovers
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.
Track Name: Che Guevara
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
Track Name: Brother, Did You Weep?
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!

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