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The radio ballads were the joint creation of Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger.

A radio ballad is a sound-tapestry woven of four basic elements: songs, instrumental music, sound effects and the recorded voices of those with whose lives each program deals.

These programs were revolutionary for their time, using as they did the actual spoken words of the ‘informants'. Up until this time, this 'actuality' (as the trio dubbed it) was transcribed and then interpreted by trained radio speakers. The radio ballads lead you effortlessly from to song to music to sound effect to the spoken word and back again, revealing the effect of a way of life upon those who lead it. They are entertaining, informative, musical, poetic and educational.

There were eight radio-ballads, created, between 1957 and 1964.

The Fight Game was the seventh radio ballad and tackled the world of the professional boxer. It proved to be not the lighthearted escape "from the huge canvas of industry and the intensely private world of the sick and the adolescent" that the team had expected, but an ironic allegory in which the world of prizefighting represented the larger world in which we all live.

Sixty hours of interviews were taped in gymnasia above London pubs, boxing rings, dressing rooms and on the streets in early-morning training sessions. The regular references by the fighters to themselves as latter-day gladiators prompted Peggy Seeger to score the music for brass, the trumpets and trombones reminiscent of Roman circuses and matching perfectly the sudden and brutal violence of the ring.

Though The Fight Game's actuality was not as rich as some of its predecessors, in MacColl's view the programme was technically the most successful of the series, largely because the songs were written to the rhythm of a boxer's training schedule. The team had perfected ballad-making by this stage but the production demands were enormous. The fight sequence alone needed 86 takes and MacColl notes one trumpet player, lips swollen like small balloons, gasping, "I have nothing left to give". He writes: "I think we all felt like that".


released July 3, 1963

Script, song lyrics and music - Ewan MacColl with Peggy Seeger
Orchestration and music direction - Peggy Seeger
Production - Charles Parker
Actuality recording - Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker
“℗ 1964 BBC [(BBC Worldwide Ltd)]; this recording ℗ and © 2019 Ewan MacColl Limited”

Bob Davenport, Ewan MacColl, Gordon McCullough, John Reavey, Peggy Seeger

Jim Bray - double bass
Brian Daly - acoustic and electric guitar
Alf Edwards - English concertina, trombone
Ronnie Hughes - trumpet
Alfie Kahn - harmonica, clarinet, piccolo, flute
Johnny Lambe - trumpet
Peggy Seeger - guitar, 5-string banjo, Appalachian dulcimer
Dave Swarbrick - fiddle


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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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