492 Cafe

Songs from Alistair Hulett and David Rovics

at the Community Church of Boston

Jan 29, 2010: Alistair Hulett dies at 57
Alistair Hulett Remembered -by David Rovics -see below

First Set: Alistair Hulett

  1. (5:30) -Fair Flower of North Umberland
  2. (6:20) -The Recruited Collier
  3. (7:40) -A Bayonette's a Weapon (With a Working Man at Either End)
  4. (5:40) -John Maclean's March
  5. (3:30) -The Old Divide and Rule

Alistair Hulett .com



Freeman Z Remembers Alistair Hulett

Alistair wasn't fazed a bit when I anarchically audio-ambushed both him and David, entering the auditorium quite frazzled, overloaded and breathless, with a mixer, a mac and a (ProTools) Digi-002 recording rig. This performance collided with Boston Marathon preparations that made parking literally impossible.

I subscribed to Ally's "Gallow's Rant" newsletter, and we'd occasionally email back and forth. The first of these rounds was to inform him of the songs posted here. Ally apologized then for a poor performance, which I took as modesty. But it was apparent upon listening to other Alistair Hulett recordings that this was the case. Some artists would have turned down the recording, but Ally gave us his best, staying tightly on-mic with his voice and his steady-handed guitar. Please do explore his studio recordings and the many videos which survive him.

-Freeman Z


Second Set: David Rovics


  1. (4:10) -New Orleans
  2. (4:15) -I'm a Better Anarchist Than You
  3. (2:43) -Song for Cindy Sheehan

David Rovics .com

David Rovics Remembers Alistair Hulett

(condensed by Freeman Z)

Icon of Scottish folk music, international socialism, and Australian punk rock dead at 57

Jan 29, 2010

Yesterday it was the great historian and activist Howard Zinn, with whom I had the pleasure of sharing many stages around the US over many years. Today I heard that my dear friend, comrade and fellow musician Alistair Hulett died.

I last saw Alistair last summer at his flat in Glasgow where he had lived for many years with his wife Fatima . (a wonderful woman about whom Ally wrote his love song, "Militant Red.") He was working on a new song about a Scottish anarchist who had run the English radio broadcast for the Spanish Republic in the 1930's.

In 2005 the Scottish left was well mobilized, organizing the people's response to the G8 meetings that were happening in the wooded countryside not far from Edinburgh. Alistair was involved both as an organizer and a musician, and we hung out in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, outside a detention center somewhere, and out by the G8 meetings in an opulent little town with an unpronounceable name.

I asked him then if he wanted to do a tour with me in the US. He took me up on that a year or so later and we traveled from Boston to Minneapolis over the course of two weeks or so, doing concerts along the way. Many people who came to our shows were already familiar with Alistair's music, while many were hearing it for the first time and were generally well impressed with his work as well as his congenial personality, despite the fact that many people reported to me discreetly that they couldn't understand a word he was saying.

Americans aren't so good with accents at the best of times, and to make matters worse Alistair was largely doing songs from his Red Clydeside CD, which is a themed recording all about the anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist rebellion that rocked Glasgow in 1917. Naturally the songs from that CD are also sung in a Glaswegian dialect which can only be understood by non-Scottish people in written form, if you take your time.

Alistair was determined to retaliate for my having organized a tour for us in the US, which he did three years later in a big way, organizing a five-week tour for us of Australia and New Zealand from late November 2008 until early January of last year.

Our tour began in Christchurch, New Zealand. This turned out to seem very fitting, since Christchurch is where Alistair moved as a teenager, along with his parents and his sister, in the mid-1960's. He resented having to leave Glasgow, which was at that time a major hotbed of the 1960's global cultural and political renaissance -- a renaissance which had decidedly not yet made its way to little Christchurch, New Zealand. Alistair described to me how the streets of this small city were filled with proper English ladies wearing white gloves when he moved there as a restless youth.

The folk scare came to Christchurch, though, as with so many other corners of the world at that time, and at the age of 17 Alistair was in the heart of it. Our tour of New Zealand included a whole bunch of great gigs, but it was also like a tour of the beginning of Alistair's varied musical career. All along the way on both the south and north islands I met people Alistair hadn't seen for years or sometimes decades. I cringed as someone gave us a bootleg recording of Alistair as a teenager, figuring wrongly that it would be a reminder of a musically unstable early period, but it turned out to be a fine recording, a vibrant but nuanced rendition of some old songs from the folk tradition.

After two weeks exploring the postcard-perfect New Zealand countryside, smelling a lot of sheep shit, and getting in a car accident while parked, we headed to Sydney. Upon arriving in Australia I discovered a whole other side to Alistair and his impact on the world. Though his Scottish accent never seemed to thin out much, he lived for 25 years in Sydney and was on the ground floor of the Australian punk rock scene, playing in towns and cities throughout Australia with his band, Roaring Jack. The band broke up decades ago but still has a loyal following throughout the country, as I discovered first-hand night after night. In contrast with the nuanced and often quite obscure stories told in the traditional ballads which Alistair rendered so well, Roaring Jack was a brash, in-your-face musical experience, championing the militant end of the Australian labor movement and leftwing causes generally, fueled by equal parts rage against injustice, love of humanity and alcohol.

Since the 90's Alistair has lived in his native Glasgow, while regularly touring elsewhere in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. He's played in various musical ensembles including most recently his band the Malkies, but mostly his work has been as a songwriter and solo performer, also recording and occasionally touring with the great fiddler of Fairport Convention fame, Dave Swarbrick.

His more recent songs have run the gamut from a strictly local Glasgow song written to support a a public swimming pool to the timelessly beautiful song recorded by June Tabor and others, "He Fades Away" is about an Australian miner dying young of asbestosis, from massive exposure to asbestos, a long-lasting, daily tragedy of massive proportions fueled by, well, greedy capitalists.

It is ironic that Alistair was taken from us at such a young age by the industrial-world epidemic known as cancer, so much like the subject of his most well-known song.

He will be remembered passionately.

David Rovics (condensed by Freeman Z)



Alistair Hulett Links

Interview with Union Songs (2007)
Buy Red Clydeside CD