Ralph McTell: The Mermaid and The Seagull

26 Jan

English folk singer Ralph McTell

Despite The Streets of London, things haven't always been easy for Ralph McTell

English folkie Ralph McTell, born Ralph May in 1944, is best known for Streets of London, but should be known for so much more (see link below). He originally wrote the song about Paris when he was performing in the streets there and converted it to listeners’ most favorite song ever about London, according to a poll for the Evening Standard (The Kinks’  Waterloo Sunset is No. 2).

Streets of London has been recorded by more than 200 artists; it climbed to No. 2 in Britain; in Germany, at one time, there were four versions of it on the charts, including three different ones by McTell.

Originally intending to be a teacher, McTell changed his name when he set out on a performing career to pay tribute to one of his blues heroes, Blind Willie McTell. Streets of London was the third song he ever wrote, but it wasn’t until he re-recorded it that it became a phenomenon. McTell sold out storied British venues, and was one of the few English performers to continue to perform in Northern Ireland at the height of the conflict there.

Shortly after achieving fame, McTell left it and focused on family and other pursuits. In the 80s, he worked on English TV shows, and became famous for that to a generation late to Streets of London. In the 90s he made the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas his focus, completing a project on Thomas’ life called The Boy With a Note for the BBC. McTell has resumed performing, and just last year released his first download single.

Said McTell:  ”What starts out as a great adventure becomes your career and becomes your life so all the edges become blurred and I am not dependent on the industry because the industry does not support me.”

From The Mermaid and The Seagull (link below)


 I buttoned my coat up to my chin
Went walking along the sand
I thought I heard the mermaid sing
To the sound of a big brass band.
A seagull offered me a ride
And so as not to hurt his pride
I said I wasn’t going far
And I let him carry my guitar.






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