Jolly Good Ale and Old (Back and Sides Go Bare)
DESCRIPTION: With chorus, "Back and sides go bare, go bare, Both hand and feet go cold...." The singer laments his sad state: "I cannot eat but little meat, My stomach is not good." He discusses his lack of clothing. But he, and his wife, revive for ale.
EARLIEST DATE: 1575 (Gammer Gurton's Needle)
KEYWORDS: drink clothes hardtimes
FOUND IN: Britain
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Shay-Barroom, pp. 43-44, "Back and Side Go Bare, Go Bare!" (1 text)
HarvClass-EP1, pp. 190-192, "Jolly Good Ale and Old" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Norman Ault, _Elizabethan Lyrics From the Original Texts_, pp. 41-42, "Of Jolly Good Ale and Old" (1 text)
John Gassner, editor, _Medieval and Tudor Drama_, 1963, 1987 (references are to the undated Applause Books paperback), has Gammer Gurton's Needle on pp. 346-402; this song, which opens Act II, is on pp. 356-357.
Reginald Nettel, _Seven Centuries of Popular Song_, Phoenix House, 1956, pp. 49-50, "(no title)" (1 text)
cf. "Let the Back and Sides Go Bare" (chorus)
NOTES [180 words]: This has a literary look, and has been attributed to William Stevenson. But there appear to be variant forms. In the 1575 version in Gammer Gurton's Needle (found in Ault), there are only four stanzas, and the singer's wife is Tib. (Tib, based on the version in Gassner, was the name in Gammer Gurton's Needle.) Nettel also has this type of text. The version in the Harvard Classics has eight stanzas and gives the wife's name as Kit. Unfortunately, though the Harvard version occurs in a number of anthologies in my library, none of them state their source! (Maybe they stole it from each other.)
The Gammer Gurton version, if I read Ault correctly, was also found in a play, "Diccon of Bedlam." A play of this name was registered 1562-1563 -- though, if it was printed (not all things registered went to the press), no copies seem to have survived.
The "back and sides go bare" chorus seems to have been quite popular; in this index, see also "Let the Back and Sides Go Bare." Granger's Index to Poetry, if I read this right, cites six different poems with this first line. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2019 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.