27 November 2011

#30-32 Santiana/ The Plains of Mexico

"Stormalong" and "Santiana" feel like brothers to me. 

Reading widely in the history and contents of these songs, one may begin to feel, as I do, that they are morphed versions of each other or of some common song. They seem to have emerged in the same era, in the same geographic area and cultural milieu. Lyrical phrases and themes are shared among them. (The recently discussed "General Taylor" chanty  is an obvious case in point.) Both have a rather sombre air of eulogizing fallen heroes which, I think, makes them "feel" older when compared to many other chanties that would later be known.

In discussing the "Stormalong" family, I called them the "oldest most popular" chanties. They were there at the time when "chanty" seemed to emerge as the distinctive genre which that term best labels (the 1840s) and went on to become among the most noted of all chanties in history. The "Santiana" family would also seem to have emerged during the 1840s, if its lyrical content is a reliable indication, for it refers to the Mexican-American war, 1846-48. (For comparison, one version of "Stormalong" can be argued to have been reasonably established by 1848; one presumes it had been circulating at least a year to have been so established. This puts both songs at around the same time.) And "Santiana" is also among the most attested chanties for the period up through the 1880s (32 times—3rd-most on my list).

Such was the topical nature of chanty lyrics (in the African-American tradition, at least) that news of current events was included. The theme of "Santiana"—about the victory of either Mexico's General Antonio López de Santa Ana or the United States' General-cum-President Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Monterrey (Sept. 1846)—may have already existed before that time. That is, the song may have been an update of an earlier model(s) for other circumstances. I cite as evidence for this a work song ascribed to Sept. 1845 (i.e. a year before the battle):

In New Orleans they say,
   Fire, maringo, fire away,
That General Jackson's gained the day,
   Fire, maringo, fire away! 
[From: Erskine, Charles. 1896. Twenty Years Before the Mast. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co.]

It's from a cotton-screwers chant in New Orleans, the famous "Fire Maringo." If here it is General Andrew Jackson gaining the day, it must surely be a reference to the Battle of New Orleans, January 1815. Note that there are other chanty lyrics in evidence that praise Jackson's victory. For his "Knock a Man Down" (the possibly African-American original of "Blow the Man Down"), Adams (On Board the Rocket, 1879) offers the lyric, "Where Jackson gave the British beans." Both the War of 1812 and Mexican-American War heroes appear to be mixed in a version of "Santiana," used as a capstan chanty, on board an American ship in 1862. The shipboard newspaper from the voyage of the Susan Hinks, from Boston to Calcutta, offered these lyrics:

General Taylor gained the day,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
General Taylor gained the day
    All on the plains of Mexico.

He gained the day at Monterey,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
He gained the day at Monterey,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

Santa Anna ran away,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
He ran away from Monterey,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

General Jackson's at New Orleans,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
General Jackson's at New Orleans,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

'Twas there he gave the British beans,
    Hurrah Santa Anna!
'Twas there he gave the British beans,
    All on the plains of Mexico.

The hypothetical re-vamp of the battle-victory theme may have happened as early as 1846 (not unlikely for such topical lyrics), but the only other gauge I have to support that is the repertoire of Edward Robinson, who sang chanties for JM Carpenter in the late 1920s. Robinson actually first went to sea in 1846, and he had "Santiana" in his repertoire, though he might conceivably have learned the chanty at any time before the 1870s.

Next along the timeline, but unfortunately also not a contemporary document, is Prentice Mulford's (1889) telling of a clipper ship voyage to San Francisco in 1856. 

For the first six weeks all the “shanty songs” known on the sea had been sung. Regularly at each pumping exercise we had “Santy Anna,” “Bully in the Alley,” “Miranda Lee,” “Storm Along, John,” and other operatic maritime gems,...

Perhaps notably, "Santiana" has been mentioned here alongside "Stormalong," as well as the oldie "Bully in the Alley" and the hard-to-determine (perhaps lost) "Miranda Lee." That's not all. The memoirs of General William Jackson Palmer (produced in Fisher, A Builder of the West, 1981) mention a trans-Atlantic packet ship voyage of 1856 on which “All on the Plains of Mexico” (i.e. Santiana) was sung along with Mr. Stormalong and Shenandoah.

Another possible 1850s form, John Short (sea career 1858-1875) gave this chanty to Cecil Sharp:

Santy Anna run away;
    Ho-roo, Santy Anna ;
Santa Anna run away 
    all on the plains of Mexico

General Taylor gained the day,

Mexico you all do know,

The Americans'll make Ureta [Huerta] fly, 

A fascinating anecdote from the start of the U.S. Civil War has soldiers at the Battle of Fort Sumter (April 1861, in Charleston, South Carolina) hauling up guns to the top of the fort by means of a capstan whilst singing a song with the refrain "On the plains of Mexico" (United Service, May 1884). 

A number of chantymen of the '60s have offered (usually years later) their versions of "Santiana." These include: Buryeson (Coast Seamen's Journal, 1909); Whall (1910; learned his version circa 1862-4); James Wright (Carpenter Collection; sea service 1864-1911); Jack Murray (Carpenter Collection; sea service 1867-1885); Edward B. Trumbull (Carpenter Collection; sea service starting circa 1868); Robert Yeoman (CC; sea service 1869-1879).

The earliest actual published reference comes in 1868, in the Once a Week article, "On Shanties."

Oh, Santa Anna gained the day,
   Hurrah, Santa Anna ; 

He gained the day, I've heard them say,
   All on the plains of Mexico.

Alden next published it in his 1882 article—the first to contain a musical score with it. He introduces the verse with a note which is a tease that there were (other) Black American songs out there singing about General de Santa Ana. Incidently, it's interesting that while a later-floated popular narrative puts British and Irish sailors singing the praises of America's enemy, Alden explained the historical re-write of a victory for Mexico in a different way.

It may be assumed that the predominance of Santa Anna's name in sailor songs is due to the Southern negroes, who still sing songs of which the name of the Mexican general is the burden. We may therefore class the “Plains of Mexico” with those sailor songs which are of African descent.

Did you never hear tell of that general?
    Hurrah, you Santy Anna
Did you never hear tell of that general?
    All on the plains of Mexico.

And yet in Luce's collection from the next year (1883), it is General Taylor who is victorious:


Oh Gen'ral Taylor gained the day,
Down on the plains of Mexico;
And Santa Anna ran away,
Hurray! Santa Anna.

The chanty continued to be sung in the 1870s, by the likes of Capt. Robinson (1917), Richard Maitland (Doerflinger 1951), Bullen (1914), Harlow (1962), and Williams (1909).

The version presented by Terry (1921) is crossed with the "Boney" chanty—presumably because of the common subject of a war hero.

Oh Santy Anna won the day.

    Way-Ah, me Santy Anna.

Oh Santy Anna won the day.

    All on the plains of Mexico.
He beat the Prooshans fairly.
And whacked the British nearly.

He was a rorty gineral;

A rorty snorty gineral.

They took him out and shöt him.

Oh when shall we forgët him.

Oh Santy Anna won the day

And Gin'ral Taylor run away.

A description of an 1882 event where a 70 year old sailor—who may have learned chanties concurrently with their coming to prominence—sings the song, offers a sense of the "antiquity" (relatively speaking, of course) of "Santiana". It also offers an excellent example of what seems to be a very authentic-style extended text, which starts with the regulation verses of "gained the day," but, rather than going through a narrative, jumps to other stock verses of the genre: 

It was not easy to work the capstan in such a gale and John Miller, of East Boston, the ship-keeper, nearly 70 years old, who had spent many years on the United States Ship “Ohio”, started a shanty, of which he sang the verses, while the sailors joined in the chorus and pulled with a will.  I took down the words, as follows:


Santa Anna gained the day—
            Hurrah, Santa Anna!
Santa Anna gained the day—
            All on the plains of Mexico.

He gained the day at Monterey.

He sailed away one fine day—

Oh, that creole gal, she’s the gal for me!

She wears red-top boots and her hair does shine—

She’s just the girl to make them pine—

We’re bound to have her in the black-ball line—

Oh, was you ever in Mobile Bay?

Screwing cotton by the bale—

‘Tis there you’ll find the boys to shine—

But the girls are all of the blackest kind—

Now we sail from Mobile Bay—

We are bound for Liverpool town—

Oh, there you’ll see the girls come down—
[From Briggs, L. Vernon. 1926. Around Cape Horn to Honolulu on the Bark “Amy Turner” 1880.]

Numerous other reference to this song and presentations of its lyrics and melody are in record. Lastly, then, the Georgia Sea Island singers' version might also be interesting to see:

Seaman, what’s the madda?
            Hoo-ray ‘o-ray
Seaman, what’s the madda?
            Hooray, Sandy Anna.

Seaman stole my dolla’
He stole it in Savannah

He spend it in Havana
I caught ‘im in his colla’

I shake ‘im till he holla’
Seaman stole my dolla’
[From Parrish 1942]

For his presentation in Shanties from the Seven Seas, Stan Hugill felt he was able to distiguish three variants of the chanty. However, it is really just three different tunes and three sets of chosen lyrics. As he notes, it's all interchangeable; I'd go further to say that to enumerate distinct variants like this is fairly meaningless.

"Santiana" was only the second of the chanties I recorded for this project, and my first done a capella! I notice that I was already putting together personalized/selected verses in this. I remember singing it, too, at some kind of party around that time. I guess this is when I really started getting "deep into" this chanty business!

Anyways, at that time I was not concerned with teasing out subtle variations between supposed variants given by Hugill. And since Hugill's tune for variant (A) and variant (C) were very similar...and taken together not appreciably different from (in my opinion) most other documented versions...I ended up treating it as just one tune, processed by my brain, I suppose. And I grabbed most of the lyrics from his version (B). I now see that those lyrics owe a bit to Patrick Tayleur's version that he'd sung for Doerflinger—and pretty distinct from most others documented, being in praise of Mexican women rather than about the military general.

Hugill's Variation (B) contains a curious modulation to a relative key. Assuming this is not a mistake (and he did not get "lost" like Bullen seems to have done—and which his editor, Arnold, takes at face value), it is an interesting little excursion from start to finish, and then back again at the repeat. Because I had earlier used the lyrics from this variation already, I now had to snatch the text of version (A)—a practice that Hugill explicitly endorsed! In any case, I am hoping people would hear the distinctiveness of this variant, which I recorded about 9 months after the other.

Ranzo :{

1 comment:

  1. An especially fine job on this favorite chanty! I like both of your sung versions. Lot's of good energy there. And the background research is not only important but very interesting. I really like the way this project is coming together and bringing together your works on the chanties. J.