> Ewan MacColl > Songs > Ballad of Accounting

Ballad of Accounting

[ Roud - ; DT BALACCNT ; Ewan MacColl]

Enoch Kent sang Ewan MacColl’s sang The Ballad of Accounting in 1966 on The Exiles’ Topic album Freedom, Come All Ye.

Ewan MacColl wrote this song as a link between the six episodes of a series of television documentaries called Landmarks, broadcast by the BBC in 1965.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sang Ballad of Accounting in a 1972 recording on MacColl’s 1990 Cooking Vinyl anthology Black and White. This track was also included in 1993 on the Cooking Vinyl Sampler Vol. 2. The album compilers Neill and Calum MacColl noted:

Written in 1964 as theme music for the BBC radio-series Landmarks, this is a summing-up song, an accounts sheet. Its Brechtian style and deceptive simplicity mark it as unique among MacColl’s compositions.

Tony Capstick sang Ballad of Accounting in 1978 on his, Dave Burland’s and Dick Gaughan’s album Songs fo Ewan MacColl.

Dick Gaughan sang Ballad of Accounting in 1977 on his Highway/Trailer album Kist o’ Gold. and on his 1985 album Live in Edinburgh. He noted on his now defunct website:

Written by Ewan MacColl in 1964 as theme music for the BBC radio-series Landmarks.

I first heard this sung on an early Topic recording by the Exiles, a group of Scots living in London—although the lineup altered over the years, the early core was Enoch Kent, Gordon McCulloch and Bobby Campbell.

Battlefield Band sang The Ballad of Accounting in 2007 on their Temple album Dookin’.


Dick Gaughan sings Ballad of Accounting

In the morning we built the city
In the afternoon walked through its streets
Evening saw us leaving

We wandered through our days as if they would never end
All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
We hardly saw the crossroads
And small attention gave
To landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave,
    cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave

Did you learn to dream in the morning?
Abandon dreams in the afternoon?
Wait without hope in the evening?

Did you stand there in the traces and let them feed you lies?
Did you trail along behind them wearing blinkers on your eyes?
Did you kiss the foot that kicked you?
Did you thank them for their scorn?
Did you ask for their forgiveness for the act of being born,
    act of being born, act of being born?

Did you alter the face of the city?
Did you make any change in the world you found?
Or did you observe all the warnings?

Did you read the trespass notices, did you keep off the grass?
Did you shuffle off the pavement just to let your betters pass?
Did you learn to keep your mouth shut,
Were you seen and never heard?
Did you learn to be obedient and jump to at a word,
    jump to at a word, jump to at a word?

Did you ever demand any answers?
The who, the what or the reason why?
Did you ever question the setup?

Did you stand aside and let them choose while you took second best?
Did you let them skim the cream off and then give to you the rest?
Did you settle for the shoddy?
Did you think it right
To let them rob you right and left and never make a fight,
    never make a fight, never make a fight?

What did you learn in the morning?
How much did you know in the afternoon?
Were you content in the evening?

Did they teach you how to question when you were at the school?
Did the factory help you grow, were you the maker or the tool?
Did the place where you were living
Enrich your life and then
Did you reach some understanding of all your fellow men,
    all your fellow men, all your fellow men?