Up Tails All

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UP TAILS ALL. English, Scottish; Country Dance Tune (cut time). D Major (Johnson): G Major (Chappell, Sharp). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Chappell, Sharp): AABBCCDDEEFFGGHHIIJJKK, (Giga) LL {Johnson}. This once popular sixteenth century tune English dance tune (and round dance) was published by John Playford in his English Dancing Master [1] (1651) and in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (1609), and also was included in Jane Pickering's Lute Book (c. 1616-50). It was retained in the Dancing Master volumes through the eighth edition of 1690, but was dropped from subsequent editions. The tune was mentioned in accounts from the early 17th century, but the original words are not known, although the song is referenced as "Up tails all, women beware your breeches" [see Hattaway, "A New Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture", 2010, p. 519). Chappell (1859) finds it alluded to in Sharpham’s Fleire of 1610: “She every day sings ‘John for the King’, and at ‘Up, tails all’ she’s perfect.” He notes that several political songs of the Cavaliers were written to this air, “but none of them are suitable for republication.”

Johnson’s (1984) version, an air/jig by William Forbes of Disblair, is highly ornate and a “far remove” from the simple 16th century tune. Forbes lived on an estate in Aberdeenshire, and apparently took up composing in his old age, perhaps to supplement his meagre income which had been depleted through alimony payments. Johnson says his compositions were “full of original methods of mixing Italian and Scottish ideas in the same piece” (p. 37).

Source for notated version: anonymous fiddle MS of c. 1770 [Johnson].

Printed sources: Barlow (The Complete Country Dances from Playford's Dancing Master), 1985; No. 102, p. 36. Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times), vol. 1, 1859; p. 149. Johnson (Scottish Fiddle Music in the 18th Century), 1984; No. 27, pp. 78 79. Raven, (English Country Dance Tunes) 1984; p. 47 (a facsimile copy of Playford’s printing). Sharp (Country Dance Tunes), 1909; p. 28.

Recorded sources:




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