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PlanetSlade: the music

By Paul Slade
Page: 1, 2, 3
Murder Ballads
Secret London

A couple of the essays on PlanetSlade have inspired new recordings from artists like the folk singer Pete Morton and George Hinchliffe from The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
These talented people have already given me permission to post their recordings on-line and link to them from the essays concerned. These pages are here simply to act as a convenient round-up of the songs so far available via PlanetSlade, and to express my thanks again to all those who've contributed.
All the recordings remain the property of the performers involved. In most cases, the links below will allow you either to play them immediately or download them free to your own computer. Unless otherwise stated, the links will take you to Tindeck's music hosting service. For the full story behind each song, please see the relevant essay.

1) Pete Morton: The Ballad of Nasra Ismail [Morton/Slade]
Pete wrote his own music for my first set of Nasra Ismail lyrics and performed the finished song for me at the Sun Hotel in Hitchin on April 6, 2008. The little chuckle at the beginning marks his amusement at my clumsy efforts as a recording engineer. To hear more of Pete's music, please visit his website at:

2) Scott Riley: The Headlines (Nasra's Song) [Riley/Slade/Riley]
Scott found my second set of Nasra lyrics on a songwriters' forum and put his own music to them. This YouTube link shows Scott performing the finished song at his home in Iowa. For a downloadable audio recording of the same performance, please visit this Soundcloud page.

3) Bernie Dembowski: The Ballad of Nasra Ismail (instrumental) [Dembowski/Slade]
Bernie found my first set of lyrics on another message board, and e-mailed me this piano rendition of his own music for the song.

4) George Hinchliffe: Lobby Lud The Mystery Man [Sandford/Malcolm]
While researching Lobby Lud, I found the sheet music to this Westminster Gazette promotional song in the British Library's archives. It was scored for ukulele, so I sent a photocopy to The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's George Hinchliffe, who kindly recorded this version for me.

5) George Hinchliffe: Lobby Lud (instrumental) [Sandford/Malcolm]
George also recorded this instrumental version of the same song. To learn more about The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, please visit their website at:

6) Philip Lyons: The Ballad of Helen Titchener [Lyons/Slade]
One Sunday evening in April 2016, I amused myself for a couple of hours by writing some murder ballad verses describing recent dramatic events in the BBC radio soap opera The Archers. I posted these online asking if anyone would care to add a tune and perform them, the programme's own Twitter feed passed this request along to its 43,000 followers, and that sent my lyrics bouncing round the internet for the rest of the day. By 5pm, the Colchester folk singer Philip Lyons had recorded the song and posted it on his Soundcloud page. In its first 24 hours online, Philip's performance racked up over 1,000 plays. It was only when it reached 1,700 plays next day that this steep climb started to level out. You can find my original lyrics here.

Page: 1, 2, 3

The Gallows Ballads Project: Musicians wanted
If you'd like to help PlanetSlade bring these gallows ballads back to life as fully-performed songs, why not set one of the 16 ballads' public domain lyrics to your own music and record yourself singing and playing it?
   Any music you write would remain your own property, of course, as would the recording itself, and I'll make sure that all writers and performers are fully credited.
   There's no money in this for anyone - least of all me - but I think it's a worthwhile project nonetheless. There are several ways to get your song heard:

1) Send a digital recording to me, and I'll post it online with the other free downloads listed in PlanetSlade Music, together with a link from your chosen song's page here.

2) Post the recording online at your own site or the hosting service of your choice. Let me know where it can be found, and I'll add a link telling people where to go. Please remember that some hosting sites allow access to members only.

3) Film yourself performing the song, and post the video to YouTube. Once again, I'd be delighted to add a link here telling people where to find it.

4) Write your own song from scratch, based on the true story that inspired one of the ballads, then follow whichever of the above options suits you.

   Check PlanetSlade Music for a taste of what I have in mind. I spent all of 2012 recruiting contributors for this little project, and I've now accumulated at least one new recording of each of the 16 original ballads I selected. You can find links to all this audio on the PlanetSlade page above, or hear the whole "album" in the Soundcloud set here.
   The styles people have chosen range all the way from unaccompanied traditional folk singing via acoustic guitar ballads to full-on rock workouts with a whole band.
   Contributors so far include Sean Breadin of Rapunzel & Sedayne, The Jetsonics, Pete Morton, Fred Smith, Tim Radford, Big Al Whittle and South County.
   Three continents are represented in all, and at least three of the songs have already made it into the contributing band's live set. The Jetsonics gave us our first commercial release by including Cruel Lizzie Vickers on August 2013's EP Four, and I dare say a couple of the other tracks will make that leap in due course.
   We've already got multiple versions of several songs up there, including Nathaniel Mobbs and The Murdered Maid, so please don't feel you're too late to make your own contribution.
   I'm all for people adding second, third or even fourth interpretations of a single song, using as many different musical genres as we can muster. Many, many thanks to all those who've already taken part.
   You can reach me with any questions here