And so to eleven . . .
11 I Saw Three Ships Don Dixon
The performer is from South Carolina and was both a central member of a band from North Carolina, called Arrogance, and a producer, of ‘jangle pop’. He produced REM and had a track on the Heathers soundtrack, Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It).
His collected works appear on one of the best titled greatest (non) hits collations ever, (If) I’m a Ham, Well You’re a Sausage: The Don Dixon Collection. This track comes from a seasonal collation put together by Chris Stamey of the dBs — a name which either means a great deal to you or, more likely, nothing at all.
The song is a variant of Greensleeves and has been around since at least the 17th century, when it was first printed. There is, though, clearly something of a problem about its geography.
I’ve been to Bethlehem. On Christmas Day, in fact. And I can’t see how three ships came sailing into it. There’s certainly no sea. Or river. Or even much in the way of water at all. Just lots of young kids trying to sell me single cigarettes and a Greek Orthodox priest giving us a private tour of the Church of the Nativity. He jumped the queue for us to the grotto where Christ was born — or so I was told. He pushed Japanese tourists out of the way so we could get a good look at the altar thing. Then I noticed there was another altar on the other side of the crypt. What’s that? I asked. Oh, that’s where the Catholics think he was born, he said. And whisked us off out the back of the church, through the monastery, out into an empty back street and . . . a souvenir shop owned by ‘my cousin — he will give you very good price’.
The three ships? I’m told that’s a reference to the three ships that took relics of the three wise men to Cologne cathedral in the 12th century. Again, I must poop on the party. Three ships? How many fucking bits of magi did the Cologners order for their new cathedral? Did they get a job lot?
Next time Shhhh . . .