Commoners Crown is an album by the electric folk band Steeleye Span, its seventh release overall and the second album with the band's most commercially successful line-up. It reached number 21 in the UK album charts.
The album's title refers to a sculpture produced by Shirtsleeves Studio. The sculpture is composed of hundreds of tiny human figures assembled to form a crown. The tiny figures also decorate the liner notes.
By this point, the band had evolved into a full-fledged rock sound, comparable to Jethro Tull
during its folk rock phase. Several of the tracks feature strong rock drumming and heavy guitar riffs, but the material remains almost entirely traditional folk music, with the exception of 'Bach Goes to Limerick', a surprising attempt to interweave a classical Bach violin piece with a traditional Irish fiddle piece.
The lead track, 'Little Sir Hugh' is based on a medieval song about the English saint Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, a 13th century boy supposedly murdered by Jews. The original song's lyrics are sharply anti-Semitic, but Prior re-wrote the song to delete the religious references and anti-Semitic elements and gave it a chorus in which the murdered child appeals to his mother to make him a winding sheet for his burial.
In addition to 'Little Sir Hugh', the album's highlights include 'Long Lankin', the band's longest song to date and something of a fan favorite, and 'Demon Lover'.
New York Girls
The band continued the whimsical streak demonstrated on Now We Are Six
by inviting comedian and actor Peter Sellers
to play the ukelele on the closing track, 'New York Girls'. The band decided that it wanted a ukelele on the song, but no one in the band knew anyone who played the instrument. Finally someone remarked that Sellers was known to play it, and they decided to ask him, even though none of them knew him at all. To their surprise, he agreed, and the song became one of only two recordings he made with a rock band. The other was "After the Fox", recorded with The Hollies in 1966. He also contributes some vocals spoken in a silly voice, which many fans of the band found distracting. On the original vinyl release, the song ended with Sellars saying "I say, are you a matelot? Careful what you say, sir - we're on board ship here". The subsequent CD releases omitted the quip. The song is also unusual in the sense that all the male band members (except Nigel Pegrum) take lead vocals on two verses each (Rick Kemp singing verses 1 and 5, Tim Hart 2 and 6, Peter Knight 3 and 7 and Bob Johnson 4 and 8), with Maddy Prior singing the chorus. Despite this odd note, 'Commoners Crown' is often cited as one of the band's best efforts.
- "Little Sir Hugh" (Traditional) – 4:44
- "Bach Goes To Limerick" (Hart, Johnson, Kemp, Knight, Pegrum, Prior) – 3:41
- "Long Lankin" (Traditional) – 8:40
- "Dogs and Ferrets" (Traditional) – 2:43
- "Galtee Farmer" (Traditional) – 3:47
- "Demon Lover" (Traditional) – 5:54
- "Elf Call" (Traditional) – 3:54
- "Weary Cutters" (Traditional) – 2:04
- "New York Girls" (Traditional) – 3:12