Below the Salt

Chrysalis (CHR 1008)


Recorded May/June 1972 at Sound Techniques, Chelsea, London

Producers - Steeleye Span and Jerry Boys
Engineer - Jerry Boys

Peak UK Chart Position - 43 (1 week on chart)

The sleeve notes describe the title as:  Below the salt—this, as its most vivid, can be found in the use of salt at the medieval food table. Here salt (an expensive and rare commodity of the time) was placed at the centre of the table. Above the salt sat the family and intimates of the household, below the salt sat the servants and dependants. Usually this.

The first of a 10 album deal with Chrysalis. The band taking over most of the production along with engineer Jerry Boys as they had split up from Sandy Roberton and didn't have time to find anyone else.  With this little time to prepare for a new album most of the songs were introduced by Tim and Maddy and often ones they had been working on for a while either as a duo or in anticipation of recording with Steeleye. It was then usually left to Peter to work through the arrangements to get enough songs together for the new group to play, hence the overall feel of most of the tracks are in line with previous albums. However the Bob Johnson contribution of King Henry along with the rock bass of Rick Kemp were a bigger clue of things to come as the album took on more of the medieval folk-rock sound that Steeleye would become known for. 

In May 2022, 50 years after its release, Steeleye ran through the whole album in the first set of its Spring UK tour.  

1. Spotted Cow

(Traditional, 3.06)  Liner notes: 'Collected from the singing of Harry Cox of Norfolk. Peter: "The tunes incorporated within the arrangement of this wonderful song are not traditional, they are part of the arrangement"

Prior-lead vocal & morrisette; Hart-tabor & lead vocal, Johnson-electric guitar; Kemp-bass; Knight-mandolin. 

Tim and Maddy introduced this song to the band, (which Peter arranged) and swapped lead vocals and shared harmonies as Bob's crunching guitar counterpoints the sweet melody carried by Peter's mandolin. In 1975 was played in a 'reggae' version which Maddy noted later as an experiment that didn't really work. When it was brought back in 80's it was paired with the tune 'Sailor's Bonnet' and featured Maddy on spoons but not heard since. 

How Maddy describes the song:  "Spotted Cow" is a song from around 1740. It's about a woman who's lost her cow. She complains about it to this guy she runs into. He's like, "Lady, I am game to help you find your cow. Let us do this." They go off to a field to find it. Obvious place to start, right? Before long ... well, you know how fields are. Sexiest thing in nature. So they decide to do what comes naturally to a man and a woman in a field, which isn't really looking for cows. From then on, whenever the lady's looking for a bit of you-know-what, she finds some guy and tells him about her cow."


[1972] Played on debut tour for this line up and throughout the year including on 1st US Tour; Jan BBC Session.
[1973] Played in first half of year until Nigel joined including 'Full House' TV appearance and 2nd US 'Parcel of Rogues' tour where Tim joins in the vocals.
[1975] It returns throughout 1975 as a 'reggae' version, including the 'All Around My Hat' tour. Can be heard on the 1975 timeline section on this site. Was played on the Raby House Electric Folk episode.
[1984]. Winter Australia Tour; US 'reunion' tour. Now paired with Sailors Bonnet tune at the end. Available on 'Gone to Australia' Live CD (2001).
[1985] Spring US Tour; UK Festivals and probably on tour.
[1986] Spring UK 'Back In Line tour. US Tour. Released on the 'Back In Line' CD Reissue (1991) & 'In Concert' Live CD (1994)
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole album in first half. Dropped the Sailors Bonnet tune at the end. 


2. Rosebud in June

(Traditional, 3.42)  Introduced by Maddy and Tim. Liner Notes: From the singing of the Folk-Song Society. Collected rom William King by Cecil Sharp in Somerset, 1904.
A-Capella song celebrating the wool and meat that sheep provide, with Maddy singing the verses and the whole band singing harmonies on the chorus. The vocal harmonies were arranged by Peter. Not heard live since 1982. The song also appeared early in the year in the 'Kidnapped' play.  

Studio Re-recording - 'Present' CD (2002). Studio recording featured as a un-listed 'bonus track' after King Henry. sung A Capella by Maddy as a solo.


[1972] Jan-Mch Debut tour for this line up; Jan BBC Session; Part of 'Kidnapped' play. Stopped being played when the album was released but may be gaps in set lists.
[1975]  Electric Folk Series - Raby Castle
[1981] Opener for the 1981 Autumn UK tour
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half.


3. Jigs: The Bride's Favourite / Tansey's Fancy

(3.06 Trad. Introduced by Peter) Knight- violin, tenor banjo & mandolin; Hart-spoons; Johnson-electric guitar; Kemp-bass.  The tunes are actually played the other way round so it should have been listed 'Tansey's Fancy / The Bride's Favourite'!
Peter multi tracking his mandolin, banjo and fiddle to great effect. Subtle guitar/bass. As ever, due to difficulty of identifying jigs from setlists it may have been played more often live.
Sept 1972: B-side to the bands 1st Single -John Barleycorn

[1972] Jan-April UK Debut tours for this line up; Feb & May BBC Sessions; Autumn 'Below the Salt' tour. Peter played violin live and not the mandolin.
[1974] US Tour. Violin and not Mandolin again.
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half; Autumn UK Tour. 


4. Sheep-Crook and Black Dog

(4.44 Trad. Also known as 'Flora'. Introduced by Maddy&Tim). Per the liner notes - Collected by Ewan McColl from Queen Caroline Hughes, a gipsy living, at the time, in Dorset.
Prior-lead vocal; Hart-electric guitar, Johnson-electric guitar; Kemp-bass & drums; Knight-violin & viola. 

Lovely interplay between the two guitars on this brooding atmospheric song of broken promises. Features in the new line up's debut tour and throughout 1972 & 1973 in arrangements the same as the studio recording but with a short additional violin coda at the end. 

Maddy Prior studio recording. (3.12, 2002?) "Destination: The end of an era for leading Folk Music Label Fellside 1976-2018" CD (2018) . Don't know when it was recorded and it is Maddy singing acapella on her own so not listed as Steeleye, but a notable recording as it's no different really to the acapella Maddy recording above of a 'Rosebud in June' which was a bonus track on the Steeleye CD Present, 2002.  In fact they could have been recorded at the same time as Maddy's voice sounds very similar on both.


[1972] UK Debut tour for the line up; Autumn 'Below the Salt' Tour; Feb & Oct BBC Sessions. Arrangement is the same as the studio recording but with a short additional violin coda at the end.
[1973] Winter UK Tour; US Parcel of Rogues' Tour; KCET US TV appearance; June-August UK (now with Nigel)  
[1974] Electric Folk series - Warwick Castle.
[2009] Autumn 40th Anniv. Tour. Unfortunately it was one of the only tours of that line-up where no recordings have been released and no bootlegs found either.
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half; Autumn UK Tour

5. Royal Forester

(4.34 Trad. Child 110 - (Knight William and the Shephards Daughter). Introduced by Maddy & Tim)
Prior-lead vocal; Hart-dulcimer, Johnson-electric guitar; Kemp-bass; Knight-violin.

Original Album notes: 

'From the singing of John Strachan' (Which can be heard here.)

Subtitled “The Aboriculturist Meets Superwoman”.

The first English text appeared in Anchovy Ram's elementary drum tutor Half Way to Para-diddle, published in 1293. Although a faithful translation of the original Latin, there is still scholarly dispute as to the spelling of the name ‘Erwilian’ and over the use of the word ‘leylan’.

Crowd pleasing up tempo song that formed a key part in the set throughout the 70's, usually opening or closing, but then appeared only occasionally since the mid 80's.


[1972] Feb BBC Session - More subtle instrumentation; UK Debut Tour; Autumn 'Below the Salt' tour; 1st US Tour; Right from the line up's first tour, as the big closing number, meaning it was played loud and 'brash'. An early '72 live recording already has Bob using a distorted guitar sound and the band finishing with a powerful instrumental.
[1973] Winter UK Tour; 2nd US Tour; Appears on 'The Harvest of Gold CD Collection' (2003) . Unidentified source. Does not appear to be a BBC Radio Session.
[1974] Electric Folk Series - Warwick edition of Electric Folk; Don Kirchner US TV; US 'Now We are Six' Tour - closed the shows followed by the tune Masons' Apron. -  'Live at the Bottom Line 1974 CD (2024)'
[1975] UK 'All Around My Hat' Autumn tour; Rockpalast TV; More often to be the opening song, just after Sum Waves or another jig. This usually meant a longer intro to give Maddy time to make a grand entrance dancing onto the stage before starting to sing.
[1976] US and UK 'Rocket Cottage' Tours. The latter as a 2nd Encore so might not always be played.  On the 'Good Times of Old England' Box set (2022) from the 15th Oct Berklee Performance Centre (USA) Concert. Intro is the 'Devil's Dream' tune. 
[1981] Cambridge Folk Festival - played on BBC Radio 2 & Good quality bootlegs survive; UK Autumn Tour;  
[1982] Winter Australia Tour; European Tour; UK Winter Tour; Appears on 'Rare Collection 1974-1996' CD (1999) & 'On Tour' 1983 LP where it is faster and louder than the 70's
[1984] Australian Tour; UK Spring Tour (Featured on Dec 'Folk On Tour' BBC Radio 2); US Tour
[1985] US Tour
[2006] Autumn UK Tour - A more 'funky' rhythm but with even longer instrumental breaks and soaring violin solo's over a heavy rock guitar from Ken and happily as the closing song once again. It is on the 'Live from a Distance' CD (2009). Available to view on Youtube.  
[2009] Spring 40th Anniversary Tour
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half. Sung by Spud Sinclair;  Autumn UK Tour

6. King Henry

(7.10, Trad. Based on Child ballad 32 but this arrangement and tune is by Bob Johnson.). Recorded on the 9th May 1972.
Bob's first big ballad contribution -  "One of the most horrifying ghosts in Ballad literature and my first attempt at combining folk and rock. Be afraid....." 

Studio Re-recording - 'Present' CD (2002) . Slightly slower tempo.

Appeared live soon after Below the Salt was released but only stayed for 1972 and wasn't played once Nigel joined.


[1972] March/April UK Tour; UK Autumn Tour; 1st US Tour. Bob sang it with Maddy providing high harmonies and was played per the record with inevitably slightly different instrumental breaks, but with a shorter outro.[1985] UK Christmas Tour. So probably played in Autumn tour as well
[1986] UK Spring 'Back In Line' tour; Autumn Australian Tour; UK Autumn Tour. More pronounced lead guitar solo and often violin effects pedals used by Peter. First time it had been played with drums. The first verse is repeated at the end. Available on the  'In Concert' CD (1994).
[1987) World Tour, including at the Phili Folk festival - With Mark Williamson on bass which is on Youtube - Great solo interplay between guitar and violin and probably the 'fastest' version they have played. 
[1992] UK Autumn Tour. Faithful to the original.
[2002]  Reunion UK Tour. Ken Nicol sang it live in this period 
[2004] Played throughout the World Tour but dropped in the UK 'Winter' Tour. Appears on the 'Folk Rock Pioneers in concert CD' (2006) & '35th Anniversary World Tour' DVD (2004). Watch it here. 
[2008] Spring UK Tour
[2014] Autumn 45th Anniv. tour. Julian Started signing it at this point  where the main instrumental break was Jessie-May violin solo with some improv and a slower, more dramatic rhythm in some verses. Can be seen here in 2015 on US tour.
[2015] UK Winter Tour; US Summer Tour; Festivals (Including Shepley on Youtube)
[2019] Spring & Autumn UK Tours. Still sung by Julian but a more faithful version to the original but with additional guitar breaks from Spud Sinclair. Appears on the '50th Anniversary Tour DVD/CD set' 
[2021] UK Autumn Tour
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half. Sung by Julian still.
[2024] UK Spring Tour. Julian singing

7. Gaudete

(4.48 Trad. Introduced and arranged by Bob Johnson/Steeleye Span) . 

Lyrics and music for the refrain (Gaudete means 'Rejoice') are from 'Piae Cantiones', 1582. Whilst the melody was well established for the refrain, the verse melody was never consistently applied and there are various versions. The first possible source of the Steeleye melody is derived from the Bohemian song, "Ezecheelis Porta", or secondly from a David Wulston's 1966 album (He later says it was from a manuscript in Prague). In either case Steeleye adjusted the melody and adapted it to ensure Maddy could sing it, and this now has become the usual version that is sung by other singers. 

It was first heard by Bob Johnson when he heard it in church at a service conducted by Father-in-law. This original album version has a long fade-in and out, per Tim in-" The original idea, says Tim, what to "give the impression of a group of monks walking through cloisters, singing." It has since been suggested by Maddy that the mixer just didn't like the song! 

In Bob's words:  "I'm so happy about having found, 'Gaudete' and the odd thing is I heard it in my father-in-laws church, when I was sitting in the congregation, sung by a group of Cambridge scholars and I did actually think that sounds like a hit, which was a bizarre thing to think about a unaccompanied Latin chant, I've never thought it since about anything. God I was right, I wish I could be right, but there you go, you only get one chance in your life and we did it and 'Gaudete' bless it, has being performed all over world and performed in the snow in 'Times Squire' for 'CBS Television', it's being performed in American clubs and on 'Top Of The Pops' and coming from a rock background I'd always wanted to be on 'Top Of The Pops' and when I finally got on there, we were holding candles, we were choreographed holding candles and I think 'Pans People' (Dance group) were dressed as nuns or something, and walking in front. Still does not stop it being a beautiful song, 'Gaudete'."

Bob (in 2002)- 'I was drawn to this song by its beautiful harmonies and it's unusual 'driving' rhythm. It was already folk with the spirit of of 'rock', without us having to do anything except sing it'

Official Single version (1972&'73) - First released in '72 it hit the charts on its second release in '73, getting to 14 in the UK charts and led to an appearance on Top of the Pops. This version does not have the long fade and fade-out of the album version.  

Studio Re-recording for 'Present' (2002). No fade in and fade out.  

LIVE/RELEASES: There are many many live recordings, (including being sung in BBC Sessions- see BBC Sessions) available so not all listed here (yet!) . The most significant is the contemporary live version from 1974 UK Autumn Tour which is now on the 'Good Times of Old England' Box set. It can also be seen sung live in 1974 here  and also is on the  'Live at the Bottom Line 1974 CD (2024)'
Didn't appear on the Mk3 line up's first tour in Feb 1972 but a couple of months later was being sung live as the new album was being recorded. It was also sung on BBC 'Full House Concert' in Jan '73 and was repeated on the 'Russell Hart Plus'TV show in March 1973 long before it was a hit. Understandably has stayed in the set list throughout the bands history. It is more pertinent to highlight when its not been sung. It stopped being sung mid 1975 when 'Hat' was being recorded and then toured. It returned October 1976 on the US Tour of Rocket Cottage but was then dropped by the Mk4 1977/78 line up. It was played throughout the 80's, 90's (including when Maddy left) and early 00's but the '06 Bloody Men tour was the last regular singing of that decade (apart from a brief appearance in April 2009 for the odd night), before then being sung 2011-2013.

 Recently appeared once again on the 2019 50th Anniversary tour. Sung by Maddy and Violeta together on the verses, and again in the Spring and Autumn 2022 tours.

8. John Barleycorn

(4.48 Trad. Introduced by Tim)
Tim chose this version because it had been collected by Fred Harmer who was a friend of the band. This version came from Bedfordshire. 
Maddy: ('Present' Album notes) 'Gory and sadistic, this is simply a description of how to make beer. I was very bemused by this lyric as a child, not understanding that it was a metaphor. And sung with great energy by Rick (On 'Present') to a gloriously sunny-day tune. 

21st Sept 1972 - Debut single for Chrysalis 
Studio Re-recording - 'Present' CD (2002) . (Sung by RIck)

[1972] Feb, Sept & Oct BBC Sessions; Feb/Mch Debut tour; Autumn Tour. A slightly more stripped down version with Peter on Mandolin and Tim leading the vocals on the verses.
[1974] UK and US Now We Are Six Tours -  'Live at the Bottom Line 1974 CD (2024)' No spoken intro, with Hart & Prior sharing lead vocal in a slightly more uptempo version and with more complex band harmonies.  
[1995] . The Journey CD (1999). Classic line up played this at the Journey Concert.  A close approximation to the original and a recording of it is available on youtube here. Available on The Journey CD (1999)
[2002] Reunion Tour. Sung by Rick, but does not appear on a live album.
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half;  Autumn UK Tour.  Sung by Roger Carey

9. Saucy Sailor

(5.48 Trad. Introduced by Maddy & Tim) Liner notes - Collected by George Butterworth in Sussex, 1907. 
Prior-lead vocal; Hart-acoustic guitar, Johnson-lead vocal & electric guitar; Kemp-bass; Knight-piano.
1978. B Side to the 'Rag Doll' Single

[1971] November with Mk2 line up. 
[1972] Feb/Mch Debut tour; July BBC Session; UK Autumn Tour.  All faithful versions of the recorded version 
[1973] US Tour; 'Fanfare For Europe' at the Albert Hall - Prompting  the Daily Express headline 'Pop fan (Ted) Heath at Saucy Sailor show'! Not played on UK Tours. 
[1974] Thoresby Hall Electric Folk TV Episode;  Kaleidospop Swiss TV Show;  UK and US Now We are Six Tours - 'Live at the Bottom Line 1974 CD (2024)' ; Played as a one off at Albert Hall gig as Ted Heath in the audience again!  Peter plays violin instead of keyboard in all these versions.
[1977]  Aug 'Original Masters' tour.
[1978]  European Tour and UK Farewell Tour. Paired with 'The Black Freighter' with Tim on acoustic guitar, Carthy on electric and John on accordion. this live version had a shortened instrumental outro.  Available on 'Live at Last' LP and 'Live at De Montford Hall' CD (2019)
[1981] Cambridge Folk Festival; Played live on 'Pebble Mill at One' TV. UK Autumn Tour
[1992] Autumn UK Tour 
[2006] Spring UK Tour. Song starts off with a semi-acoustic guitar plus an additional guitar so it's hard to identify who is playing what on this version. Knight joins in later with fiddle mid song for a solo. Available on 'Live at a Distance' CD (2009).  Has the slow instrumental ending with Peter on violin, no piano/keyboard.
[2008] Spring UK Tour; Spanfest.  
[2013] UK Wintersmith Tour and so available on the Wintersmith Tour DVD (2014). but not on the deluxe CD, however it is on Youtube. Led off by Pete Zorn on the acoustic guitar and then Julian on electric guitar & Peter on Fiddle, who also had a mid song solo again. A long instrumental outro which includes Maddy on keyboard.
[2014] 45th Anniv. Autumn Tour
[2015] UK Winter Tour; Festivals; US/CAN Tour
[2022] Spring UK Tour - run through of whole Album in first half.

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