Back and Side Go Bare…

Portrait of John Still by Sylvester_HardingTwo craft beer lovers (they love craft beer and they love each other) sent us a drinking song fitting for a blog about beer.  

The song “Back and Side Go Bare, Go Bare” (if you click on the image below it will open in a new window so that you can read it in its wonderful entirety) was written in the 16th c. by John Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells.  It’s an example of a classic drinking song — so full of joy for the drink that I had to do some research on the song, and the good Bishop, too.

It turns out that “Back and Side Go Bare, Go Bare” is discussed in a book written in 1920 by Theodore Maynard: “A Tankard of Ale: An Anthology of Drinking Songs”.  The book begins with this dedication:


For me, Maynard’s dedication was similar to Zellweger’s line in Jerry Maguire:“You had me at hello”.

Maynard’s book is a celebration of classic drinking songs, which he considers seriously undermined by the social reformers of the day.

He begins:

With the advent of the social reformer the very word ‘beer’ seems to have taken on a sinister sound, and is as much tabooed in polite society as the word ‘trousers’ was once said to have been.  This harmless and refreshing drink has become credited with the most devilish properties and characteristics, so that when it has to be discussed (and Heaven only knows how much of it disturbs the minds of meddlesome philanthropists) it must be referred to under the aliases of ‘alcohol’ or the ‘drinking habits of the lower classes’…There is little wonder then that conviviality is a lost art and that in consequence the making of drinking songs has suffered a bad decline. (Maynard, 1920:9)

Maynard goes on to discuss how drinking songs have changed due to bad influences (read: Puritanism, Conformists, Church, etc.)  It really is a wonderful treatise on the state of things related to “the drink” in the first part of the 20th century and thanks to Google, the ebook version is free for all to read.

As for the song “Back and Side Go Bare, Go Bare”, Maynard categorizes it as a classic English drinking song where there is “no trace or such a thing as self-consciousness…[it was] not written to prove that beer ought to be consumed, but merely to celebrate the fact of its consumption”.

Thanks to T-unit and Bobby Digital for sending us a classic.  Hoppy Endings!

Drinking Songs