Sunday, February 19, 2012
The Old Baby Farmer - Ladykiller Amelia Dyer via Derek Lamb
Sweeney Todd was a myth. But another mass murderer immortalized by the British Music Hall, was very real. Her name was Amelia Dyer.
She may be the most prolific serial-killer of all time. She's most definitely the worst female murderess in the history of the English-speaking world, and might only be rivaled by some European historical figure such as Countess Bathory.
She killed babies. This is one reason why she hasn't had the "cult" appeal of such superstars as Charles Manson, Ed Gein, John Gacy, Richard Speck, or everyone's favorite, Jack the Ripper.
I learned about her decades ago when my love of British Music Hall led me to an obscure Folkways album by a guy named Derek Lamb. Unlike, say, Ian Whitcomb, Peter Noone, or an authentic old-timer such as Stanley Holloway, Lamb didn't choose to guff-up his assortment of old tunes with Cockney brawling or Lionel Bart-ish camp and good cheer. He sang the numbers in a sincere, unassuming way. Might've been because he wasn't primarily a singer. He was an artist. You've seen his animation on those Edward Gorey drawings used on "Masterpiece Theatre" as hosted by Vinnie Price and Diana Rigg.
Lamb's vinyl, out of print for years, but now digitally available from the usual suspects such as eMusic), is wonderful. From an eerie version of "Sweeney Todd" (first I'd heard of that fellow, too), to comical and droll numbers such as "Don't Cry Daddy," "Roll Tiddley Ole" and "The Hole in the Elephant's Bottom," it covers the scope of the Music Hall, in all its sentiment, ribaldry and, yes, pathos and horror.
The saga of the malicious, psychopathic baby farmer finally yielded a researched book by the appropriately named Allison Rattle (co-authored by Allison Vale), and Dyer's story was also featured in a one-hour episode of the "Ladykillers" British TV documentary series. "She was a bad woman, it is not disputed..." In other words, this baby farmer was no "Little Buttercup." Lamb's wistful rendition is probably quite different from how they sang it back when broadsheets accompanied Dyer to her hanging.
The late Mr. Lamb's wife, Tracie Smart, is also on eMusic with two unusual albums of rather stark and somber folk-rock. If you know Bridget St. John's work, you might want to get Smart. Just don't think you can grab something free off the Captain. He never heard of her. A few samples are on Tracie's website.
THE OLD BABY FARMER - the wretched MRS. DYER Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait time, or whines about paying for a premium account.