Ewan MacColl

The Body Blow

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A radio ballad initially intended to deal with the psychology of pain, but finally refocused to the subject of polio -- a disease that brings with it a terrible amount of pain, along with its disabling effects (the late Ian Dury was a polio survivor). While polio has receded from public awareness between the 1960s and the 21st century, it remains a lingering threat with consequences that this production makes very plain. It isn't always an issue of the consequences for society at large, either -- the most evident thing here is the personal pain and grief endured by the five polio victims interviewed by Charles Parker. The Body Blow is probably the starkest of the MacColl/Seeger/Parker radio ballads, and is likely the most compelling as a result. Where the others tend to flow in and out, this one uses a more direct method of cutting montages and a more limited palette, both in terms of the music and the number of interviewees. It's unlikely to be a candidate for regular repeated plays, however -- the emotional intensity is too great, even at this remove. Brilliant work.

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