Combine Harvester

Friday, 20 May 2011
It's been a little while - sorry, I'm terribly busy, don'tyerknow? - but after the giddy heights of Sunny Weston-Super-Mare, we're back to the more traditional rural settings, in a touching song about love, giant bits of farmyard equipment and devices used to open doors.

Looking good, boys.
The Combine Harvester - better know as 'Combine aarrrvester' - appears on the album The Finest 'Arvest Of Adge Cutler and The Wurzels and is a reworking of Brand New Key and spent two weeks at number one, and 13 weeks in the UK chart. It also featured a Top of the Pops appearance which saw the boys sat on a tractor (pft, city folk..), and performing 'live' in front of a studio audience (note the guy on the french horn not blowing into it, Tommy twiddling around on his accordion but never squeezing the thing, and poor Pete developing a twitch in his eye). Lovely.

The was also reworked into a 2001 dance number, which is actually surprisingly good.

Cause I've got a bran' new combine harvester and I'll give you the key/Come on now let's get together in perfect harmony/I've got twenty acres, and you've got forty-three/Now I've got a bran' new combine harvester and I'll give you the key.

Ah, the traditional key-giving ceremony. For the initiated, harvesting is when crops are cut and gathered, and back in the good old days, it was a huge event. Farmers used to gather their friends and family for something of a get together, all working hard in the fields to gather the crops and prepare them for sale. Harvest timing is a critical decision, carefully balancing the likely weather conditions with the degree of crop maturity in order to guarantee the best yield.

Harvest, old-school stylee.
The timing of a harvest was a test of knowledge and wisdom, of knowing the land, planning ahead, and ensuring the prosperity of the farm for the coming year.

..a time so important that it was often used as a way of proving virility, and suitability as a husband. Although invention now means that the work of dozens of eligible men can now be carried out by a single combine harvester, the ceremony is still widely practiced today in parts of Somerset, and tends to attract something of a crowd.

Similar to how a peacock will show off it's feathers in the hope of attracting a mate, farmers used to take handfuls of crops, fashioning them into head-dresses and displays in order to attract females, as part of a complicated Somerset mating ritual. Those with the biggest crops proved themselves the strongest, the most knowledgeable, the most likely to provide for a child, and offer security and wealth.

Yes, very nice. But I'm trying to watch Eastenders.
But of course, there are those females who would be more interested in more artistic designs, seeking a mate who displayed an inventive, artistic side.

Like all mating rituals, the female is, at first, required to ignore the pursuit of the suitor:

I drove my tractor through your 'aystack last night/I threw me pitchfork at your dog to be quiet/Now somethin's tellin me that you'm avoidin' me/Come on now darlin', you got something I need

But once he has her interest, the male will approach cautiously, offering the things he believes will make him appear more attractive to her - loyalty, the chance to swell the gene-pool, declarations of love.

A man built for speed, undoubtedly.
I'll stick by you I'll give you all that you need/We'll have twins and triplets, I'm a man built for speed/And you know I love ya darlin' so give me your hand...

But of course, the motives are not always so clear cut:

But the thing I want the most is all they acres of land!

Because while the female hopes for security, companionship and the possibility of children, the male may simply be seeking to expand his own empire.

For seven long years I've been alone in this place/Pigs sleep in the kitchen, it's a proper disgrace/Now if I cleaned it up would ya change yer mind/I'll give up drinkin scrumpy and that lager n' lime

Quite why anyone would want a man who drinks lager n' lime is beyond me, but still. The male is prepared to clean up his abode in order to make it more appealing to the female. Naturally, the moment she has taken him as her mate, it will be dirty socks all over the floor, late-nights on the XBox and high-fiving his friends while burping. As with any mating ritual, the Ceremony of the Key is a smokescreen.

I'll /totally/ clean it up. Promise.

Were'nt we grand couple at that last Wurzel dance?/I wore bran' new gators and me cor-de-roy pants/In your new Sunday dress with yer perfume smellin grand/We had our photos took of us holdin hands

Best dress, new shoes...ah, our ancient country ways don't seem so funny now, do they?

Now I've got a bran' new combine harvester and I'll give you the key/Now that we'm both past our fifties, I think that you and me/Should stop this gallivanting and will you marry me/'Cause I've got a bran' new combine harvester and I'll give you the key

And thus, the ceremony is complete. In recent times, the male presents his female with the key to his heavy agricultural machinery, while in past times she would curl her fingers around his mighty tool. The couple hiccup off into the sunset, dancing through the fields to their families, where their betrothal will be celebrated.

And the happy couple will live together, happy ever after.

Ahhhhh, you're a fine lookin woman and I can't wait to get me hands on yer land.

...or do they?


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