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Muschel von Margate

Music by Kurt Weill
Original text by Felix Gasbarra
From Konjunktur (1928) by Leo Lania.

The song tells the story of a seaside village destroyed by the oil industry. First, oil is discovered and the beautiful waterfront is ruined by oil tanks. Then the local economy is taken over by oil cartels and workers are forced to work on the oil rigs. Finally, as the thirst for oil grows, and more and more rigs are erected, burning oil sets the world on fire.

"Die Muschel von Margate" was part of Konjunktur (Oil Boom), a play by Leo Lania with incidental music by Kurt Weill, in which three oil companies fight over the rights to oil production in a primitive Balkan country, and in the process exploit the people and destroy the environment. It premiered in Berlin in 1928, directed by Erwin Piscator.

Listen to a live English version sung by Angelina Réaux with Robert Kapilow (mp3) (lyrics)
Listen to a version sung by HK Gruber with Ensemble Modern (mp3)
Listen to a version sung by Teresa Stratas with Richard Woitach (mp3)

Song Lyrics

translated by John Willett

In Margate on the promenade
Where the tourists sit when it’s fine
There stood an old man selling souvenirs
With a big tin shell as his sign.
That old man had a pail
Of painted shells for sale
And everyone could hear him yell
Shell! Shell! Shell!

Seashells from Margate
Act like a charm
Seashells with gold decorations
Seashells from Margate
Cannot do you harm
Keep the memory warm
Reminding you of happy vacations.

In Margate on the promenade
There’s a stink to raise the dead.
Where once a pail of seashells stood
There’s an oil tank now instead.
That old man had a son who found
A fortune buried underground.
And now the son prefers to sell
Shell! Shell! Shell!

Seashells from Margate
Act like a charm
Seashells with gold decorations
Seashells from Margate
Cannot do you harm
Keep the memory warm
Responding to your great expectations.

And as the oil began to flow
To that seaside town of ours
They hanged a lot of Bolsheviks
From the Baku drilling towers.
They showed that they were loyal
By turning blood to oil.
A thousand corpses make a well--
Shell! Shell! Shell!

Seashells from Margate
Act like a charm
Seashells with gold decorations
Seashells from Margate
Cannot do you harm
Keep the memory warm
Recording mass exterminations.

And as the summer sun shone bright
On that seaside town of ours
The oil began to catch alight
And no land remained unscarred.
The whole world was aflame
But oil was our country’s name.
And all the rest can go to hell.
Shell! Shell! Shell!

Seashells from Margate
Act like a charm
Seashells with gold decorations
Seashells from Margate
Cannot do you harm
Not until we arm
For the final confrontation!


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