20 Years of NPA - Stand by Your Ham
11th Mar 2019 / By Alistair Driver
Eleven years ago this month, music-loving members of the general public were being treated to a pig-themed masterpiece, courtesy of 30 pig farmers.
Stand by Your Ham, the hammed up British pig industry remake of the Tammy Wynette classic, was borne of desperation but ended up making an impact worldwide.
The song was put together to raise awareness of the plight of pig producers at the start of 2008, as a massive hike in feed prices combined with low producer prices saw losses of in excess of £25 on every pig produced.
Musician and NPA AIG chair Hugh Crabtree recalled how the track was put together. “Barney Kay (NPA general manager at the time) was the instigator and wrote the lyric of the first verse and the chorus. I wrote the second verse and got voted in on the act as musical director,” he said.
“This entailed getting the backing track recorded which we did at the studio of Jethro Tull drummer Barry Barlow in Shiplake. BPEX paid for that. The backing track was then provided to a studio in London where the pig industry choir was assembled to overdub the vocals.
“I selected individuals to sing solo lines and the company sang the chorus. I had fun coaching the Morgan Sisters and Joe Dewhirst to do their bits and a couple of excellent singers - Karen Thompson being one and another from East Anglia who I am ashamed to say I can't recall her name but was a semi-pro singer with a great voice.
“The video indicates the great time we all had. We also recorded the ‘B’ side Piggy Piggy Cheap Cheap, which never got used.”
The song had the desired impact, as this Daily Express article highlights. It showed how one of those who got involved, Kevin Gilbert, of Aberdeenshire, was losing £5,000 a week due to the huge increase in feed costs. He responded to an advert for pig farmers to join the recording session.
“It is one way of drawing attention to the problem. The price won’t sort itself out until the market changes, but if we can make a difference in any way, it will be worth it,” he told the Express.
Former NPA chairman Stewart Houston was also quoted. “All they are asking for is a fair price. The majority of farmers are now selling every pig they rear at a loss of up to £26 and the industry as a whole faces potential losses of £200million in the next year,” he said.
Hugh recalled: “The media had a field day and the track made the news as far afield as Australia and the USA with associated interviews to make the verbal point that the song so eloquently made in music.
“During Winnie's return to London when we were all gathered at the end of Downing Street during a follow up demo we reprised the song live to the backing track being played through a portable amp.
"It was a joy to work with a fully committed group of farmers who gave it their all and really enjoyed their 15 minutes of studio recording fame!"