So its been 100 years since the start of World War 1 – we don’t learn do we, when you look at all the conflicts that went on before then, and all the conflicts that have occurred since.
I see that RR has already tackled the topic of war before I was a regular, so I shouldn’t be running the risk of spoiling anything over there, but wanted to put together a playlist of war, or really, anti war songs. So please indulge me for my first post on the Spill!
Although my list is dominated by Aussie artists, don’t get too hung up on whose side the songs come from, the key thing is recognising the messages, which to put it simply really highlight the futility of war.
I hope you appreciate it.
I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) – Redgum
Wow, what a song. Of course involvement in the Vietnam War was controversial for a number of different nations, including Australia. At the time, there was a national conscription done by a birth date lottery – that was one lottery you didn’t want to win.
In this song, Redgum sum up the so many of the themes so well – the pride of going off to war (“Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay, this clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean”), the horrors of war (“A four week operation, when each step could mean your last one on two legs: it was a war within yourself”), and the lasting impacts of the war long after active service was complete ( “And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep? And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet? , And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?”)
What’s a Few Men? – Hunters and Collectors
I am not much of a reader, but A B Facey’s “A Fortunate Life” is probably my favourite book and one I would highly recommend. It’s Facey’s memoirs and he certainly did lead an amazing life – his WWI experience being just one part of it. In the book, Facey recalls a high ranking officer quipping “what’s a few men?” when told that a certain course of action would result in casualties. This song is pretty much based on Facey’s recollection of his war experiences, and its such a powerful insight into the war. Mark Seymour, lead singer of the Hunters and Collectors delivers the lyrics so well. I actually prefer the solo version that Seymour recorded for his “Daytime and the Dark” album but I couldn’t find that on you tube.
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – The Pogues
Written by Eric Bogle, but I think the Pogues version is as good as any others going around.
The Battle of Brisbane – The Pogues
If you want another example of how stupid war is, look no further than the Battle of Brisbane. During World War II, American soldiers were based in the Australian city of Brisbane, for a variety of reasons –mainly either awaiting deployment to various hot spots in the Pacific, or for rest and recuperation. Australia and the US were allies in the war, but as the stories go, the Aussie troops were resentful of the Americans, as their soldiers were paid more, they had better looking uniforms and they seemed to have a tendency to be more successful with the local women. Fuelled by alcohol, these tensions eventually boiled over and resulted in two days of rioting in the streets, and brawling between the Aussies and the Americans. Yes, you read right, during the middle of a world war, Allied forces were fighting each other on the streets of Brisbane. One person was killed, many others injured, and countless amounts of damage was caused by two parties ON THE SAME SIDE fighting. The Pogues bring us a jaunty instrumental which you can just imagine being set to drunk people brawling in almost a Benny Hill kind of way.
Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues – Johnny Cash
This is such a simple song, but it’s a got a simple poignancy to it that I really like. Its basically Cash telling the story of him and wife June heading to Vietnam to entertain the troops – performing some concerts, spending time in a military hospital chatting to the injured, and trying to sleep with all the shells going off.
Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel
This song has become a bit of an anthem in Australia, and sadly, in my opinion, has become associated with drunken yobbos and karaoke. But to anyone that has badly belted out a rendition of this, I would encourage you to study the lyrics carefully, it really is a wonderful piece of songwriting, telling the story of someone returning from the Vietnam war and being totally lost with what to do with themselves. The shoddy treatment of Vietnam Vets when they returned was not unique to Australia (indeed for a music look at this topic, also refer to “Born in the USA”- Springsteen, and “Four Walls of Raiford” – Lynard Skynard) and that topic is also touched upon in this brilliant track.
War – Edwin Starr
So if you haven’t worked out the message of this post yet, refer to Edwin Starr – what a chorus!
Give Peace a Chance – John Lennon
I have to end on an optimistic note, via a bed in at a Montreal hotel. “All we are saying, is give peace a chance”.
I have put all of these tracks into a Youtube playlist for those interested.