Open Thread - Thurs 25 May 2023: When Johnny...
I believe Memorial Day is a good thing, honoring those who have fallen in our endless and often stupid wars. It's not their fault they fought, they died and they should be honored for doing so. Of course, there should be a day for honoring protesters too, those who fought, got hurt, died. Heh, I'm dreaming.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to some songs off old cds and vinyl I'd moved to my computer. I came across Steve Earle and the Pogues singing 'Johnny Come Lately' back in the late 80's.
Here's a good video featuring the song. And here's a link to a video about how Earle and the Pogues recorded the song.
I'd forgotten how much I love that song. I love the Pogues' contribution, I love Earle's talk of the US airman who marries his British girl and brings her home. The parades, the quick step, the march… and then the ending where he, himself, coming home from fighting in 'Nam, gets no parade, no love, no welcoming crowds. Makes me cry.
Earle's song is obviously a take on the traditional song 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'. That song dates to the American Civil War, lyrics written in 1863 to a traditional tune. I've known that song since I was a kid, heard it played many a time by many a high school or military band and often sung along to it.
Here's a version by Mitch Miller. Note the lyrics are from the Civil War era. Gay had a different meaning then!
But the song *I* remember the most, is not the military, proud, 'When Johnny Comes March Home'. The one I remember, eventually set to the same traditional tune (it wasn't when it was first written), is 'Johnny I hardly Knew Ya'. This one is not from America but from Britain, lyrics written about 1867. Wikipedia said it was at first meant to be funny, but, I dunno, it's hard to imagine a society that would find it funny. It's one of the most powerful antiwar songs out there, I think.
'You haven't an arm, and you haven't a leg, you're an eyeless, boneless, chickenless egg, You'll have to be put with a bowl to beg, Johnny, I hardly knew ya…' Gods, the lyrics are just heart wrenching. Especially if you know anything at all about what happened to disabled veterans in the past, and what can still happen to them now.
I've heard this song from the time I was a little girl, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem sung it, and my parents were avid fans of that group. So, I know the words by heart, at least, their version of the words. In fact, it's those words, not the ones from 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home' that I would sing as the marching bands played. I always wondered why the military bands played such an anti-war song.
Recently, as mentioned above, I have been listening to various versions of the song, or songs inspired by this song. I found out that one of the speed-folk, punk-celtic, whatever, bands that I so adore, but lost for a while when I seemed to have turned off all music about 15 years ago (but turned it back on about 5 years ago!!), sings a version of the song. Dropkick Murphys! Their version is awesome, fast, hard, full of feeling.
I found another youtube video using the Dropkick Murphy's version of 'Johnny I hardly knew ye'. I don't know the maker, he/she did this around 10-15 years ago, so it's missed a few wars (no, that's not really sarcasm, is it?), and it's the only video the video creator seems to have done. It's one of the best anti-war videos I think I've ever seen, and it's an excellent memorial to the soldiers, civilians, everyone who suffers and dies during war. I was sobbing when the video finished. The images fit the lyrics perfectly. And when the man is looking, horrified, at the place where his leg used to be... When the young woman is putting the flower in the soldier's gun, past his bayonet... Like I said, I was sobbing. I've linked the video here and below, youtube has decided it's age restricted now (wasn't a couple years or so ago!). It's well worth watching, even though it really can pull the heart strings.
So I sobbed for a while, and then I thought, look, maybe the song has some fun attributes and sure enough! Not the lyrics, but the tune, is used for a rugby fan song called, 'I Met a Whore in a Park'. What the heck? Really? Ummm… so, ok, youtube. And I found a version! And I was laughing all the time! Now, this is definitely NOT a song to listen to if you are 1. bothered by swear words 2. bothered by naughty lyrics and lyrics about sex 3. bothered by the concept of whoring 4. bothered by thinking of young athletes/fans drunk and having a blast 5. bothered by that guy who spits out his beer, what a waste of a pint! The song can be offensive; it's a rugby song, so it's not a big thing if you don't want to listen to it. But, perhaps the two or three of you left who can stomach all that might like to see the video. Note there's no nasty images in the video, it's just a bunch of young sports fans singing with LOTS of swear words.
This video needs the age restriction warning, not the one using the song by the Dropkick Murphys!
I'll admit. The video of 'Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye', with the Dropkick Murphys song, was WAY harder to take for me than the song about the whore in the park. And that's my current deep dive into music!
So, have a good Memorial Day weekend! Enjoy the parades and the celebrations! And, of course, think a bit about the point of the day, about the people that have died during our endless wars, our soldiers, our sailors, our marines, our civilians... and the 'enemy's' people too. Thanks for reading and here's the open thread - and remember, everything is interesting if you dive deep enough, so tell us about where you're diving!