Friday, January 23, 2009

Explorer 23, January 22: The Ageless Soldier

This week the same Number one but has an actor, an old dude from the 80's and a frantic garage band from Kyoto (The Soap)

01 01 4 Ida Maria - Oh My God (#2)
02 02 4 Kitty, Daisy & Lewis - Hold Me Tight (#1)
03 04 5 Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus
04 06 4 Frank Turner - Long Live The Queen
05 13 2 Tilly & The Wall - Pot Kettle Black
06 03 5 Tunics - Cost of Living
07 05 5 Holloways - Sinners & Winners (#1)
08 07 5 Kings of Leon - Use Somebody (#1)
09 08 5 MGMT - Kids
10 12 2 Dead Kids - Into The Fire
11 -- 1 The Soap - Drive In To My Sheet
12 15 2 Emmy The Great - We Almost Had A Baby
13 23 2 Coconut Records - Microphone
14 09 5 Red Light Company - Scheme Eugene
15 10 5 Noah & The Whale - Shape Of Your Heart
16 -- 2 Morrissey - I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris
17 11 5 TV on the Radio - Dancing Choose
18 -- 2 Constantines 0 Our Age
19 14 5 Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why
20 18 3 Skipper - Wrong Man Wrong Place
21 16 5 Death Cab For Cutie - No Sunlight
22 17 5 Hot Melts - Never Been In Love
23 19 5 Vampire Weekend - A-Punk

And here's the YouTube link (new songs as last)

Or watch and listen to it here

The Ageless Soldier

Since people have begun to sing songs, war has been a subject. All throughout the ages ballads have been sung to remember wars, battles and the heroes that fought in them. In the last 50 years in pop music there has been a change to sing more about the soldier, and not the great leader. In the long list of popsongs about war especially the Vietnam war has been a favorite subject since the early days of the conflict in some songs by Dylan and Phil Ochs. Then there are songs like ‘Fortunate Son’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival talking about the sons of the rich who are not going or Barry McGuire’s ‘Edge of Destruction’. And after the end of the war the veterans came back and had their problems to deal with, as in Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’ or John Prine’s story of a heroin addicted veteran called ‘Sam Stone’.

This article will focus on the soldier fighting all the wars throughout the history of the US in four songs: Buffy St. Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’, Phil Och’s ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’, Richie Havens’ ‘Handsome Johnny’ and Dylan’s ‘With God On Their Side’.

Universal Soldier is perhaps best known in Donovan’s version of Canadian Buffy St. Marie’s song. The universal soldier can be any soldier who has ever fought a war. Any height or age without a certain nationality, either fighting for Canada, France, the Russians etc. Also no particular religion, as he is a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist or a Jain but even though every religion forbids killing he still does so. The role of religion will return with Dylan.
The songs talks about how every soldier has something that he fights for, no matter what his background is and no matter the cause. And they always think the war they are fighting will be the war that ends all wars. The moral of the song is that as a man you still have personal responsibility and that you should not just follow orders, that you as a person can stop war by just standing up. It’s simple math: soldiers are being ordered by the generals, the generals are being ordered by the politicians, and ‘We The People…’ elect the politicians.
Unlike St. Marie Phil Ochs sees the soldier as a victim of the generals and politicians, he has a more realistic view of how things work. To him it is the old people sending the young to die. Ochs’ soldier is not universal but American. Starting at the Civil War and talking about the Indian Wars as well he explains the country’s history up to the 60’s, and giving a warning about the atomic bomb in the end. For him this is the weapon that is so destructive it will have to lead to the end of war. “When I saw the cities burning, I knew that I was learning, I ain’t marching anymore”. His soldier sees the destruction that war can now cause so he stands up and says no.
Handsome Johnny is Richie Haven’s name for the Universal Soldier. He, like Dylan and Ochs, takes a more linear approach to war by saying that every war has basically been the same. Starting from the American Revolutionary War through Civil War and Vietnam. Then he takes an interesting turn by focusing our attention to Civil Rights, where Johnny is marching with his hand rolled in a fist. He ends, like Dylan, with the hydrogen bomb. The song was well chosen for the opening set of Woodstock, and can be found in the documentary made about the festival
Bob Dylan’s soldier like St. Marie’s is nameless and ageless, but very personal. Dylan, like Ochs, sings in first person, starting from his childhood in the Midwest. It is also a history of the USA through war. Dylan talks about how people think they are doing the right thing, because God is on their Side, .”and you don’t count the dead when God’s on your side”. The Germans after World War II were forgiven because they now too had the American God on their side, even though they murdered six million. Dylan wrote this in 1962 when Vietnam was just starting, but the Cold war was going on. He also ends with atomic weapons. Even here, when all the rockets are fired you don’t have regrets, because they have God on their side. His hope is that if God is on their side he will stop the next war.

The early 00’s had it’s fair share of anti-war songs with artists like Neil Young and Steve Earle recording songs and Eddy Vedder re-writing Phil Ochs’ ‘Here’s to the State of Mississippi’. Let’s see what the coming 4 years will bring.

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