To borrow an idea from radio, specifically the current incarnation favoured by Planet Rock (Rob Birnie’s show begins with the Planet Rock Connection every weekday morning), and to mark the date, as it should always be commemorated, here are eight songs connected by a theme. The primary theme of my track selections is obvious, but there is something else that all bar one of these songs share in common. Can you identify what that is and spot the odd one out? (Clue: You will need to be familiar with the lyrics.)
– Black Sabbath, ‘War Pigs’
– Iron Maiden, ‘Tailgunner’
– The Kinks, ‘Some Mother’s Son’
– Metallica, ‘One’
– Pink Floyd, ‘The Gunner’s Dream’
– Status Quo, ‘In the Army Now’
– Wishbone Ash, ‘Warrior’
– Neil Young, ‘Living With War’
Please forward eight of your own, using a suitable theme to bind them, ideally keeping in mind the significance of this anniversary: 92 years since the signing of the armistice which ended the Great War, the horrors of which should never be forgotten and which inspired the great poet, Siegfried Sassoon, to write this short yet agonising poem, published in 1918, among so many brilliant others:
‘Suicide in the Trenches’
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain;
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
He also wrote, in ‘Aftermath’, published in 1919:
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.
I would not wish for it to be misconstrued that I write either in support of, or to glamorise, war in its various ugly guises. I do not care in the least which television presenter chooses to pin a poppy to his or her chest in respectful remembrance or not (be it for the benefit of audience or conscience). Simply, and hopefully without condescension, I desperately do not want anyone to overlook the severity of the fact that tens of billions of innocents have followed orders and paid with their lives before they’d had a chance to live them. Is there any greater tragedy than that? So, please, look up. Two minutes of co-ordinated silence, duly observed yet doubtlessly interrupted fleetingly by other invasive thoughts, is all well and good; but what those poor souls went through, the unimaginable hells that have claimed such ‘youth and laughter’ alike, and what many continue to experience to this day beneath the flags of all nations, deserves an awful lot more than that.
If you have a particular piece of writing in mind (it doesn’t have to be poetic) from the period of the First World War, or the many conflicts which have followed it, do share. Ditto a film or a play or a painting. All were created to stir our emotions.
Thank you for allowing me to preach a little.