And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

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"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
Song
Written1971
Genre Anti-war song
Composer(s) Eric Bogle
Lyricist(s) Eric Bogle

"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is a song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971. The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticising those who seek to glorify it. This is exemplified in the song by the account of a young Australian serviceman who is maimed during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War. The protagonist, who had travelled across rural Australia before the war, is emotionally devastated by the loss of his legs in battle. As the years pass he notes the death of other veterans, while the younger generation becomes apathetic to the veterans and their cause. At its conclusion, the song incorporates the melody and a few lines of lyrics of the 1895 song "Waltzing Matilda" by Australian poet Banjo Paterson.

Contents

Many cover versions of the song have been performed and recorded, as well as many versions in foreign languages.

Narrative

The song is an account of the memories of an old Australian man who, as a youngster, had travelled across rural Australia as a swagman, "waltzing [his] Matilda" (carrying his "swag", a combination of portable sleeping gear and luggage) all over the bush and Outback. In 1915, he joined the Australian armed forces and was sent to Gallipoli. For "ten weary weeks", he kept himself alive as "around [him] the corpses piled higher". Eventually, he is wounded by a shell burst and awakens in hospital to find that he has lost both of his legs. He declares it to be a fate worse than death, as he can "go no more waltzing Matilda".

When the ship carrying the young soldiers had left Australia, the band played "Waltzing Matilda" while crowds waved flags and cheered. When the crippled narrator returns, the people watch in silence and finally turn their faces away in horror. As an old man, he now watches his comrades march in Anzac Day parades from his porch. As the war falls out of living memory, young people question the purpose of the observances, and he finds himself doing the same. With each passing year, the parades become smaller, as "more old men disappear", and he observes that "some day, no one will march there at all".

Composition and style

Interviewed by The Sydney Morning Herald in 2002, Bogle said that as a 12-year-old boy in Peebles, Scotland in 1956, he had purchased a set of bound volumes of World War Illustrated, a weekly "penny dreadful propaganda sheet", which had been published during World War I. Bogle was inspired by the photography and felt a sense of "...the enormity of the conflict and its individual toll". In his teens he was a voracious reader of everything on the war and already knew much about the Anzacs' role at Gallipoli before he emigrated to Australia in 1969. [1]

He told The Sydney Morning Herald:

A lot of people now think the song is traditional. And a lot of people think that I died in the war, and penned it in blood as I expired in the bottom of a trench. I never thought the song would outlast me, but I have decided now there's no doubt it will. For how long, I have no idea. Nothing lasts forever. Hopefully it'll be sung for quite a few years down the track, especially in this country. And hopefully it will get to the stage where everyone forgets who wrote it. [1]

A couple of years after arriving in Australia, Bogle found himself at a Remembrance Day parade in Canberra and the song was the result of that event. The song was written in the space of two weeks. [2] Interviewed in 2009 for The Scotsman , he said:

I wrote it as an oblique comment on the Vietnam War which was in full swing… but while boys from Australia were dying there, people had hardly any idea where Vietnam was. Gallipoli was a lot closer to the Australian ethos – every schoolkid knew the story, so I set the song there. ... At first the Returned Service League and all these people didn't accept it at all; they thought it was anti-soldier, but they've come full circle now and they see it's certainly anti-war but not anti-soldier. [2]

Written in 1971, the coincidence with the Vietnam War has not been missed as it rails against the romanticising of war. [1] As the old man sits on his porch, watching the veterans march past every Anzac Day, he muses "The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask myself the same question".

Background

The song was originally eight verses long but Bogle pared it down to five verses. [1] In 1974 Bogle, entered the National Folk Festival songwriting competition, in Brisbane, which offered a first prize of a $300 Ovation guitar. Bogle sang two songs, with Matilda as the second. He later recalled:

I sang the first song and got polite applause. Then I did Matilda, and for the first time, and thankfully not the last, there was a second's silence after I finished. I thought, "I've fucked it here." I hadn't sung it very well. Then this storm of applause broke out and I thought, "Ovation guitar, come to daddy!" Well, that wasn't my first thought, but it was pretty close to my first thought. [1]

The judges awarded the song third place but their decision caused a small storm of protest, focusing more attention on the song, Bogle thought, than outright victory would have done. [1] Jane Herivel from the Channel Islands had heard Bogle sing at the festival and requested Bogle to send her a recording. She sang it at a festival in the south of England where folk-singer June Tabor heard it and later recorded it for her 1976 debut solo album Airs and Graces. [3] [4] Unknown to Bogle, the song became famous in the UK and North America; so when Bogle was in the UK in 1976 he was surprised to be asked to perform at a local folk club on the strength of the song. [1]

Historical accuracy

The line "they gave me a tin hat" is anachronistic, as steel helmets were not issued to British and Empire troops at Gallipoli.

Walsh (2018) suggests that the line "they marched me away to the war" implies compulsion, in the form of conscription, whereas all Australian troops were volunteers, and the government did not introduce conscription.

The song refers to the fighting at Suvla Bay in the lines:

And how well I remember that terrible day, how our blood stained the sand and the water.
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.

The vast majority of the 16,000 Australian and New Zealand troops landed not at Suvla but at Anzac Cove, 8 kilometres to the south, and some 15 weeks earlier. [5] There was a small Australian presence at Suvla, the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, an engineering and construction unit comprising 350 men, of whom none were killed during the initial landing and two by the time the campaign was abandoned eleven months later. [6] Bogle states that he substituted "Suvla" for "Anzac" because at the time he wrote the song (1971) there was a "deeply ingrained misconception" amongst Australians that all their troops had fought entirely at Suvla. He also states that it was easier to incorporate the word "Suvla" into the lyric. [7]

Covers

The first release of the song was by John Currie on the Australian label M7 in 1975. [1]

Other cover versions of the song have been performed and recorded by Katie Noonan (Flametree Festival Byron Bay 08), The Irish Rovers, Joan Baez, Priscilla Herdman, Liam Clancy, Martin Curtis, The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew, Danny Doyle, Slim Dusty, The Fenians, Mike Harding, Jolie Holland, Seamus Kennedy, Johnny Logan and Friends, John Allan Cameron, John McDermott, Midnight Oil, Christy Moore, William Crighton, [8] The Sands Family, the Skids, John Williamson, The Bushwackers and the bluegrass band Kruger Brothers, Redgum, John Schumann, Tickawinda (on the album Rosemary Lane), Orthodox Celts, The Houghton Weavers, The Pogues and Bread and Roses. Audrey Auld-Mezera (on the album Billabong Song), Garrison Keillor has also performed it on his radio show A Prairie Home Companion when ANZAC Day (25 April) has fallen on a Saturday and has also performed his own adaptation titled And the Band Played The Star-Spangled Banner. Phil Coulter released a cover on his 2007 album Timeless Tranquility - 20 Year Celebration.

American Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Senator Bob Kerrey, who lost half his leg in the war, sang the song to his supporters after being elected to the United States Senate in 1988, and borrowed the first line for the title of his 2002 autobiography, When I Was A Young Man: A Memoir. [1] Every year on 25 April, Lucy Ward is invited to sing the song at the annual ANZAC Day service held at the Gallipoli Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Whilst touring the country, in April 2014, Ward also performed the song to a capacity crowd at The Grand Pavilion in Matlock Bath. [4]

A version of the song by The Pogues is featured in the ending credits of the 2016 first-person shooter game Battlefield 1 .[ citation needed ]

Non-English versions

The song was translated into French (Et l'orchestre jouait la valse de Mathilde) by the musical duo Ambages in 2014. [9] [ better source needed ]

Recognition and awards

In 1986 the song was given a Gold Award 1986 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). [10] In May 2001 the APRA, as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. [11] [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Waltzing Matilda 1895 Australian bush ballad

"Waltzing Matilda" is a song developed in the Australian style of poetry and folk music called a bush ballad. It has been described as the country's "unofficial national anthem".

Anzac Day National day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand on 25 April

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served". Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918).

Banjo Paterson Australian journalist, author and poet

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.

Gallipoli campaign Military campaign against the Ottoman Empire during World War I

The Gallipoli campaign was a military campaign in the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula, from 17 February 1915 to 9 January 1916. The Entente powers, Britain, France and Russia, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the Turkish straits. This would expose the Ottoman capital at Constantinople to bombardment by Allied battleships and cut it off from the Asian part of the empire. With Turkey defeated, the Suez canal would be safe, and a year-round Allied supply route could be opened through the Black Sea to warm-water ports in Russia.

Eric Bogle Australian folk musician

Eric Bogle is a Scottish-born Australian folk singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Scotland, he emigrated to Australia at the age of 25, to settle near Adelaide, South Australia. Bogle's songs have covered a variety of topics, and have been performed by many artists. Two of his best known songs are "No Man's Land" and "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", with the latter named one of the APRA Top 30 Australian songs in 2001, as part of the celebrations for the Australasian Performing Right Association's 75th anniversary.

The Battle of Sari Bair, also known as the August Offensive, represented the final attempt made by the British in August 1915 to seize control of the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Australian War Memorial National war memorial and museum in Canberra, Australia

The Australian War Memorial is Australia's national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in wars involving the Commonwealth of Australia and some conflicts involving personnel from the Australian colonies prior to Federation. Opened in 1941, the memorial includes an extensive national military museum.

John Simpson Kirkpatrick Australian soldier in World War I

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ANZAC Cove Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey

Anzac Cove is a small cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. It became famous as the site of World War I landing of the ANZACs on 25 April 1915. The cove is 600 metres (2,000 ft) long, bounded by the headlands of Arıburnu to the north and Little Arıburnu, known as Hell Spit, to the south. Following the landing at Anzac Cove, the beach became the main base for the Australian and New Zealand troops for the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign.

Australian and New Zealand Army Corps First World War army corps

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. It was formed in Egypt in December 1914, and operated during the Gallipoli campaign. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which primarily consisted of troops from the First Australian Imperial Force and 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force, although there were also British and Indian units attached at times throughout the campaign. The corps disbanded in 1916, following the Allied evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula and the formation of I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps. The corps was reestablished, briefly, in the Second World War during the Battle of Greece in 1941.

Suvla Bay on the coast of the Gallipoli peninsula in western Turkey

Suvla is a bay on the Aegean coast of the Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey, south of the Gulf of Saros.

Landing at Suvla Bay 1915 World War I amphibious landing

The landing at Suvla Bay was an amphibious landing made at Suvla on the Aegean coast of the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire as part of the August Offensive, the final British attempt to break the deadlock of the Battle of Gallipoli. The landing, which commenced on the night of 6 August 1915, was intended to support a breakout from the ANZAC sector, five miles (8 km) to the south.

"No Man's Land" is a song written in 1976 by Scottish-born Australian folk singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, reflecting on the grave of a young man who died in World War I. Its chorus refers to two famous pieces of military music, "The Last Post" and "The Flowers of the Forest". Its melody, its refrain, and elements of its subject matter are similar to those of "Streets of Laredo", a North American cowboy ballad whose origins can be traced back to an 18th-century English ballad called "The Unfortunate Rake" and the Irish Ballad "Lock Hospital". In 2009 Eric told an audience in Weymouth that he'd read about a girl who had been presented with a copy of the song by then prime minister Tony Blair, who called it "his favourite anti-war poem". According to Eric, the framed copy of the poem credited him, but stated that he had been killed in World War I.

It's a song that was written about the military cemeteries in Flanders and Northern France. In 1976, my wife and I went to three or four of these military cemeteries and saw all the young soldiers buried there.

John Lewis Schumann is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist from Adelaide. He is best known as the lead singer for the folk group Redgum, with their chart-topping hit "I Was Only 19 ", a song exploring the psychological and medical side-effects of serving in the Australian forces during the Vietnam War. The song's sales assisted Vietnam Veterans during the 1983 Royal Commission into the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants employed during the war. Schumann was an Australian Democrats candidate in the 1998 federal election, narrowly failing to unseat Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for the Division of Mayo.

I Was Only 19 1983 single by Redgum

"Only 19", "I Was Only 19" or "A Walk in the Light Green" is the most widely recognised song by Australian folk group Redgum. The song was released in March 1983 as a single, which hit number one on the national Kent Music Report Singles Chart for two weeks. It was also recorded for Redgum's live album Caught in the Act released in June, which stayed in the top 40 of the Kent Music Report Albums Chart for four months. Royalties for the song go to the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia. It is in the Australasian Performing Right Association's Top 30 Australian Songs of all time.

Anzacs is a 1985 Australian five-part television miniseries set in World War I. The series follows the lives of a group of young Australian men who enlist in the 8th Battalion (Australia) of the First Australian Imperial Force in 1914, fighting first at Gallipoli in 1915, and then on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.

<i>Behind the Lines</i> (John Schumann album) 2008 studio album by John Schumann

Behind the Lines is the second album by John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew. Released in 2008, it was re-released in 2011.

Australian folk music Music genre

Australian folk music is the traditional music from the large variety of immigrant cultures and those of the original Australian inhabitants.

Waltzing Matilda is an 1895 Australian bush ballad written by Banjo Paterson.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Casimir, Jon (20 April 2002). "Secret life of Matilda". Music. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Eric Bogle interview: And the man sang Waltzing Matilda". The Scotsman. 20 May 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  3. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (Remastered) on YouTube
  4. 1 2 The Name. "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda [Eric Bogle]". Mainlynorfolk.info. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  5. Carlyon, Les (2001). Gallipoli. Sydney: Random House. p. 87. ISBN   0-553-81506-7.
  6. Jose, Arthur (1928). Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume IX. Canberra: Australian War Memorial.
  7. Walsh, Michael K.; Eric Bogle, Music and the Great War: 'An Old Man's Tears'; Routledge 2018; p49
  8. "Empire". ABC Music. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  9. Ambages (22 May 2015). "Et l'orchestre jouait la valse de Mathilde" . Retrieved 11 November 2018 via YouTube.[ dead YouTube link ]
  10. "1986 Music Awards". Apra Amcos. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  11. Kruger, Debbie (2 May 2001). "The songs that resonate through the years" (PDF). Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
  12. "APRAP - Publisher News". Apra Amcos. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2015.