Today is Anzac Day, commemorating the day a contingent of Australian and New Zealand young working class men landed at Gallipoli in a bungled invasion of the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the British Empire -- and got slaughtered in weeks of horrific mass carnage of unspeakable horror. It is ridiculous and tragic in equal measure that this horrific example of industrial scale killing is used to bolster nationalism and militarism, to help justify MORE killing.
Wel, I wrote a column, my weekly Carlo's Corner for Green Left Weekly, called Gallipoli -- Never forget, and never forgive that gives my views on this issue. Rather than repeat that here, I have produced a list of songs on the horror of war (in the case of the first three, specifically on Gallipoli). Then, three songs on *responses* to the horror of war.
The list is not intended to be complete. These are just the songs that I love that occurred to me today. You got others, don't fucking complain it is not on there, put it in the goddamn comments section. You can go to a Youtube playlist based (but not 100% the same) as the list below.
'If I was asked I'd say/The colour of the Earth that day/It was dull and browny red/The colour of blood I'd say'
'Death hung in the smoke and clung to four hundred acres of useless beachfront.' All the songs, each a snapshot of the horror of war, from PJ Harvey's 2011 'Let England Shake' album are on this YouTube playlist. The lyrics of each can be read here.
'How well I remember that terrible day when our blood stained the sand and the water. And how in that Hell that they called Sulva Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.' Liam Clancy's live version above is pretty untouchable version of this song, but for the best recorded version, you cannot go past The Pogues rendition.
'Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.' The sound quality on this clip is not the best, but the emotional weight of the performance makes it worth going with this version. The best recorded version is the fantastic rough-edged rendition by early folk punk band The Men They Couldn't Hang.
'Frankie kicked a mine the same day mankind kicked the moon. God help me, he was going home in June.' The Herd provide a hip hop cover of Redgum's classic about an Australian soldier sent to Vietnam.
'At least we’re winning on the Fox Evening News.' Richard Thompson on the horror of the Iraq War, the title taken from British soldier slang for 'Baghdad', filled with other pieces of slang coz 'no one dies when we're speaking double speak'.
'The smell of blood, the drone of flies. You know what to do when the baby cries. HOIST THAT RAG.' Tom Waits, asked about his 2004's Real Gone album that contained anti-war songs for the first time in his career, said singing protest songs was like "throwing peanuts at a gorilla". But Waits has a good throwing arm and his aim is true.
'How is it that the only ones responsible for making this mess got their sorry asses stapled to a goddamn desk?'
'I'm not fighting for justice. I'm not fighting for freedom. I'm just fighting for another day in the world here.'
'Yeah, you tell me that this is not a dream. I've become a steel spring. Uranium tips, night vision cruise missiles gonna cut the belly out of the sky.' The Drones perfectly capture the horror of war throughout the past century... right up to the sheer unspeakable horror of the permanent, endless so-called "war on terror". Read all the lyrics.
Bob Dylan-Masters of War(graphic) by ccharlie182
'And I hope that you die. And your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand over your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead.'
'Political scum, political scum, you lead the way, you beat the drum...' Irish American celtic punk band The Tossers give their considered view on politicians who send young working class people to kill and die. But the best response of all is....
'Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war. Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar.' A rising. The best response to the horror of industrial-scale slaughter for Great Power is to rise up against the Great Power -- and strike out for freedom. Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising against British rule was driven in large part by opposition to the imperialist slaughter in Europe... to keep Irish people, facing the threat of conscription being introduced by their British masters, out of the war and to strike a decisive blow at one of the Great Powers responsible for the carnage.
Sadly, they lost -- so an even better response was the Russian Revolution, which won, took Russia out of the war and was a decisive factor in ending the slaughter as the generals of all belligerent nations began to fear the example of a successful slave revolt on their ranks.
TWO BONUS TRACKS
They don't quite fit, but they deserve a special mention...
'Tell me I'm a hero now, so someone else can fight this war...' Texas country singer Hayes Carll's surrealist, hallucinatory, drug-fuelled tale of a soldier in Afghanistan.
'Sent me off to a foreign land. Said go and kill the yellow man. I was born in the USA...' Worth including just because it is so misunderstood. Widely mistaken for a patriotic song, even Ronald EReagan -- to Springsteen's bemusement and anger -- used it as a presidential campaign at one point. By the 1990s, Springsteen had taken to performing the song acoustically or so stripped back (like above) that the words and their meaning were impossible to misunderstand. This song is only pro-USA is you think poverty, lack of opportunities, the send of womring class youths to foreign wars, and the abandonment of those who fight and widespread unemployment are good things. Which, in Reagan's defence, I think he actually did.