Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
Yesterday at the bar I met a local Vietnam veteran. I picked his brain for a half hour about his experiences and when I asked him if his year and a half tour was of average length he replied, "My tour was a little more than average and at the time I was furious, but compared to our troops' tours today, I have no complaints."
After that I started thinking, really thinking about what it means to serve two + tours like is commonplace today. All I kept thinking about was the Pogues' "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". The eight-minute traditional song, sung from the point of view of a young Australian soldier about his experiences at WWI's Battle of Gallipoli is, as my friend John drunkenly declared to me on St. Patrick's Day at his apartment in Cambridge, undoubtedly the saddest song we know.
The more I think about that declaration, the more I believe it. I don't know a sadder song. I can't think of another song that literally hurts to listen to like "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". Love songs hurt on a personal level; "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" hurts on a human level. It extends beyond your small life and looks at the experience of war that has lasted as long as humans have been on Earth.
No wonder Shane MasGowan's an alcoholic.