Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mods, Rockers, and Ghosts

A musical musing today for my readers: I'm listening to British band The Kinks' brilliant 1969 album Arthur: Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire as I work on some writing projects this morning. While the entire album is worth a listen or fifty for many reasons, this song struck me as particularly resonant for those of us fascinated by the ghosts of 1914:

Two soldiers fighting in a trench
One soldier glances up to see the sun
And dreams of games he played when he was young
And then his friend calls out his name
It stops his dream and as he turns his head
A second later he is dead
The full lyrics to "Some Mother's Son" are here

Another song from the same era is The Zombies' nightmarish "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)," written in 1968. The Guardian's Jon Savage writes about this piece:
"This is a serious song about an extremely serious subject that succeeds because of its restraint and complete synchronicity of form with content, of music with lyric, of feeling with imagination. The Zombies did not experience the western front, but they projected themselves into a terrible event with all the considerable talent at their disposal. "


The Great War and its ghosts certainly do have a lengthy and multifaceted afterlife and it is fascinating to explore the moments and places at which they manifest, even fifty or a hundred years on in time. May the music offer you some food for thought or some accompaniment to your projects today...

© Fiona Robinson


  1. Great post, Fiona. I'd never heard these songs.

    Added you to our blogroll, BTW.

    1. The songs are great, aren't they? Thanks so much for adding me!

  2. The lyrics of the first song seem almost too intense for the more upbeat music. It's interesting. Thank you for sharing.

    I just found your blog and I must tell you that perhaps you are my (more eloquent) English counterpart.

    I am also writing a (vaguely at times) Great War-themed blog, mainly to write reviews for a reading challenge of similar theme.

    I look forward to more posts, and I hope all is well!

  3. I can't believe I've never heard "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" before. Truly haunting.

    1. I agree--an incredible song. Thanks for reading!