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New Project: Songs Of The Wwi Era.


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#1 Bob Michel

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Posted 12 August 2015 - 04:52 PM

(Odd; I know I capitalized 'WWI' in the title of this new topic.)

First, some background:

My New Year's resolution for 2015 was to begin, at long last, to assimilate some of the sheet music from the early 20th century that I've been collecting for the past fifteen years or so. I was originally attracted to the covers by Albert Wilfred Barbelle and other illustrators, but sooner or later I was bound to get curious about the songs themselves.

It's been a slippery slope, and by now I can count myself a serious fan of the American Songbook in its not-yet-quite-Great period.

To give my undertaking a little structure, I've tried to make YouTube videos of some of the songs as I've learned them. I've managed a good few since last winter.* Most are in no way concertina-related, though a few have concertina in the mix. And of course "Lena from Palesteena" (1920) is our anthem, or should be.

What I've discovered over time, though, is that most songs of the period that most interests me (1910-1920, give or take a couple of years) sit as well--to my ear--on the (Anglo) concertina as on anything else. And as I've been keen to improve my harmonic vocabulary and vocal accompaniment skills, I think it's time to move my project into Phase II.

What I'm proposing, then, is to bring the concertina to center stage in my next round of recordings, and also to concentrate on songs from the period of the First World War. These needn't be war songs per se, though there was certainly a surfeit of jingoism on Tin Pan Alley in those years. Frankly I'm more drawn to the (mostly neglected) antiwar songs, but there's room in my historical playlist for all perspectives.

This idea appeals to me in part because I think of the War as the concertina's high water mark, and partly because my own favorite instrument is old enough (c. 1890, I've been told) to have played some of these songs when they were new, and just possibly even to have been in the trenches. At times I'd swear it was downright happy to meet them again.

Most of the material in question is of American origin, and not terribly well known (that's the fun of it), but I thought I'd start things off with what might be the two most iconic songs of the era, in the English-speaking world at any rate; both are from the U.K. The first is probably the catchiest number associated with the Great War; the second might be the loveliest.

http://youtu.be/AEqH4_9KVOg

http://youtu.be/GE0XlvgRpgk

I'd be delighted if anyone else wanted to delve into this material with me; I'm sure others could come up with far more interesting arrangements and polished performances than mine have any chance of being. But I thought I'd share my plan with the group in any case. As I add new songs to the list I will post the links in this thread.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

*For any who might be interested, here are the links to all the songs I recorded in the first phase of the project:

"I'll See You in C-U-B-A" http://youtu.be/FU92hZRyqSM
"I Miss That Mississippi Miss That Misses Me" http://youtu.be/hNLm9K6wxDQ
"The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" http://youtu.be/T_GrjW2GQCk
"Shine On Harvest Moon" http://youtu.be/O7ldCh7ErC8
"Somewhere in France (Is the Lily)" http://youtu.be/g7dRTox_P1k
"I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" http://youtu.be/a7J7P4UjGtI
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" http://youtu.be/taPG1kVnqPw
"Put Me to Sleep with an Old Fashioned Melody..." http://youtu.be/9ajMJ2lAEyo
"Oh! Frenchy" http://youtu.be/HgT8NIggcnE
"The Last Long Mile" http://youtu.be/etKBX_ksoAc
"Stay Down Here Where You Belong" http://youtu.be/4WsGCnwFedQ
"Lena from Palesteena" http://youtu.be/eUPp-s_z92s
"Come Josephine in My Flying Machine" http://youtu.be/BWknSkysthY
"They're Wearing 'Em Higher in Hawaii" http://youtu.be/WeYK_Y0SDFg
"The War in Snider's Grocery Store" http://youtu.be/LZOc1DCIXlo
"There Ought To Be Music in Every Home" http://youtu.be/0Rxrc957_eY
"You Can Stay But That Doggone Fiddle Must Go" http://youtu.be/VHChYF7l67A

Edited by Bob Michel, 12 August 2015 - 04:55 PM.


#2 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 12 August 2015 - 05:40 PM

Bob, having read your introducing the project and listened to the two new recordings I'd like to express my appreciation of what you're doing here! The catchiest number was an easy guess for me since I've been planning to play and sing it for the very same reason over a long time myself... whereas the sweetest I didn't even know, and felt really enchanted by your video!

 

I can perfectly agree with you in preferring anti-war-songs and nevertheless including different ones...

 

I will follow your further steps, and maybe in fact join you at one point...

 

Best wishes - Wolf



#3 Rod

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 01:54 AM

Splendid performances of some gems from the golden age of popular music. You have more than your fair share of talent Bob ! Keep going, I can't wait for more. Rod

#4 Bob Michel

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 04:21 AM

Thanks to Wolf and Rod for the kind and encouraging words. Wolf, I do hope you join in at some point.

Bob Michel
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#5 Steve Wilson

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 03:44 PM

Good-Oh Bob, bravo, an admirable project.  I agree whole heartedly with Rod, you are a talented fellow.  I have my hands full coping with just one instrument.

 

Great to hear the verses to "...Tipperary", I think the first I've ever heard them!  Often seems the way with these old songs.  The only WW1 song I do "I'm Going Back Again to Yarrawonga" is reasonably well known by the older folk in Australia but nobody knows the verses.  There's two but I only do one of them and there are recorded versions with just the chorus.

 

Anti war songs...mmmm?  Wouldn't have thought there would be too many of those.  Back then they needed happy songs, not ones to remind them of the horrors.  Of course there were the songs the troops themselves sang in the trenches, parodys usually, there's a few of those that could be classified anti war. I wonder which are your "mostly neglected" anti war songs?

 

Thanks for introducing me to "Lena from Palisteena".  What a gem.  I might have to include that one in my repertoire and pair it with Yarrawonga.  These girls and their concertinas...fertile subject matter.  I've a composition in the works, Sabrina with her "Flying Concertina", a lighthearted celebration of concertina in circus.

 

I'm still working my way through your videos and look forward to the concertina being centre stage.

 

Cheers Steve.



#6 Bob Michel

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 05:14 PM

Anti war songs...mmmm?  Wouldn't have thought there would be too many of those.


Thanks for the kind words, Steve.

Retrieving the forgotten verses is half the fun of these old songs. Two examples: the chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is an American cliché, traditionally sung by fans during the "seventh inning stretch" at baseball games. But you won't find one American in a hundred thousand who knows the verses, which are charming. "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" is generally thought of as a quaint old weeper of a song; restore the verses and it's cynical as hell.

As for anti-war songs, since the U.S.A. entered the conflict so late, things were a bit complicated here. Early on public sentiment ran strong against intervention, and Tin Pan Alley produced gems like "The War in Snider's Grocery Store" and "Stay Down Here Where You Belong"--the latter by Irving Berlin, no less, who later in his life tried to bribe Groucho Marx not to sing it. Unsuccessfully, I'm happy to say.

Surely the most famous anti-war song of the period is Bryan and Piantadosi's "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier," which still gets sung now and then (I have a version in the works). But after the sinking of the Lusitania and the revelation of the Zimmerman Telegram, among other events, Tin Pan Alley changed its collective mind about the war, and the floodgates of jingoism were opened. (I like some of the pro-war songs, too, in a contextual sort of way.)

Pro or con, they paint a fascinating picture. And what with the centennial and all, it felt like time to dive in.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

#7 MatthewVanitas

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 06:57 PM

For a good anti-war song, check out the very gallows-humor song "Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire".

The British anarchist/musical collective Chumbawumba has it on one of their albums, and that's on YouTube.

http://m.youtube.com...h?v=_K1BdDVvV9Q

#8 Bob Michel

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Posted 13 August 2015 - 07:37 PM

For a good anti-war song, check out the very gallows-humor song "Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire".


Yes, that one's a classic. Thanks for the reminder; I haven't heard it in years.

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#9 Rod

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 02:12 AM

My father was one of the fortunate ones to survive front line action in WW1. In his memoirs he wrote that in spite of all the horrors they endured it was an inextinguishable sense of humour that ultimately played a vital role in helping to keep them sane. I guess that this will inevitably come through in some of the songs of that period, whereas there are of course many others with sentimental lyrics that can all too easily bring tears to the eyes.

#10 Frank Dudgeon

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 02:58 AM

I love your vocals.  Beautifully delivered.  Of course, the anglo playing is delightful.  I look forward to hearing more!  Kudos.



#11 Bob Michel

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 03:34 AM

Many thanks, Frank!

Bob Michel
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#12 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 07:35 AM

For a good anti-war song, check out the very gallows-humor song "Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire".

The British anarchist/musical collective Chumbawumba has it on one of their albums, and that's on YouTube.

http://m.youtube.com...h?v=_K1BdDVvV9Q


As to anti-war-songs, I would always rank a couple of Eric-Bogle-songs very high - with both "No Man's Land" and "And The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda" referring to WWI - I might grab at the opportunity to resurrect them from my former singing and record them as sort of a side project.

Besides, the consensus in this forum seems to be that nobody - except the squirrel :) - would get "political", and probably for good reasons. However, I feel compelled to declare that regarding WWII I might sort of sympathise with certain "war" songs from the Allies...

Best wishes - Wolf

#13 Bob Michel

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 08:00 AM

As to anti-war-songs, I would always rank a couple of Eric-Bogle-songs very high - with both "No Man's Land" and "And The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda" referring to WWI


I've known the Bogle songs for many, many years, and they are indeed classics. But they were written in the 1970s, and I'm trying to focus on period stuff this time around.

The anti-war songs from those times do tend to get drowned out by the vast number of militaristic ones. I think that fully three quarters of the ones I know are marked "tempo di marcia" (and at least a third of those seem to quote the Marseillaise). Well, that was the tenor of the times. My own sympathies in the 1914-1918 conflict (for whatever they're worth, a century later) are with those, on both sides, who opposed the war. But I reserve the right to sing everybody's songs, if I like them.

Bob Michel
Near Philly

Edited by Bob Michel, 14 August 2015 - 08:21 AM.


#14 blue eyed sailor

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 08:09 AM

I've known the Bogle songs for many, many years, and they are indeed classics. But they were written in the 1970s, and I'm trying to focus on period stuff this time around.


Perfectly clear - that's why I was talking about a personal "side project" :) - and I'm really anticipating what you (and possibly others) will reveal!
 

My own sympathies in the 1914-1918 conflict (for whatever they're worth, a century later) are with those, on both sides, who opposed the war.


As to WWI, agreed!

#15 Don Taylor

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 08:38 AM

Bob

If you do not know of the movie (previously a stage musical) "Oh What a Lovely War!" then I can highly recommend it for its production, sentiment and for its period music. A full version of the movie is on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/VggFfl4e6yY

If you just want to listen to the songs then somebody has put together a playlist:

Oh What A Lovely War! songs: http://www.youtube.c...2F50B6B4B5C6B31

I have a book of the same name by Roy Palmer that contains the words for many period British and Commonwealth squaddie songs - sadly, no dots.

#16 Bob Michel

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Posted 14 August 2015 - 02:35 PM

If you do not know of the movie (previously a stage musical) "Oh What a Lovely War!" then I can highly recommend it for its production, sentiment and for its period music.


I do know it, Don, but haven't seen it in decades. Nor did I know it was available on YouTube; I'll look forward to that this weekend. Thanks!

Bob Michel
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#17 Rod

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 01:32 AM

Way back my mother dragged my father off to see that film when it was first released. I had misgivings as to how someone who had experienced the real thing and rarely talked about it might react and I was relieved when he said how much he had enjoyed the film. ( I have no doubt he would have enjoyed the music. )

#18 Bob Michel

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Posted 15 August 2015 - 05:59 AM

Way back my mother dragged my father off to see that film when it was first released. I had misgivings as to how someone who had experienced the real thing and rarely talked about it might react and I was relieved when he said how much he had enjoyed the film. ( I have no doubt he would have enjoyed the music. )

My own late parents were veterans of the second War (they met and married in the U.S. Army--and thereby hangs a tale), and the music of that era figured prominently in the soundtrack of my childhood. At the same time, the veterans of WWI--all gone now--were still relatively young and numerous, though their tunes sounded pretty quaint by then.

The other morning I chanced to listen, on my morning walk, to two albums in succession: an anthology of vaudeville hits by Eddie Cantor and the first Doors LP. At some point it struck me that I was neatly bisecting the century: the Doors are of exactly the same vintage now that Eddie Cantor's early hits were when I first heard the Doors. I wonder how Eddie and Jim would have gotten along.

Bob Michel
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Edited by Bob Michel, 15 August 2015 - 06:28 AM.





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