Sunday, April 25, 2010


Today is an excuse for cut-price day-long drinking - with Aussie and non-Aussie mates - in Nanluoguxiang's 'Oz Triangle' of Ned's, 12 Square Metres, and Mao Mao Chong.

However, we shouldn't forget that this is also a sombre occasion, a day to recall and reflect on the sacrifices made by the armed forces of Australia and New Zealand in the 20th Century's wars - and particularly in the disastrous Gallipoli landings of 1915.

I first came to know And the band played 'Waltzing Matilda'..., one of the most devastating of all war songs, through the Pogues' version, with which they closed their Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash album in 1985. Here it is, accompanied by a montage of photographs and paintings of Australian soldiers in WWI.

Many years later, I got to hear its original composer, Eric Bogle, perform it at an intimate little Sunday afternoon gig at the ANZAC Club in Toronto (I suppose that was exactly 12 years ago). Bogle sings it below (again accompanied by period photographs).

However, I think my favourite performance of the song is this one, by the great Liam Clancy.

I'm hoping at least one of these recordings - The Pogues' one, probably - has found its way on to the playlist at 12 Square Metres today (Big Nige has been tasked with taking care of this). Yes, it's a bit of a downer; but it's also an inspiringly good song; and it is what today is really all about.

I hope to enjoy a fine day's boozing with many friends, old and new; but let's not forget what our pretext for drinking today is.

[Other versions: The Pogues perform it live here (not very good sound quality, unfortunately). Here's a Joan Baez version (no video) - beautifully sung, of course, but doesn't really fit the point of view the song is written from. And another great Australian folk singer, John Williamson, sings it here.]

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