So as some of you will know I have been working for some years on an EP based on war poetry. I have worked with some great people – you know who you are. All will receive full credit on release, which I am fairly confident will be 2015. If anyone knows anyone who will be interested in this, I beseech you (!), let them know.
This is now available to buy on BandCamp.
The artwork will look like this:
I wrote this about the whole thing:
Of Vile Incurable Sores on Innocent Tongues.
I’ve always been interested in War Poetry. Perhaps it’s something in the stark contrast between the dissonances of battle in superposition with the somewhat serene nature of poetry itself. On the other hand it could be the fact that such harrowing scenes are metered out playfully, almost, by the masters in the art. I’ve always thought of Poetry in a sort of heart-warming sense, something that rouses hope in whichever ideal chosen, from Shanties to the acrostics children prepare at school, obviously; this is not the case, just a conduit for me to explore where I started from. Whatever it is, it took me, not so much by the hand but by the frontal cortex, and so an ‘idea’ arose. Not to put Poetry to music as I had originally remonstrated around, i.e. ‘someone, please put this to music! It’s amazing!’ but instead to combine this passion, with another. I should probably state a few things here:
Firstly, my personal attitude towards War is independent of this work. Very much like the charity Help for Heroes, I adopt the ethos that Wars occur; and I have very little to say on that exact matter, other than that I dearly hope that the preponderance of people generally think that they shouldn’t. Not a point for me to discuss here. I just feel people should be remembered, by whichever format appropriate.
Second in issue is my personal attitude toward Concept Albums, lightening the mood somewhat. I’ve never had a great relationship with more than a handful, and I think I realised that I literally didn’t have one in me, but I still felt these stories should be told. So, onto the ‘idea’…
I’d been thinking about War Poems for a while, I’m not entirely sure why if I’m honest. When I mentioned that I’d always been interested, I meant it, but I’m not sure what prompted this nigh on obsession. I remembered reading these poems at school, not necessarily the words, but certainly the spirit; and I think it was watching my brother prepare to teach a particular work that spurred me on. Almost as soon as I had mentioned the ‘idea’, (which at this point was “I’m going to write five or six songs inspired by War Poetry”), I was gathering material. Up until this point I’d only really known what I’ll term here as ‘mainstream’ War Poetry, Wilfred Owen and the like, and hadn’t explored the full genre. It was only on the mention of what I was planning that a friend of mine provided me with a miniature anthology of poetry written by people that lived in the area that I do. These works are all available in public libraries, and are to be cited at the end of this treatise. The receipt of these poems really fired my interest. I started to read or watch anything about the subject (non-Political) that I could. It should be noted here than anything taken directly from another work appears in quotation marks in any transcript of lyrics; I have tried to take these lines as nought but inspiration, however, in certain cases – inevitably – it has been said better before. Furthermore I would hope the families/estates of the persons I have gleaned inspiration from would think it appropriate that I use their work to raise awareness, and hopefully assist charity in this area.
Before I start to dissect the works that inspired this, I’d like to mention that although I have no real political bearing on the matter, especially in the present time; my main objection to people being recruited toward the Armed Services is and was the idea that it would be ‘fun’ and that it would lead to absolution; the idea of duty. Especially concerning those so young as to not really understand it. This leads me to a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, and his poem ‘The Hero’. It should be noted here that all the song titles I’ve chosen are really a tip of the hat to Sassoon. ‘The Hero’ describes a young man so afraid of the maelstrom he has been plunged into , that he tries to injure himself; in order to be medically discharged. Sadly, as I’m sure most readers will already know, he does himself more harm than he wishes and takes his life by mistake, whilst officers are dispatched to inform his mother that he died gallantly in battle. This is again, not just a surfeit of war, but something indescribably cruel.
And so onto the material that has inspired this EP. As I’ve already mentioned this began with a collection of local War Poetry, it was supplemented quite quickly with firsthand accounts of WWII including my Grandfather’s Logbook, and poems and letters penned by relations of people I know. And so I set about writing. Not because I feel any particular animosity towards the notion of War, purely because I read this material, and felt these people should be remembered. Also, I don’t think these basic tenets will change.
The handful of poems I first received was from a dear friend of mine. Whilst all had their individual merits, one stood out for me. This was probably where the writing for me, started, this is a poem entitled ‘Women of the Empire’. It was written by a pair of soldiers from Salford, named Sgt J Fletcher and CQMS R Hodson. These men were both in C Company of 15th Lancashire Fusiliers. I’ve done my best to try and recreate their sentiment in song, for instance in ‘The Gal’ [Sisters, Mothers, Daughters and Wives]. It was an emotional thing to take these stories of fear and this risk that fathers/husbands/sons/brothers wouldn’t come home, and attempt to craft it into something that might be seen as, well, not much to a lot of people. But, hopefully it’s more than that to others.
From here I must hark back to my brother’s involvement. He not only provided me with the impetus to do this but also the second and third poems. The first of these being ‘Screens (In a Hospital)’ by Winifred M. Letts, Letts was Manchester born and so I felt a great affinity for her work, after reading a few of her poems, this is was the one I settled on to delineate not only the life of the nurse, but also the death of the soldier. In an attempt to encapsulate all that went on, for better or worse.
The second poem I was furnished with by Matt was ‘He Went for a Soldier’ by John Strange Winter. This had a similar effect on me as to that of Sassoon’s work. It tells the story of a young boy going to war; not really knowing exactly what he’s embarking upon. His use (in the poem) of exclamation right up until the end of the poem for me says it all, it seems to elucidate the idea of young boys eager to go to War, not really knowing what they’re enlisting in, or in other circumstances, being drafted/conscripted with the same lack of knowledge. And so his poem tells of the nature and decline of ‘The Company’.
The final two works encompassed in what I hope to one day call a finished EP are ‘The Survivor’ (inspired by my Grandfather’s Logbook) and ‘The Prisoners’ (inspired by a letter from a Japanese POW Camp), which I’m working on at the moment. I hope to create a five track CD/digital album that somehow respects the lives of the people that have died, purely for this generation to exist.
I will end this with what I believe to be Owens’ sardonic use of dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.