Colonel Bogey and his successors

Most adults in Commonwealth countries have heard this tune, possibly through military bands which still play it. It dates back to 1914, but the words came later during World War 2. It became famous worldwide with the film “Bridge on the River Kwai” which was released in 1957, but was still making the rounds of cinemas in India in the 1970s.

Here is the “official version” by a British army band:

You are more likely to have seen this version from the film:

Although most of the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the actual bridge still stands in Thailand and is a popular tourist destination:

It is not very close to Bangkok, but many conducted tours will take you there and back in a day.

The tune became so ingrained in popular culture that: “Since the film portrayed prisoners of war held under inhumane conditions by the Japanese, there was a diplomatic row in May 1980, when a military band played “Colonel Bogey” during a visit to Canada by Japanese prime minister Masayoshi Ōhira”

As to the lyrics, Wikipedia goes into them in great detail:   Most versions had only the first four lines, though longer versions exist. Variations in the second line mention local prominent buildings such as the Albert Hall in London and the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Also, as General Rommel was one of the few German military leaders who was respected by soldiers on the other side, the second line sometimes became “Rommel has three but small”. The more obscure variations (particularly on the second verse) are here:

Indian schoolboys made up other variations such as:

Hitler, he had but one big ball,

Rommel, he had three but small,

Nehru, he went to Peru,

And poor Gandhi, he had none at all.

Billy Joel meets the dotcom bust and the oncoming Wall Street meltdown

First remember the original:

Now see it adapted to the dotcom bust of the early 2000s:

And then to the coming unease on Wall Street in 2007:

And that’s not all. Terence Kawaja (the same guy behind Mad Avenue Blues) brought out a sequel in 2008. And Billy Joel later surfaced in the oddest place in India more recently.

Mad Avenue Blues and the mysteries of American Pie

This video is being used as supporting material in MBA courses in digital marketing:

Even if it didn’t make much sense to you, you would remember the original:

This is well known as one of the most incomprehensible pieces of pop music. The Wikipedia article has something on this and (in Further Reading) some links to scholarly articles trying to explain the nuances:

though it oddly gives a lot of importance to Madonna’s version:

Anyway, if you found this worthwhile you might like to hear a similar song by the same person about Wall Street-this time using Billy Joel. And the same song cropped up unexpectedly in Indian politics. More tomorrow.

The Walrus and the incomprehensible song

The walrus, remarkable as it may be, does not live anywhere near India. Why, then, should we be concerned about it?
See what it looks like:

Interesting-looking fellow, who bears a strong resemblance to an important person from Nagpur who was last heard demanding that India should be declared a Hindu nation.

The walrus does appear in various aspects of culture-such as the ultimate insult in Russian:


(From “Native Tongues” by Charles Berlitz; perhaps a more useful work than his numerous books about the Bermuda Triangle)

Many of you would remember this poem from your childhood:

and this Beatles song: (with lyrics):

Not one of their best-known songs, but probably the most incomprehensible. Like many of their songs of that period, it must have been composed under the influence of some banned substance (such as the one immortalized in “Lucy in the Sky……) which even gets a mention in this song.

If you want to make any sense of it at all, try reading this:

Well, there are a few more of their songs which are almost as obscure although they have been analyzed to death. Even a traditional song like “Greensleeves” has been searched for hidden meanings. American pop music has a few songs which are supposed to have many hidden meanings, such as “The Boxer”, “Hotel California” and of course “American Pie”. More about them later.

Meanwhile, we await the banning of Lewis Carroll and the Beatles in India for bringing the Walrus into disrepute.

Down memory lane: the cricket calypsos of 1950 and 1971

Veteran cricket watchers would have heard these at some time or the other. Now they are easily available on the net.

The most famous cricket calypso would be “Cricket, lovely cricket” composed by Lord Kitchener and sung here by Lord Beginner.

A little background here. The West Indies was then a group of colonies firmly under the Union Jack, with the general conditions as well as racial discrimination being what you would expect from the British at that time. The West Indies had been playing Tests since 1928 and had shown a lot of improvement after a whitewash in their first series. By 1950 they had won a few Tests and even a series against England in 1948. But they had never won a Test in England.

The trend looked set to continue when the first Test was won by England by a big margin:

Ramadhin and Valentine made their debuts, the latter taking 8 wickets in the first innings and 3 in the second (besides a pair). Ramadhin had a less impressive 2 wickets in each innings.

Then came the second Test-at Lord’s, no less. Now hear it:

and see the scorecard:

Or better, still, see the scorecards of the whole series here:

This famous picture was taken just after the end:

Lord Kitchener is the one with the guitar. It is said that he composed the song within 30 minutes and led the troupe of West Indian fans dancing through London celebrating the victory. A more detailed account can be seen here:

Years passed and the West Indies team rose to greater heights. Most of the colonies became independent countries. But the team had its ups and downs – as in 1971. But there still was a calypso there. In case you need to refresh your memory, see the series scorecards here:

It was, in a sense, Indian cricket’s coming of age as it was the first time they had won a Test series against one of the big powers away from home. There was, of course, the 3-1 victory in New Zealand in 1968 which was not given much importance.

In fact, India had never won a Test (let alone a series) against the West Indies until then. And they did not win a Test against them in India until 1974-75 and a series against them in India until 1978-79.

Here is the calypso, composed by Lord Relator:

and the lyrics:

(Note the PJ about Uton Dowe)

Do not pay too much attention to the visuals as they seem to have been hastily put together much later-you can see Roberts, Holding and Chandrashekhar and others (Alan Knott!) who were not part of the series.

There may have been other cricket-based songs later on, but these are probably the best known. There are a few famous poems as well.

Demis Roussos R.I.P.

Demis Roussos, arguably the second best known Greek entertainer in recent times, has passed away at the age of 68. By now you would have been told umpteen times that Sholay’s “Mehbooba” was lifted from his “Say you love me”. What is not so well known is that his song was lifted from a traditional Greek-Cypriot song “Ta Rialia”.

All three are given below in reverse chronological order:

The second copy:

The first copy:

The original:

Enjoy and decide which version is best.