WW2 snippets-Lili Marlene

Today (September 3) marks the 80th anniversary of Britain and France declaring war on Germany. We look back on a song which was popular among the armed forces of Germany as well as Britain.

The story in brief is here:

And you can see more here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lili_Marleen

While Marlene Dietrich had moved to Hollywood before the war, she later made it her signature song:

And Britain’s iconic singer of those days sang the English version:

In years to come, this was invariably sung at British-German war reunions.

Footnote: Vera Lynn (born 1917) is still living in 2019.

Apollo 13 and the age of Aquarius

Today is the anniversary of Apollo 13’s return to earth on April 17, 1970. You may have seen the 1995 movie, but if you have forgotten the details you can refresh your memory here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13

The gist of the story is that an explosion crippled the power supply on the “Command and Service Module” named Odyssey. To survive and return to Earth an elaborate patch was done to use the fuel supplies on the lunar module named “Aquarius”.

At that time there was a popular musical called “Hair”-popular partly because it featured brief scenes of nudity-which was a big thing in 1969. One of the popular songs was “The Age of Aquarius”, which you can listen to here:

When the astronauts were picked up and safely landed on an US Navy carrier, it was but appropriate that the band played “The Age of Aquarius”.

Like other popular songs, it gets due coverage in Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarius/Let_the_Sunshine_In

The lyrics given in the video above are slightly wrong, but you can see the correct lyrics here:  https://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/h/hairlyrics/aquariuslyrics.html

And a video with better visuals (but without lyrics):

The bit about “astrological gibberish” is particularly amusing:

“Astrologer Neil Spencer denounced the lyrics as “astrological gibberish”, noting that Jupiter forms an astrological aspect with Mars several times a year and the moon is in the 7th House for two hours every day. These lines are considered by many to be merely poetic license, though some people take them literally.”

In fact, the opening lines of the song feature in an episode of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” where he is debunking astrology.

And in recent times, it has given rise to memes like this:

https://me.me/i/you-know-son-this-is-the-dawning-of-the-age-21401378

and this: http://www.bunchacunce.org/2016/08/the-awning-of-the-cage-of-asparagus/

More cricket calypsos

Many of you would be familiar with “Cricket, lovely cricket” first heard at Lord’s in 1950 and probably the one about Gavaskar after the 1971 series. There are, in fact, a number of other cricket-related calypsos which are summarised in the link below. Lord Kitchener was living in Britain through the 1950s and sang tributes to Alec Bedser (during the 1953 Ashes) and Frank Tyson (after the 1954-55 Ashes). All of these (besides the long version of “Rally Round the West Indies”) can be seen here:

https://silvertorch.com/cricketsongs.html

Background reading here:

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/jun/28/nottinghillcarnival2002.nottinghillcarnival

Personal note: My father came to Britain from India through the Tilbury Docks a few months before the SS “Empire Windrush” docked. On the evening of January 30, 1948 he heard the newspaper seller yelling “Extra! Read all about it! Gandy killed by Hindu gunman!”. Coincidentally his first grandchild was born exactly 39 years later.

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxguy0BYNzE

You are more likely to have seen this version from the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k4NEAIk3PU

Although most of the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the actual bridge still stands in Thailand and is a popular tourist destination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nYT79oxzBI

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_Has_Only_Got_One_Ball   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:

http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Hitler_Has_Only_Got_One_Ball

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.