“English Civil War,” recorded live at the Lyceum in London in January 1979, originally on Give ’Em Enough Rope (1978). According to The Clash Wiki, the band first played this song live at the Carnival Against The Nazis Festival in April 1978. So, that’s pretty cool. You can hear the original studio version here.
Although “English Civil War” is about the rise of violent neo-Nazi groups in the UK, I chose the song for a different reason: It’s an updated version of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which seems fitting with Memorial Day coming up. From Wikipedia:
The Irish antiwar song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” share the same melodic material. Based on internal textual references, “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” apparently dates from the early 1820’s, while “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was first published in 1863. It was sung by both sides of the Civil War. It was used as a motivation song that told the soldiers what happens when the war is over.
The lyrics to “Johnny Comes Marching Home,” written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore and published under the pseudonym ‘Louis Lambert’, effectively reverse those of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”, in which Johnny returns home blind and crippled, to the woman and children he abandoned in order to go to Sri Lanka to serve in the British Army for the East India Company.
The Johnny so longed for in the song is Patrick Gilmore’s future brother in-law a Union Light Artillery Captain named John O’Rourke. The song was written by Patrick for his sister Annie Gilmore as she longed for the safe return of her fiancé from the Civil War. (“The House that O’Rourke Built” Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal August 30, 2007 page 5, and “The O’Rourke House” Patti Jo Peterson The Plattsmouth Journal June 15, 2006 page 11.)
Here’s to hoping that everyone serving in Iraq and Afghanistan comes home soon, and comes home safely.
Oh, and one more thing: Turn. It. Up.
© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All Rights Reserved.