The Pogues–And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

 

Sometimes a song gets passed around so often that the idea of an original fades away.  Often what arises in its place is a definitive version.  Such is the case with The Pogues’ rendition of And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.  Although it was originally written by Eric Bogle in the 1970’s about the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, the Shane MacGowan fronted version is the one that cements the song’s place as a classic.  The band keeps things simple and traditional, forgoing the creep of punk that punched up some of their other work.  Instead, it’s all about MacGowan’s delivery.  Over more than eight minutes, he honestly, angrily and compelling recounts the tale of a maimed Australian soldier.  No one else quite captures the pain and absurdity of the situation like him.  It’s slightly raw, but with the believable detached distance of time.  Hopeless and weary, it’s as though he only has the strength to tell the story this one last time.  With that emotion, The Pogues managed to create one of the most powerful protest songs recorded in the last 40 years.  It’s still achingly relevant, and shows little has changed in the 100 years since the story originated.

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