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Roger Clarke's Eric Bogle Page

'And The Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda''

Roger Clarke

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1995-2006

Version of 27 February 2006

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It's a page within Roger Clarke's Waltzing Matilda site

This site is mainly about the song called 'Waltzing Matilda'.

But there's also a popular song called 'And The Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda'.

People get confused between the two, so this page provides some information about the second of thosee two.

The song 'And The Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda' was written by Scottish-Australian balladist Eric Bogle in 1971. It has been interpretated in highly varying ways. But the expression 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda' is central to the chorus, and many of the versions that have been recorded end with a haunting rendition of a few bars of 'Waltzing Matilda' (the Victorian version, i.e. the well-known one).

'And The Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda' is an anti-war song, nominally about Gallipoli in 1915, but really about Vietnam either side of 1970 (different decades, different countries, different protagonists, much the same outcomes). And of course it's as timeless as the victim is legless. (Sorry, but you can't afford sentimentality in a job like this).

From Jon Casimir's excellent article in The Sydney Morning Herald of 21 April 2002, I discovered that it was written in 1971, while Bogle was living in Canberra (where I've lived since 1984), and was first performed at the Kingston Hotel (in south-central Canberra, about 12 km from where I live).

Bogle told Casimir that it was first recorded by 'Rockin'' John Curry in 1974. But the song's explosion in popularity began in England. It was taken there in 1974 by Jane Herivel, who had heard it at the 1974 National Folk Festival in Brisbane (where it won third prize in the songwriting competition). She "wrote down the words and took it home" (Graham McDonald, The Canberra Times Arts Section, 18 February 2006). It was performed in England by her, and then by June Tabor.

From the U.K. it was taken to the U.S. by Archie Fisher, in about 1975-76. It also migrated to Ireland, where it reached number 1 on the pop chart during 1976. Bogle first recorded it himself in 1977 or 1978 (which he reckons is the worst version he's heard), and he's recorded it several times since. It's also been recorded in Danish, Spanish, French, Portuguese and more besides. "By 1996 one researcher tracked down 130 recordings, 10 in languages other than English" (McDonald again).

Bogle said he regards June Tabor's unaccompanied version as the best interpretation he's heard. McDonald suggests that the best known version in Australia is by The Bushwhackers ("which leaves a verse out, as they learnt the words by 'phoning a friend', who inadvertantly forgot the verse while singing it down the line"). But there appear to be 10 versions on offer at The Australian Country Music Store alone. ('Australian Country Music' is a strange mix: Irish folk re-settled here 150 years ago, with lots of other threads, but regrettably badly infected by Yanqui 'Country & Western' in the last couple of decades. But ignore me, I know nothing about the subject, and I'm a bigot as well. Hang on, that qualifies me to have an opinion, right?!).

On 27 February 2006, Eric was interviewed on the popular Margaret Throsby show on ABC Classic. (The program is an Australian variant of the Brit 'desert island discs' genre, but more attuned to 'the yarts', as we disrespectfully call the creative arts here).

The 55-minute interview commenced with Eric Bogle's own (1984) version of 'And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda', recorded live in Perth (Rouseabout Records RRR38 7'48"), and most of the next 12 minutes of audio discussed it. Bogle said it was one of his first songs, written in 1971, amidst the Vietnam Moratorium. A year or so earlier, aged in his twenties, he'd arrived in Australia from Peebles, in the Borders area of Scotland. (35 years later, he retains a wicked Scots accent).

Well aware of the significance of Anzac Day to Australians, he went to the Anzac Day Parade in Canberra on 25 April 1971. He was also well aware from his school-days in Scotland of the story of the Gallipoli fiasco in 1915 that gave rise to the Anzac mythology, and of Waltzing Matilda and its place in the Australian psyche.

In writing an anti-war song, he tried to avoid denigrating the servicemen who'd suffered, and wanted to indict those responsible for the ridiculous loss of life and limb in war, especially in unnecessary wars (like Vietnam) and unnecessary actions (like Gallipoli).

He said that the song didn't come easily, and he had to work hard on rhyme, rhythm, and making it make sense. He reckoned it has resonance again in 2004-07, because of the Iraq war. And its international appeal is because the experience of war is common to all countries (as well as being simply far too common).

The somewhat obscure publication and popularisation route has resulted in several of the more than 100 albums on which it's been recorded signifying it as 'Trad.' rather than '© Eric Bogle'. Copyright agencies keep an eye out for such things, but Eric admits that he was too careless with it, and let it get away. As McDonald said, "having one of a writer's songs being absorbed into the general collective of 'folksong' is considered a notable honour, thought it can sometimes make collecting royalties rather more difficult, and royalties are what a songwriter lives from".

In principle, I suspect Bogle could let the dogs of war loose - so's to speak - and squeeze a lot more money out of people for their use of the song. But, as he said, in the end he doesn't really mind - (paraphrasing) 'I'm a song-writer. I like it to be heard. It's been sung in many styles (operatic, country and western, punk, ...). All interpretations are valid, whether I like them or not'.

For a licence, you can contact Larrikin Music Pty Limited, 4/30-32 Carrington Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia. (But Eric's shown his dislike for earning money by choosing a company that is basically invisible). Alternatively, APRA administers the rights to performances of the song, which in their catalogue has the id GW00450946. If, on the other hand, you're proposing to use a copyrighted recording of a performance, then ARIA is the relevant collecting society.

Here are:

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Created: 11 February 1995 - Last Amended: 27 February 2006 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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