Saturday, 1 October 2011

Name That Tune

So I walk into the kitchen and there is young Ms. McMenamin, aged 12, doing some nonsense free-form rapping about squirrels or whatever. It was the tune that caught my attention: dum-dum-de-dum/dum-dum-de-dum/de-dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum.
I asked her if she knew what the tune was called, and she searched her memory and came up with a rather hesitant,"..  something about trees?".

"Well... sort of", I say:" ... but there are other words as well". A veil of blankness descends.  I called her 14 year old brother and asked him the same question only to get the same blank response. Now this depresses me, as he is by far and away the most politically aware kid of his age that I know. He wrote to Searchlight magazine asking to do his work experience next year FFS. But, no, he didn't know the words to that tune either.

Of course, my kids are not on their own: I see that whole conference halls full of people who might be expected to know the words need laminated cards to remind them. But when I was 12 or 14 everybody knew them. & I mean everybody, not just those who identified with the words in any way.

 I find it desperately sad to see something slipping away from popular cultural memory. It's not that I think either the words or the tune itself are that wonderful per se, but the idea that they're losing their status as widespread cultural reference points,  something almost like a nursery rhyme, obscurely upsets me. Even when one gets to the stage of doubting , even distrusting, any simplistic identification with 'flags and banners' of any kind, including musical ones, one has to be able to know which 'flags and banners' one is distrusting, or making ironic reference to, or whatever. 

So the kids are on a programme of 'repeat after me till you get it word perfect'. The rest of you can make do with this. 



  1. My own political sympathies are a million miles away - well, maybe not that far - but this was beautifully expressed. And, strangely, I find myself agreeing with you.

  2. Shucks Phil, that's kind of you. The thing is I'm disappointed by this without especially liking the tune. The Spanish and Italians always had a more rousing alternative.

  3. I used to sing this to the wee boys to get them over to sleep at night.

    As Phil says, beautifully expressed.

  4. Ha! My kids were sung to sleep with 'Red Fly the Banners-Oh' which is wonderfully repetitive and goes on for a long time.

    'Daddy, sing "One-Oh".'

  5. Thanks for dropping by Ken

    Well I did sing that, but not the thirteenth or fourteenth verse (not even when drunk, honest...)

  6. The version I learned (and sang) was almost the same except it had 'Five for the years of the Soviet Plan and four for the International' and 'Seven for the stars in Connolly's flag' - and I'll uphold the latter against 'the Seventh World Congress' any day :-)