The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
The Songs We Sing
The Songs We Sing.
Let me confess at the outset. I've no ear for music, except that I can tell "Annie Laurie" from the National Anthem. But I've been in. khaki for a few years and guess I've heard as many songs as the next man. What I want to say is, that the songs we like are those with a chorus which nobody can deny.
We like ragtime melodies and sentimental songs; but, above all, we love a rousing, lilting chorus, in which every man can join. If a chap hops out at a camp concert and spouts something classical, he gets a fair hearing, of course; but the following artist, who gets "The Great Big World" off his chest, is rewarded with skyshaking applause, showing that the Boys regard his item as a blessed relief. We go nap oa classical stuff when our girl at Home is "musical"; but as we haven't seen her for years and years, we've forgotten how to appreciate the "real Mackay" in voice stunts.
All this by way of prelude. I want to know, which are the most popular of the songs we sing and like to have sung to us by fellows with "voices"? Let us try to name the twelve best songs, as, in civvy life, we made lists of the dozen best citizens, or roses, or books. Here is my choice, in order of merit; "Little Grey Home in the West", "The Great Big World", "Perfect Day", "If You Were The Only Girl", "The Long Long Trail", "Mother Macree", "When Irish Eyes Are Gleaming", "Broken Doll", "Tennessee", "The Rag Picker", "Because", "Camleela Camyum" (a bonzer song this, though I do place it last).
Don't suppose you'll all agree with me. Well, if you know a dozen better songs, name them. I've heard every one of my favourites sung scores of times—in camps back in Australia, at Moascar, Abbassia, Esbekia Gardens, and out on the Desert under tranquil stars. They'll do me, and I'm pretty particular. I've heard Melba warbling Tosti's "Good Bye", and other immortals, to a vast, spell-bound audience; and a golden-voiced Adelaide girl, who may some day be as famous as she, has sung in my own little home in the South. But neither of them made me feel that I could write poetry with my left hand, as I could when I hear my "best" songs in Palestine.
You remember that concert at Belah, in, March, on the last night of the Sports? Well, I had a good pozzie there, and some of the songs hit me to leg. One artist sang "The Great Big World", another, "My Little Grey Home". They woke up all the sentiment in us; but it was put to sleep again by a couple of comic items.
The songs we sing would not suit Tetrazzini, perchance, still I champion them. We are not constant in our loves, though. Where are the songs of yester year, O where are they? When I enlisted, "Tipperary" was first and the rest nowhere; now you never hear it, except from the grimy lips of a Cairo urchin, or played by some belated street musician. It is rather sad to reflect that my favourites may soon follow the veteran to the silent halls of Neglect. But, no; it is unthinkable. How can they ever fail to charm us?
Why do we like these "catchy" songs? Why does ragtime rule us? Chiefly, I think, because they trip along so smoothly, and never bother our ears with intricate tunes. Some of those ultra classical pieces are wild goose chases after crochets and quavers. Now, putting the "butterfly" songs out of court, can any of your masters of technique hold a candle to the chap who created "Annie Laurie", the best song in the world?
I've said nothing yet about camp songs proper, "Good Soldiers Never Die", and the rest of them. They're all right in their way, but no one will be very sorrowful when they go west. That reminds me. I've written a wee bit song myself, "Stars That Shine When The Moon Is Coy". Keep your eye on the "Coo-ee", lads; maybe they'll print it!