Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Internationale whinge

You can sing the words of the Internationale to the tune of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Well, according to a commenter, fishcanoeski, on the marvellous Wonkette site, you can.
A Malcolm aside:
This sounds like a task Humph would have set for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, but ... who cares? In passing, if true fame is being recognised by a single name, what about superstardom needing only a single syllable?

Even more bizarre, this musical confusion is a spin-off from an article by Philip Adams in the Australian, pointing out that Christmas is all a Communist plot, and reminding us of the dubious links (as in "links, rechts, links") between Karl Marx and Santa Claus.

Even after a second reading, Malcolm is not convinced that Wonkette entirely appreciates that Australians received a double helping of irony, largely at the expense of Americans. The previously-mentioned pert piece, Malcolm's daughter, believes it's an engrained genetic thing: the emigrants to Australia were hard-cases recruited from the gaols of the United Kingdom, whereas those to the American colonies were good-living Puritans and Presbyterians. Hence the difference in world-view.

If there's any doubt of that observable fact, Malcolm asks for an explanation of Utah: why did the Almighty (in whom so many Americans trust) put all those tourist traps in a State where alcoholics like Malcolm suffer have to suffer root-beer and withdrawal symptoms? That's not irony, it's vengeance.

Any other gripe, Malc?

Yes, indeedy.

Years back, Malcolm went to the memorial service for a well-loved local parson. The suffragan Bishop told the painful story of visiting the dying man. Together they tried to recite the Lord's Prayer. Unfortunately, the modernisers had cocked that up as well. So, the dying man went for the politically-correct "modern" version: the Bishop, deferring to age and tradition, went for the approved Prayer Book version. The Bishop, from the pulpit, reflected poignantly, on how two aged men were unable to connect at such a moment.

That's the anecdote. Now, the point.

Why is the Internationale not?

Well, when it annoyed the CIA and the Red-baiters, for a start. Back in December 1943 we were all palsy with the Soviets. Toscanini conducted the NBC Symphony in New York, doing Verdi, for a film sponsored by the Office of war Information. The concert began with the first verse of the Internationale, sung in Russian no less, followed by the American anthem. In course of time, RCA reissued the recording as an LP, and the Internationale disappeared, to be replaced by The Star-Spangled Banner.

Then, there are several versions, in English, of the Left's most important theme tune. It is, after all, one of the few matters on which anyone left of centre should be able to concur. Yet, even in English, it has a variety of lyrics.

The version that Malcolm caroled to Dublin's College Green, on Friday 16th October 1964, after an extended evening in O'Neill's, Suffolk Street, celebrating the UK General election results, went like this:

The best American doing it is, inevitably, Pete Seeger doing it multi-lingually, and critically:

Billy Bragg has had a go at updating it:

Which leaves only one question:

Can we agree on one thing, comrades?

... but no bloody reindeer! O.K.?
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