"My Youngest Son" version by Billy Bragg
I've been feeling a little intimidated by the vast amounts of text that Ratti, Graham and Jared have managed to attach to their important songs. Although Ratti assures me that there's no rules that say I have to write a lot or even take the exercise seriously that, of course, didn't stop me from feeling kinda lame by writing "the first song I learned on the recorder" while Jared was writing hundreds of words on his early love of show tunes.
Anyhoo, I may not always go this far, but I thought a vaguely serious entry in my list couldn't hurt.
Many moons ago, before the oceans drank Atlantis and all that, there was a group of friends who called themselves - amongst other things - the Recycled Virgins. One year, over an Australia Day long weekend, they went down to Graham's parent's beach house (near Browlee[sp?]) and had much fun. They relearned - at age 17 - the joy of the ice-cream man. They cooked and et and played Magic and Scrabble and other fun games. They kicked the water at twilight and watched the iridescent algae. And a very young - well, quite young - Euan was taught a song walking back from the beach.
It was a warm night, and the sun had been gone for a couple of hours, so true dark had fallen, and after a walk on the beach we headed home. One of the group heading home was Robyn Scholes, at that time still dating a chef, and she it was that taught me the song. I do not remember the exact reason the song came up, but I do remember Robyn singing it as we walked along roads still warm from the day's sun. I remember looking over at her more than a couple of times and I also remember that I regret not kissing her that night. Of course, I was still all young and innocent then, and she was still dating someone, so I never would have, but the regret was there.
The song itself is actually about an IRA soldier killed and his return home to be buried, his return home marked by a parent (father assumed, 'cause Billy was singing, mother assumed when it was Bobbi). My own opinions on terrorists in general and the IRA in particular are well-known (and formed in not a small way through conversations with my father (who served in the RAF in Northern Ireland)), but the sadness of the song, and the simple folk-y-ness (for want of a better word) of the lyrics means that this is still one of my favourite songs of all time.
The reason for this, I feel, is because politics do not enter into the song. It doesn't have an "the English are all demons" verse or an "all IRA members should burn in hell" verse, it is just a simple, sad song about a dead child coming home and the things that child will never experience.
And when a good-looking girl sings you a sad, beautiful song on a warm, clear night, it can turn a guy's head.