Down the Rabbit Hole with BoS

Yeah Right’s air guitar post led to this.  So, if you have anyone to blame, it’s him.

When I was growing up in the 80s, I was incredibly lucky to grow up in Los Angeles, where I was exposed to many forms of music all reaching at that time what many would consider their respective peaks.  I include in this early hip hop, the birth of “alternative rock” to use a strange and ambiguous phrase (others called it New Wave), punk, and hell, even country was good in those days.  One particular type of music that really grabbed me early on was heavy metal.  The first album I purchased (on vinyl from Music Plus!) was Defenders of the Faith by Judas Priest.  This was, of course, because that album had just come out when I was old enough to have my own money with which to buy things.  I would later buy many of their earlier work as well as albums by the other titan of the era:  Iron Maiden.

The thing I loved, and still to this day love, about Iron Maiden is that they are smart.  So fucking smart.  They are geniuses at marketing, coming up with Eddie

from the very beginning and using him as an alternative revenue stream.

Their music is technically challenging (the layering of multiple guitars, the arrangements influenced by classical music, Bruce’s opera-like voice) and the lyrics are mind-provoking and thoughtful.  Their videos (back when videos were actually shown on TV) were totally different from anything else and actually told a story:

and yet they still rocked hard.  Iron Maiden has always used classic themes of good and evil and heaven and hell in a way where you can see the allure of both sides:

Another recurring theme is war.  In particular, war from the point of view of the defeated:

which brings me to probably my favorite Maiden song:  The Trooper.

The Trooper has many layers to it.  It can be viewed as a modern-day take on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which was about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 during the Crimean War.  It has also been viewed as a criticism of Tennyson’s work as too patriotic and defending military blunders.  Here are both for comparison purposes.  The poem:

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

The song:

You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too
You’ll fire your musket but I’ll run you through
So when you’re waiting for the next attack
You’d better stand there’s no turning back.

The Bugle sounds and the charge begins
But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of acrid smoke and horses breath
As I plunge on into certain death.

The horse he sweats with fear we break to run
The mighty roar of the Russian guns
And as we race towards the human wall
The screams of pain as my comrades fall.

We hurdle bodies that lay on the ground
And the Russians fire another round
We get so near yet so far away
We won’t live to fight another day.

We get so close near enough to fight
When a Russian gets me in his sights
He pulls the trigger and I feel the blow
A burst of rounds take my horse below.

And as I lay there gazing at the sky
My body’s numb and my throat is dry
And as I lay forgotten and alone
Without a tear I draw my parting groan.

I’d say the Maiden version of the story is better, wouldn’t you?  Since this is a rabbithole we’re in, of course it leads in different unexpected directions.  The Crimean War was a fascinating war for many reasons. This was the war of Florence Nightingale. It was also the first war to use railways tactically and also the first to use the telegraph to provide “live” reporting from the battlefield.  As we have seen with the Internet, the speed of information influences greatly its content.

The Crimean War also brought about the creation of the Victoria Cross which, to this day, remains the highest military honor awarded for valour by the UK.  Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear fame, did a brilliant documentary on it:

It is said that the metal from which the medal is made came from guns confiscated from the Russians during the Crimean War.

The Crimean War had many consequences.  It set the stage for the decline of Austria, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the ascendancy of France, and the sale of Russian America.  What, you didn’t know Alaska used to belong to Russia?  Yup, yes it did.

It also predicted Putin’s current grab of Crimea from Ukraine for similar reasons: an appeal to restore nationalistic pride.  This was evidenced by the Russo-Turkish War:

This one is for you, Moose.

Feel free to go down that rabbit hole, but this one leads to Ukraine.  Specifically, it leads to the book that King Hippo once recommended to me and that I recommend to you now:  Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.  It tells the story of who really was impacted the most during World War 2 and by impacted I mean where most of the killing happened and by who.  Let me give you a flavor of the book:

“For both Hitler and Stalin, Ukraine was more than a source of food.  It was the place that would enable them to break the rules of traditional economics, rescue their countries from poverty and isolation, and remake the continent in their own image.  Their programs and their power all depended upon their control of Ukraine’s fertile soil and its millions of agricultural laborers.  In 1933, Ukrainians would die in the millions, in the greatest artificial famine in the history of the world.  This was the beginning of the special history of Ukraine, but not the end.  In 1941, Hitler would seize Ukraine from Stalin, and attempt to realize his own colonial vision beginning with the shooting of Jews and the starvation of Soviet prisoners of war.  The Stalinists colonized their own country, and the Nazis colonized occupied Soviet Ukraine: and the inhabitants of Ukraine suffered and suffered.  During the years that both Stalin and Hitler were in power, more people were killed in Ukraine than anywhere else in the bloodlands, or in Europe, or in the world.”

It’s not an easy read is what I’m saying.

Which brings us back full circle to today’s post by makeitsnow and the nomination of Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.  If you choose to watch it, and it sounds like you probably should, I would suggest you read the Bloodlands book and get a deeper perspective on Ukraine and what is behind a lot of things happening in the world today.

Thanks for taking the trip with me.

ballsofsteelandfury

ballsofsteelandfury

International Member of the Geelong Cats and recovering Steelers fan. Likes Butts. And Balls. And Boobs. Pretty much anything that starts with the letter B. Preferably together.
ballsofsteelandfury

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Low Commander of the Super Soldiers
Member

This Battle of Baklava sounds very exciting. It was obviously fought for vast riches and rewards.

http://www.bonappetit.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/walnut-and-pistachio-baklava-646.jpg

Don T
Member

On second thought, fuck work. I’m gonna stay in, read this wonderful essay again, and then take in Liverpool / City.
Goddamn it Balls; this is great!

yeah right
Member

I blame myself.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Active Member
Beerguyrob
Member

I’ve read “Bloodlands”, and I’m going to see Maiden in April.

GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!

Seriously, this was a great read. Thanks for putting it together and making the video links available.

BrettFavresColonoscopy
Member

Holy Balls that was intense. Bookmarking for a morning read.

Col. Duke LaCross
Member

Some more rabbit-holing: I saw this documentary at Sundance last year. It got into the politics of the current occupation, as well as the history of Russia’s subjugation of the Ukraine told through the eyes of an artist that was a kid living Pripyat when Chernobyl melted down. Gets into a lot of Cold War stuff too.

http://www.russianwoodpecker.com

Col. Duke LaCross
Member

Just checked, it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Instant. Worth a view, although I was wrong. He was a kid in Kiev that got sent away from town on a bus to an orphanage to escape the radiation.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Active Member
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
ThePirateSloth
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ThePirateSloth

comment image

ThePirateSloth
Member
ThePirateSloth

Jokes aside, I think every 4 months or so, I swapped out Iron Maiden posters on my walls, because those things were fucking awesome.

entropy
Member

I grew up idolizing Derek Riggs, among others, but those Maiden covers had a huge influence on Young entropy.

make it snow
Member

ironmaidan

King Hippo
Member

HOLY FUCK that is good

indieguy
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indieguy
entropy
Member

Best Maiden Song is Revelations, and the best version is off of Live After Death. I will hurt you if you disagree.

Sill Bimmons
Member
Sill Bimmons

Going to stay away from this.

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