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Story of a Song: "Young Men, White Gloves"


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Okay, here's a song that is still near-and-dear to me, even though it hasn't "made it" yet:  (US registered copyright secured.)

 

I want to talk about what made me write it.  (Full disclosure:  I am fifty-five years old ...)

 

The concept first came to me as I stared out of our apartment window in Atlanta, GA during a rainstorm and saw in the distance a US Marines billboard with the image shown in the YouTube video clip above.  Then, the concept began to "percolate" as I worked on a computer-software project in Nashville, TN fairly close to the "War Memorial Auditorium," which is basically a gigantic marble tomb to Nashville's dead from "The Great War" (World War One ... "The War To End All Wars"), all of whom are carefully listed on brass plaques surrounding the entire space, which is centered with an appropriately noble "Greco-Roman War Glory™" statue.  

 

As I considered other Marine Corps advertisements coming from the same series (all of which are still very much in play), I was confronted by the fact that they glorified war, as a thing that (still living ...) "young men" should be attracted to, without acknowledging the death of likewise "young men" that were being immortalized in "War to End All Wars" monuments of stone built by a a barely-passed prior generation.  

 

For instance, when you view the photo of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima which is eagerly used on an appropriate billboard, did you know that three of the six men in that photo were subsequently killed in action, and that another one later went mad?  Did they forget to tell you that there were 26,000 casualties?  Whoopsie.™

 

As I walked around that marble tomb, virtually the entire war protest came to me, as follows:

  • There would be a single first-person narrator, with bare-minimal adornments.
  • The song would begin and (almost ...) end with "a rainstorm."
  • The true target of the piece would be the father or the grandfather of the young would-be soldier being pitched:  "You know better.  You remember."
  • The song would consist of three sections – (1) introduction, (2) "the (death-free, glory-drenched) pitch to the young would-be soldier," and (3) "the (glory-free, death-drenched) actual consequences to the young soldier's widow ... while(!!) the marketing campaign relentlessly continued(!!!!) (in search of its next coffin)."
  • A musical motif of a single military drum, unchanging throughout, would be centric to both the overture and each of the verses, and to the end.
  • In-between each section there would be two a capella breaks, both of which abandoned the rhythm (and the drum) entirely.
  • Except for these breaks, the orchestral sub-strata will be continuous, and will add to the message, building in complexity and intensity with each repetition (but not overtly).
  • The piece would begin with an orchestral section which would incorporate snatches of the "hymns" of the four major branches of service, as well as other well-known melodies that have called young men to war – all of them incomplete.  (These also appear at various points behind the verses, performed usually by the piccolo.)
  • The piece would end with what the orchestra now reveals to be Taps, and would end with two defiant drum strikes.

 

(Believe it or not, yes – that entire design popped into my head while I walked around a tomb.)

 

The YouTube video that you see above is "only a draft," and I patiently continue to try to figure out how to "properly get it heard," because the very thing that this song is protesting against has become an international business.  And, every single day, kids(!) who know of nothing more than "glory swords" are attracted to it.  That's my songwriting.  That's my song.

 

Yeah, that's my passion.

 

– – –

P.S.:  "This song protests war, not warriors."  Not "the fact that you (or your loved ones) 'honorably served,'" but rather, "why 😭 were they demanded to do so?"  And, perhaps, "under what deceptive pretenses, by a corporation(!!) that didn't care?"  Somehow ("Ike" tried his best to warn us!) "war, itself, became a business.  And, world-wide, we continue to pay the dearest price.

 

The phrase, "Semper Fi," was purposely included in the lyric – but with utmost respect, and with the specific intention of contrasting the personal commitment of the soldier against the utterly-impersonal motives of those who drive him/her to be there.

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This isn't bad at all, for some reason it reminds me of Pink Floyd. I like it ☺️

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On 7/21/2018 at 7:59 AM, fasstrack said:

Could be a classic. Moved the hell out of me anyway.

My one criticism: too much repetition---the point is made  early---we all get it. I also hear maybe a buildup to a sub-plot: perhaps a boy sees the billboard or a parade, buys it enlists---and we all know the rest. (Or maybe his story could be 'part 2'?)

 

Very well done--congrats!...

 

I've heard comments that the "overture" is too long, and that the structure (O-ABABA) is too unchanging, but I actually conceived this song with that express structure in mind.  I'm right now working on another song which, much as you suggested, features an actor.  I think I'm going to focus on the last night that he spends at home before going off to his first combat deployment.  He finds himself questioning the indoctrination that he received at boot camp; wondering if he made the worst mistake of his life.  Wondering if he'll ever see home again.

 

Because we do "all know the rest" with regards to this material, I want to be careful not to indulge in a "trope."

 

Glad you folks liked it.  Now, how can I promote it?  Get it heard, maybe get it recorded?

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