Come on Lads
Canteen songs of World War Two

Sods' Opera




Here is a superb collection of servicemen's songs, ballads and parodies from World War Two. Sung at informal NAAFI concerts, on the march and in the back of 3-ton trucks, they were, almost without exception, composed by the fighting men themselves. Alternately insubordinate, patriotic, funny, shocking and deeply moving, all faithfully reflect the varied issues and emotions which confronted ordinary servicemen of the time. The D-Day Dodgers, Bloody Orkney, the Sinking of the Graf Spee, Tins, I Haven't Seen Old Hitler , the Gay Caballero, Longmoor, Africa Star, I Don't Want to Join the Army, My Bomber Lies Over the Ocean, When this Bloody War is Over... these are just a few which will stir memories.

The collection includes 25 tracks and well over 60 minutes of playing time. Unavoidably, the language is often bawdy (you will, for example, hear the chorus of the favourite, Bless 'em All, sung with the verb more commonly used by wartime servicemen). And the album comes with the warning that it includes uncensored material which some may find offensive. But this is much more than a collection of ribaldries. The Dying Soldier, commemorating a lad from the Borders, is a simple tribute which touches very deeply. Down the Mine, sung by POWs in the Far East is also intensely affecting. The haunting Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily has been called the best song to come out of World War Two.

The band itself takes its name from forces' slang - a sods' opera was an unofficial concert party, usually held in barracks (though the term was also applied to any beery sing-song). And the musical arrangements accurately recapture the sound of an informal wartime ensemble, built around piano, clarinet, accordion, double bass and drums. On individual tracks, the sound is enriched by saxophone, trombone, violin, concertina, harmonica - and even a 'comb and toilet paper' chorus. The band's director, Dave Townsend, is a specialist in period music, well known elsewhere for his settings of the music of Thomas Hardy. Material for COME ON LADS has been drawn both from printed sources and from the personal reminiscence of veterans who include Lord (Denis) Healey, father of Sods' Opera producer, Tim Healey.

What the critics have said...

Rude Words in The Guardian!

'Album of the month' Jim Lloyd, 
BBC Radio 2

'A real slice of folklore - squaddie poetry.' 
Patrick O'Connor, Daily Telegraph

'I like the way the songs rough the past up a bit. They stop it sinking into a nostalgic bog with no sharp points of reference.' 
Laurie Taylor, BBC Radio 4

'Superb...really does capture the spirit of singing around a canteen piano.' 
Major Richard Powell, British Forces Broadcasting Service

'The performances fizz with energy, and I've not heard such gusto for a long time. Ian Giles, the main singer, has a splendid voice... Come On Lads is going to be a winner.' 
Roy Palmer, English Dance and Song

'It's rude, crude...funny, moving.' 
Fiona Webster, Daily Star

'Has been criticised by clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse because of its strong language. Frankly, we would rather hear it as it was, than the sanitized version. It always was hard to believe that people would shout 'golly gosh' when they saw a German bomb coming at them.' 
Editorial, Oxford Mail

'These lyrics are an outlet for the hopes, fears and frustrations of one section of the common people, variously homesick, mucked around, bored and facing violent death.... Congratulations to Tim Healey for his researches.' 
Nick Beale, Folk Roots

'The humour inherent in this collection can't help but raise a smile... A very enjoyable album.' 
Dave Haslam, Rock'n'Reel

'Here's an album of servicemen's songs that really is what it claims to be. No pious hymns to the folly of war written years after the event, but the viewpoint of the squaddies, erks and matlo's in the heart of World War Two.... These songs illustrate the gritty humanity of people in desperate situations. The moods vary from humorous to tragic, the language is uncensored but true. Well played, Sods' Opera.' 
Roy Harris, Taplas

'I'm speechless.' 
Mary Whitehouse

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