Friday May 5 1995
Diary: Matthew Norman
Roll over Shabba Ranks, tell Vera Lynn the news... that the most obscene record for years has just been released. It can be bought mail order from, of all fabled disseminators of filth, the British Legion. COME ON LADS is a collection of wartime songs, as sung not by Dame Vera ('Anzio and Sangro were a farce/ We did fuck all - sat on our arse'; probably not quite the Forces' Sweetheart's thing), but by the troops themselves. It is potent stuff, and many old soldiers may not approve of the legion's involvement. However, Denis Healey, a much decorated beachmaster at Anzio, calls it 'magnificent', and is preparing to spearhead the publicity drive in his old tin hat.
The record company owner, Lord Healey's son, Tim, says he wanted to make a VE Day record of authentic soldiers' songs. He thinks the British Legion is 'very brave' to lend its logo to the CD, and fears controversy. Some songs are sombre and moving, but others crudely satirise the fatigue of service and the disappearance of senior officers. Take this verse, from Onward Fifteen Army Group (a parody of Onward Christian Soldiers):
Meanwhile a line in the Firth of Forth (Actually, in 'I've been in the Saddle' - TH) refers to an act of bestiality with a pig.
Mr Healey believes the album would be perfect for street parties, but my old friend Mary Whitehouse disagrees. 'Good grief. It shows an almost unbelievable lack of sensitivity. Soldiers may have sung them in the trenches but, believe me, they wouldn't sing them in the home. I'm speechless.' But not for long. 'With a pig? It's beyond words. Is that why we fought the war? For this? I just wonder what Dame Vera Lynn would have to say about it.' I suspect we may soon find out.
THE GUARDIAN Wednesday May 10 1995
With reference to Mary Whitehouse's comments (Guardian Diary, May 5) on our album of servicemen's songs from the Second World War, COME ON LADS, performed by Sods' Opera... 'It shows an almost unbelievable lack of sensitivity'? Mary Whitehouse cannot have heard the whole of the album which includes many deeply moving and wholly uncontroversial songs written by fighting men of the time. Tracks have already been played on Forces Radio where Major Richard Powell has been kinf enough to refer to the collection as 'superb'. But it is true that we have pulled no punches in atempting to document - authentically - the voice of British servicemen. The plain fact is that the men who fought at Alamein and elsewhere went into battle singing (with relish):
Ask anyone's dad. I asked mine.
NOTE: The Royal British Legion benefits from the sale of this work
Copyright © 1996 Beautiful Jo Records