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Anachronisms in lyrics

13 Mar 15 - 02:08 PM (#3693689)
Subject: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Mrrzy

OK, I noticed way back in the '70's that in Jesus Christ Superstar, there is this line, sung to the newly-captured Jesus: You'll escape in the final reel.

I always thought that was funny since movies hadn't been invented yet.

Of course now it's anachronistic in a different way, since movies aren't on reels any more.

But then I heard JCS again the other day and found this line: Did Mohamed move the mountain, or was that just PR? and realized for the first time that Mohamed was 9th century, another anachronism. What an idiot, I thought to myself, for not catching *that* till now. I mean I do know al(most) the songs al(most) the way through, I've sung that line a zillion times and never caught the anachronism.

I searched the Forum and found no threads on this topic, so if you've posted other ones you've noticed before, here's a chance to tell the stories all over again, newly.

Slight thread creep, to Musical Anachronisms in Soundtracks: My dad always minded that The Sting was mostly set to ragtime, since it was set decades after ragtime was big. At least they *had* ragtime then, though. In fact that was the example he used when teaching me the meaning of the word Anachronism.


13 Mar 15 - 06:33 PM (#3693756)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Bainbo

A possible anachronism always irritates me during John McCutcheon's otherwise splendid Christmas In The Trenches, which puts these words into the mouth of a British soldier: "Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well.

I'm pretty certain nobody would have referred to it as World War I back then. Not until there'd been a second war, anyway. This page claims the term "First World War" was coined as early as 1918, as soon as the war finished, but wasn't in common usage. But not the phrase "World War I". It just doesn't sound right.

And that brings me to another discrepancy. The song tells of taking part in the Christmas Truce of 1914. The first verse tells us: "Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school." So, even if he joined up immediately before the events of Christmas 1914, the narration can't be taking place any later than 1916 or 1917, while the war was still being fought. So how do you get "Each Christmas come since World War I", which seems to indicate he's speaking well after the war finished?

And finally (sorry about this – I really do love the song!) – not so much an anachronism, but rather whatever the linguistic equivalent is, and the one that really bugs me: "In a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell." Soccer? The words are being attributed to a soldier from Liverpool, England. I know the word "soccer" was coined in the UK, as an abbreviation for Association Football, but I don't hear it in common use now, a cursory search doesn't turn up any evidence that it was in common use then, and it just jars on the ears of a British English speaker to hear it put into the mouth of a British soldier.

But it's still a far better song than I'll ever be able to write.


13 Mar 15 - 06:47 PM (#3693757)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe

From "The Galtee Mountain Boy"

"I joined the flying column in 1916"

They were no flying columns in 1916, they were first formed in 1919 or 1920.


13 Mar 15 - 08:12 PM (#3693779)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Joe_F

Bainbo: The text as I have it says "*Ten* years ago...". That makes much more sense. The singer is remembering the incident from well after the war.

However, you are right that "World War I" would have been an anachronism even in 1924. The usual term for it at that time (if something more specific than "the war" was needed) was "the Great War". That wouldn't scan in the song, but any of a number of descriptive phrases would have done the job.

I also tend to agree that a common soldier would have been more likely to say "football" than "soccer". However, is it possible that he would have said "soccer" if he wanted for some reason to exclude the possibility of Rugby football ("rugger")?


14 Mar 15 - 12:02 AM (#3693796)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Mrrzy

(I am reminded of an Encyclopedia Brown where he solves the case because nobody referred to the first Battle of Bull Run till there had been a second one. Also, the pope is Francis, he won't be Francis I till there is a second one. But I digress.)


14 Mar 15 - 02:46 AM (#3693813)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Grishka

Tim Rice, the librettist of JCS, did not intend a comment on history, but on the present-day "superstar" cult. All well-calculated and (to some extent) serving the purpose.

Lyricists whose intention is "learning from history" have a tougher task, and usually fail. (So do their prose counterparts on Mudcat, who additionally lack the power of poetic language.) The gravest anachronisms are not about facts, but about ways of thinking and feeling.


14 Mar 15 - 02:54 AM (#3693814)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,HiLo

That is really interesting point of view. I had never thought of anachronisms in quite that way before . thank you for that thought provOking comment.


14 Mar 15 - 03:13 AM (#3693816)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Thompson

Mohammed was in the seventh century. PR is eternal.


14 Mar 15 - 03:33 AM (#3693821)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Musket

Or artistic licence as we call it.

I perform a latter-day Albert Ramsbottom monologue written by my mate Mitch (as opposed to Marriot Edgar) where Albert gives a young girl a piece of his choc ice, notwithstanding they hadn't been invented at the time of Albert.

Anachronistic? No, just prosaic. And a welcome change from knob gags.


14 Mar 15 - 04:29 AM (#3693833)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Bainbo

Joe F: Your version of Christmas In The Trenches must have been amended to make more sense. John McCutcheon quite clearly sings "two years" at 0:43, and it is transcribed as such in the DT.

And differentiating betwen soccer and rugger? No. The games would be "football" and "rugby".


14 Mar 15 - 11:30 AM (#3693924)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Grishka

Like with a driver's licence, takers of artistic licence must prove themselves worthy of it. Tim Rice's approach is actually based on ironic anachronisms, thus not to be criticized at all for them.

Writers like Shakespeare write stories set in history but developing their message by themselves. Licence is granted according to the quality and intrinsic correctness of the story.

It is a different thing if historical facts are used as arguments; these should be correct and set in their correct context. I am sure that we can learn from history, but only if we take a modest approach, which does not really go well with passionate appeals.


14 Mar 15 - 12:02 PM (#3693934)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST

And differentiating betwen soccer and rugger? No. The games would be "football" and "rugby".

The use of the word "football" has both class and regional variations but in the first half of the last century was regualarly used for both eleven and fifteen man games.


14 Mar 15 - 12:33 PM (#3693940)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: John P

The anachronisms in Superstar never came across as anachronisms to me, but rather as a recurring motif that was an integral part of the theme of the story. There is anachronistic language scattered throughout. A few examples:
"What's the buzz?"
"Try not to turn on . . ."
"he's top of the poll"
"What do we do about this Jesusmania?"
and of course multiple uses of the word "Superstar" itself.

On a tangent to the anachronism question is the portrayal of people playing music in films. Sometimes it looks real, but all too often it makes musicians laugh and point. I'm sure there's some old threads on that, though.


14 Mar 15 - 01:11 PM (#3693952)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Steve Parkes

The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1889 as the first appearance in print of soccer and rugger:
1889   Boy's Own Paper 6 Apr. 431/3   In Varsity patois Rugby is yclept 'Rugger', while Association has for its synonym 'Socker'.

'Socker' and 'socca' appear before 'soccer' (1895). 'Football' was a game as far back as the 15th century, although it was probably more like football hooliganism than the Beautiful Game we know today.


14 Mar 15 - 01:29 PM (#3693955)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Dave

"The use of the word "football" has both class and regional variations but in the first half of the last century was regualarly used for both eleven and fifteen man games."

And thirteen, surely. That has been separate since 1895.


14 Mar 15 - 02:25 PM (#3693972)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Keith A of Hertford

I love the McCutcheon song, and sing it myself, but besides previously mentioned, gas had not been used by Christmas 1914 and there was no rocky ground on the British front.
I sing from memory, and sometimes my memory plays tricks.

The boy in the Bantry Girl's Lament is fighting a war before Peel had invented Peelers.


14 Mar 15 - 05:05 PM (#3694035)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Joe_F

It really does seem that McCutcheon didn't do his homework. Maybe he'll see this thread & patch the song.


14 Mar 15 - 05:28 PM (#3694043)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Mysha

Hi,

Jesus Christ Superstar, judged by the details in the movie, is about a group of 20th century people playing the passion. Thus, the anachronisms are part of the plot. I don't know whether that's true for the play, as I've only ever seen the film version. (Then again, I've noticed differences between the soundtracks, but I couldn't say whether the lyrics of the play have less anachronisms or not.)


Most of Christmas in the Trenches is apparently set in 1916, recalling the events of Christmas 1914. In the last, short verse, the speaker again introduces himself, which suggests that verse is not part of the same conversation. It's apparently much later, as he reflects not just on WWI, but at what it has taught him (and as he doesn't call the events "The Great War").

Maybe in the mean time, after the war, he went to college, and picked up "soccer" and "rugger"; quite common at the time I believe. "Gas clouds", I expect, may be any large amount of smoke not caused by open fire. Don't know about "rocky ground"; it sounds like it's ground with stones in it, which would probably exist where the front crossed river beds. I don't know the British positions, though.

Bye,
                                                               Mysha


14 Mar 15 - 05:49 PM (#3694049)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Peadar Callaigh

ground with stones in it, which would probably exist where the front crossed river beds

The Somme valley, the British sector, is deep silt.


14 Mar 15 - 06:40 PM (#3694067)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Mysha

Hi,

Well, the Somme played a role in the discussion whether Man met Mammoth. That discussion was about its gravel beds, IIRC, which would suggest there is indeed ground with stones there.

But the intended implication was, of course, that lyrics can have unlikely wording, but that that's not enough for a stamp of anachronism, as it then it comes down to proving negatives. How do you prove there was not a single location where soldiers slept where there were stones in the ground, not even stones that a farmer had put in at that spot to fill in a mud hole?

The anachronisms are the big things, the things that can't be reasoned away with a favourable interpretation of the lyrics.
"In the Year of the Lord seven hundred and six, we steamed up to the city of New York. Down below in the hold we had memory sticks, and some wine flasks with screw caps for corks."

Still probably plenty of anachronisms, even with that approach.

Bye,
                                                                Mysha


15 Mar 15 - 02:49 AM (#3694118)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Snuffy

If the words are being attributed to a soldier from Liverpool, then he's probably more likely to say footy than soccer


15 Mar 15 - 03:53 AM (#3694128)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Leadfingers

Not so much an Anachronism as a VERY Bad example of Fact Distortion !
In the old song 'The Alamo' is the line "Young Davy Crockett was laughing and dying" when IF I recall correctly he was at least 65 years old .


12 Jun 21 - 09:34 AM (#4109821)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Mrrzy

Just saw a lot of Rio Grande, in which the Irish troopers sing songs to John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, including The Bold Fenian Men, which wouldn't be written for decades.


12 Jun 21 - 03:24 PM (#4109873)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Lighter

"Young Davy" was 50, born in 1786.


12 Jun 21 - 04:22 PM (#4109877)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: The Sandman

The boy in the Bantry Girl's Lament is fighting a war before Peel had invented Peelers.
no no no.
the first thousand of Peel’s police, dressed in blue tail-coats and top hats, began to patrol the streets of London on 29th September 1829

I believe that this song dates from the 1st Carlist War, a civil war in Spain (1833 to 1839),


12 Jun 21 - 06:32 PM (#4109901)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: GUEST,Tug the Cox

Mrrzy. None of the lines in the song from JC superstar are anachronistic. The song , by Judas, is sung in the present, looking back....' if you'd cone today you would have reached a whole nation, Israel in 4BC had no mass communication.


13 Jun 21 - 03:49 AM (#4109962)
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
From: Jack Campin

"The band played Waltzing Matilda" - no they didn't, but see other threads for that.