A Guide To Songs About Poland, Heavily YouTube Loaded

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There was a time I envied Hungary a bit of a lot:

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Jethro Tull, my band #1 to take to an inhabited tropical island (or wherever my pension is going to take me) gave out a song “Budapest”. Before the ultimate tearing the Iron Curtain off and away, and today, too, to a certain extent, the national pride of Poland had longed for any honourable mentions in Western production. So that we’d know the civilised world knows we’re not a Russian colony with no history or ambitions.

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We would idolise people feeding our starving egos – like Marino Marini, a medium-popular Italian songster with a one-timer in heavily-accented Polish (but damn, the song is so sentimentally kitsch it’s beautiful):

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Or like Classix Nouveaux. (They’ll never never come out of my mobile). The problem with bands like CN was they would requite the love Poles felt for them — but were not recognised too worldly.

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And Poles would probably remind an English or German foreigner some internationally famous tunes may be of Polish origin.

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Or that Polish Roman Polański directed a movie about Polish Władysław Szpilman playing Polish Fryderyk Szopen. If music should not be enough:

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Or that Gazebo would sing “I like Chopin” [but did he mean Chopin vodka?].

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Or that Midnight Oil sing about Kościuszko, though Aussies misspell and mispronounce him and often think he’s just a mount.

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Or we would speak of Charles Bronson, who was Polish (oh really?), and a harmonica virtuoso.

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Or we would be happy Maidens want us to play pray with them:

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Or that they visit our airports.

That they visit our cities.

That they play our football.

That they see our people.

That they attend our weddings.

So that they could say “Na zdrowie”:

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Or that U2 made a Solidarnosc-inspired song (for which Poles would pay back waving their shirts the other time).

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Or Kim Wilde? Long before she was covered in Cambodia by Apoptygma Berzerk, Polish “affectionate people” had covered her with flowers and kisses and kisses and improvised dancing, live, probably to thank her she came to us capable of saying “Cześć” or “Dziękuję”:

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Hey, we even liked strangers when their admiration came through imitation. For example: Vox, the first Polish boys-will-be-boys-band, singing about aloha-sunny-banana way of life when it was grey and communist outside. The song has been kicking arse, amen. And it still kicks, even if in a Czech remake meant for a TV commercial.

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Our hearts soar when someone such as Eddie Vedder speaks Polish (even if it’s read, and it’s B16 Polish more than Polish Polish).

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Yes, our depression could be low.

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So, what more?

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This premiere-league metal musician took Danzig for his alias. (And Danzig is German for Gdańsk. Hurrah!)

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And then there’s Christopher Poland. (What a nice surname!)

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Any common denominator? Considering Chris got himself into metal albums, and that I found heavy bands like these Danes, it seems the natural way you would musically relate to Poland would be loud and clearly hard.

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Type O Negative is a first class metal band, and its core-man is Peter Steele, born Ratajczyk. Just when one could boast his Polish surname, one would learn Peter sings about faeces, or women that cheat on him, that he posed for Playgirl, that he was clinically treated for depression, or that he converted from atheism to Catholicism. Let’s be confused: is it good PR, or not?

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There are exports, too (to boost up our pride aware of them admiring our guys).

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Vader – the best (selling) thing in music from Poland (*).
I still recall the thrill of the time I saw
the first Polish words on MTVfirst Polish words on MTV, a Polish ballet dancer, a Polish power plant, lots of first class loudness in their video. On the other hand, Vader is not a Polish name, the band IS good (while goodness is international) and singing in English. [And how! Uttering loud lines “We await the silent empire” and “We do believe in silence” is clear irony and wit, and they will discuss stuff like for-snobs-only Pynchonisms, with unprecedented speed (try to say “You’d better never antagonize the horn” in 0.8 second).]

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(*) Since that etude thing Chopin wrote. Yes, that borrowing from a prelude by Birkin. The lending to Beyond The Sea. Yes, the song in American…Or’s it English?…French?…Or Corsican French?…Or French-English on Japanese tv? — It’s all one, anyway.
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Anyway. Jethro Tull went on with “Budapest” for 10 minutes long and more. This could hurt the national pride of a non-Hungarian. Despite the fact Poles and Hungarians have been considered “brethren”. (We don’t speak our brother’s language, we don’t see one another too often, we hardly shared borders. Yes, warm feelings are feasible.)

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Granted, Jethro Tull mentions Poland alright (“the beat of distant Africa or a Polish factory town”) but that’s not quite what I’d expect. I mean — where’s a song entitled “Warsaw”?

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Well, I’ll tell you where.

Joy Division.
Porcupine Tree.
David Bowie (with Brian Eno).

Plus Tangerine Dream (with Poland) ?
Plus Niemen in French?

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Not often a place earns a Babylonian god’s song with German title, English words, Swedish voice.
Not always a madam’s cul in that place gets a mention in a French song, Belgian voice, first verse.
Not bad. Not bad at all.

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PS But now I am going to listen to Laibach. Whose “words are for you, Poland”, says the third sentence, and the beginning rings the bell in its unmistakenly Polish way.

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I can’t dance, I can’t sing.

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17 thoughts on “A Guide To Songs About Poland, Heavily YouTube Loaded

  1. geez says:

    How about “Warsaw” by Rancid:

  2. darthsida says:

    Geez, thanks!

    Tempted to put everything I can associate with Poland, I knew that by doing so I could make this page too heavy to open. (Did you notice I had hardly let any Slavs in?)

    Then, I was hoping for comments such as yours — so that I could compile Part 2 of the post, somewhen. Post-1996 suggestions should be failsafe in particular (the year of me withdrawing from the biz, radio listening and tv watching much included).

    So, come in, in large numbers!

  3. geez says:

    A Polish Interview with Billy Sheehan, supermeister bass player, then of Talas (I think they may have actually toured Poland before Iron Maiden) and later with UFO, Steve Vai, the David Lee Roth Band, Niacin, and Mr. Big:

    http://www.billysheehan.com/press/press_article05.html

    You played in Poland with UFO in 1983. Can you remember that concert? I wasn’t there (unfortunately; I was too young :-( ) but people who were experienced jaw-dropped-off when you played bass solo which lasted several minutes? No one, I mean rock musician, did this before in this country. Did you know od that?

    >>I didn’t know what kind of impact it had. Things in Poland were difficult at that time politically. I felt very bad for all the young people at the shows. The police were very rough on them. It upset me very much. I’m so happy for Poland now. I know things aren’t perfect (they aren’t anywhere!) but I’m sure it’s much better. I loved being there very much. The people I met were so wonderful!

    Is something embeded in your memory from this short trip to Poland?

    >>The spirit of the Polish people! You were the first to have the guts to move away from Soviet domination. All America is very proud of you. You are very brave and I think the future will be bright for Poland.

  4. darthsida says:

    Note to self:
    1. Explain why Song of Warsaw, version 1905
    — urges “March on, march on, Warsaw” but shows Lenin standing
    — has served Soviet propaganda
    — with more dumka homesickness and lento murmurando earned English subtitles to Russian lyrics
    — but at the same time rhymes with some Stukas staccato by sweep-all Germans, Bavarian style
    — but at the same time can be used by scant-skirted trumpet blowers
    — or taken seriously in a way no one but Spanish-speaking anarchists and / or clarinet contrabasandists can grasp

    2. Proceed to more confusion, that is the Song of Warsaw, version 1831.
    — Start with the French sub-version.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Mount Wroclai” by Beirut (it’s too close to “Wroclaw” to be coincidental)

  6. darthsida says:

    You think? I googled here and there but found nothing so far to support the claim this ‘Wroclai’ stands for ‘Wroclaw’ (more than, say, My Lai). Then, why ‘mount’?
    On the other hand, Beirut is so close to Bierut.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ouch. Well, I tried. …Could it be a reference to Mt. Ślęża near Wroclaw, Wroclai-sraj? Whatever. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Ślęża) At any rate, to keep this somewhat on topic– something older Polish Americans might remember: http://www.justsomelyrics.com/491164/Bobby-Vinton-My-Melody-Of-Love-Lyrics

    -Joasia

  8. darthsida says:

    And a good try it was!
    I do suspect Beirut was influenced by the meme / name “Wrocław”, but this suspicion is simply too little to claim full abreast that “Mount Wroclai” is a Poland-related song.

    Oh, and thanks for Bobby Vinton link. Some memories rose from the grave :)

  9. geez says:

    He’s the guy who sang that song in the movie Blue Velvet, no?

  10. darthsida says:

    Geez, yup
    Note to self:
    1. Superfamily, Warsaw song
    2. Locate ‘The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas’ song
    3. Locate song about Poland in ‘Roundup Time in Texas’

  11. DC says:

    Would you consider ‘Warsaw’ in the band name instead of song title? How about Warsaw Village Band in your export category?

    I first found “People’s Spring” at Virgin in Vancouver. It’s also available on iTunes in the US, and on Amazon, so they have at least some exposure in the West. English labeling probably helps. I don’t think there is any question they are ‘songs about Poland.’

    It’s an excellent CD, btw, if you like world music. Nice production. I haven’t heard their others yet.

    –dave

  12. darthsida says:

    Thanks for a tip, Dave.
    I gladly accept Warsaw Village Band as an export.
    Or rather: I would accept after I should learn: is their English production known well enough outside Poland? I mean, we have to have big names, big labels to include them in a blogpost. (Such as Vader, less so Behemoth, even less Myslowitz and suchlike.)

  13. DC says:

    I get it. And I forgot about the English part – they sing in Polish. Big names and labels are a tall order for many world music acts, unless they happen to bump into Ry Cooder in the bar or something. Still Warsaw Village Band is apparently good enough to attract the attention of National Geographic and the BBC.

    http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com/worldmusic/view/page.basic/artist/content.artist/warsaw_village_band_18262

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/world/awards2004/profile_warsawvillageband.shtml

    Anyway, perhaps instead this could be considered a suggestion for a post by you or one of the other learned Polandian authors. I would love to know more about what is happening with music in Poland, especially that inspired by traditional sources. There has to be more than disco polo… heh heh. It would be nice to know what to look for next time I have the chance to go CD shopping in Poland.

    –dave

  14. darthsida says:

    Sure, Dave, as fast as we find anyone ‘learned’ in our midst ;) we’ll give the subject a try. Better yet (and it’s not [only] laziness that is speaking through me now) — maybe you would consider writing a bit or two?

    PS For a very general outlook, I can repeat a link already used in the post above:
    http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,1825776,00.html
    Dated 2006, it mentions a few would-be Polish exports.

    As far as world music goes — I always was (or have been) into the Celtic variety of folk — there are some Polish groups (such as Carrantuohill and Open Folk) that managed to sound Celtic to Celtic audiences. Then there are Polish sea shantymen singing in English and / or Polish.

  15. […] “A Guide To Songs About Poland” – at Polandian. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova Share This […]

  16. […] U2, Vader, Varsovie, Vox, Warsaw, Warschau, Warszawa, We Were Lovers, YouTube A Guide To Songs About Poland, Heavily YouTube Loaded We made them sing the stuff. They had no […]

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