Song Written Today: Come Join The Army Son

I wrote this song this morning.

The story in this song is not fiction. He is not a character I have invented. It is a true story about a working class boy from Manchester.

I felt his tale deserved to be told.

It is sung without accompaniment. The instruments got in the way.

[audio:Come Join The Army Son – Alun Parry.mp3]

Lyrics:

Well I was just 16 when I left the school
No qualifications but nobody’s fool
Me mates all got caught up in crime, drugs and court
This isn’t the life that I’m wanting I thought

They said
Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

When I told me Mam and me Dad me idea
I could see that their faces were riddled with fear
But they thought of the options I’d otherwise find
And the broken down streets I’d be leaving behind

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

So I signed the papers at just seventeen
When Wigan’s the furthest place I’d ever been
Too young for the dangers of ciggies and beer
They sent me to Helmund in spite of my fear

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

I turned 18 far away from me home
In a far foreign land I was all on me own
No loved ones to toast me becoming a man
No pint off me Dad and no hug from me Mam

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

Just two days on with the corporals behind
They sent the young privates to clear all the mines
So wide eyed and frightened I went with me mate
And the blast ripped right through us as I stepped on that plate

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

Now I hope to God noone else ever learns
The smell of the stench as your own young flesh burns
But more than the agony, all I could see
Was me very best pal lying dead next to me

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

Now I’m back in Manchester where I begun
And me Mam’s give her job up to care for her son
On the same rough estate I was trapped in before
With both of my legs and a lung lost to war

Come join the Army son, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

I’m stuck in this wheelchair just me and my mind
And they gave me the cheapest false legs they could find
And I see the recruiters when I’m pushed into town
Hunting for young lads whose prospects are down

Saying
Come join the Army lads, come learn a trade
There’s nobody wants you out here I’m afraid
Come join the Army son, gi’ yerself a chance
And sign on the old dotted line

#army#economic conscript#helmund#join the army#war

Comments

  1. Matt Swift - November 12, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    My goodness Alun what a powerful message and a really emotional song, but much more than that this is real and is happening every single day. I was singing along with the same vigour as yourself – please please please get this recorded mate, it needs to be heard!

  2. Pete Grubb - November 12, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

    I agree with Matt, after my first listen I was singing along at the top of my voice – it needs to be shared.

    Pete

  3. BUCK RODGERS - November 12, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

    Really good song but how about one balancing it up with the Suciide bombers, and the muslims here in the uk who protest when the bodies of the dead are brought back through the streets of WOOTON BASSETT , and the ones who destroy the poppies on Armistice day?
    I think Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello have done similar subject matter also! Alan I think your perspective might change if you were there or had friends and relatives in the forces!
    Remember they are fighting for the the likes of you to be
    rocking in the free world!

  4. alunparry - November 12, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Buck,

    I don’t really follow your point? What am I balancing up?

    How have you viewed this as an attack on the kid who the song is about?

    How have you viewed this song as anything other than sympathetic?

    How does my perspective need to change?

    Listen to it again.

    By the way, I think your comments about muslims are unworthy of you to be honest.

    But you do need to listen to the song again given some of the points you’ve made.

    It won’t shock you to hear that I’m passionately anti-war, yet this song isn’t about that.

    It is clearly sympathetic to the plight of such young working class lads with little else offered to them but to go into the army and face this kind of fate.

    Al

  5. Janet Mears - November 12, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    I agree with Matt & it should be recorded for all to hear.

  6. alunparry - November 12, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    This is sadly a true story based upon a real person who a friend of mine met recently.

  7. Janet Mears - November 12, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    I also am anti war & that is said from some one whos family were army.

  8. Kate Richardson - November 12, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    Alun
    Just listened to this song…I think it is very powerful.

    I agree it has absolute sympathy with the working class boys who are tempted by the army for a trade and end up being cannon fodder. Quite right to reserve our contempt for the upper class officers who send poorly trained recruits into such pointless, dangerous situations.

    I agree please record it. The thought I had is that it sounds like an old peace song, even tho’ it’s only days old and clearly contemporary

    all the best x

  9. Jackie Waters - November 12, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    A sad, sad song.
    My thoughts are with the man whose story you portrayed.
    I pray he finds a channel for his anger and this stupid government finds a special benefit for him and his mum which will allow them to live without money worries at least.
    This is what people should be campaigning for.

  10. alunparry - November 12, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    I should point out that I’ve never actually met this lad myself. The song is very heavily based on his case though. The events that happen in the song did actually happen to him.

    A friend of mine met him very recently and spent some time with him, and then passed his story onto me. It affected me a lot and this is the song that came out as a result.

    There’s nightclubs that this kid won’t be allowed in for another 3 years yet, but he can be signed up and put on the front line so young.

    It seems wrong to me. It’s a reminder of just how horrific war is and how young the victims of it are, and how deeply it ruins lives.

  11. Jim Mclaughlin - November 12, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

    excellent….you should record … maybe a cello backing?

  12. alunparry - November 12, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

    nice idea jim. should certainly be minimalistic. i did try it with guitar but it distracted from the words. i might stick with just vocals, but i like the cello idea. if i find a willing cellist i’ll test it out.

  13. Colin - November 13, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    A very moving song Alun, nobody has mentioned that as usual these young men are sent to the likes of Helmond as cannon fodder, it happened in the first world war and I expect it’s happened in most wars.
    They come home and are then forgotten or though it seems,I hope the young Manc lad gets all the help he deserves.
    Again, what a moving song.
    Colin.

  14. Amanda DeAngeles - November 13, 2010 @ 11:44 am

    Was at the vets for the kitten’s immunisation yesterday and got talking to a young couple. The girl was seven months pregnant and showing off a lovely neat bump. The dad-to-be proudly announced he is a soldier and about to go away until mid-December. “Got get some money together for me baby son and me girl. I’m due leave 16th December so hopefully I’ll be here when me little lad’s born”. He even mentioned taking the Queen’s shilling ffs.

    Like your song, Alun. This story ripped me to bits. Such pride, such smiles. A hint of fear in the pregnant girl’s eyes.

    Is the army the only plausible choice of “work” left for a young man … or indeed, a young girl?

  15. Dave Eatock - November 22, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

    How about asking a group of young rappers to record an interpretation of the song Alun? It’s a painful reminder of the wasteful sacrifice of young people attracted to military service as a means of escaping the seemingly hopeless alternatives.

  16. alunparry - November 22, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

    That’s a really interesting idea Dave.

  17. ray collins - December 3, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    thanks for yet another excellent topical song, Alun.

  18. richie krueger - December 3, 2010 @ 9:56 pm

    Alun,

    this song moved me and reinforced my anti-war stance. That an institution, run by financially priveleged people, to send young people to be killed and maimed for economic reasons to keep those same people in power, is crime against humanity. The idea of the recruiting officer, standing near dole queues offering th king’s shilling to see the world, learn a trade etc is more subtly done now; think of the media and the advertising industry and the way the army is stylistically portrayed (Be the best), the latest x box game etc is usually related to the military, the miltary shows that still take place in places like Walton Hall Park – nothing more than an advert/recruitment drive for the military. The last england international v france had the army there for some reason. i was in Llandudno with the family t’other year, came out of the hotel and thought ther’d been a military coup. They were having a military day where kids, on holiday, could have their fun climbing assault courses assisted by squaddies in uniform, climb into tanks, hold the latest guns and rifles….. as you can expect, we took to the hills, or up the great Orme for the day anyway! Not before i voiced my dissent, to organisers, who couldn’t understand where i was coming from, as ‘it’s only a bit of fun’. yeh, right.
    Keep it going Al,

    nice one,

    richie

  19. Karen - December 21, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    Ouch. That song hurts. Well the truth does hurt sometimes.

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