Military Bands Rule

Music is an excellent barometer of a people’s mood. My childhood days were replete of spending countless hours propped on deckchairs listening to military bands performing wartime hits, in fall martial style.

Occasionally, we would stroll along the banks of the River Thames, where under bridge arches; skiffle bands would play their carefree songs. Tugging my parents outstretched arms; I led them to indulging in moments of escapism. During the closing days of summer, lazy clouds drifted overhead, and dispersed in the sky. In those days, gaiety had an entirely different meaning, and adequately described feelings of abandonment that Londoners experienced, as the happy sounds of skiffle boards drifted with the wind, and merged with the fleeting clouds. But it was the same sky that a few years earlier had been filled with bombers and aerial dogfights.

We were reared with an unusual blend of wartime exploits and peaceful pursuits. The latter, as was constantly reminded to us, was only due to the victory of war. While the truth of such sentiments could hardly be denied, the over indulgent measures to get the message across, caused more than a degree of antagonism to young minds.

Yet, we still embraced the post-war culture that was delivered by our elders. Saturday mornings would entail a delightful trip to the ABC cinema for the children’s show. The movie programs were designed to entertain children with the best of escapism, but included previews of war movies.

Movie heroes of the day included a legless flying ace, a fighting ship’s crew, brave soldiers, and barely a single musician to be heard… except for Roy Rogers a singing cowboy. I loved Roy Rogers as I was overly impressed by b-movies that were low on quality but high on hype. A particular favorite scene was when Roy rode into a cowboys’ settlement thick with burning smoke after a deadly bandit attack. A dying cowboy begged Roy to take care of the critter that killed his wife and kids, but pleaded to first hear Roy Rogers sing a song. “Sure! Why not?” With such role models, there was no way our generation could be spared from fulfilling our potential!

Those years also witnessed desperation as the war generation struggled with domestic issues without the distraction of constantly being concerned about survival skills.