Nautical Ear Worms

I’m in the process of going through various video sources to augment the notes I’ll give students over WWII. Let’s say the quality of what is available . . . varies widely. And some things can’t get through various filters.

So, I was hunting for newsreel footage of some things, and started hearing music playing in my head. And grinned, because I hear that music every single time I start talking about WWII in the Pacific. [Waits for OldNFO to flee]

Waaaaayyyy back when, when I was in grade school, PBS ran a bunch of WWII cartoons, “Know Your Enemy” films, and Victory at Sea. I remember sitting with my parents and Sib, watching every episode. We also watched WWII movies that came on the Big Three networks, films like The Enemy Below; Run Silent, Run Deep; Midway; Away All Boats; The Longest Day; Mr. Roberts, and the like. But mostly Navy movies. It it was a Navy movie, we watched it. Dad served in the Navy, had grown up sailing, and stayed “in touch” with his nautical roots even though we were pretty land-locked (Nebraska).

After watching the entire series, I can hear the opening notes and see waves rising and falling, and almost feel the ship moving beneath me.

“Beneath the Southern Cross” is probably the other tune from the score that many people have heard. Anything by Richard Rogers is good—some better than others—but he did a great job with this one. For some reason, I now link it in my mind with the version of “Poinciana” recorded for an Allied propaganda broadcast by Glen Miller just before he was killed. [Song starts about 30 seconds in, after the recruiting ad]

I also heard a lot of sea chanteys. So when I read about them being used during the efforts to save the USS Franklin, I could hear the voices in my mind.

For a very long time, to me, WWII was all the Navy and the Pacific, and some army guys doing something “over there.” 🙂


13 thoughts on “Nautical Ear Worms

  1. My favorite track from Victory at Sea is “Song of the Fast Carriers” ( When the main theme starts up about 55 seconds in, I can almost see the carriers plowing through the waves, and the planes lining up to take off.

    If you fear nautical/war ditty earworms, do not EVER listen to any of Oscar Brand’s songs from WW2. Especially not “Ain’t Going to Sea No More.”

    And there’s a very old German march/drinking song that will always be a ‘sea song’ to me, because I first encountered it in the WW2 movie “The Enemy Below.”

  2. The only ‘naurical earworm I have is Rawsthorne’s Hornpipe Humoresque. Find it on Youtube, and use an audio chain with decent bass.

  3. The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming has a lot of Russian sea songs. 🙂

    YouTube comment sections are a big mess of Americans getting het up over “plagiarism” (because the Russian composers aren’t credited). They don’t remember that US copyright was not recognized by the USSR, so anything that wasn’t blocked by the state was pirated by the state. In retaliation, a lot of US composers treated works by composers in the USSR as public domain. (And to be fair, it was hard to find out who wrote what.)

    • You ain’t never grokked Johnny Horton?
      Son, correct yourself.
      (Seriously, he’s awesome. And an early example of the “talented musician dies tragically at the height of his fame” trope.)

      Also, Sink the Bismarck makes a great marching cadence. I sang it a lot as a gun team lead among Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children (I was told not to a lot, but always managed to come up with alternatives that annoyed the powers that be more, and the restriction was lifted. It was a fun game.)

  4. Gah… You just HAD to do that today, didn’t you… Sigh… And the Navy hymn is actually the Navy Hymn, NOT Anchors Aweigh…

    • I first heard “Eternal Father …” in our local church, sung by the Men’s Choir and it really left an impression. Made me want to join the choir AND the Navy ;-). Hard to find an all male rendition of it in these days of political correctness. There’s just something about the way the Hymn resonates when sung by 30 or more males voices.

      • Agreed! Some time back, I sang in a small church with a retired Navy pastor. Every year we did “Eternal Father Strong to Save” on the Sundays closest to Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and July 4. He was rather insistent, and the congregation approved.

      • I get similar feelings when reading Kipling’s “Recessional”, which is set to Whitehead’s cadence. You stop and just think profoundly.

  5. Well, I was a missileer, and we don’t have missile songs, for the most part. Howsomever, a foursome got together at Cheyenne, and their songs are at You Tube. They were “The Groobers”, and I don’t know why they picked that name. Look for “Missile Duty’s Pleasin’ “

  6. I remember playing the overture and other selected snippets for the orchestra concerts while in college. I played bass clarinet so mostly provided the steady bottom registers. Looking at the Bb clarinet scores made me happy I wasn’t playing them. They’re the waves and it was all 1/8 note runs over at least 2 to 3 octaves.

  7. Another military earworm is the “Colonel Bogey March” that was popularized in the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” And a pseudo-military earworm is the theme from the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes,” if only because that show always seems to be re-run on some TV channel somewhere.

    But of course, if you are plagued by a military earworm, just start thinking of “What Shall We do With a Drunken Sailor”! But then the cure will be worse than the original earworm. 🙂

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