Oh, say can you see that my head is exploding?

Doug Ross sent this to Kathryn to send to me, with this message:

Please send this to Brad. I think his head will explode.

I don’t know why he didn’t sent it directly to me. I could probably figure out why, but my head just exploded.

Yep, I think that ranks as the worst, least respectful version of our anthem I’ve heard.

OK, so maybe the Roseanne Barr version was worse, because it was intentionally disrespectful. This Stacey Q person, whoever she is, probably thought she was doing something good. So it ranks as the worst that didn’t mean to be the worst.

Why can’t these kids today do it in the proper, traditional manner, the way they did it in my day (see the clip below)?

Seriously, though, my favorite that comes immediately to mind is the version that Ken Burns used during the opening credits of each episode of his “Baseball” series. It’s by the Big League Orchestra, and you can hear it here. I think what really makes it for me is the never-ending roll on the snare drums. That creates a tension, an excitement, that stirs the blood all the way through. Or something. Maybe Phillip could explain it.

47 thoughts on “Oh, say can you see that my head is exploding?

  1. bud

    We need to adopt a new national anthem that doesn’t glorify war. America the Beautiful would be a more more appropriate national anthem.

  2. Steven Davis II

    bud – That’s on the list, right after re-writing and politically correcting the nation’s history.

  3. Steven Davis II

    bud – How did you allow your son to join the military? Have you disowned him for disgracing your family name?

  4. Doug Ross

    I used the Kathryn pipeline because I think her emails get through quicker to you.

    As for the “kids today” – this rendition took place sometime in the mid-80’s. She was a one hit wonder back then.

  5. Karen McLeod

    It’s not her singing so much as the people in the stands that got to me. I’m not big into external exhibitions of patriotism; they strike me as about as sincere as many politician’s claims of religious fervor. Nevertheless, I thought it was common courtesy to stop what you were doing long enough for the anthem to play. This version, aside from appearing to contradict the lyrics (she starts out like a shy 5 year old) is at least on key and recognizable.

  6. `Kathryn Fenner

    “This Stacey Q person, whoever she is”–and you wonder if today’s generation would uncover Watergate. You’re too lazy to use the handy Google window included in most, if not all, commonly used browsers and email readers.

    Wait, you mean to tell me you were intentionally snarky?

    The national anthem should be sung by the assembled group, not “performed” by an artiste. A more gifted singer might be selected to lead the group in singing, but it should be sung straight, no chaser.Harummpphh.

    and I agree, bud–or This Land is Your Land….

  7. Tim

    Since this “kid” was born in 1958, and the performance was obviously from the mid 80’s, she is firmly in your generation, not some kid from ‘these days’. Maybe you can rail on about how bad big shoulder pads and over-teased hair are making you dread the upcoming “90’s”. Okay, I will get off your lawn now.

  8. Brad

    My excuses:

    1. I didn’t watch the video. I listened, while I was doing things on other tabs.
    2. In its utterly vapid lack of musical appeal, it reminded me of stuff that I half-hear when I am inadvertently within earshot of the pop stuff on “American Idol” and such. It did NOT sound like 80s music to me. Of course, in the 80s, I was listening to Elvis Costello — but I was also watching a lot of MTV. And this didn’t sound like that. It sounded like what I’ve heard since the music actually finally died.
    3. I didn’t care who she was. So I didn’t look her up.

  9. Tim

    I left your lawn 10 minutes ago. Had to. I hit a baseball through the Cleaver’s front window. I will blame that on the Beav.

  10. Brad

    Oh, and by the way, our national anthem is perfect. It’s one of the greats, right up there with the Soviet one and Deutschland Uber Alles and God Save the Queen. (And no, we can’t use “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” because it’s a ripoff.)

    By comparison, “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” are saccharine Muzak. They’re just kind of generic feel-good jingles by comparison. They don’t convey the majesty and gravitas of history or the powerful message of prevailing through adversity that our anthem does.

  11. Brad

    “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” That could be the Ukraine. There’s nothing inherently American about it.

  12. Steven Davis II

    “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” That could be the Ukraine. There’s nothing inherently American about it.

    Someone’s never been to the Midwest where the horizon is 10 miles away in every direction, not 20 feet away like it is in this pine tree/scrub brush infested state. Or ever seen thousands of acres of grain crops at harvest… just pulp wood ripe for the paper mill.

  13. Phillip

    Wow, that Stacy Q is something. Did anybody catch The Fray, whoever they are, doing the anthem before the NCAA title Monday night? Check it out, pretty odd. They started with a fairly vanilla-ish 4 bar acoustic guitar vamp, then the vocals started, the guitar player changed the 3rd bar out of every four to a pretty weird dissonant chord, and because he kind of changed it midstream in the first vocal phrase, I think he either just forgot and couldn’t hear he was playing a wrong chord, or maybe slipped that first time and just was so wasted he decided “what the heck, I kind of like it.” If he’d played that chord that way from the VERY beginning, I would have naturally hailed their intrepretation as intentionally unorthodox and brilliantly encapsulating the contradiction that is America 😉

    Meanwhile, Brad, you like the orchestral version, as I do, because it’s not INTERPRETED. It’s a good tempo, at which the words (were one singing along) would come out in a comprehensible, natural way. Also, I agree with you…I like the anthem (and I’m a patriot) which is why I detest the routine desecration of same before most sporting events. Bud, I don’t think the anthem glorifies war: the words are written in response to an attack on us, on our soil. We should, in fact, remember the sentiment of these lyrics when we take military action in other nations and then wonder why we’re not always greeted as saviors or liberators. But, Brad, as for ripoff, well the tune was already in existence and not FS Key’s, so the music we all know was written by someone else who rarely gets the credit.

  14. bud

    God Save the King/Queen is even worse than the Star Spangled Banner. Why would a great nation want to celebrate a bygone era when aristocricy was the order of the day and common folks were little better than cattle in the eyes of the ruling class? That song reminds me of the days when Britain maintained an imperialistic empire than essentially enslaved millions. It also reminds me of the atrocious waste of money spent to maintain a useless, figurehead monarchy while the rest of the nation suffers through a misguided austerity program.

    What we need in both the US and UK is a new, uplifting, modern anthem that reminds the world that the English speaking people are generous, resourceful and intelligent in managing resources and progressing the human experience throughout the world. Instead we have two anthems that glorify war and imperialism. I think our two great nations are better than that. And that should be reflected in all our institutions.

  15. Rose

    Dude, do NOT diss America the Beautiful and God Bless America!

    Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!

    Although a lot of hymnals have dropped the “Oh beautiful for pilgrims’ feet whose stern impassioned stress a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness.” Due to the fact that there was a native civilization here, just not one that the Europeans wanted to recognize.

  16. Karen McLeod

    The music for our national anthem was stolen from a drinking ditty that was popular at the time.

  17. bud

    Bud, I don’t think the anthem glorifies war: the words are written in response to an attack on us, on our soil.

    Fair enough. It may very well be inspirational and serve as a reminder that we should not be in the business of invading other nations.

    But why can’t we have a war that’s not based on a warfield experience? Why is war always enshrined as a positive? Wouldn’t we be better served to have an anthem that reminds others of our peaceful side rather than our warrior side? After all “bombs bursting in air” has a quality of violence about it that comes across as a depressing reminder that human beings often kill other human beings in causes that are misguided and often cruel.

  18. bud

    First sentence last paragraph should read: But why can’t we have an anthem …. (not “have a war”).

  19. `Kathryn Fenner

    C’mon, Phillip–one wrong note is a mistake; play it twice, it’s jazz, amirite?

    The big payoff in The Star-spangled Banner is “and the rockets’ red glare/ The bombs bursting in air” and you don’t think it glorifies war? It also glorifies the flag, which is nationalism of the jingoistic sort.

    …which is not to say that I didn’t stand all choked up along with a handful of my countrymen in Canterbury, England when they played the Star-spangled Banner in a showing of Breaking Away. It’s a stirring anthem.

    and you don’t sing it “Baaha/ nerher”–it’s “Baa- ner-er”…and save the melismas for the gospel festival, please.

  20. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Burl–Wasn’t Dance Tammy one of the Sweet Potato Queens?

    No, I’m confusing her with Tammy Swanson 1 and Tammy Swanson 2….

  21. Brad

    Yes, our anthem derived from a now-forgotten drinking song. But what do you associate it with now?

    The problem with “My Country ’tis of Thee” is that it is so obviously the British song, just with Her Majesty left out…

  22. Karen McLeod

    It also celebrates a defensive war that was fought long ago. But what do bombs and rockets remind us of now?

  23. Phillip

    @Kathryn: the “rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting thru air” lyrics don’t celebrate those munitions per se: if anything, it’s the weaponry of BOTH sides that is being talked about. The point about the “rockets” and the “bombs” is not their use, in this case, but rather the fact that the illumination of the night sky by their exploding revealed the continuing presence of the flag over Fort McHenry. They “gave proof through the night,” simply because there was no other way for Key to see in the dark.

  24. Brad

    Yeah, I mean, heaven forbid that Americans should SHOOT BACK or anything…

    Thanks, Phillip, for your very on-point responses. I would have said the same, and more — I mean, these are the words of a man who was being detained by the British, watching the battle from a British warship, taking heart from the fact that he could see his country’s flag flying through the night — except by stressing all that “defensive war” stuff would seem to give credence to the notion that only if Americans were totally the victims here would the anthem be legitimate, which I find deeply offensive.

    Yeah, no doubt about it, this country was on the ropes — the Brits burned Washington in that one. But that is not necessary for this to be a good anthem, and the suggestion that any other circumstances would be objectionable is ridiculous.

    We’re a real country, with real history, and real people shed real blood on many occasions to give us the freedom sit around being offended at the mention of violence. I’m very, very sorry that that offends some of my friends here.

  25. Karen McLeod

    Yes, we were fighting a defensive war then. All countries have real people with real histories, who have to fight defensive wars. We are very fortunate in having real freedoms that so many other people don’t, like the Syrian people, for example. They’re fighting, but not getting there.

  26. Brad

    By the way, in a detail that would seem really cool only to me…

    Key was aboard that British vessel to negotiate the release of some American prisoners. After dining with senior British naval officers, he was detained because the Brits were about to attack Baltimore, and he possessed not only that knowledge but was familiar with British strength.

    One of the officers he dined with was Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane, the uncle of the famous Thomas Cochrane — the model for Jack Aubrey in those novels I’m always going on about.

    See? I told you no one would find that cool but me.

  27. Brad

    Another footnote… I heard an interesting discussion on NPR the other day of a new book titled “White House Burning.”

    The book is about the national debt. As I understood the discussion (I missed the first part), one of the premises of the book is that the failure to issue debt in an effective manner in the War of 1812 is one reason why the U.S. military performance was so feckless, and Washington ended up burning.

    It sounded almost interesting enough for me to want to read a book about debt…

  28. `Kathryn Fenner

    Sure, I can analyze the text like an English major, but the truth is that the glorious part of the music and the “munitions” deployment coincide.

    Coincidence? I think not.

    and Brad, we can fight back,but should do so reluctantly, not joyfully! It’s a fine line between “I love my country” and “my country, right or wrong.”

  29. Brad

    A quote from that discussion on NPR:

    “This represents exactly what you need to avoid,” Johnson says. “When you run a country, and you’re trying to achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve, you have to fund it properly. And you have to have an ability to provide revenue to support that effort, and when necessary, you need to be able to issue debt in a responsible and well-managed manner.”

  30. `Kathryn Fenner

    and yes, my Inner German loves the 1812 Overture cannons….but I don’t think it’s a good thing.

    My Inner German really likes Beethoven’s Sixth and the Overture from Die Meistersinger…..guilt free.

  31. Brad

    Fighting back reluctantly is a very fine way to get killed. But I’m sure the one killing you will fully appreciate your admirable sensibilities.

  32. `Kathryn Fenner

    The actual fighters can go nuts, but the glorification of the fight by the chattering/typing classes is wrong.Don’t vilify the fighters, but c’mon–there are few wholly unprovoked wars. It often depends on how far back you go….

  33. bud

    Actually the War of 1812 was largely a war of imperialism. The US was trying to take over parts of Canada. Why honor that with a National Anthem?

  34. Phillip

    What I conveniently avoided mentioning in my earlier defense of the anthem’s lyrics were the other, never-sung verses of the anthem. If it makes you feel better, Brad…in contrast to the emphasis in the first verse on merely defensively withstanding assault from the enemy, there is this from the fourth and final verse, right in the “stirring” part of the music that Kathryn alluded to:

    “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’

    Neither Paul Wolfowitz nor Dick Cheney could have said it any better.

  35. Brad

    That’s an interesting take on it. That’s it, I’ll just call it an “interesting” take on a war fought in part because an ACTUAL empire was pushing us around and refusing to acknowledge our sovereignty.

    Even more interesting, this puts Bud in the camp with the New England merchants who spoke derisively of “Mr. Madison’s War.” I never really thought of Bud as a mercantilist Federalist before now.

    Throughout that conflict, significant factions on both sides of the pond regarded it as unbearably foolish and needlessly destructive. And they certainly had a point.

    One of the things I dislike about it was that it gave Andrew Jackson sufficient notoriety to enable him to win the presidency much later. For having won a battle after the war was over.

  36. bud

    Wars seldom make the world a better place. Just got through watching Spielburg’s Warhorse. Not a particularly great movie overall but the stunning horror of World War I shows just how misguided political leaders can become when they have no skin in the game. With the advent of the nuclear bomb wars aren’t as appealing to the ruling class except for the small, silly wars like the Falkland Islands or Iraq where the ruling elites have little chance of being affected personally. Too bad it’s not enough to merely see the horror and waste of war to be enough to prevent them. At least now with the bomb it’s unlikely we’ll ever have another World War event.

  37. Brad

    To paraphrase Bill Lumbergh: “Yeahhhhh… I’m just gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you on that…”

    Tell Tsar Nicholas he had no “skin in the game.” Or Anastasia. Or the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Or the cream of a generation in Britain, France or Germany.

    That war totally swept out the old order in Europe, setting the stage for a horrific struggle of new systems across the continent, with the ultimate result that western Europe today is mostly governed by the liberal democracy model.

    And don’t take too much solace from the Bomb. We thought after the aforementioned War to End All Wars that we had learned that war was too terrible ever to engage in again…

  38. bud

    Tsar Nicholas certainly miscalculated. Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated before the war and the rulers of Austria charged in with little appreciation of the horrors they were unleashing on the world. But my point is simply that whenever the ruling elite believe they will be unaffected they are very cavlier when it comes to decisions about war. Clearly in todays nuclear environment everyone knows for certain they are subject to instant death. Hence the primary reason the major powers have refrained from fighting each other. So they settle for the safe little wars that serve the purpose of providing stories for stirring songs, monuments and idiotic talk about keeping their country free. Too bad the worlds leaders can’t be subject to the same risks as the common soldier.

  39. Rose

    I understand your dislike of using the tune of God Save the Queen, but the songs are really nothing alike, and I think My Country Tis of Thee is better than the National Anthem. Have you ever tried to SING the other stanzas of the National Anthem? Yikes!

    “Country” is celebrating our COUNTRY, freedom, God. The British song celebrates, well, one person, king or queen, and asks God to scatter her enemies and “frustrate their knavish tricks”??

    Of course, there’s also the 1843 Abolitionist version by A. G. Duncan….

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