June 22, 2004

Pass around the Bottle

Pass around the Bottle and We'll All Take a Drink

I'm listening* to Sarah Vowell on This American Life--and where does that pipsqueak Ira Glass get off describing Jon Langford as semi-legendary? Jon's more of a legend (to me) than you'll ever be--discussing the history of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which was "John Brown's Body" and a Methodist hymn before that. I have one to add to her list of later changes ("Solidarity Forever," the 1994 World Cup theme, "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Burning of the School"):

Pass around the bottle and we'll all take a drink (x3)
As we go marching by

Ch: Glory, glory to old Georgia
As we go marching on

Hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree (x3)
As we go marching on

Old Abe Tankey won't you fill 'em up again (x3) [UPDATE: Mark is much more experienced at transcribing than I am, but it sounds like "Old Aunt Peggy" to me]
As we go marching on

From Mark Wilson's notes (there's your philosophical tie-in) to the Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers (where I heard this):

This parody of you-know-what was widely recorded by early hillbilly groups, particularly those from Georgia, and was widely printed in songbooks from the period with composer credits to "E.V. Body." Most versions are more "southern" in character and advocate hanging John Brown rather than Jefferson Davis on a sour apple tree.

Vowell points out though, that the Jeff Davis version is actually in the original--well, the original "John Brown's Body"--so perhaps the Skillet Lickers were tapping into something older than the version in the songbooks. Perhaps not, though. Anyway, it's a pity that it didn't stay in--I think the country would be a better place had we treated the political officials of the Confederacy much more harshly and the freed slaves much less so.

("The great Jon Langford," that's more like it.)

*And what tense should I use when the time I'm writing it isn't even the time I'm going to post it? This is bylined June 20, 2004, 9:32 pm.

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 22, 2004 12:35 PM