Last Friday (the 30th of January) was the 50th anniversary of the State Funeral of Winston Churchill. To commemorate this, there was a week of documentaries honouring the person whom many believe to be the greatest Briton who has ever lived. Churchill’s State Funeral was the last one held in Britain; the Queen Mother and Margaret Thatcher were given a Ceremonial Funeral rather than a State Funerals, although it would seem the differences between the two types of funeral are quite subtle. There have only been three commoners (or “British subjects”, that is not members of the Royal Family) who have been given State Funerals in the last 215 years, namely Churchill (1965), Admiral Lord Nelson (1805) and the Duke of Wellington (1852).
One of the things Churchill is best remembered for, of course, is his speeches; particularly during the Second World War. I was therefore reminded of this interesting song by Supertramp – “Fool’s Overture”, which I first remember hearing as a teenager, after I had become aware of Supertramp through their hit single “The Logical Song”, which was a hit in 1979. “Fool’s Overture” was released in 1977 and is the last track on their album Even in the Quietest Moments…. One of the things the song includes in its lengthy introduction is Churchill saying the most famous part of one of his most famous speeches
We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender
which he made in the House of Commons in June 1940 during the so-called “Battle of Britain” when Royal Airforce pilots were involved in dog-fights with the German Luftwaffe over Kent in the south-east of England.
The song runs for nearly 11 minutes, and is a very interesting song musically. I first heard the song when I started exploring Supertramp’s back catalogue, so probably in about 1980 or 1981. I have never been sure whether this song is criticising Churchill or not; is he the “fool” in the song? I think that is the message, but maybe I am wrong.
History recalls how great the fall can be
While everybody’s sleeping, the boats put out to sea
Borne on the wings of time
It seemed the answers were so easy to find
“Too late,” the prophets (profits) cry
The island’s sinking, let’s take to the sky
Called the man a fool, striped him of his pride
Everyone was laughing up until the day he died
And though the wound went deep
Still he’s calling us out of our sleep
My friends, we’re not alone
He waits in silence to lead us all home
So tell me that you find it hard to grow
Well I know, I know, I know
And you tell me that you’ve many seeds to sow
Well I know, I know, I know
Can you hear what I’m saying
Can you see the parts that I’m playing
“Holy Man, Rocker Man, Come on Queenie,
Joker Man, Spider Man, Blue Eyed Meanie”
So you found your solution
What will be your last contribution?
“Live it up, rip it up, why so lazy?
Give it out, dish it out, let’s go crazy,
Here is a video of this song, being performed by Roger Hodgson who co-founded Supertramp and wrote the song. The only versions of the song which I could find on YouTube were by Hodgson performing it after he left Supertramp, which he did in 1983. This particular live performance that I’ve included here has a full orchestra and choir, and is very dramatic.
Be patient, the introduction to the song before Hodgson starts singing is nearly 6 minutes! The bit with Churchill is at about 2m20s into it. Enjoy!
Which is your favourite Supertramp song?