The Boy Hook: The Zombies, “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” (1968)

Boy Soldier EnglishJuly 28 is my birthday and also the day when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, now counted as the official start of World War I. (Let’s go back and ask Austria-Hungary: “Would you like to start World War I?”)[1] Today is the 100th anniversary of the larger event and the 61st anniversary of the smaller one. Strange proportions of time.

The World War I hook is awfully literal. It is the image of dead soldiers hooked on barbed wire in No Man’s Land, meat in a cloud of flies.

“Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” by The Zombies uses specific imagery from trench warfare to lift up the horror and political inauthenticity of war. The word that brings it home to a diffident young male like myself in 1968, Vietnam time, is the oddly direct “boy” at the end of a stanza.

“Butcher’s Tale” second verse

And I have seen a friend of mine
Hang on the wire
Like some rag toy
Then in the heat the flies come down
And cover up the boy

Consider, in our world, the prevalence of underemployment and the politics of Kill Those Bastards. The boys are getting snagged by that combination and butchered every day.[2]

Boy soldiers Congo_______________________________________________________________

[1] See Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war and interesting related documents.

[2] For an amazing movie boy hook, see how photographs of the young Hitler arrive in the last sequence of Come and See (around 4:11) where the traumatized young Belarusian is shooting at Hitler’s portrait to try to force World War II backward to its starting point.

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About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Rock Aesthetics, Words and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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