Thursday, May 09, 2013


Submitted for your approval…"On the Road to Mandalay," yet another of those great over-the-top songs belted by Frankie Laine. The man could do no wrong, whether it was whooping it up about Poe's "Annabel Lee," whipping out "Blazing Saddles," or telling everyone where the "Wild Goose" goes.

Most any good narrator of the poem will growl disgust over the paving stones of "civilization" and speak softly of the wonders in nature. Jazz singer Frankie keeps to one groovy pace. Still, you get the idea he'd trade a smokey nightclub and boozing till 3 am for a place to cook up a few flyin' fishes for breakfast and watch "the dawn come up like thunder."

The original poem touched on a soldier's frustrations with war, religious cultism, and, back home, the "reward" of dreary, monotonous life in the average city.

And what's happened since Kipling wrote the poem? We still have insane war and much of it caused by religious fanatics. City life is excruciatingly stressful. There ain't no Burma anymore. There ain't no Frankie Laine either. As for finding a guileless gal who will be a good companion, today's British soldier is more likely to go off to Thailand and find a ladyboy in a brothel than a sexy obedient girl named "Supi-yaw-lat."

Ladyboys and religious fanatics where flying fishes used to play? The original poem had the soldier want to go where "there are no ten commandments!" (In Frankie's version, the Christian-friendly re-write is "where there are no regulations.") OK. This part of the poem is now true!

In 2013 there are no ten commandments. At least, not ten that anyone follows. Any good advice in the New Testament, the Koran or any other "holy" book is being ignored.. Soon enough, thanks to climate change, there won't be flying fish anywhere at all, and nowhere to find a "neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land." And when "the dawn comes up like thunder," it's probably going to be a nuclear bomb detonated by some religious fanatic. But dig that last explosive note from the fabulous Frankie Laine! Hold onto your platter of fish and chips, mate, this guy's bombastic voice could make that fish take off and fly through the air...right to China, cross the bay.

Enjoy the twisted climate change caused when Rudyard Kipling's words get swung through the mighty lungs of an Italian jazz singer. Yessir, the best IS like the worst.

Swingin' them flyin' fishes... Frankie Laine on THE ROAD TO MANDALAY

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