Wednesday, July 18, 2007

7 Means of Movement: Interlude 3, Submarines

Frank C. Stanley, A Hundred Fathoms Deep.
Smog, Bathysphere.
The Freshies, U-Boat.
The Chills, Submarine Bells.
The Sex Pistols, Submission (demo).
Pete Seeger, Submarine Called Thresher.
The Negro Problem, Submarine Down.
The Beatles, Yellow Submarine (alternate mix).

'Ah, commander,' I exclaimed with conviction, 'your Nautilus is truly
a marvelous boat!'

'Yes, professor,' Captain Nemo replied with genuine excitement, 'and I love it as if it were my own flesh and blood! Aboard a conventional ship, facing the ocean's perils, danger lurks everywhere; on the surface of the sea, your chief sensation is the constant feeling of an underlying chasm...but below the waves aboard the Nautilus, your heart never fails you!

There are no structural deformities to worry about, because the double hull of this boat has the rigidity of iron; no rigging to be worn out by rolling and pitching on the waves; no sails for the wind to carry off; no boilers for steam to burst open; no fires to fear, because this submersible is made of sheet iron not wood; no coal to run out of, since electricity is its mechanical force; no collisions to fear, because it navigates the watery deep all by itself; no storms to brave, because just a few meters beneath the waves, it finds absolute tranquility! There, sir. There's the ideal ship!'

Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Spare a thought for the submarine, a boat's dream of escape.

"A Hundred Fathoms Deep" is from 1902 or 1904, sung by one Frank C. Stanley, whose apparent talent was to make his voice sink so low that he may have caused earth tremors. The early 20th Century dearly loved its freakshows and oddities, and this Edison "Gold Moulded Record" provided a fine one.

Smog's "Bathysphere" is from 1995's Wild Love.

Every time there is a disaster we hear on all sides well-meaning people demanding more safety devices and better methods of escape. These demands never come from submariners themselves. A submarine is a war machine, and though reasonable safety devices are essential, and indeed are continually being improved, they must take second place to fighting efficiency...the safest submarine in peacetime (but not in wartime!) would be one that could not dive at all.

Edward Young, One of Our Submarines.

The submarine has its poetic side, as it can plummet through the depths and spy upon a great hidden undersea world, but it primarily has been built for war, used in combat as far back as the U.S. Revolution. At the beginning of the past century, submarines had been considered to be little more than irritations (many top British admirals believed any captured submarine crew should be treated as pirates and hanged), but in the first weeks of World War I, when the German U-9 sank three armored British cruisers and inflicted more casualties than the British had taken during the Battle of Trafalgar, it was clear the submarine had become a first-rate killer, meant for front-line action.

Today the submarine is part of the military elite--floating soundless in the deep, spying and occasionally preying on surface life. As you read this, submarines armed with enough nuclear weaponry to eradicate a good deal of human life on the planet lurk out in the oceans somewhere. The U.S. has scores, as do the Russians, the Israelis may have some, the first in a possible wave of new Chinese nuclear ballistic submarines was just spotted on Google Earth. We live in interesting times.

"U-Boat" is by the Freshies, one of the finer Manchester, UK, bands of the '70s, and perhaps best known for the wonderfully-titled "I'm In Love With The Girl On A Certain Manchester Megastore Checkout Desk." "U-Boat" is off their second Razz EP, Straight In At Number Two, released in June 1979; on Very Very Best Of and Emusic.

The Chills' "Submarine Bells" is from the 1990 LP of the same name.

And the Sex Pistols' "Submission" was, as original band member/eventual pariah Glen Matlock put it, meant to take the piss out of the Pistols' manager, Malcolm McLaren. McLaren, wanting the band to have an 'outrageous' S&M song that would also conveniently promote the bondage gear of his Sex shop, told Matlock and John Lydon to write a song about 'submission'. So they went down to the pub, stewed for a bit, and decided to write the song literally about a sub mission.

This is the original demo, recorded in July 1976; "Submission" would be re-recorded and have some of the charm steamed out of it on Never Mind the Bollocks.

One could not mention the Thresher without observing, in the same breath how utterly final and alone the end is when a ship dies at the bottom of the sea....and what a remarkable specimen of man it must be who accepts such a risk...What is it then, that lures men to careers in which they spend so much of their time in cramped quarters, under great psychological stress, with danger lurking all about them? Togetherness is an overworked term, but in no other branch of our military service is it given such full meaning as in the "silent service".

Dr. Joyce Brothers, 1963.

The USS Thresher, a nuclear submarine "with modern guns and gear," sank in April 1963 during deep-sea diving tests, possibly due to a piping failure. A song about the disaster was dashed out weeks later by Gene Kadish and published in Broadside; Pete Seeger recorded it soon afterward. On the out-of-print Broadside Ballads Vol. 2 (though available on Emusic.)

The Negro Problem's "Submarine Down" is off 1997's Post Minstrel Syndrome, now out of print.

Now, your probly asking well whats outside the submarine? and the answer is more submarines. and inside of those submarines is just a whole nother world, all of earth everything on earth, all the planets. every galaxy every star, everything of matter and non matter, EVERYTHING. and all we are, are just workers on a submarine, sailing in a fleet of submarines.

'follow1yourpath,' poster on the Science Chat Forum boards, 10 April 2007.

Finally, yes, of course, we couldn't avoid "Yellow Submarine." This is an alternate mix from the Revolver sessions, beginning with Ringo walking from John o' Groats to Land's End at the head of a happy army. Recorded in late May-early June 1966; finally released as a b-side on the "Real Love" CD single three decades later.

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