Mudcat Café message #1642287 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #87802   Message #1642287
Posted By: Lizzie Cornish
05-Jan-06 - 04:50 PM
Thread Name: Mike Harding's Beautiful Music
Subject: Mike Harding's Beautiful Music
So I sat there dumbfounded!

To give you a quick history...I'd heard a song on Radio Britfolk a few days ago:

http://www.radiobritfolkhome.co.uk/HomePage.aspx

It was on Jacey Bedford's Christmas show, which is now in the archive section..and it was a Mike Harding song called 'Christmas Eve 1914'. I was very surprised as I thought Mike only did comedy songs, so I mentioned this on the Britfolk thread and someone kindly came on and told me about Mike's song 'Bomber's Moon'....he then even more kindly sent me the song. All I knew about it was what I'd read on Mike's site here:

http://www.mikeharding.co.uk/

...where he says this about the song:

<< Dedicated to the memory of my father, Flight Sergeant Louis Arthur 'Curly' Harding, a navigator in Lancaster Bombers, who died with his crew when his plane was shot down returning from a raid over Germany. Its also dedicated to the memory my good friend Jurgen Boch of Cologne, who was a small child in a bomb shelter in Germany on the night my father died, and to my mother who was a bride, a widow and a mother within the space of a year.>>>

I was instantly interested, because my Dad was also a navigator in the RAF, although he was lucky enough to survive. He never spoke about the war, apart from saying that sometimes, evil becomes so great, that there is no other choice left. He was an 'older Dad' and spent the rest of his life living quietly and being one of the gentlest and kindest people I've ever met. My daughter, now 19, his grandaughter, only knew him for three short years and my son, now 11, his grandson, sadly never knew him at all.

So I sat down at my computer screen and I pressed play and 'Bomber's Moon' started.....and my life took another step forward in a direction I never envisaged, into one of the most beautiful, sorrowful and tender songs I have ever heard. Into the story of Mike's father and mine too.....and many, many others....

Within seconds I was looking at an airfield, having stepped back into 1944. I was watching the young men in The Mess trying to relax, whilst waiting for the call…their captain suddenly announced "Tonight there'll be a bomber's moon. We'll be there and back underneath a bomber's moon…" And then I'm standing at the side of the airfield watching Chalkie White, Curly Thompson, Nobby Clarke and Jumbo Johnson rushing out, hurriedly putting on their jackets, jumping into their planes …....and there's my Dad as well....hurrying to his plane....then..."they sail off up into the silvery night" Suddenly Mike takes me on board. "Sandy Campbell checks his oil gauge, the Belgian Coast is coming soon. Curly Thompson lifts his sextant and lines up the bomber's moon.." You hear the Lancasters engines and watch the lads working as a team, then….they arrive at their destination….

'Flak flies up around the city, Jumbo Johnson banks his plane, goes in low and drops his payload, turns to join the pack again. And people are dying there below the bomber's moon. The city's a raging hell below the bomber's moon." They're flying home when the fighters arrive…"Curly Thompson saw them coming, closing in, before he died. And the young men shot them down below the bomber's moon, shot them down in flames below the bomber's moon. Young men sending young men to their graves….."

And suddenly I can feel my father's pain....seeing all this chaos and madness all around him. I can sense his horror at watching those bombs fall, knowing the dreadful suffering that was about to be caused below... and the trauma of seeing his friends dying in planes around him and I realised why he could never talk of it...why he pushed it to the most inner, private sections of his mind. I guess I had as well....when someone chooses to remove something from their memory, you are almost beholden to do that as well...for them.

Then Mike takes you nearly 40 years into the future, to Chalkie's widow, lovingly dusting his picture…, while the tears still trickle down her face, four decades on....still flowing as if it were yesterday. And you feel Mike's terrible sorrow and his anger and frustration as he sings "For God's sake…no more bomber's moons. No more young men growing up to die too soon. Old men sending young men out to die. Young men, dying for a politician's lies….Old men sending young men out to kill. If we don't stop them, then they never will!"

And I think how lucky I am that my Dad came back...and that I was lucky enough to know and love him for 30 precious years.

And at the end, I sat there….absolutely stunned, tears trickling uncontrollably....and you realise how very little you know about Mike Harding and what a deep talent and love it has taken to write something quite so extraordinarily moving. The silence was quite overwhelming......so I put it on again...and it was even more beautiful second time around.

I ordered the 'Bomber's Moon' CD that same night, I typed out all the words, listening to it over and over. I played it to my children and told them all about their Grandpa and about Mike's father too...and then this afternoon, we sat down together and watched 'The Battle of Britain' and realised how very lucky we all are and what we owe to all those young lads.

That film finishes with Churchill's famous words:

"Never has so much, been owed to so many, by so few"

And Mike's song sums that all up in minutes. How I wish that all our children could hear this song! Mike's father and mine too, did not go to war for their nation's children to be spilling their souls out at night in our City centres...all trying to drink themselves senseless to numb their lives out, when they should be loving every minute of their lives. Something is SO wrong!

And last night these words came back and hit me again, even though I'd not been aware of their existence 24 hours previously:

"..No more young men growing up to die too soon. Old men sending young men out to die. Young men, dying for a politician's lies….Old men sending young men out to kill. If we don't stop them, then they never will!...No more...no more bomber's moons, no more..no more bomber's moons"

...because we'd gone to see some friends, whose son is in the RAF and who was out in Iraq recently and also throughout the war...and guess what? Yes, just like my Dad, he too is unable to talk about what he's seen and done as it upsets him so much...50 years on those politicians are still lying and sending our young men out to die and be traumatised. Sending out "Young men to kill young men"....MAKE THEM LISTEN TO THIS SONG....until they know EVERY word off by heart....until they understand WHAT it is saying...until they KNOW that we HAVE to change our world!

AND WHY has Mike Harding become known as The Rochdale Cowboy when he can write songs like this, that move you so terribly deeply?! He is a profoundly talented song-writer and this song should be being played everywhere. I am totally stunned that I have never heard it before. Perhaps I was never supposed to....perhaps it was all meant to happen in exactly the way it has...either way...I am so very grateful to Ian for sending me this song in the first place...and for Radio Britfolk 'being there' to start the whole thing off. They say they want to bring music to people that they didn't even know they wanted....well...they've certainly done that for me!

'Bomber's Moon' now sits proudly on the shelf to the side of me as I write and Mike is singing it as I type. Hopefully it will soon be joined by 'Plutonium Alley' and 'Footloose In The Himalayas'

And I haven't even started on his other songs on this CD, such as 'The Accrington Pals'...but I'll leave that for another day....as 'Bomber's Moon' should stand completely on it's own....

.....for Mike Harding and for his Dad.

Lizzie :0)