I started going to folk clubs regularly a bit before the invasion of Iraq. At that stage I only had a handful of songs I was really confident of, one of which was Billy Bragg’s “Between the wars”. I never really liked it – a bit grandiose, a bit sententious, and what was that bit about moderation doing there? Then the War on Terror kicked off properly, and nobody could claim we were “between the wars” any more. Ill wind eh?
This, anyway, is a sweetly pretty song about love and conscription, full of stock imagery, overcooked descriptions and patriotic sentiments. It’s rescued by the refrain, which is raw and hard-edged in its simplicity:
I would that the wars were well over
I would that the wars were all done
And – now that we’re not between the wars – who doesn’t?
Partly recorded in the open air. Accompaniment: concertina and recorder.