Is This the Way to Amarillo

by The Good Reverend on August 8, 2005 · 5 comments

in Music Videos,Uncategorized

The following vids resonate more with me than anything I’ve seen on the internet in awhile.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  If you need a quick hit, I think you’ll enjoy the picture link below the most.  But I think you’ll like them more if you let me give you an abbreviated history…

Dutch version (about ~9MB)

So back in about 1971, Neil Sedaka and some other guy wrote a song called “Is This the Way to Amarillo”.  The song never made it big here in the U.S., but was recorded by a chap named Tony Christie and became a smash hit over in Britain and all across Europe.  So, while most Yankees like myself haven’t ever heard of this song before, it’s embedded in the cultural vocabulary of much of Europe.

So a few months back, my good friend and fellow footballer, Alastair, sends me a 30-second clip of some guys from a British army unit in Iraq marching around their barracks while singing this Tom Jonesesque song.  It was only 30 seconds and an unrecognizable song so I asked him wtf it was he was sending me.  He briefly mentioned something about the “classic ‘Way to Amarillo’ song” and Peter Kay and a bunch of other nonsense.  Nonsense to an American; perfectly in context to any European.  (Alastair is from Wales).  But, I simply didn’t have time to find out on my own what the hell he was talking about.

Tony Christie…or Austin Powers?

To my surprise though, the other day another friend, FushigiDenki, sends me a 6-min clip of a Dutch unit stationed in Afghanistan doing the same damn song in the same damn way at their barracks, 1000 miles or so from the Brit unit.  “Very cool,” I’m thinking.  Screw my schedule – I had to know the story.

I do a bit of digging and find out the origin of the song.  I find out it’s not just the song that these soldiers are parodying.  A famous Brit comedian named Peter Kay dug up the old classic in 2002, doing a music video to the song for a Comic Relief benefit.  In the vid, he’s continually walking toward the camera as various other British celebs walk in and out of the picture doing ridiculous things.  (Would I leave you hangin?  See the original yourself).

And now you have the setup that I was missing when I first saw all this madness.  In May, the aforementioned British Royal Dragoon Guard serving in Iraq gets the idea to put on a little musical production of their own.  They find a soldier with a remarkable resemblance to Peter Kay and put him centerstage, walking toward the camera through his army barracks in the middle of the desert to this ridiculous song.  They email it back to some friends in London and it spreads like wildfire.  So much so that it crashed the British Ministry of Defense servers.  However, I wasn’t sent the clip from any American friends and I didn’t see it posted on many American sites, so I think it went largely unknown over here (much like the original song).

“Is This the Way to Al Basra?”
The British Royal Dragoon Guard

From what I hear, there is a healthy competitive spirit amongst allies in the military.  So of course a Dutch army unit in Afghanistan had to out-do their friends from across the Channel.  Hence, a 6-minute version that, despite a seemingly unending “sha-la-la” chorus at the end, is f’ing brilliant.

These videos aren’t out-and-out hilarious.  There are certainly funnier vids circulating the web right now.  But this is the best stuff I’ve seen in awhile for the simple fact that I love the story and sense of kinsmanship that surrounds the songs and videos.  I have no doubts that being stationed in the f’ed up mess that is post-“Mission Accomplished” Iraq is Hell (well, Hell doesn’t have sandstorms that I’ve ever heard of).  So, to see a group of soldiers over there still be in good enough spirits to stage a big music video production is just damn cool to me.  And then to see soldiers from another country and in a different war watch the first vid, have a good laugh, then say to themselves, “Fuck that!  We can do better!“ (but in Dutch, I would imagine), that’s simply awesome. 

I can’t even really describe why I like it so much.  I guess maybe the camaraderie shared by relative strangers in difficult circumstances.  Hell I don’t know.  I’m babbling.  I hope you get out of the vids and story as much as I got out of them.  Oh and as an addendum, all the hoopla over these videos sparked Peter Kay to make a special appearance at Live-8 (the concert that was held during the G-8 Summit) and do a little “Amarillo” a capella.  I decided not to provide that for you here.. that can’t have been good.

Props to Peter Kay (oh, and Ghandi and the tennis player) for starting it all

Thanks to Alastair and FushigiDenki for the links

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  • Shadow Stalker

    Isn’t it funny that a song about a city in Texas was relatively unknown in the US until it was parodied by foreign allies in an American war started by a man from Texas.

  • The Good Reverend

    <hippy-speak>Whoa, man.  You just blew my mind, man.  Blew my mind. </hippy-speak>

  • afghanistanbananastan

    You know, I linked to this British vid when it first came out and had the exact same reaction. No clue what the fuck they were singing about, but just such a wierdly warm, desperate vibe from the whole thing that I just couldn’t shake.

  • Mark Wiechmann

    LOL I’m proud of my country once agian! LOL

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