A League Of Notions

Album: Just Yesterday (2005)

Songfacts®:

  • The League Of Notions is a cynical pun on the League Of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations which was set up after World War One, ostensibly to promote peace and security, although many of the more intelligent conspiracy theorists believe it to have been the first attempt to establish a world government. If that was indeed the case, it failed miserably, and its successor has had no more luck in promoting world peace or other, similarly laudable goals.
  • A revue called The League Of Notions opened at the Oxford Theatre, London, on January 17, 1921, and ran for over three hundred and fifty performances. This was a light-hearted show, and although this Al Stewart song is equally lighthearted, it has a typically tortuous history.
    When Al performed it at Redondo Beach, California on July 19, 2009, he explained some of the background to the song, which includes a reference to "Churchill's hiccup". As British Colonial Secretary, Winston Churchill was given the task of drawing the boundary of what was then Transjordan; the curiously zig-zagged line was - said Al - attributed to the three brandies that preceded his drawing it, a mistake he refused to correct afterwards. Although this tale appears to have no basis in fact, Churchill's fondness for the demon drink has been well documented by historians as disparate as David Irving and John Charmley. The betrayal of Lawrence of Arabia (and the Arabs he enlisted to the British cause) is also included in the song, and was no laughing matter, leading as it did to decades of strife and bloodshed in the Middle East which continues to the present day.
  • Al's reference to Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points alludes to a speech the American President made on January 8, 1918; they were designed to end the War. A league of nations - couched in more or less those terms - was his 14th point. The French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau responded to this that God himself had only ten.
  • "A League Of Notions" (or simply "League Of Notions") is written in counterpoint, and at this concert, Al and fellow guitarist Laurence Juber were joined on stage by a member of the audience, Scott Spiro, who obligingly sang the second part. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above

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