Red Army Blues

Album: A Pagan Place (1984)

Songfacts®:

  • This song tells the story of a Russian soldier in World War II who is part of the conquering Red Army, which took Berlin in 1945 to defeat Hitler. When he returns home, instead of a hero's welcome, he is sent to a gulag to die, as Joseph Stalin fears he and his fellow soldiers, having mingled with Americans and other Europeans, will spread Western ideals.
  • The song is based on two books: The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (1965) and The Diary Of Vikenty Angarov by Victor Muravin (1978). The Forgotten Soldier is from the perspective of a German soldier; The Diary Of Vikenty Angarov is an account of a Russian soldier. In a Songfacts interview with Mike Scott of The Waterboys, who wrote the song, he said: "These two books were very inspirational to me, and so I wrote the song. And I remember my girlfriend at the time was a huge Roxy Music fan, and one of her favorite songs was 'A Song For Europe,' in which Bryan Ferry sang, 'jamais, jamais, jamais' at the end of the song. It had that A minor, F, G, E minor chord sequence. So, I nicked that chord sequence, devised this lyric based on these two books."
  • Running 8:03, this is an example of what The Waterboys call "The Big Music." Mike Scott put a lot of effort into the lyrics. "I was highly inspired and every time I went to the end of a verse, I wanted a real killer line, like, 'Seventeen years old, never kissed a girl," he said. "That wasn't from the books. That wasn't from 'A Song for Europe.' That was from my heart. So, I wanted a killer line at the end of each verse to really pique the listener there."
  • The soldier in this song speaks of meeting an American from "Hazard, Tennessee." There is no Hazard in Tennessee, although there is one in Kentucky and another in Nebraska (which Richard Marx wrote a song about). Mike Scott, a native of Scotland, can be forgiven for mistaking the city. He's also not the first to improvise the name: the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard was set in the fictional county of Hazzard, Georgia.

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