Review Summary: Oh I must have killed a million men, and now they want me back again
But I ain't marchin' anymorePhil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore
Review by Marzuki
Here goes a rhetorical question which I will answer in the sentence following: Who was Phil Ochs?
He was a folk singer-songwriter, a contemporary of folk deity Bob Dylan, and a 'topical singer' as he referred to himself. Years and years after he tragically took his own life due to various personal issues, Ochs' outstanding voice remains one relatively unknown.
And that’s a real shame, because I Ain’t Marching Anymore
is a gem in the political folk timeline. The years have rendered some of the lyrics irrelevant, but most still reflect injustices that persist to this very day. On this record, Ochs sticks to an acoustic guitar template, and that is all the groundwork he needs for his inimitable voice to spin his loud and clear protests.
The title track is the timeless one, lyrically speaking. Ochs references many a war, both in his country and outside it, and passionately refuses to march any further. The furious, upbeat guitar coupled with his soaring voice make it one of Ochs’ best ever songs, and it is considered the quintessential anti-Vietnam War song. It’s a difficult one to follow up.
But Ochs has a lot to say, and follow it up he does. The songs vary between lively, passionate protest to delicately spun ballads. His political affiliations are never vague – socialist themes abound, perhaps most clearly on ‘Ballad of the Carpenter’, an interesting song that presents Jesus as a carpenter and a Che Guevara figure in the time of Rome. Another ballad is ‘In the Heat of the Summer’, an apologetic and slow track which addresses what sounds like a violent workers’ riot.
Elsewhere, on the exceptional ‘Iron Lady’, Ochs raves against the death sentence, and he does it in brilliant fashion. “No time to change, not a chance to learn” he laments, over some furious guitar strumming. Even if you take my personal bias out of the mix, it’s an instant classic, and you do wholeheartedly agree with him – at least during the song. Closer ‘Here’s to the State of Mississippi’ is an environmental protest, and time has only amplified its relevance and meaning.
You don't have to be American (and I am not) to realise that against the Occupy backdrop of the world today, I Ain't Marching Anymore
is as relevant a protest as it has ever been. And if you're feeling too intense, Phil Ochs' humour on ‘Draft Dodger Rag’ will get you smiling again.