We Don’t Want the Bacon! What We Want Is…

Last night I did one thing I too often do and one thing I never do.

The too often: I stayed up late. Very late.

The never: I went to bed hooked up through earbuds and a Kindle to the album “Presenting That Celebrated Maestro MAX MORATH in a Scintillating Program of Waltzes, Shouts, Novelties, Rags, Blues, Ballads, and Stomps.”

And because the music is so much fun, I lay there listening, replaying, listening, replaying… I don’t know how many times I listened to it. I also don’t know what time I finally went to sleep.

Ragtime is my favorite music–piano only, no interference from lesser instruments. Morath is my favorite ragtime pianist. There’s something about his touch… I can’t describe it, but it’s right.

I discovered him years ago in a program on PBS. Then I bought the LP. Recently I repurchased it for Kindle. (Or Fire, or whatever this beast is supposed to be called.)

Tonight, googling for a link to the album, I came across a 1986 New York Times review of Morath’s one-man show, “Living a Ragtime Life.” Serendipity. I didn’t know there’d been a show. Or that Morath is a musicologist.

Or also, according to Wikipedia, a composer, actor, and author. Or known as”Mr. Ragtime.” Or called a “one-man ragtime army.”

I hadn’t planned to say this much about Max Morath, but he’s worth some words, so I’ll quote part of the Times review (which you may skip if you wish):

”IT’S our music that labels our history, more than our wars and our politicians,” asserts Max Morath early in his one-man show, ”Living a Ragtime Life.” Seated at a grand piano under a Tiffany lamp, and flanked by an Edison phonograph, the musicologist, storyteller and expert in turn-of-the-century Americana seems the very epitome of an old-time vaudevillian. But in reflecting with a sly ironic humor on our longing for ”the good old days,” Mr. Morath is much more than a devoted nostalgist. He is a philosopher of American popular culture with Mark Twain’s gift of gab and farsighted historical view. The picture he paints of the 1890’s, ”when sex was dirty and the air was clean,” is of a world that we might want to visit, but, he convincingly persuades us, we almost certainly wouldn’t want to live there. 

But back to what I was listening to over and over last night and why.

First the why: As I’ve already said, it was fun.

The what: Music from the turn of the century–that other century–through World War I. Some pretty bad songs. Some pretty silly ones. Some pretty good ones, usually because they were pretty bad or pretty silly.

Such as the one said to be General Pershing’s favorite song: “We Don’t Want the Bacon: What We Want Is a Piece of the Rhine.”

By Unknown – http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/explore/library/online-catalog/view/oclc/17842776, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47170152

We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.
We’ll feed “Bill the Kaiser” with our Allied appetizer.
We’ll have a wonderful time.
Old Wilhelm Der Gross will shout, “Vas is Los?”
The Hindenburg line will sure look like a dime;
We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.





And a cautionary song: “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl.”

CHORUS 1: “You are going far away, but remember what I say
When you are in the city’s giddy whirl.
From temptations, crimes, and follies,
Villains, taxicabs and trolleys,
Oh! Heaven will protect a working girl.”

CHORUS 2: “Stand back, villain! Go your way! Here I will no longer stay,
Although you were a marquis or an earl.
You may tempt the upper classes
With your villainous demitasses,
But Heaven will protect a working girl.”

And a song the sheet music of which Max Morath’s fourteen-year-old mother was not allowed to bring home: “Always Take a Girl Named Daisy.”

If you take a girl out walking
Down a little shady dell
Always take a girl named Daisy
‘Cause daisies won’t tell

The lyrics quoted here are just excerpts of the songs, and are just a sample of Morath’s presentation.

So there’s my idea of fun, the pastime that kept me awake when decent folk were sound asleep. It’s not for everybody, I realize–though, of course, it should be.

Says Morath,  “Scorned by the establishment as ephemeral at best, trashy at worst, ragtime was the fountainhead of every rhythmic and stylistic upheaval that has followed in a century of ever-evolving American popular music.”

If ragtime and its offshoots strike your fancy, the album cited at the beginning of this post and “Living a Ragtime Life” are available from Amazon (and other vendors no doubt).

And the program “Max Morath: Living a Ragtime Life!” that I watched on PBS many years ago now appears in seven parts on Youtube.

A pilon:

I’ve got a ragtime dog, and a ragtime cat;
A ragtime piano in my ragtime flat;

Got ragtime troubles with my ragtime wife:
I’m certainly living a ragtime life.

Quaint and Curious

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him and he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot at him because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so—my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps
Off-hand like—just as I—
Was out of work—had sold his traps—
No other reason why.

“Yes; Quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.”

~ Thomas Hardy, “The Man He Killed”

"Thomas Hardy," oil on panel, by the...
Thomas Hardy--Image via Wikipedia

Armistice Day 1918: The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

«In Flanders' Fields» - published & illustrate...

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short years ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

~ John McCrae





John McCrae
Col. John McCrae--Image via Wikipedia

John McCrae was a Canadian physician serving as a field surgeon near Ypres in the spring of 1915, when he wrote “In Flanders Fields.” A fellow serviceman said McCrae wrote poem the day after officiating at the funeral of a friend and former student. Poppies “actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind” in the cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station.

In December 1915, the poem was published in Punch. As a result of its popularity, the poppy became known in Allied countries as the “Flower of Remembrance.” It is recited in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Allied countries that contributed to World War I, especially in the UK and Canada. It is sometimes used at Memorial Day ceremonies in the United States. A quotation from the poem appears on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

Anna E. Guerin of France and Moina Michael of the United States promoted the sale of artificial poppies to help wounded soldiers and those left destitute by the war. In the US, in 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted the poppy as the official memorial flower. In 1924, the first poppy factory was built at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and unemployed and disabled veterans worked there, making poppies. The VFW copyrighted the name “Buddy Poppy,” coined by the poppy makers in tribute to buddies who had been killed or seriously disabled in the war. Veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities now assemble poppies. The VFW distributes about 14 million annually. Proceeds go to help veterans and their widows, widowers, and orphans.



In the former British Empire, Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the US) is also known as Poppy Day. It is celebrated on November 11, the date in 1918 when World War I was formally ended. In the US, poppies are sold to commemorate Memorial Day, in May.

Col. John McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918. 

A paper poppy, worn in the United Kingdom from...
"An artificial corn poppy, made of plastic and cardboard by disabled ex-servicemen, worn in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries from late October to Remembrance Sunday in support of the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal and to remember those servicemen and women who died in war." -- via Wikipedia


Image of In Flanders Fields by stoiexia via flickr, CC By 2.0  

Image of John McCrae by William Notman and Son (Guleph Museums, Reference No. M968.354.1.2x) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of poppy by Philip Stevens (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Material for this post was drawn from the following websites:

Arlington National Cemetery

“In Flanders Fields,” Wikipedia 

United States Department of Veteran Affairs  

“‘In Flanders Fields’ Still Inspires,” John Lundberg, Huffington Post  

“In Flanders Fields,” Bartleby.com


“‘Dulce et decorum est’…to Wear a Poppy”

“Poppy Pride or Poppy Fascism?”