Did You Know Houston Has Had the Same Official Song Since 1915? Maybe It's Time for a New One.
We don't know if it's the election or what - actually it's not, but bear with us - but this afternoon Rocks Off got to wondering whether or not Houston had its own official song, lyrics and music officially sanctioned and ratified to embody the Space/Bayou City's hopes and dreams. This being Houston, we figured no way would a city so willfully ignorant of its abundant musical heritage and talent (officially, anyway) ever take such a radical step. Surely any composer who dared even suggest such a thing would be laughed right out of City Hall chambers. Well, we consulted a couple of senior Press staffers who are wiser than us in such municipal musical matters, and it turns out we were dead wrong. Houston does have an official song. Houston has had the same official song since 1915, as a matter of fact. Other events that happened in 1915: Typhoid Mary was placed in lifetime quarantine; D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation premiered in L.A.; Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis was published in the original German; Babe Ruth hit his first career major-league home run for the Boston Red Sox; and Rocks Off's late paternal grandmother, Lavonia Adelle Montgomery Gray, was born in Burkeville, Tex.
Composed by the excellently named Oliver Allstorm, "Houston Municipal Song" - now there's a rousing title that instantly kindles all kinds of pride in the city - is based on the World War I British marching tune "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," which, if you take a gander at the lyrics right here , helps explain one more event that happened in 1915: The military council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood voted to stage an uprising on Easter Sunday 1916, a week-long insurgency that became known as the Easter Rebellion and, after a lot of people were killed, led to the Republic of Ireland's eventual independence in 1921. Specifically, we're talking about the verse where one "Paddy," the British doughboy's rival for the affections of a certain Tipperary-dwelling lass, blames his mistakes in "spelling" (for some reason it's in quotes) on his pen. There's also a deuce of an "extra wartime verse" where our narrator explains how his wartime travels in France have taught him the proper way to "tickle" this young maiden, giving him yet another leg up on poor potato-sucking Paddy besides, you know, not being Irish. Who wouldn't want to revolt after that? By the way, the last time "Tipperary" appeared on any sort of pop-cultural radar was when the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show sang it at the end of that series' legendary final episode in 1977. But back to Houston. Here are Mr. Allstorm's lyrics, in all their Edwardian splendor, as Rocks Off found them on the Bayou City History blog . Allow the Russian Red Army Choir above to help you sing along:
"Here in dear old Houston, we will sing our song today, We'll wave our City's banner, it reaches to the bay! Singing on the Lone Star's glory, what land is more free? There is no place like Houston, and old Houston is for me!
CHORUS "It's the one place, and it's the dearest The City I love best! It's the one place, and it's the dearest The queen of the mighty West! So, then give me Houston! 'Tis her I would be, In the best place of all creation, My Houston for me.
"Our fathers came for freedom, from ev'ry foreign shore, They found it in New England, but they still wanted more, Moving westward then to Texas, to Houston so grand, 'Twas here they settled ever in the fertile wonder-land!
"'Twas here in dear old Texas, down at the Alamo; Brave Travis, gentle Bowie, and Crockett struck the blow, Dying nobly for our freedom, for liberty so dear, They gave us all our glory, and we'll live forever here!
"Now in dear old Houston, we will forever be, Our men are mighty builders, our ships sail out to sea, Building for a greater future, our flag is unfurled - We're calling to the nation, and inviting all the world!"
Jesus, where do we start? Maybe with Houston as the "queen of the mighty West"? Montrose jokes aside, we bet folks like Michael Berry and Dan Patrick would be "tickled" to death if we all started running around calling it that. Or how about the freedom-celebrating line, "They found it in New England, but still they wanted more." Way to endorse the massive land grab/displacement of indigenous peoples euphemistically referred to as "manifest destiny" there, Oliver. Oh yeah - and one entire verse about the Alamo, which last we checked was about 200 miles to the west in a little town called San Antone, and nary a mention of San Jacinto? Did this guy even live here? Besides, didn't Houston's pro soccer franchise change its name to "Dynamo" from "1836" because any mention of the Year of Texas Independence was deemed offensive to the millions of Houston-area residents of Hispanic heritage, now around 40 percent of the population and rising fast? At least the song manages to offend local Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the descendants of their Mexican adversaries, we guess. We'll forgive Allstorm for not mentioning any other Houston industries besides shipbuilding - space travel, large-scale petrochemical refining, agonizingly life-prolonging medical breakthroughs and rampant speculation in illegal energy futures were still decades in the future, and the Ship Channel had just opened the previous year. And he did get a couple of things right: the part about opening our arms to the world (did we ever... thanks, air conditioning!) and, we suppose, our marshy Gulf Coastal Plain used to be fertile before it was completely paved over. Anyhow, this is starting to get a little long, so we'll wrap it up. Rocks Off thinks its high time the Bayou City got itself a new official song. We even went to the trouble of picking one out. Tomorrow, we'll tell you what we chose - and, although it makes perfect sense, it'll probably still piss you off.
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