Craig Scott: Smiley (1971)

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Craig Scott: Smiley (1971)

It is a sad reflection on New Zealand's counter-culture that at the height of the war in Vietnam there were so few songs addressing the most important international event of that generation. Maybe because there was no conscription in New Zealand, but the musicians of the day were almost mute in their response to the war.

And oddly enough the most widely played and discreetly delivered anti-war message came from the MOR entertainer Craig Scott with Smiley which won the Loxene Golden Disc award in '71 (although stalled at number three on the national charts).

Smiley had been written by Australian Johnny Young (who also wrote The Real Thing for Russell Morris) and Ronnie Burns had taken it to number two on the Australian charts in '70.

In many ways the song meant more to Australians because the title character conjured up memories of the carefree and innocent boy in the Smiley series of films which had been popular in the late Fifites. Smiley -- a kind of mischievious Tom Sawyer character -- of course would have been about conscription age and might well have ended up in the jungles of Vietnam.

And the song cleverly starts off with the jaunty, "you're out in the world today, yesterday there was laughter and songs to sing" through "today there is a peace to bring" and then into that dark place of "you're off to the Asian war, and we won't see you smile no more".

The end of innocence. 

In that regard it was also not dissimilar to British songwriter Raymond Froggart's Rachel's Coming Home which Australian singer Russell Morris took the charts in the same year as Smiley. (See clip below)

And where were the counter-culture musicians when all this was happening? Some might say they were too busy getting stoned -- but I would never suggest that for a minute.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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andrew schmidt - May 29, 2011

I remember having a similar discussion with Wade Churton about Vietnam war influenced songs and he mentioned Toni Williams' Tellabout which was a single on Ode Records from 1972. I couldn't track it down it so I can't confirm its subject matter. Has anyone out there heard it?

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