By Ravi Raman
In Melbourne, on 19 October 1856, a visiting Royal Navy captain described what he witnessed as "the most barbaric, most beautiful and the bravest show it has been my privilege to see." He was writing about the legendary bareknuckle bout, a six-hour, 15-minute epic fight between James Kelly and Jack Smith. So it is fitting that our playlist on the Sweet Science (and other nasty ways of putting on the hurt) starts with Paul Kelly evoking those days in Rally Round The Drum.
The sport and the fighters evolved as evidenced by the man known as The Brown Bomber, who 75 years ago (almost to the day) finished an unprecedented campaign where he defended his belt 13 times across a period of 29 months. The boxers he defeated in that period would come to be known as members of the "Bum of The Month Club." His feats have been cherished by Memphis Minnie as the Joe Louis Strut.
In direct contrast to that champ is our next contender for playlist honours. One of 25 children and brutalised early in life, he went to jail for thuggery, worked as an enforcer and finally made his mark in the ring. Mark Knopfler, with his fondness for outlaws and outcasts, tells us that tragic story in his Song For Sonny Liston.
Liston's career ended when this week's top hero took him apart over two fights. Johnny Wakelin tells us the story of Muhammad Ali as does the appositely named Everlast in The Greatest, the name Ali claimed for himself.
Two of Ali's contemporaries made their mark in boxing history and became part of the group known as the Five Kings. The Foreman vs Frazier Round Two, recorded here by the Big Youth, also gave rise to one of the most famous sporting commentaries, when a hoarse Howard Cosell shouted "Down goes Fray-suh, Down goes Fray-suh, Down goes Fray-suh."
The aforementioned Five Kings and other African Americans would dominate boxing so much that every now and again there woud be some media frenzy over The Great White Hope, a tale that Styx tells us tongue in cheek.
But if you think, like Garbage, that only Boys Want To Fight and girls just want to dance all night, you'd be wrong. As my once partner in crime and life taught me with a blinding display of Karate taking down two "lads from London" in seconds flat. (Needless to say I was always the peace loving man after that). Brad Paisley pays homage to both the art form and the women who acquire it.
Everybody loves Kung Fu Fighting insists Carl Douglas while martial arts devotee and hip hop artist Afu Ra, with Masta Killah, tells us in Mortal Kombat of the "triple spinnin' kicks, side kicks and hook kicks" with which he will "hit your pressure points" and warns that "you'll die 10 times" if you try to test him.
And if that wasn't warning enough Morrissey tells us the trials and tribulations of Boxers though the best lesson for the belligerent and bellicose brawlers comes from a warrior named Gallo Del Cielo and his "manager". It doesn't matter that troubadour Joe Ely is talking of a rooster. The lesson is the same – a broken body, empty pockets and memories of a lost home are all that you'll end up if you go down this disputatious road.
Paul Kelly – Rally Round The Drum
Memphis Minnie – Joe Louis Strut
Mark Knopfler – Song for Sonny Liston
Johnny Wakelin - Muhammad Ali
Everlast – The Greatest
Big Youth – Foreman vs Frazier Round 2
Styx - Great White Hope
Garbage – Boys Wanna Fight
Brad Paisley - Karate
Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting
Afu Ra ft Masta Killa – Mortal Kombat
Morrissey – Boxers
Joe Ely – Gallo del Cielo
Genesis – The Battle of Epping Forest
The Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man
Jackie Leven - Extremely Violent Man
Primus – Fisticuffs
Bob Dylan – Who Killed Davey Moore
Oi Polloi – Let the Boots Do the Talking
Tom Russell – Muhammad Ali
Ramones – Beat on the Brat
David Essex – Streetfight
Cherry Poppin' Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot
Colin Hay – Are You Lookin' at Me?
Boomtown Rats – Rat Trap
Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer
Guru's wildcard pick:
Just Dave – Mike Tyson Quote Song.
Another version can be found here.
Boxing can be brutal but it also throws up some extraordinary displays of bravery and courage. One such bravura show came during one of boxing's greatest rounds between Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward as told here by Paul Gibson in Balls of Wrath from the Guardian Sports Network.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Suggest: songs about fighting. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.