The Night Harry J Went To War – Roger Lucey
In 1979 Kenny Rogers recorded a song called ‘Coward Of The County’ which told the story of a Tommy who recalls his father telling him to walk away from trouble if he can. However, when the Gatlin boys have their way with his wife, he takes up arms and shoots the Gatlin boys. But why I am telling you all this. Well there is a huge similarity between the story in Kenny Rogers’ ‘Coward Of The County’ and Roger Lucey’s ‘The Night Harry J Went to War’.
In Lucey’s song, Harry J is a bloke who goes about his business and tries to ignore the skollies who hang out in his neighbourhood. That is until they rough up his wife and then he goes to war againt the gangsters. It’s about being pushed to the limit untill one snaps. One can’t help feeling sorry for Harry, who ends up in jail for his revenge. But back in his neighbourhood ‘No one calls it murder they call it cleaning up.’ It’s difficult to justify, but easy to understand why Harry (or Tommy in Kenny’s case) would do such a thing. And there is that sense of sympathy that comes through in Roger Lucey’s song.
There are 2 versions of the song to chose from: the funky, rocky version found on ‘21 Years Down The Road’ and the Irish-folky one on ‘Homeroad’. I prefer the former as it has a fuller solid sound which satisfies one’s desire for thudding bass and dense sounds. However, there is a certain edge to the latter version with the screechy fiddle and Lucey’s gowling almost-whispered vocals which fit better with the lyrics. If you are not up for the discomfort of the lyrics, then listen to the ‘21 Years Down The Road’ version as the music softens the blow of the words, but if you feel like taking on the world head on, the put on the ‘Homeroad’ version. Either way, though you can’t escape the grittiness of the song.
Where to find it:
Homeroad – Roger Lucy
21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music
21 Years Down The Road version: