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Monday, January 21, 2013

Corporal Clegg - An Analysis

"Corporal Clegg" is a song engendering much speculation and questions. It is featured on their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and was written by Roger Waters and features Nick Mason on lead vocals. The song also features a kazoo.

"Corporal Clegg"

Corporal Clegg had a wooden leg
He won it in the war, in 1944.
Corporal Clegg had a medal too
In orange, red, and blue
He found it in the zoo.
Dear, dear were they really sad for me?
Dear, dear will they really laugh at me?
Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him.
Mrs. Clegg, another drop of gin.
Corporal Clegg umbrella in the rain
He's never been the same
No one is to blame
Corporal Clegg received his medal in a dream
From Her Majesty the queen
His boots were very clean.
Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him
Mrs. Clegg, another drop of gin.

The song is about a soldier who lost his leg in World War II. It is the first mention of war in a Pink Floyd song, something that would become a common theme in Roger Waters' lyrics, Roger having lost his father thus in 1944. Waters told Mojo magazine that this song is autobiographical. He explained: "Corporal Clegg is about my father and his sacrifice in World War II. It's somewhat sarcastic—the idea of the wooden leg being something you won in the war, like a trophy." This can be seen as rather lighter in tone than the Floyd's later tackling of the subject, though, despite the irony (Clegg "won" his wooden leg in the war) and darkness behind the lyrics; indeed, among the cacophony of voices towards the end we hear an officer telling his one-legged man: "Clegg! Been meaning to speak to you. About that leg of yours! You're excused parade from now on!" and members of the band actually corpsing in the chorus.

As far as Corporal Clegg is concerned, it should be noted that Syd Barrett does not appear. I don't have it handy, but one of the Seventies music rags (Melody Maker, I think) forwarded a fan letter to Syd and published his reply. He mentioned specifically that he does not appear on "Corporal Clegg." The Belgian vid features an early mix of the song. I have listened to it again, playing it out loud and was struck that it was definitely Gilmour's most convincing Syd impression.

There were also some very interesting clippings from 1968 which seem to suggest that Pink Floyd's second album, "A Saucerful of Secrets", was originally going to be titled "Corporal Clegg". Another article suggests 'Corporal Clegg as the first single off the new album.

"Corporal Clegg" may be Waters trying to copy Syd musically, but that's not a Syd lyric. (In fact you could draw a line from there to "Free Four" to "Animals" to "Final Cut.") And some of the melodies of "Corporal Clegg" always sounded to me like the earliest seeds of some of the stuff on The Wall. "Waiting for the Worms"--that's what "Corporal Clegg" reminds me of--a jauntier version of "Worms".

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