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beatthelastboss's avatar

What does "And the band played on" by Dax mean?

Asked by beatthelastboss (286 points ) December 26th, 2009

Here are it’s lyrics:

I had waited too long
To hear that lonely night
I had mother of god
And my head filled with light

And the band played on
Driving me to distraction
As the world came crashing down around us

Kept on playing that song
The one you know so well
Called “everything’s gonna be alright”
Echoed in the lonely night

I was all by myself
No one to ignore
Lived in back of the cell
And I was lonely time, yeah

And the band played on
Driving me to distraction
As the world came crashing down around us

Kept on playing that song
The one you know so well
Called “everything’s gonna be alright”
Echoed in the lonely night

And the band played on
And the band played on

Please help me analyze them! The song ends with an abrupt nuclear bomb, without letting the final note ring (Which bugs me intensely). I love this song, but I just don’t understand it :)

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8 Answers

faye's avatar

The band played on while Titanic sank and it sank because of human error so I’ve read and heard.

evandad's avatar

I don’t know the artist, but I read the words and I believe they mean what the term has always meant – Life goes on

reacting_acid's avatar

I agree @faye. That is what I thought of when I read the lyrics.

beatthelastboss's avatar

Hmm… Then whats with the nuke? :P

Buttonstc's avatar

The original use of the phrase was in an old song, some version of which can prob. be found on the web.

It was just a melodic little ditty without apparent irony or cynicism. I’ll quote a few lines which I remember so you can try to find it at the end of my comments.

Then there is the reference to the Titanic which carries with it an aura of fortitude and courage even while facing death.

There wasn’t really much that they could do except offer what little comfort music could bring. One of the songs played was reportedly, “Nearer My God to Thee”

However, there was also a book detailing the early history of the AIDS crisis by Randy Shilts entitled “And The Band Played On”

In this case there is a far more sinister use of that phrase as it became clear that there was a lot of denial and delay in funding by bureaucrats trying to keep a lid on it.

So the metaphorical slant is pretense in the face of devastation.

This was not the case on the Titanic because everyone was soon aware of the inevitable doom awaiting so it wasn’t as if the band could cover it up.

But with the AIDS crisis, that was the case in terms of the govt. Many lives could have been spared had there been prompt notification to hemophiliacs once there was the realization that blood was definitely one of the routes for transmission.

Reagan never uttered the word AIDS. C. Everett Koop tried to stress how important condoms could be in mitigating transmission but no one in govt. wanted to hear it.

Those are just a few examples of why Randy Shilts chose that phrase as the title of his book. He was clearly p*ssed off about all of what his research turned up.

If you study the lyrics of the song you quoted, you will see that the phrase is being used in a similar manner as Shilts did except that this time around the band played on is distracting from and disguising the dangers of possible nuclear holocaust (according to the viewpoint of the song’s author)

“And the band played on
Driving me to distraction
As the world came crashing
down around us.”

So that’s basically my take on it and why I think it has more to do with the rationale behind Shilts’ using the same phrase to title his book. The song seems to be saying the same about the bands playing in order to distract from nuclear holocaust in the same manner of ignoring the AIDS crisis in it’s early stages.

Buttonstc's avatar

I can’t do links from iPhone but if you want to hear the original song from ( I believe) the 30s or 40s, just head over to YouTube and in the Search bar put on: “Casey would waltz”

Click on the first link to hear the song.

Jeruba's avatar

There’s an old song with the refrain “And the band played on”—one that older folks would have found very familiar a while back. I’ve noticed that sometimes newer songs do make intentional connections with lyrics from traditional sources. Maybe they’re unrelated, but maybe not.

[Edit] Sorry, I didn’t see that it had already been cited. Well, I linked the Wikipedia article about it.

Buttonstc's avatar

Since I can’t post links while using iPhone, I’m actually glad you posted that.

They can also listen to it on YT.

It really is a very catchy tune and difficult to get out of your head.

But the lyrics are basically fluff so I doubt there is a connection to the song quoted by the OP.

I also listened to the Dax version and it has no musical similarity either.

But it was an interesting question. It’s hard to know what precisely was in the mind of the author when he wrote it.

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