Today I present for your enjoyment one of the darnedest things I’ve ever heard, and one of the oddest couplings ever, Auschwitz backed with 29th September by the Italian beat combo Equipe 84.
You’d have thought just two short decades after the liberation of Auschwitz the world would have been ready for a pop song about the horrors encountered there, wouldn’t you? Apparently not. The mind fair boggles: who in God’s name ever thought that this was a good idea? The B-side (or the A-side if you possess the American pressing) is even better; histrionic caterwauling, dreadfully out of tune vocals and someone intoning the phrase 29th of September (and, later, 30th of September) over and over again. It makes a little more sense in its original language where the disembodied voice repeating the date endlessly is replaced by a radio announcer reading a news story; unfortunately you still get the same histrionic caterwauling, only this time in Italian.
Auschwitz was originally issued in Italy in 1966 as the B-side of their cover of the Cher hit Bang Bang, with 29th September (as 29 Settembre) released as the A-side to its follow up in early 1967. Both tracks were re-recorded specifically for the English-speaking market, with English lyrics written by Tommy Scott (a minor 60s recording artist who also penned English lyrics to the brilliant early Eurovision hit Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son), and released as a single in the UK on Major Minor and, with the sides flipped, in the USA by Imperial.
Surprisingly the disc flopped in both countries, making it relatively hard to find these days and rather expensive when copies do turn up: at the time of writing there’s a UK copy on eBay for £45. I can’t quite work out why it stiffed; surely a song about life (and, naturally, death) in a concentration camp should have been a hit? How could it fail to chart with lyrics like:
I died when I was a childI died with hundreds of people
From a furnace through a chimney
And now I am cradled by the wind
At Auschwitz, snow on the ground
The smoke it drove so slowly
In the fields lay the ashes
Of the people which spread in the wind
….it beggars belief. 1967! Peace and love! Hippies and flowers! Hitler and gas chambers! It is thought that around 1,300,000 people were murdered at Auschwitz, and this is the best you can do?
There has, thankfully, been no new material since 1989.