“The Last Day of 1934” by Al Stewart
As will be noted later in this post, Al Stewart’s “The Last Day of 1934” is part of an album entitled “Past, Present and Future”. And accordingly the track is based on a historical event that transpired “on the last day of June 1934”.
More specifically, said event occurred in Germany and actually lasted a few days, from 30 June to 2 July. And what it is known as in historical circles is the Night of the Long Knives where, most simply put, Adolf Hitler, who the year prior had become the Chancellor of Germany, proceeded to eradicate his local most-powerful political rivals.
Amongst the individuals killed in the process was one Ernst Röhm. By the looks of things he did not have any direct beef with Hitler. In fact Ernst and Adolf were once super homeys not only politically but also socially.
But as Hitler became increasingly powerful, that level of closeness and shared vision did not last. Moreover Röhm, who was a leading figure in a paramilitary organization known as the SA (which itself was part of the Nazi Party), was powerful enough in his own right to represent a palpable threat, if he so chose.
In other words, Hitler and co. were under the impression that the SA may try to stage a coup. So the aforementioned Night of the Long Knives served the purpose of eradicating that perceived threat.
Lyrics of “The Last Day of 1934”
Now the lyrics themselves do not go into such historical detail. In fact the vocalist states forthrightly that the characters who serve as the primary subject to this song “don’t care who Ernest Rohm was”. And said characters would apparently be German laypeople, everyday folk who aren’t really concerned about what’s going on politically.
And it seems that Al is trying to make a point here. Sometimes when we harp back to the days of the WWII era, we think that everybody in Germany was vested in politics in one way or another. But logically, such would not have been in the case. Moreover, Deutschland is a naturally beautiful country in its own right. Therefore, the people depicted in this song spend their time, ideologically speaking, carelessly chillin’ in its fruit-filled fields.
But alas, modern history has been so kind to many citizens of the world, including those in Germany. For instance, the country was still reeling from being heavily involved in World War I. And that is what the vocalist alludes to about midway through the song.
People such as those at the center of the narrative may not give a rat’s a-s about international politics themselves. But since 1934 wasn’t too long after World War I, warfare was still fresh in the collective minds of Germans, indeed the entirety of Europe, not to mention that at the time the powers-that-be were proceeding towards a Second World War.
Thesis Sentiment of “The Last Day of 1934”
In trying to ascertain a thesis sentiment from this piece, as a premise it would appear that the featured narrative is split into two halves – before and after the Night of the Long Knives.
The lyrics are quite poetic, elusive even. That is to say that even though they aren’t complicated, it can be challenging trying to pin down exactly what Al Stewart is trying to say. But by the looks of things he is taking on the role of a casual German himself, as detailed above, from that time period.
And going a bit out on a limb, he appears to be putting forth that there were in fact some Germans that sympathized with Ernest Röhm and the other victims of the aforementioned event, even if said individuals Germany weren’t into politics like that.
But arguably more to the point is that common studies of WWII don’t even mention “the last day of June 1934”. However, it actually appears that the Night of the Long Knives was a pivotal event in terms of Hitler ascending into the global threat he would ultimately become.
So this may be Stewart’s way of doing his part in making sure that the world does not forget that event, on top of sounding a bit like a Röhm sympathizer himself.
Al Stewart is a singer who has been in the game since the late 1960s. He dropped his most recent studio album, “Sparks of Ancient Light” in 2008. The Scottish singer’s musical heyday was around the late 1970s. It was around this time he came out with “Year of the Cat” (1976) and successively “Time Passages” (1978). Both projects eventually received platinum certifications by the RIAA.
“The Last Day of 1934”
Meanwhile the track we’re covering today is derived from Stewart’s fifth album. The said album goes by the title “Past, Present and Future”. It was originally made public in the UK via Columbia Records during October of 1973.
A few months later, in mid-1974, the project was also issued stateside courtesy of Janus Records. And interesting to note is that the cover art to the US release of this album depicts the singer as Dr. Strange of Marvel Comics’ fame. On the picture, you can seem him rockin’ the Cloak of Levitation traveling through one of his trademark teleportation circles, as made famous in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Al Stewart is acknowledged as the composer of all eight tracks featured on “Past, Present and Future”. And the producer of the album is English musician John Anthony.
For the Record
The aforementioned Ernst Röhm was born in 1887 and executed, at the age of 46, not on the last day of June 1934 technically but the day after, 1 July.