Tune of the Day: National Emblem
The National Emblem march was composed in 1902 by Edwin Eugene Bagley. It is a standard of the American march repertoire, appearing in eleven published editions.
Bagley composed the score during a 1902 train tour with his family band. He became frustrated with the ending, and tossed the composition in a trash can. Members of the band fortunately retrieved it and secretly rehearsed the score in the baggage car. Bagley was surprised when the band informed him minutes before the next concert that they would perform it. It became the most famous of all of Bagley’s marches. Despite this, the composition did not make Bagley wealthy, for he sold the copyright for $25!
Bagley incorporates into the march the first twelve notes of The Star-Spangled Banner ingeniously disguised in duple rather than triple time. The rest of the notes are all Bagley’s, including the four short repeated A-flat major chords that lead to a statement by the low brass that is now reminiscent of the National Anthem.
The best-known theme of this march is popularly sung in the US with the doggerel verse “and the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole”. In Britain, the same theme is sometimes sung with the words, “have you ever caught your bollocks in a mangle”.
The march has been featured in movies such as Protocol and Hot Shots!.