The Star Spangled Banner was written to a catchy little number called “To Anacreon in Heav’n.”
Lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key wrote the first drafts of the song as a poem while temporarily detained on a British ship during the War of 1812, after which he immediately sought refuge in a dockside saloon.
It was there that he finished off the verses and got the idea of putting them to the theme song of the Anacreontic Society, a London drinking club, the song was perhaps sung around him as he worked on his poem.
When you sing the “rockets red glare” high notes, you can see why a little alcohol would help in the performance of the song.
The original tune, coincidentally, was written by Anacreontic Society member John Stafford Smith, who also wrote “God Save the Queen”, another British tune recycled into an American patriotic song, in this case “America (My Country ’tis of Thee).”
The first words to the Anacreontic drinking song, by Ralph Temlinson, Esq., run some six stanzas and choruses.
Here are the first stanza and chorus followed by the last, as sung at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, circa 1780:
To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition
That he their Inspirer and Patron would be; When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian:
“Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, no longer be mute, I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I’ll instruct you, like me, to intwine The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”
Ye Sons of Anacreon, then join hand in hand; Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love!
`Tis yours to support what’s so happily plann’d;
You’ve the sanctions of Gods, and the Fiat of Jove. While thus we agree, our toast let it be:
“May our Club flourish Happy, United, and Free!
And long may the Sons of Anacreon intwine The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s Vine.”