Armagideon Time

Never remember

January 14th, 2015

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One of the odder items in my music collection was a compilation tape titled Vietnam: The Soundtrack or Vietnam: The Movie. My copy of it went missing ages ago — hence the uncertainty about the exact title — and searching the internet has turned up nothing pertinent.

What I do remember is that it had a cover painting (done in “contemporary mall kiosk style”) of an off-model Huey chopper zooming over a silhouetted junglescape set against a luridly orange sky. It was not a soundtrack, per se, but rather a budget-priced attempt to cash in on the Vietnam War movie craze of the 1980s, where dubiously sincere laments about a brutal and unjust war were coupled to bouts of Boomer musical nostalgia.

The audio component of this revisionist trend amused my old man, whose musical memories of his time “in country” centered around the “tame bullshit like the Archies and Gary Lewis” played on Armed Forces Radio and a record he still despises after forty-five years.

The 1960s pop and militaria buff my teenage self was, however, couldn’t get enough of the stuff. The only hitch was that the official soundtracks for the related films were full-price (~ ten bucks in those days) jobbers, despite the source material being widely available as “Nice Price” or “Super Saver Series” offerings in the cut-out bins. (See also: the Stand By Me soundtrack.)

Someone in the dank corners of the music repackaging biz apparently noticed this disconnect between cost, price, and demand. Thus was born a cheapjack sell-through package of familiar tunes stripped of expensive re-branding. The result was a mix of cuts culled from Platoon (“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”), Full Metal Jacket (“These Boots Are Made for Walkin”), China Beach (“Reflections”), along with stuff that might not have had a strong cinematic reference, but fit the theme (Edwin Starr’s “War”). It was topped off some Eastern Bloc orchestra’s rendition of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” to add a level of pyrotechnic class in the form of a callback to Apocalypse Now.

(Full confession: I used to crank that shit up while I was zipping through traffic on my mountain bike during my morning ride to high school.)

I’m not certain what happened to my copy of the tape. Most likely, I passed on to either my dad or to Maura (who majored in War and Social Consequences in college) at a time when I’d forsaken appreciation of the oldies for punk rock puritanism. I wish I held onto it, not so much for the music, but as a bizarre artifact of a moment when a criminally horrific conflict became the stuff of mass-marketed nostalgia.

2 Responses to “Never remember”

  1. Freeman Williams

    Holy crap, I had this. The description of the cover art and the Eastern bloc “Ride of the Valkyries” cinched it… and I can’t remember the title of the thing for the life of me. (I bought it primarily for “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”). Given my pack rat nature, I’m betting it’s in a storage box in my garage, which means I’ll find it years from now, when neither you or I will remember this.

  2. Floyd Lawton

    Long time listener, first time caller

    I never owned this album but I feel like I’ve seen it in used record stores. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the name was Vietnam: the soundtrack because “Vietnam the movie” is a line from one of my favorite scenes in Full Metal Jacket. It’s yelled by Adam Baldwin as they’re being filmed by a TV crew while fighting in Hue, while Surfin Bird plays in the soundtrack.

    Love the blog. I started with the Nobody’s Favorites archive a couple of years ago and now I just enjoy it all. You do an excellent job of weaving together interesting thoughts about comics, music, movies and Americana that geeks of a certain age experienced in what was once an isolated genre of people, now connected by the magic of the interwebs. Keep up the good work

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