It was late at night in the courtyard of a hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans when I took a trip back in time.
It had been a long night reminiscing with army buddies during a reunion this past summer. We talked about our days and nights in Vietnam, and I added my recollections to the conversation. At some point, we began to discuss the music we listened to while in our olive drab captivity.
In the army, in the 1960s, there were only three sources for music; the transistor radio, record albums, and reel to reel tapes. In Vietnam, armed forces radio was the only radio station available, and it wasn't much. The army's idea of rock and roll was The Association (they never got the drug references in 'Along Comes Mary') and Nancy Sinatra.
In 1967, when I was in Vietnam, the music industry was exploding with creativity. Groups like the Doors, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, and Moby Grape were rocking the bay area and The Beatles released 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' to an unsuspecting world. None of this music made it to our radios. The songs were much too subversive. Strangely, the army post exchanges at Long Binh stocked the albums, and other psychedelic classics, and soon we were grooving to 'Light My Fire' and 'A Day In The Life' on our PX bought record players.
The more enterprising of us recorded their albums onto reel to reel tape decks, allowing hours of uninterrupted good vibes.That music provided the background for our lives back then. The music became an escape from the monotony of army discipline. It was our defiance. Our way of saying 'you have us for now, but in our hearts we'll always be civilians'.
That summer night in New Orleans I let the songs take me back. It was so easy. I simply closed my eyes and listened and, sure enough, a few came to me. Reach Out (I'll Be There), Cherish, Summer In The City, Walk Away Renee - Boot Camp. Good Vibrations, You Keep Me Hanging On - A.I.T. A Day In The Life, Summer Wine, Friday's Child, Windy, Light My Fire, Happy Together - Vietnam. Tuesday Afternoon, Green Tambourine, Pinball Wizard, In A Gadda-Da-Vida - Fort Monmouth.
Music is my time machine. Certain songs take me back to the days of my youth, to a specific time and place. All I have to do is hear the song in my head and I'm off, repeating adventures, meeting friends I thought I'd never see again, and revisiting places I thought were gone forever.
It's so easy to do, just close your eyes, climb aboard the song, and follow it home.
I was alone. My friends had called it a night. It was one o'clock in the morning in the courtyard of a hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans and I went back in time.
Some journeys end in an instant, others last a lifetime.