The other band that took the cake with the men was a group named Pepper. Folks were so taken with that ensemble they even named a dog after the band. He was our mascot, and I’m sure everyone had something to say about about four-legged hero.
Pepper was one of the most unique group I ever got to here and they were a bunch of guys who sounded like they were having a great time with whatever they were doing, wherever they happened to be.
I’m sure it was Overthrill who knew them first since they had a bravado I knew spoke well to him. They were a new generation of surfing music even though they fell as a whole in that white boy rapper kind of category. It was pretty rough in the lyrics and a lot of the sound quality, but I just went with the flow since they were such a crowd pleaser. As many lyrics as each song had, the guys seemed to know them all.
From what I remember these guys were from the Kona island of Hawaii (or ha – va – ee as they seemed to pronounce it). It was sort of Eminem singing to a stack of Beach Boys albums. Not exactly, but somewhere in the ballpark. For a generation of music I wasn’t too thrilled with, these guys sure were catchy. Maybe it was from the rhythms or the fast pace or non violent rap style. Or just how rare it was to see my men having a fun time on base totally having an outer body experience from their troubles and any petty feelings from cramped with a bunch of people there was no choice to be apart from. The whole roomie syndrome where the luster always wears off. Instead, they can have whatever squabble hours earlier but then end up having a good old time word for word with the Pepper group. No complaints from the masses. A good thing.
For the most part I just let the tide rise and fall on its own. Some guys think there has to be a tight grip, but it just leads to trouble. Being cool to a point always seemed to work. An untrained eye may say it was a bit disorderly or not what seemed to be the norm. But they all snapped to it when it counted. Having a group who are a little too wish it always aroused my suspicions. They may look obedient on the surface, but who knows what’s going on in those idle noggins otherwise. At least my way I can get a little more insight, whether they know they’re being watched or not. That was my trick. Give a little freedom and see what characteristics bubble up to the surface.
Sometimes I did assert and insert myself. Not as much as some did. My guys knew it so knew better than ever to grumble. I start off strong and ease up on the men. They know my potential (and I’m well aware there are some classic stories passed around about me brandishing my rank or discourse skills) and didn’t want to see if there really was a beast under the surface clawing to get out. Maybe it’s what drove my guys to achieve and also why they seemed to do whatever it took to clear any obstacle or complete any mission; whether it looked important on the surface or not. They were all important in the grand scheme of things. My guys were the first thought about and the last resort when the others didn’t seem to have the same gumption or cajones to. Not to put anyone else down. But I had good reason to have pride in my men. We all trusted one another. It’s why I’m alive today… Even if it seems it didn’t always work out the other way around.
Back on course:
Not only did I have the same mindset on duty, but I also had a lot of a hands-off approach to leisure and other random times. The music was the same; for the most part. I let them self govern for most of the time. Sometimes I took it into my own hands to establish my dominance and to remind them it can be taken away as easily as I granted their Eula-inspired good times. It wasn’t ever much in question. But it never hurts to assert oneself in those situations. I never wanted a questioning.
Sometimes I did that just for the sake of giving lessons or when I really craved something- commandeering the music player thingy. It was usually a surprise just as a pop quiz is to a high schooler. Just as the educator, it was to keep the masses on their toes. It was also a subliminal way to point out a little slagging was going on. They never questioned it and always seemed to try a little harder afterwards.
I won’t say they hated my choices of aural enjoyment, but it was nothing they’d select on a jukebox. Most of the time I took it easy on them. In my own time, I was a rocker type and I was that same kid who the parents said to turn that darn racket down. When I was young I also thought if it’s too loud that person was too old. And yep, I’m old too in that right. I was never blaring the Gershwin. I was in the age of quadraphonic, not sousaphones.
My tastes did mellow, and I did make my choices with these guys in mind. A guy like Ubu may have chose Mount Shasta and that Jellybean cat to test the ire of the guys, but I had a little more decency. The funny thing was their approach to it all. They never complained, and I’m sure they were even more alert when my stuff was coming through the speakers. Most would say it meant boredom or disinterest… But there were always people coming past my area afterwards wondering what such a song was that played or how to spell a name to do a little more research. I would say that’s a successful operation.
Blues was out of the question since it was slow and too much to be woeful about. That would be nothing but torture. A similar reason I also avoided a good deal of Tom Waits and Afghan Wigs (aside from the geographic name). Jazz was one of the safest routes. Good driving music on top of it
A lot of what I wanted did stem from what to avoid. I knew these guys weren’t the kind as a whole to be deep or appreciate the nuances. Mingus was totally out of the question. I also had misgivings about too much of Bird, the stigma perhaps. I did get a copy of the Charlie Watts Quintet album which was a tribute to Charlie Parker. Not the best of that bunch, but a good introductory one. It did bake the cake of the guys knowing that was the guy in the Rolling Stones heading up the shebang. Miles Davis was another I avoided due to some of the wildness in general.
I’m not usually the type to go with a compilation or “greatest hits” sort of setup. I’m actually not a fan of a lot of this new age style of digital remastered stuff. Call me stodgy but I’m from an era of pops, clicks, scratches and a stylus doing the reading. Of course being in a sandbox with resources most limited, I eased up a lot. I was also sensitive to the fact of my audience, even if they were captive by me and the good ol’ U S of A. We all had to acquiesce a bit in that respect. Trading my stylus for something that looked like a futuristic pack of cigarettes was something new. I was already getting used to seeing a little laser skimming a robotic Frisbee. I’m not against progress, but there’s a slow and steady curve I must hike up before I get comfortable with it. At least on my own time. When it’s my country, I’ll learn it at the turn on a dime. But on my time – it’s my way. No lives are at stake when I’m having a dessert wine by the tweed speakers of the hifi.
Coleman Hawkins was a good one. It went over well that is. A lot of the real classics. Kind of along the lines of a primer. That was up until Thelonious Monk. It was well enough received but I was very surprised during one of the songs. That track was Bemsha Swing. Overthrill got a smile like no other man can, sane or otherwise. A little toothy and with grin lines that just might wrap all the way around to the back of his head when he senses an opportunity for mischief. He just belted out some lines, singing along to it and knowing the beat. These lyrics were far from kosher. Then another joined. It turned into a three part off key (and off color) harmony. Later I learned there was a band that would perform these lyrics live. What little I knew while carefully selecting.
What went over the best all around was John Coltrane. To be even more precise, it was Lush Life. On a tradition level removed from avant guarde, the entirety of Lush Life is as close to a perfect album as possible. Driving and melodically laidback feel; sometimes even at the same time. Some of the most crisp horns and take notice pitch. Also one of the greatest drum solos of that decade, century, and maybe even beyond. It was a Sunday drive of a route that day and the album was a perfect accompaniment. I wouldn’t doubt it is a stateside record store ran out of stock on that one when an influx completed that tour and went straight to the jazz section.
One of the best surprises in the good way also came as a result of my musical sharing sessions. I tried to keep a decent stream of jazz and refrained from lecture. But some would chime in to show they were either paying attention, or acknowledging the even slightest bit of interest. One of them had Eula pull an album and made me listen to it. It didn’t sound familiar at all. More like some great work I let slip through the cracks of time. Whoever it was, I could not place it. And it definitely didn’t sound like anything contemporary I heard in the genre. I was beyond stumped.
Turns out not only was the album contemporary bu on top of it, the ensemble was from Japan. Explaining further, it was actually a fake jazz ensemble made for a show that was animated nonetheless. I was floored and my had was proverbially off to the group who masterminded such a musical tour de force. I tracked it down and tricked more than one musical snob in my age range. One or two still don’t believe me. Their loss and my gain.
The shows idea was in space and I guess a lot of science fiction. But they have a spaceship named the Bebop: and that’s where the music sort of comes into play. Since bebop was basically slang in the jazz world for not following a musically set traditional path. With apologies to the cliché but not to the beat of the typical drummer. And most of them went of the beaten path of that drumbeat as well- bebop or not. A few of the guys wanted to say we were the bebop of the rest of the base as a whole. I didn’t let that go too far. Last thing I want is letting them think they can go way off the norm just because they heard some music to help make their lives a slight bit less dreary. Bud nipped.
Looking back, I still mull over if it was the right call. I know it was for the most part a right thing to do: motivation to get through the day and perform well. Deep sown inside me I know everything I did was he right move in the grandiose of this great wide universe. But there’s always that little voice. The termite in the foundation gnawing here and there. This was not the only time, but in a way it was my worst loss. I didn’t make too well out of it either, so of course it weighs harder on me then other things. There are always losses and orders not going quite as well as hoped for once put into effect. That’s what it boils down to. Of course some are more devastating than others. The closest parallel I can think of is sports. Your football team can rack up loses throughout the season: it’s even factored in to have losses. However, losing in the last round of the playoffs is devastating compared to most of the other games falling at less than victory.
There’s a fine line to me. If you worry too much about anything like that, it will borrow into a person’s gourd and make those people completely mental. Conversely, it is much worse to not think about it at all. I cannot have full respect for any man who doesn’t take loss of life to heart. Some feel necessary to have that tough guy sort of steel exterior and show a strength but not flinching in the line of death and casualties. It may seem like a good idea, but it comes across as an icy wind of distance. It never works or instills confidence.
There’s a story I heard which goes back to the Second World War. There was a commander who ended up taking a division of- well, it’s best to be a gentleman and not give too many details. It was a group of soldiers who were in battle pretty much the whole invasion since “beachside frolicking” in Normandy. At any rate…
As story has it, this guy was West Point cadet type and never had a scuff on his boots before he ended up in front of this batch of men. He was not only imposing all his West Point routines but his own values which didn’t seem to have much place during a time of war. Making the men stay clean shaven and having presentation ready uniforms at all times in a land hanging heavy with death and despair- not the ideal circumstances. On top of it, he felt men were more a commodity than a precious resource to conserve. He lost a lot of guys, and seemed it was the nature of war; therefore no need to pay extra mind to it. Pick ’em up, patch ’em up, and send ’em back out if they have two legs to stand on and a pulse.
I can only imagine how tough it must have been for his men. Sure, it happens… But that still doesn’t make things acceptable or right. I learned lessons from whatever tale, good or bad. If I did business the way this guy did I might end up in a similar fashion.
Certainly the men did their best to tolerate things. Obviously the dress code wasn’t followed and the man had no recourse. But a man showing little concern for his men dying… Who would be in their right mind thinking a man like that wouldn’t hold even the slightest of grudge since he showed such indifference as it was.
Some word was passed through the ranks. One could call him a snitch, but he was a hero in reality. The end result were men who came upon the company. They told their commander he was being taken out and replaced. He was indignant, but had no choice but to follow orders. All the men he was under were separated and searched: from the gear to their weapons.
The men found what they were looking for. Every single man had an additional round of ammunition on their person. Munitions on soldiers is not out of the ordinary, however it is very rare to encounter a whole group signed with their commanding officer’s moniker. That’s right: literally a bullet with his name on it. Not on one, but all of the men underneath him.
There was no reprimand. No crime was actually committed and the problem or contention was quickly resolved. Never an issue from that group afterwards. But I’m sure whoever ended up in the place of the predecessor took heed once in those same shoes. Quiet as it was, stuff like that is just known. Passed on time and time again through time, and ended up in my ear. I did the detective work and it’s most certainly true. Not that such a thing would ever make to to a school’s textbook. Those sorts of things are better left as lore than in scholastic print. To my credit, at least I kept it vague. Every day is a teaching tool for me – guiding me to the future or reminding me why I didn’t succeed with something in the past.
Most of the time I don’t dwell too much on the past. I’m happy enough where I am now and where I hope I’ll one day get; but nothing is in the stone as far as talking about the future. I still wonder my decision of the music, but more that particular day- Not so much as an overall decision. Strange to say, but that lack of an outlet such as that may have been more detrimental for the kind of pressure my guys seemed to have just a slight bit more than the rest. It’s a guess of course, and I have all the love for all the men, but I have to love mine the best. They’re my children. Sadly a lot of tragedy and damage accrued the particular day most of us can’t completely keep out of our heads.