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April 15, 2010
Rock StarsBy Greyhawk
The opening lines of Saving Abel's song '18 Days' get stuck in my head, and the only thing I can do when songs are stuck in my head is let 'em out, sometimes louder than others. The family's used to the once-upon-a-time would-be rock star in the house...
"'18 Days' - what's that title all about?" I asked Eric Taylor, the band's base player. "What inspired that?"
Producer Skidd Mills says it was that song that convinced him the band had a destiny beyond their hometown of Corinth, Mississippi. "It was '18 Days' that hooked me. The first time I heard it I was like, 'these guys are the real deal; they'll be doing this for a long time.'"
And it's one of those songs that captures separation - and separation is one of those things that service is all too often about. So at first Taylor's answer surprised me.
"Buford Pusser. You know who Buford Pusser is?"
"Yeah - Walking Tall. Dude, I remember when that movie came out - I mean the first one."
Damn - I realized I'd reminded the rock star I was old enough to be his... er, older brother, but he didn't step back. We'd been talking for a while, he'd probably noticed that slight age difference early on in the conversation - and hell, these guys had even rocked some Creedence as part of the concert they'd just put on for us milbloggers. That's proper respect for the elders, says I. And while I'd already told him about how my own experience in a bar band led to a military career (a pretty common story, really) he was more interested in what I'd done in Iraq.
"Well, Pusser's from our part of the country," he continued. "And one day one of the guys in the band was watching Walking Tall, and there's this scene where Pusser's been in the hospital with his face bandaged up. They come to take the bandages off and he says 'It's been 18 days since I've looked at myself' - so that inspired the song."
"I remember that scene," I told him.
On the pre-dawn morning of August 12, 1967, Pusser's phone rang, informing him of a disturbance call on New Hope Road in McNairy County. He responded, with his wife Pauline joining him for this particular ride. Shortly after they passed the New Hope Methodist on New Hope Road, two cars came alongside Pusser's; the occupants opened fire, killing his wife and leaving Pusser, who had suffered a shotgun wound to the face, for dead. He spent eighteen days in the hospital before returning home, and would need several surgeries to restore his appearance.
Inspiration is a strange thing, from that point comes a song with universal appeal.
"Then one of our fans whose husband is in the military made a video for him, and she used our song," Eric said, in a tone that showed he was awestruck that she had done it. "She put it on Youtube, and someone showed it to us. And that's where we got the idea for our own music video for it."
And it all made sense, that these guys from Corinth made a song inspired by a guy who cleaned up the neighborhood that inspired a video from someone whose husband had a similar job to do, and who felt how that music fit, and that circled back to the band who took it another step.
"We did the USO tour, it was incredible," Taylor told me. And he meant it was incredible to have a chance to perform for those crowds - to entertain the men and women who are putting it on the line. It sounds corny to say it, and he's not the first guy I've spoken with who's searched for the right words to describe it, (that might have been Robin Williams...) but that stumbling search for the right words is authentic. "You get a chance to let them enjoy a few moments, let them know there are folks back home who haven't forgotten them... it's just..."
I've been in the audience for those shows - in Baghdad and other garden spots, and it's much appreciated.
"And I saw the one you guys livestreamed," I told him, "that was a great show. I captured that video - it's awesome - but don't worry, I won't put that one up on the web..."
Which isn't to say I wouldn't put some highlights from it on the internet...
Because it was a great show - I hope they'll make it available on DVD some time in the future. The audio/video quality of the original is far superior to what a capture converted to flash (as in the above) can provide.
Eric and I had been talking since Ponsdorf grabbed me by the arm and said, "hey, tell this guy over here what milblogs are all about," and introduced us. Saving Abel's singer and guitar players were doing an unplugged show for the 2010 Milblogs Conference, leaving the drummer and bass player to hang out with the crowd.
"So yeah," I tell him, "there are guys here who wrote weblogs while they were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just telling their stories, keeping in touch with the folks back home. I did it myself, but there are a lot of others - right over there is one who just wrote a book..."
"We were on tour over there," Eric tells me, "and we'd be at some little combat outpost, just hanging out with the guys, talking to them. And they're telling us about what they do, great stories, and it's getting really late, and we've got to sleep, and get up and get on a helicopter and go to another place, but we don't want to stop, we want to hear more."
And here they were, rocking the Milblogs Conference - they'd flown in on their own dime between a couple of other shows. And here I was, swapping questions and answers with a guy who was as interested in listening to me as I was in listening to him. These kids honestly think people who served their country are some kind of rock stars or something...
"These aren't just Iraq and Afghanistan vets," I told him. "There are family members here too. And we've got people here who served in Vietnam - even before. Hey, tomorrow we'll be joined by a guy who served with the Marines in the Pacific in World War Two - Tarawa and Iwo Jima."
The first album - autographed to the Greyhawks
"But tell me, when's the new album coming out?"
"June 8th. The recording's all done, just got to finish a few other things. But we've got a single ready to release this month, on April 19th. It's called "Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)"."
"Where'd you guys get your name?"
"Saving Abel? That came from hearing a preacher talk about the story of Cain and Abel. Once Cain slew his brother he felt great regret, but there was no saving Abel..."
But there is a Saving Abel - and I'm glad for that. Their web page is here (full music videos and free music downloads - sweet!), and Amazon store here, and more than a few fans of the group all over the world.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 15, 2010 6:51 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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