In 1990 I was a newly trained 19d10 US Army Scout stationed in Wildflecken, Germany in the 4th Infantry 1/68 Armored Division. During my short stint with this unit I was introduced to a band that would very rapidly become a staple of my life.
I was assigned to a room with a young man from Brooklyn. At the time I felt like my life was a living hell. He was loud, brash, and in my opinion just a little bit thuggish. I on the other hand was quiet, unassertive, and in my opinion just a little bit too well behaved.
I not sure if we ever got along, but I do remember when his opinion of me improved.
One day a few months after arriving , I was returning from the library when a Mortar stationed in the same barracks passed me and said something I found offensive. I must have been in a mood because I actually went against my usual forgiving manner and corrected him. He charged me and I defended myself. The altercation didn’t last because Scouts and Mortars began jumping out of their windows to break us up. I proceeded to my room. When I’m in a situation like this, I remain very calm and collective. I don’t lose my temper I just take care of the task at hand. It is when the everything has calmed down that my adrenaline starts to boil. By the time I entered my room I was shaking with pure emotion. My roommate looked up from the bed and started to ask me what was going on when my adversary burst into the room and attacked me. I went into a blind rage, grabbed him, threw him out into the hall, and proceeded to try and put his head through the mortar wall. I am lucky the rest my platoon saved me from causing him any serious injury.
From this point on my roommate showed me more respect. We weren’t friends, but at least he wasn’t such an ass.
Now this roommate listened to a lot of music I had never heard or even liked at the time. I would come to like most of the bands he listened to years after we parted company, but I just couldn’t get past my own distain for him to appreciate the bands he was exposing me to. That is until one fateful occasion. He had a car and would regularly drive to see his girlfriend who lived quite a distance away. One morning he came into the room looking more haggard than usual. On his drive home he had hit a patch of ice and barely escaped with his car intact.
He commented that he had been listening to New Model Army at the time.
For a month or so he had been listening to a bootleg cassette of New Model Army’s album Ghost Of Cain. When he would put something in his boom box I would either leave the room or grab my Walkman, put on the headphones, and play one of my own cassettes never paying attention to his selection. As he is telling me his story he puts the cassette in and pushes play. I’m actually paying attention this time and as he recounts what is in his mind is a near death experience. The song he plays is stops me in my tracks. (click on blue name to hear a snippet)
I was hooked. I spent the rest of the work day thinking about 51st State. The song was in my head. There was something about it that just appealed to me. I hadn’t even heard it enough to know what it was suppose to mean. It was just the beat, the acoustic guitar, and the lead vocals spoke to me. I sit here now trying to recall just what it was but after 29 years I have listened to 51st State so many times I know all the nuances and subtlety I missed that first time. It’s not my favorite NMA song but I am still very fond of it.
When I returned to my room that afternoon, I asked my roommate to borrow his cassette. You should have seen the shocked look on his face as he handed it over. I plugged The Ghost of Cain into my Walkman put on my headphones and didn’t come up for air the rest of the night
Every song on the album captured my imagination.
From the hard driving opening The Hunt
To the forlorn track Ballad
A month later my roommate commented that I listened to the cassette more than him.
Sometime in August 1990, Our unit was being disbanded when Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was only days away from being sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana where an uncle of mine was also stationed as a Scout. All of my belongings had already been shipped and I was just waiting for my travel papers to come in. Our platoon was playing basketball in the Gym when our Captain called us together and asked for two volunteers to be transferred to another scout unit that was being deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 3rd Armored Division. I thought about two seconds and raised my hand because I had joined the Army for a challenge and didn’t feel I had really been presented one yet. Three hours later I was in a military van on the way to my next assignment with the NMA cassette in my possession. A kind parting gift from a roommate who decided I needed it much more than him.
I have considered occasionally what my music collection would be like if I had not raised my hand in that faithful moment. Here in the states in the 90’s one of the hardest things to get ahold of was a New Model Army CD. I managed but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t until Amazon became a household name that I was able to complete my collection.
So I was transferred to the scout platoon with the 4/34 Armored Division in Mainz, Germany. When my unit deployed to Saudi Arabia on New Years Day 1991 I listened to The Ghost Of Cain the entire 14 hour C130 flight. The day after my unit left Mainz, New Model Army played a concert in the area.
Our first night in Saudi Arabia was spent in a US troop camp on the Persian Gulf. I remember standing on a rock barrier staring out into the Gulf with NMA blasting through my headphones. My M14 was slung across my back with the muzzle pointed downward resting along my right thigh. I must have feverishly been playing air guitar with that muzzle because that night I earned the nickname SPAZ. I’m still proud of that nickname.
I distinctly remember getting lost in these songs that night
Needless to say NMA was my main staple during my entire Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Farewell deployment. Sometime in April or May of 1991 my unit returned to Mainz, just days after New Model Army held a concert in the vicinity. Seeing a pattern here?
My time in Mainz was spent between my military life and exploring the town spending my money hand over fist. I bought my very first Cd player and every NMA Cd I could find in German record stores.
The Ghost Of Cain
Thunder and Consolation
The newly released live album Raw Melody Man
a Cd with the cover I posted at the top of the page
I was in New Model Army heaven. There wasn’t a track on any Cd I didn’t like. It doesn’t matter what kind of a mood I’m in, I can listen to any NMA Cd and I’m instantly content.
Here’s Something I bet you were expecting. By this time I was trying, planning, saving for the next NMA concert anywhere within a feasible commute for an active duty person. Two days after I was sent back to the US in July 1991 New Model Army held a concert close enough for me to attend.
On the plane ride I vowed that the first concert I ever attended would be a New Model Army performance. 28 years and I am still waiting. You see they don’t tour the United States very often and before the internet and they established their website http://www.newmodelarmy.org/, I had no way of reliably knowing if they did. So I bought the few Cd’s I could in the States and didn’t go to any concerts.
In 2009, NMA announced tour dates in the United States. I talked to my boss and planned on taking my first vacation in 5 years on a trip to Austin. I was ready. Then their visas got cancelled. A few years later they came as close as Albuquerque, NM but I had neither the time nor money to make the trip.
So I wait. I try to expose everyone to a dose of New Model Army.
I have still never attended a concert.
I hold true to my vow.
New Model Army has my first and only loyalty
I’m just a vagabond… prisoner forever