Apocalypse Now And Then

May 29, 2011

I stumbled upon Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now the other evening.

To be specific – and with the numerous versions of the film I suppose that’s necessary – it was 2001’s re-release Apocalypse Now Redux. I know that I’ve seen portions of this lengthier version through the years, but I haven’t owned a copy in any version since having one on VHS.

I didn’t see the movie in the theater during its original release. I was eleven or twelve and it wasn’t really of interest to me. Instead, it would be four or five years later before I saw the iconic ’70s film.

It was late on a Friday night that a handful of us ended up hanging out in my buddy Streuss’ house after a night most likely spent driving aimlessly around town. With us sprawled about the family den, Streuss popped the tape of Apocalypse Now into the VCR (which was still quite the novelty).

Of course, Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore was a hit and the Do Long Bridge scene was memorably trippy, especially The Roach.

The Roach has about three-minutes of screen time and utters fewer than a dozen words as he cooly dispatches a Viet Cong sniper. Then, after being asked by Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard if he knows who is in charge at the outpost, The Roach replies with a simple, “Yeah,” before vanishing like a well-armed apparition.

(making his appearance even more awesome, IMDB lists Herb Rice, the actor who portrayed The Roach, as having merely three minor credits)

It wasn’t long after Do Long, after Willard, Chief, Chef, Lance, and Clean reach Cambodian waters but well before Hopper and Brando are found, that I think I dozed off. It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t compelling, but it was late and the movie was long.

(I have no doubt that I had never seen a movie running almost three hours before)

I didn’t make it to the end the other night, either. I have the stamina for a three-hour movie (or in the case of Redux, four plus) but bedtime is even earlier these days.

But, as I do whenever I come across Apocalypse Now, I did hang with the crew of the Erebus until The Roach informed Willard and me who was in charge.

Here are four war songs…

X – Country At War
from Hey Zeus!

I’ve noted before that I have never been able to embrace the music of seminal L.A. punk band as much as I feel I should. That’s likely why I held on on to the promo copy I received of the band’s ’93 reunion/swan song Hey Zeus!

But Country At War is a cool rock song juxtaposing the banalities of life on the homefront during a conflict far away.

Paul McCartney – Tug Of War
from Wingspan: Hits And History

Paul McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War arrived with great expectations as it found the former Beatle reuniting with famed producer George Martin. As I recall, the album received glowing reviews at the time and became a huge commercial hit driven by the ubiqitous duet with Stevie Wonder, Ebony And Ivory.

The title track is a rumination on conflict that alternates between gentle and dramatic with a lilting melody and a hopeful vibe.

Gavin Friday – You Me And World War Three
from Shag Tobacco

Gavin Friday is probably best-known as a longtime friend of, and occasional collaborator, with U2’s Bono. That relationship once placed me in the middle of a case of mistaken identity with the former in a Dublin hotel.

On the sophisticated pop song You And Me And World War III, the Irish artist croons his way through a wry lyric about more immediate and personal friction.

Bob Marley And The Wailers- War
from Songs Of Freedom

One of the more famed songs by Bob Marley had its inspiration in a speech by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the United Nations General Assembly in 1963.

If X’ Country At War expressed the general apathy of a nation toward a far-flung conflict, the punchy War seethes as it demands justice for those who are more directly affected by those far-flung conflicts.