“The Paradise of Bachelors imprint has turned up an absolutely fascinating record here, a 1983 D.I.Y. concept album that across its nine songs charts the experience of former Navy fighter pilot Ed Bankston and his fellow comrades in Vietnam ten years earlier. Originally only offered for sale via mail order from an advertisement placed in Soldier of Fortune magazine, it’s at long last getting some well-deserved exposure. I must say it’s a truly singular and compelling listening experience, with songs such as “Soldier of Fortune,” “Firefight,” “The Dark & Bloody Road,” “Body Bag” and “Over the Edge” never shying away from describing the vagaries of war. The album began gestating in 1973, not long after Banskston had returned home from serving on the USS Kitty Hawk, and it’s hard to emphasize how viscerally and unflinchingly he puts across his impressions and stories from a decade earlier. For instance, take “Vietnam Blues,” which initially comes on like a light-hearted blues number, yet within the first thirty seconds contains the line “Been down in Vietnam/180 days/He been down in Vietnam/Burning babies for his pay.” Strange to think that an album that comes on like some strange amalgamation of Waylon Jennings and the Meat Puppets could so successfully impart such a multi-sided impression of the physical and psychological impact of the war experience, and yet it does. Over There… and Over Here, I don’t think there has ever been another record quite like this — and in all honestly I hope there never will be.”
Elliott Sharp conducted a wonderful interview for the Village Voice with head Ripper Ed Bankston about his music and military career. Ed told him some great stories about seeing Waylon Jennings as a young man, the “snockered” culture of Arizona honky-tonks, and his recent return to playing guitar again for the first time in thirty years. Thanks, Elliot and Ed!
Finally, you can read excerpts from our long oral history with Ed Bankston at this post by the Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin, who deem Over There … and Over Here “one of the most visceral anti-war albums ever put to wax.” The songs of the Red Rippers feel more relevant than ever in light of all the recent news about returning troops and the neglect facing our veterans at home, including the story about the difficulties facing the commando who killed bin Laden.
On a lighter note, we’re tremendously excited about opening pre-orders for Hiss Golden Messenger’s Haw on Tuesday, February 19! We have some great deals and discounts available, which we’ll leave till next week to unveil, but suffice it to say, this great album is headed your way. Stay tuned here and via email, if you’re on our mailing list (for which you can sign up on the right column of this page.)
Chicagoans, we recommend celebrating Valentine’s Day this evening with Steve Gunn at the Hideout. Here’s a recent profile in Newcity, and Bill Meyer has this compelling suggestion in Time Out Chicago: “Be sure to show up early for singer-guitarist Steve Gunn, who’s set to debut material from his upcoming solo LP, Time Off, on which he infuses rustic American singer-songwriter forms with North African sonorities and some swinging, soulful Brit-folk.” Steve will play in Milwaukee tomorrow night, February 15, at Sugar Maple. The Bachelors will be at attendance at an amazing show with pals Spacin’ and Light/Heat at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on February 23–this will be one for the books.
Steve and our pal Nathan Bowles of the Black Twig Pickers recently stopped by PoB HQ for some fishes and whiskey. They got into some trailways-rambling jams the morning after, as evidenced below, even tearing into a tune or two from Time Off (PoB-08), due in June.