The Tour of Duty Soundtracks

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I’ve been sorting through my records – deciding to part with many of them, not hard at all actually. I have so much of the music in my head, and I carry it in my heart. And if there are any slip-ups there, I can dial it up on Spotify or YouTube. You say heathen! I say practical!

But I have no desire to not have a record collection. I’ll always be on the hunt for certain records. There are whole discographies I’m collecting of certain artists, there are genres (jazz) where I have collected a few hundred records. And I won’t be parting with any of them.

And I’m fixated with soundtrack albums.

In the dig through the records, deciding what should stay and what should go (I don’t own anything by The Clash anymore, and I ain’t mad about that) I found all four of the Tour of Duty soundtracks.

I say “all four” – I seem to recall there being a volume 5, and/or some sort of Best of Tour of Duty compilation – but I stopped at the first four. I really, truly cared (deeply) for only the first two. But the first four were an education for me. I owned them on cassette tape. I replaced them with CDs. And then vinyl. Finding them in order.

Each album had nine songs per side, 18 tunes for each volume. That’s 72 songs in total across the four – 72 songs from the 1960s. And, look, there were other crucial compilation albums, soundtracks in particular. The Big Chill for sure. Good Morning Vietnam absolutely. Full Metal Jacket, to continue on with the Vietnam theme. I still own all of those soundtracks on vinyl too. But I nearly tossed them – and the Tour of Duty volumes. Nearly. I had thought that my soundtrack collection should comprise only score; original instrumental music created for the motion picture of TV show. But sometimes the score is a set of well-known songs, repurposed as source music, used to create a new score.


And, outside of any film-collecting folly, the Tour of Duty albums speak directly to me. They remind me of when I was 12 years old and hungry for music. Whole worlds opened up to me as I finally heard songs by bands I’d heard mentioned. I had my mind blown by Sly & The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, The Zombies, Chambers Brothers, and many others. That’s still happening whenever I listen to many of the acts on the Tour of Duty albums.

In the late 1980s the sixties revival was in full swing and Vietnam-themed TV shows and movies were the major catalyst. You might still hear a song like CCR’s Run The Through The Jungle or Fortunate Son over stock footage from ‘Nam and, good as those tunes are, and great as that band is, sometimes it can just seem like a cliché. Played to death.

However, the curation behind the Tour of Duty records was so important to me – hearing the songs in that exact order, and those versions. I remember being gutted when we first got the original soundtrack that there was no Paint It Black. The Rolling Stones have always been tough when it comes to allowing their songs on soundtracks. You’ll hear the song in the film, but they wanted you to go buy their album instead of the movie-soundtrack. When volume two arrived, there was a version by someone called Chris Farlowe! Who the hell was that? Well, it was off to the books to find out. Next thing, I’m buying a Best of Chris Farlowe. (Shortly after, I’m selling a copy of The Best of Christ Farlowe a bit cheaper than normal retail price).

It was all learning.

Those wonderful collections of songs. They sat there for a while. Overplayed. And I knew every inch of them. And so much so that when I did play volume one again it took me right back to my mum’s little red convertible MX5 – burning around the streets of Hastings blasting Baby Love into Here Comes The Night and in love with it all.

The Christmas that I opened the cassette tape of Tour of Duty IV was also the Christmas that I got a Lance Mountain Powell Peralta Bones Brigade skateboard deck. Talk about spoiled rotten eh?! I was never much of a great skateboarder, but I felt like the very best just carrying that around. And listening to my jams in my Walkman. Boxing Day up to Taupo, my dad patiently attaching the trucks and the wheels and the decals to the deck while I am listening to Tour of Duty IV on a loop – just entranced by Canned Heat’s On The Road Again. The way that intro just bubbles up like burning paper. Oh man!

So I’m keeping those records.

They used to mean the world to me. And a big part of my world is still in there. I can access that just by dropping the needle.

But I wanted to have all of those songs to carry with me on the phone that is now my “Walkman”. And I thought you might like to have that too. So, I made us a playlist of Tour of Duty I, II, III & IV. I was careful to include the proper versions – ie the ones on the records. So in this instance, it’s a no to The Rolling Stones singing Paint It Black. And welcome back Chris Farlowe. A lol. For sure. But it’s how it has to be.

So have a hoon on the Tour of Duty mix. And, yes, I did love the TV show. While it was on. And I sometimes wonder if I should have a go at rewatching it – and maybe it stands up, perhaps even to attention. But there’s just so many other things to watch and still catch up with now isn’t there?

But the music. That’s in my heart and soul forever. It helped to shape me.

Still, it’s Friday. So if you’re in no way interested in hearing the songs from Tour of Duty and reliving the nostalgia of it all, then you can enjoy Volume 34 of the A Little Something For The Weekend playlist instead. Or as well.

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