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A Rock 'n' Roll Tribute to War Vets

Discussion in 'Veteran's Forum' started by Blitzer, Nov 8, 2007.

  1. Blitzer

    Blitzer Cool Cat

    Jan 15, 2004
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    A Rock 'n' Roll Tribute to War Vets

    Baltimore Sun | November 07, 2007

    <!--- End Article Title/Source/Date ---><!--- Start Article Content ---> After nearly 15 years in limbo, the songs of an unlikely partnership -- between a conservative Vietnam veteran and a liberal musician -- are finally finding an audience. In the early '90s, veteran Marc Waszkiewicz and singer/songwriter Lea Jones wanted to create a soundtrack for a film about the Vietnam experience. But the film was never made, and the duo drifted apart.

    Now, with a new generation of war veterans in the news, Jones is revisiting the project with Waszkiewicz's blessing. He is officially releasing the CD, called Selector Switch On (Rock & Roll). With it, he says he hopes to raise money and awareness for Vietnam and Iraq war veterans.

    Jones has recruited a band called FNG, which will perform songs from the album on the National Mall on Saturday. The all-day show marks the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    "I feel really honored to be part of the whole thing," said Jones, 53, who lives in Sparks. "It's such a wonderful opportunity. The circle is finally closing up after all this time."

    As a teenager in the late '60s, Jones had a less-than-favorable impression of Vietnam War vets. "I was like, 'You got what you deserved, somehow,' " he said.

    But those sentiments softened with time, and when Waszkiewicz needed a musician for his Vietnam documentary, Jones was ready for the job.

    During his time in Vietnam, Waszkiewicz snapped thousands of slides and filmed video on a Super 8 camera. He wanted to create a documentary and a soundtrack about his experiences there and recruited Jones to help him with the music.

    Jones and Waszkiewicz co-wrote nine of the 10 songs on Selector Switch. Jones sang and played guitar, and Waszkiewicz played bass and keyboards, and produced the tracks. They tried to re-create the sound of the late '60s and early '70s by emulating artists such as The Doors.
    Each track on Selector Switch captures a piece of the Vietnam War experience from a soldier's perspective -- complete with war lingo. "Golden Hour" is about getting stoned at night when the battlefields are quiet. "Changing of the Guard" touches on the patriotism, which led young men to go to war, and the disillusionment that followed.

    Jones and Waszkiewicz came from such opposite political poles that they vowed at the beginning not to let politics creep into the music, Waszkiewicz said.

    "I didn't want any of [Jones'] views in my project," Waszkiewicz said. "We made it a point to keep it apolitical."

    The duo named the album after the safety switch on the M-16 rifles soldiers carried in Vietnam. It has three settings: safe, semi-automatic and fully automatic. When soldiers flipped the switch to fully automatic, they called it "selector switch on rock 'n' roll," Jones explains. Hence the CD's title.
    The conceptualizing, writing and recording process took more than a year, and had a profound effect on Jones' perspective of Vietnam veterans.

    "The music put me so much more in touch with the fact that these were just a bunch of normal guys," Jones said. "It turned my attitude around completely."

    But the documentary sputtered when Waszkiewicz couldn't raise enough money to properly produce it. To make matters worse, his son was diagnosed with leukemia, which he would battle for years and later overcome.

    Jones moved to Baltimore soon after Selector Switch was completed and hoped to drum up more interest for the project. He failed. "Apparently the time wasn't right," he said.

    In the years that followed, Jones continued to pen and perform music. He formed the Swing States Road Show to raise money for John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, and to help the Democrats reclaim both houses of Congress last year. But he and Waszkiewicz -- now on different coasts -- rarely talked.

    Earlier this year, Jones called Waszkiewicz for permission to release the album. They decided half the proceeds would benefit Iraqi war veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

    In August, Jones sent a copy of the CD to Keith King, the national public affairs chairman for the VVA. King thought the music and the lyrics had potential and added FNG to the lineup for Saturday's concert.

    "It sounds like the music of our era," King said. "If you coupled that with the lyrics, some of the songs are dead on. I think the other veterans will enjoy it."

    Some already have.

    Veteran A. Lee McWhorter came across Selector Switch on the VVA's Web site and listened to selections from the album several times. The music resonated with McWhorter, a former Army soldier who served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. Songs such as "Di Di Mau" and "Golden Hour" brought back wartime memories.

    "I heard that rock 'n' roll, and I thought, 'My God, he has really got that down," McWhorter said.
    "If you had never laid down at night with your hand on a M-16 and your finger on a selector switch, I didn't think anybody could relate to a song about a loaded gun. But when you listen to the song 'Loaded Gun,' Lea got it. ... This guy knew what he was singing about."

    Though he was never a soldier, Jones has a deep understanding for those who choose to serve their country. He first visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in the spring of 1993. Before he got near the wall itself, he started losing his composition. When he finally saw it, he broke down completely.

    "It was like I knew everybody there," he said. "The effect of learning about it that deeply was earthshaking."

    To this day, Jones still chokes up when he mentions the wall. He worries that he won't be able to get through some of the songs in Saturday's show.

    "I'm hoping I can hold it together to perform some of those ballads," Jones said. "We're really excited to go in and kick butt."

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