RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

I Bless The Rains…

I love music. It is a very important part of me and my life. It matches my mood, can relax me, soothe me, excite me, uplift me. I use it to reflect my mood, and also to change my mood, you can’t be angry listening to Sigur Ros for example. Well I can’t.

It is the first thing I think about when going somewhere – is the music right for the trip? Is the iPod loaded with the right tunes…? Is the right CD in the player in the car? Music goes everywhere with me.

Nowadays, that’s not a problem with iPods and Archos and all those sorts of things…you can take your whole CD collection (and all your downloads) everywhere. God knows my MacBook has got all my music on it’s hard-drive…but back in the past, older readers will be aware of the problems…when all we had were CD’s and cassettes.

And back in the 90’s I was faced with the problem of a four month deployment to Italy – and the problem of what music to take. Really. I have a lot of music – always have – and it was ever thus back then! But one of the things I have learnt over the years of travelling is to try and travel light. So I decided to cherry-pick my favourite songs and put them on a selection of cassettes and take them out with me. God writing about this now, it seems such an old fashioned thing. But it was something that we – I – had to consider back then.

Anyway, I did just that. I themed some cassettes – a happy mix, a party mix. A go-to-sleep mix. A driving mix.

And off I went – with my Sony Walkman – to Italy. And had a thoroughly good time. It was an ace deployment with a lot of fun, some good work and we did some cool things.
But, as ever, it wasn’t what we did, or how we did it that made the deployment, it was the people that were there.

After a while people sort of grouped together into cliques that did the same things and went to the same places, not in a clique-y sort of way, it was just that there were three mini-van available for recreation runs (so called rec-runs) and if you went to the local shops on the Monday night then you wouldn’t want to do it on the Wednesday night when another van was going. So, with the odd exception, people grouped together and went to the same places…

And in our group we used to have a rule that first person into the ‘shotgun’ seat could pick the music on the tape player in the van. And once that person had got in, and put his tape on, there would always be a bit (well, a lot) of good natured ‘banter’.

One young lad used to have a rather, dodgy taste in music…He had a big thing for…Toto. Really. You know they sang “Africa”. Now, it’s not BAD music. It’s just not great music. And he used to insist on playing it whenever we went anywhere…And eventually this got a bit much for us. And I used to take the mickey. Eventually I couldn’t listen to it anymore. It’s over wordy lyrics used to annoy me. The line “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti” just wound me up. I couldn’t stand listening to it. I bloody hated that song.

Then one night I was lying in bed. Drifting off to sleep, listening to my ‘Go-to-sleep’ mix. I think the track was the Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas…and that ended. And then another song began.

I was more than half asleep. You know, that stage where the alpha waves start to flow and you are very relaxed…that moment JUST before you are actually asleep and then… “It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you/There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do/I bless the rains down in Africa.”

Africa. What the…AFRICA! I sat bolt upright. I rewound the tape. It was. I was the song Africa. By Toto. I played it all the way through and the song ended and then another started – it was half way through.

Someone, had broken into my room. Stolen my ‘Go-to-sleep’ mix tape. Chosen a song, let it finish, and then using his own tape-to-tape machine had recored the song I had proclaimed to hate onto my tape and then replaced it back in my room, ready for me to listen to.

The bastard.

And what was worse, we still had another 2 months out in Italy. Two more months of having that bloody song on my tape. It was going to be a long two months…

(But I did get my revenge on him…and that involved a midnight raid on his room stealing all his music and holding them to ransom…)

But you know what. I bloody hate that song to this day.

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