In 1988 the world's music scene was full of artists wielding more hairspray than talent. Sure, we all enjoyed making out to Tiffany Darwisch, Billy Ocean, Rick Astley and 5-Star. It was part of being 21 and brimming with testosterone. At least, that's what I like to think. If you weren't 21 in 1988, you might not know what I'm talking about, not the part about 5-Star anyway.

The autumn of 1988 saw me off to foreign lands as a professional soldier, wielding olive colored gear, heavy black boots that would never come near a goth club, no hair to speak about and a blue helmet. They locked us up in a camp for weeks and taught us politics. After that they showed us how to take apart and clean weapons with strange names. The lieutenants and the sergeants tried to teach us how to fight with our bare hands and how to recognize tracked vehicles from far, far away. In November they put us on a plane and pointed out Istanbul along the way. We were going to Lebanon and we were going to be soldiers.

Most of us had come directly from conscript service in the regular Norwegian forces and hadn't bought a single new piece of music the 12 or 15 months we had spent there. You don't give up three days worth of pay for an album that might be the shittiest piece of music since Donny Osmond's greatest hits.

But lo and behold! It appeared the guys in the UN battalion's staff company had their own fully working FM radio station! They even had the kind of budget that allowed them to pop over to Israel every now and then to pick up stacks of brand spanking new CD's. Whenever the poor corporal manning the microphone forgot to tell his uniform audience exactly what was on, his TP-6 field telephone was flooded with annoyed buzzing. Word has it IDF enjoyed the radio station as well. I guess a 21 year old guy a long way from home is the same no matter what kind of cultural alibi you have for doing things.

One day while yours truly was posted to one of the more remote observation posts overlooking the Israeli border gate at Metullah and the Lebanese village Kfar Khela, the radio station went all quiet. For ten minutes there was no sound whatsoever coming out of the cheap Asian copy of a Panasonic transistor radio. Apparently something was afoot back in the UN area proper, and nobody had time to sit around and play records anymore. What they did was - in retrospect - the perfect thing; they put on The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues, pressed the repeat button on the CD player and left for whatever they had to do. That's when I heard it the first time. For hours the radio told us about Jimmy Hickey, strange boats and Crystal from Canada. I was hooked.

From the eponymous opening song to the cryptic "This land is your land" ending, it was all fun and games for the ears. Although coming out in the late 80's, Fisherman's Blues is as timeless as naked people.

Once the United Nations was through with me and the army had bowed me out of its service with a salute and a smirky "See You Later", I went directly to the record store and cashed out my own copy of Fisherman's Blues. I still have it, and it still wants to be in the CD player every now and then - 15 years later.

The opening song is straightforward in telling us that everything will be okay one day when you have the girl and you have your way. I think it's as big a part of human biology as the thing we were in the middle of, down there in war-torn south Lebanon.



Fisherman's Blues

I wish I was a fisherman
tumblin' on the seas
far away from dry land
and it's bitter memories
castin' out my sweet line
with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearin' down on me
save the starry sky above

With light in my head
With you in my arms

I wish I was the brakeman
on a hurtlin fevered train
crashin head long into the heartland
like a cannon in the rain
with the feelin of the sleepers
and the burnin of the coal
countin the towns flashin by
and a night that's full of soul

With light in my head
With you in my arms

And I know I will be loosened
from the bonds that hold me fast
and the chains all around me
will fall away at last
and on that grand and fateful day
I will take thee in my hand
I will ride on a train
I will be the fisherman

With light in my head
You in my arms

Light in my head
You in my arms

With light in my head
You in my arms...

Performed by The Waterboys.
Written by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham.
Lyrics reprinted without permission. CST Approved.

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