ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
This is Chapter 40 (day 8):
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER
Written by Bob Dylan
Performed by Bob Dylan
Recorded at Columbia Studios, Nashville, Tennessee 1967
Drummer: Kenny Buttrey
Performed by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
Recorded at Olympic Studio, London, England and
Record Plant, New York, NY 1968
Drummer: Mitch Mitchell
“So you didn’t have to fight in the jungle?”
“It’s a different fight,” said Eddie. “You work seventeen hours a day, seven days a week. Your job is to keep those fighters flying. You live with over two thousand people on your ship, and sleep in bunks stacked six high. You take care of your aircraft so the pilots can complete their missions successfully. You hope they return. You live in a twilight zone in the middle of nowhere, and eat a lot of powered hamburger.”
“How did you get there?” asked Norman.
“They take you there! Let me tell you, it’s a weird feeling when you’re on an airplane and you’re surrounded by only sea to the horizon everywhere you look, and then, suddenly, you see this speck down below, and that’s where you’re supposed to land. You start dropping like a rock. And when your plane hits that deck, you feel like a rock. You hope the handler is gonna grab the arresting wire on the first try and you’re not going to end up in the ocean!”
“Wow!” said Norman, clearly impressed.
Molly felt herself changing her mind about San Francisco. She pulled her rubber band off her wrist and began to gather back her hair.
“It was the biggest experience of my life,” said Eddie. “A nineteen-year-old kid joining the navy to see the world.”
The missing Barry loves Hendrix, so of course we need Hendrix in ANTHEM, and all those notes he bends with that wailing Stratocaster. He makes his appearance in the title of Chapter 40, singing Dylan’s lyrics. “There must be some way out of here” / Said the joker to the thief / “There’s too much confusion / I can’t get no relief…”
There were many watchtowers in play during the war in Vietnam, including those on aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. So Norman and Molly meet Eddie, who worked on an aircraft carrier, and Flo, who was an army paratrooper — another watchtower — jumping out of a C-130 flown by the air force — another watchtower — and so on and so on.
Another kind of watchtower, from an ANTHEM scrapbook:
and one more:
The watchtowers of war are highlighted in Chapter 40, manned partly by two men I named after the Sixties pop duo Flo and Eddie, two of the original founding members of The Turtles.
Watchtowers have always fascinated me as guardians of whatever they are appointed to protect. In this case, both Eddie Mullin and Florian Finelli are about to accompay Molly and Norman on the last leg of their trip, as they enter, finally, San Francisco and the drama that lies ahead.