“…just then i heard a twig snap and i grabbed my empty gun
and i dug in scared while i counted down my fate.
And then a big marine, a giant with a pair of friendly eyes,
appeared there at my shoulder and said “wait!”"
Camouflage was the second single off of Stan Ridgeway’s debut album The Big Heat (after leaving Wall of Voodoo). And this song takes us full into Rod Serling’s original and bestest Twilight Zone territory. Like most Ridgeway’s songs, Camouflage is a complete narrative tale packed into 5 minutes (or a kinda director’s cut 7+ minutes for the album version), this time about a young soldier lost in the Vietnam jungle who gets some help from “an awefully strange marine”. And like my favorites of his starts in a relatively real-world place and gets freakier from there (his most excellently freaky odes to the modern workplace, I Want To Be A Boss and contraband smuggling, Going Southbound are two other good examples of this lyrical style – and worth seeking out if you like this song.)
“…and it was near the river bank when the ambush came on top of us,
and i’d thought it was the end and we were had.
Then a bullet with my name on it came buzzin’ through a bush,
and that big marine, he just swatted it with his hands – just like it was a fly!”
Production wise, Camouflage is classic post-new wave 80s, with a number of divergent sounds and textures that nonetheless compliment each other and build a greater whole. The manner in which Ridgeway sings it reminds me strongly of the singing/spoken word style of Johnny Cash (I would have loved hearing a cover of this by The Original Man in Black) and the arrangement supports this with a mostly country and western style rhythm with eastern accompaniment. Fantastic mixing to be sure.
“…and when I got back to my HQ I told ‘em about my night,
and the battle i’d spent with a big marine named Camouflage.
When i said his name a soldier gulped, and the medic took my arm,
and led me to a green tent on the right…”
And, as you can see, unlike most pop songs, Stan is telling a full story with the sort of twists and turns that would make a writer of stories of the supernatural prose. Below you can watch the original video for the song, and beneath that you can listen to the full album version in it’s seven minute+ glory ( an even more awesom version of the song!)
This lyrical coda near the end of the album cut, reinforcing the song’s ultimately supernatural and enduring interpretation of the US Marine’s motto semper fi…
“So, next time, you’re in a jungle fight and you feel a presence near
or hear a voice that in your mind will lie…
Just be thankful that you’re not alone, and you’ve got some company,
from a big marine the boys call Camouflage…”