We Used to Wait: Playlist for a Deployment



Hello, Lieutenant

You know how some music just takes on extra meaning at certain times in your life? Breakups, leaving home, birth of a child? I find that the same thing happens to me during a deployment — I have security blanket music that I want to listen to all the time, because I trust it to keep me in a certain frame of mind. (Which is a big responsibility for a piece of music, now that I put it that way. If this music were a friend, it would find me too needy and would quietly sneak away.)

So, here’s what I’ve been listening to, and my liner notes!

(Please keep in mind that my musical taste suffers from my natural limitation of being a suburban mom who stays at home all day with 3 young children. These musicians would be horrified to learn that their music is resonating so strongly with the likes of me!)


“We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire

I used to write

I used to write letters, I used to sign my name….

Every now and then a song comes along that is just one big hit to the solar plexus, and this song is it for me. I love everything about it: how it deals with writing, and waiting, and all the boredom and loaded meaning and minor obsession that comes with waiting for someone. And how much you are putting out there when you do write to someone, and how real letters are something we hardly write any more, and they almost seem to scare people off because they seem so much more intense than all the newer forms like e-mail and texting. These are things I, weirdly, think about quite often, and then Arcade Fire went and made it into a song.

When I was writing my novel, I wrote a section where two people are waiting for letters from each other, and I listened to this song over and over when I was working on it.

It seems strange

How we used to wait for letters to arrive

But what’s stranger still

Is how something so small can keep you alive


We used to wait

We used to waste hours just walking around

We used to wait

All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown


… Sometimes it never came

(oooo we used to wait)

Sometimes it never came

(oooo we used to wait)


By the time he gets to that part near the end where the music gets all pounding, and he’s like, WAIT FOR IT!, this song just has me, and I can’t, I dunno, multitask or anything until it’s over.

If I had to make a playlist for Siobhan Fallon’s You Know When the Men Are Gone, this would be the first song.


“Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I don’t think there’s any song about love more beautiful than this one. There’s probably a total of 20 words in it used in different combinations, but it’s so beautiful.

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you


Wait, they don’t love you like I love you


Made off, don’t stray

Well, my kind’s your kind I’ll stay the same

Pack up, don’t stray

Oh say, say, say Oh say, say, say


“The High Road” by Broken Bells

This one is dark, but good.


Come on and get the minimum

Before you open up your eyes

This army has so many hands

Are you one of us?


……Cause they know and so do I

The high road is hard to find

A detour to your new life

Tell all of your friends goodbye


It’s too late to change your mind

You let loss be your guide…

It’s too late to change your mind

You let loss be your guide…

I feel dorky admitting this, but for months I thought the line was, “You let laws be your guide” — which is less dark, and made me think more of my own situation: how, when we joined the military, we traded freedom for security (the very thing I was raised by my former-hippie parents NOT to do!! I’m so sorry, Mom and Dad. Love you!). And, yes, these are the kind of weird, overly-analytical thoughts I have while listening to music. But anyway, I like the line with “laws” instead of “loss,” so, like a small child who sings the wrong words to a commercial, that is how I continue to sing it in my head.


“Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin

In my house, we were raised on 1950’s music. Slightly at odds with my mom’s politically sharp, former-hippie persona, she listened mainly to doo-wop and Motown. She just never really got into music after, say, 1963, with the exception of brief forays into Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack. So I knew Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” many years before I had a husband in the Navy to go off sailin’ without me.

(I was seriously pissed when, during Dave’s first deployment, Carnival Cruise Lines began using this song in their ads, but instead of keeping the original line, “And no more will I go sailin’,” they had the gall to change it to a perky, “Go Sailin’!” Just hearing the ad would work me into a huff at those culturally and spiritually bereft advertisers who dared to alter such a perfect song to meet their own ends.)

Somewhere beyond the sea

Somewhere waitin’ for me

My lover stands on golden sands

And watches the ships that go sailin’…


We’ll meet beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

Happy we’ll be beyond the sea

And never again I’ll go sailin’


I know beyond a doubt

My heart will lead me there soon

We’ll meet, I know we’ll meet, beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

Happy we’ll be beyond the sea

And never again I’ll go sailin’.


No more sailin’, so long sailin’

Bye-bye sailin’

Move on out, captain

That’s right. You move on out, Captain!


….which leads me to……

the very campy “Brandy” by Looking Glass. I’m including this song here just because I like to use it to poke fun at myself. (The lyrics are so pitiful!) And also to make my mother-in-law roll her eyes, because she cannot stand this song.

After a long day of layin’ whiskey down, I sigh, and just wish that Dave would finally make an honest woman out of me. But his life, his love and his lady … is the Sea.


And if we’re really gonna get campy, how ’bout a little “In the Navy” by the Village People?

This is really……something. I mean, wow. I have to say, I love the Village People: they bring a good time. But I couldn’t help but chuckle at the perplexed commenter who asked, so plaintively (and I quote), “Why do the Navy and homosexualness go hand-in-hand so much?” I have no comment on that, but it did bring to mind the old joke: “It’s true, the Navy invented sex. But the Marines introduced it to women.”


Some runners- up…

“Smile Like You Mean It” and “Spaceman” by The Killers

“Smile Like You Mean It” is an obvious choice when you’re stuck in the position of putting on a brave face for an extended time. (I actually don’t like watching The Killers perform because Brandon Flowers is too clean and pretty for my taste, but I like their music, especially for jogging.)

“Spaceman” is one of those songs that’s catchy and seems too-cool-for-school- ironic at the outset, but I think it has more going on beneath the surface. When I hear it — and I understand this is a very particular take on it! – I imagine someone who might have deployed in, say, 2006, and ended up in a bad spot in Iraq, and come home feeling like no one could understand what they’d been through. Which was not our family’s experience, thankfully. But I have a lot of empathy for someone who might feel that way.

Well, now I’m back at home

and I’m looking forward to this life I live

You know it’s gonna haunt me

So hesitation to this life I give


You think you might cross over

You’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

You better look it over

Before you make that leap


And you know I’m fine

But I hear those voices at night

Sometimes they justify my claim


And the public don’t dwell on my transmission

‘Cause it wasn’t televised

But it was the turning point

Oh what a lonely night


Of course, there’s also “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which is the perfect anthem for a military family (I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier). Thanks to the VFA-14 Tophatters for this video.

Yeah, you know you gotta help me out, yeah

Oh don’t you put me on the back burner

You know you gotta help me out, yeah

You’re gonna bring yourself down


Finally,  a personal favorite of mine is Feist’s “I Feel it All,”

(This recording seems kind of funny, kind of like those Jimmy Fallon spots where everyone plays little kids’ instruments. But she’s so pretty and it’s a good song.)


I know more than I knew before

I know more than I knew before

I didn’t rest, I didn’t stop

Did we fight or did we talk?


…No one likes to take a test

Sometimes you know more is less

Put your weight against the door

Kick drum on the basement floor


I like that simple idea: No one likes to take a test. Of course not! I was not in the mood for a test just now, either, thank you. But now it’s here — I won’t rest, I won’t stop —  and let’s just hope that when it’s over I’ll know more than I did before.


8 thoughts on “We Used to Wait: Playlist for a Deployment

  1. Hey Babe, great post. Very interesting to get a taste of your mindset during deployment. While you won’t believe this because I’m so bad at following and understanding most of the lyrics of the songs I like, I bought that “We Used to Wait” song on iTunes with you very much in mind. I could at least piece together the poignancy of that song for a letter writer like yourself. (:


  2. I love that top picture of your kiddos. Adorable!

    I really get what you mean about certain songs having a special meaning during certain times in your life. I remember hearing “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks on the radio when I was on my way out west for my first year of college. I had heard it before, but in that moment, it took on new meaning. Now it always makes me think of freshman year, spreading my wings, and finding my own way in the world.

    I don’t have any particular deployment songs, so I might have to steal yours! I will say that any sad love song these days is almost guaranteed to make me cry. Even break-up songs! I almost lost it pumping gas when I heard the lyrics to “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins, which isn’t even sad! What can I say, I’m a sensitive flower.


  3. Hello, Lieutenant. You know me too well.

    Amy, I feel sad/ am chuckling a little (in sympathy!) at the thought of you pumping gas and becoming verklepmt to a Trace Adkins song. Forget that! Your new theme song is “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys. Blast THAT while you pump gas! JAMAICA, baby!


  4. A good playlist can sure be a lifesaver. If I may be so bold, can I suggest an addition for you? I heard “Hang Loose” by Alabama Shakes on my way to work this morning and immediately thought of your list. The intro is sure to get anyone into the right frame of mind. Also, I think the lyrics have the right flavor:




  5. Great post and great tunes! The Killers were a huge part of my deployment, but like you I could never square Brandon Flowers’s squeaky clean appearance with the band’s sound and lyrics.


    • Thank you, Peter!

      I love The Killers… their lyrics are just weird enough to be interesting, and their music has momentum. I guess it’s not poor Brandon Flowers’s fault that he has the face of a baby angel, or that his name is … Brandon Flowers. Everyone else in the band looks like they’ve been around the block a time or two, which is reassuring.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for your introduction to Arcade Fire’s “I Used To Wait” and your comments about the power of old- fashioned letters. I love the feel of a letter and knowing someone special touched it…made it. I love knowing someone’s handwriting and hearing their voice in the emotion of the closing. I love the anticipation of opening the seal. And I save them for a long, long time…sometimes forever. Real letters received to and fro during deployment must feel like that.


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