The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57244   Message #1461845
Posted By: Muttley
15-Apr-05 - 02:54 AM
Thread Name: songs about disabilities
Subject: RE: songs about disabilities
Sadly, Capri - it's not just the limbs blown away that cause the problems. I spent over 10 years as 'Padre' to the Vietnam Veteran's Motorcycle Club over here in Australia and I can testify to the amount of grief caused by the minds that have been fractured by war.

That remindss me ..... ah, where have me brains gone???

two brilliant Australian songs detail disability:

One by Eric Bogle, but sung more poularly by "The Bushwackers Band" is called "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". To get the whole song - check it out on a lyrics site: But here are a few excerpts.

"So for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive, as around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head;
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
I saw what it had done - an' I wished Iwas dead
No more Waltzing Matilda for me"

and later

"They collected the crippled, the maimed and they shipped us all back to Australia;
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane;
Those brave, wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay (Sydney)
An' I looked at the place where me legs used to be;
I thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me:
To grieve and to mourn and to pity.

CHORUS (following the above verse)
And the Band played Waltzing Matilda as they carried us down the gangway
Nobody cheered: They just stood there and stared
And they turned their faces away"

"So now ev'ry April I sit on me porch and I watch the parade pass before me.
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams and past glories.
But the old men march slowly, their bones stiff and sore
They're tired old men; from a forgotten war
And the young people ask: What are they marching for?
And I ask meself the same question"

But the Band Plays Waltzing Matilda
The old men still answer the call
But as year follows year; more old men disappear
Soon no-one will march there at all.

This song deals with a healthy young "Swagman" and shearer (doesn't call him those - but if you're an Aussie, you recognise him as these from the opening verse) who gets called up for service in World War I and is sent to Gallipoli - landing there on April 25th, 1915.

It mentions his horrors faced and the futility ("We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs - - - then we started all over again") and then his horrific injuries. It mentions other disabilities - amputation, blindness and insanity - in those days they would have called it "Shell-shock"; these days it's PTSD and is STILL the same real and debilitating condition.
Later he deals with the "disability" which is Old Age.

The second song is by a band called "Redgum" and is based on the experiences of a Vietnam Veteran who came home from Vietnam as a paraplegic from the results of his best mate triggering a land mine and sings about the terrors that memories and stimuli hold for him:

The song is as follows:

Mum and Dad and Dinny saw the passing-out parade at Puckapunyal
(It was a long march from cadets)
The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour an' it was me who drew the card;
We did Canungra, Shoalwater; before we left
And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the 'paper shows us young and strong and clean
And there's me, in me slouch-hat, with me SLR and 'greens'
God help me! I was only 19

From Vung Tau, riding 'Chinooks', to the dust at Nui Dat
We've been in and out of choppers, now, for months
Me made our tents our homes; V.B. and pin-ups on the lockers
And an Agent Orange sunset through the scrub.

CHORUS
And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
The night-time's just a jungle-dark and a barking M-16
And what's this rash that comes and goes? Can you tell me what it means?
God Help Me! I was only 19

A four-week operation, any step could be your last one on two legs
(It was a war within yourself)
But you wouldn't let your mates down 'til they had you 'dusted off'
So you closed your eyes and thought about somethin' else

And then someone yelled out "Contact!"; an' the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours; then a God-Almighty roar:
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon;
God Help Me! He was goin' home in June!

I can still see Frankie drinkin' "tinnies" in the Grand Hotel
On a 36-hour 'Rec leave' in Vung Tau
An' I can still hear Frankie; lyin' screamin' in the jungle
'Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row
And the 'ANZAC' legends never mentioned blood and mud and tears;
An' the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real;
I caught some pieces in me back - that I didn't even feel
God Help Me! I was only 19

CHORUS
And can you tell me doctor why I still can't get to sleep
Why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet
And what's this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means:
God Help Me! I was only 19
And can you tell me doctor, why I still can't get to sleep?
The night-time's just a jungle-dark and a barking M-16
And what's this rash that comes and goes? Can you tell me what it means?
God Help Me!.................[fade]

I probably need to interpret parts of this song for non-Australians.

PASSING OUT PARADE - for when a young soldier passes his 'Basic Training' prior to his being posted to a regiment for active service.

PUCKAPUNYAL - Large Army training base in Central Victoria

CANUNGRA - Jungle training facility in Queensland
SHOALWATER - Beach landing training facility in Queensland

During the Vietnam War, all soldiers sent to 'Nam were required to complete their training prior to embarkation at these two facilities.

TOWNSVILLE - city in northern Queensland - a lot of troops going to Vietnam shipped out from Townsville: the troops were actually cheered prior to leaving and then villified and abused after they came home!

SLOUCH HAT - the symbol of the Australian Soldier sinc before WW1. A plain khaki-brown hat with one side turned up and pinned to the side of the crown
SLR - Self-loading Rifle
GREENS - plain green army fatigues

VUNG TAU - "safe" base where the Australian Army HQ were quartered and where soldiers from Nui Dat would go for a short R&R leave.

CHINOOKS - huge, twin-rotor troop-carrying helicopters

NUI DAT - Primary "front-line' base for the Australian Task Force, Vietnam.

VB - Victoria Bitter: a very popular beer (actually MORE widely drunk in Australia BY Australians than is Fosters Lager (I hate both of them - not fond of beer at all, will drink it, but prefer soft drinks!

AGENT ORANGE SUNSET - Agent Orange was the most insidious stuff our lads ever came in contact with - it's killed more Australian Vietnam Vets than the VietCong or the North Vietnamese Army ever did. It was a defoliant and when sprayed onto jungle foliage from helicopters / cropdusters it would denude that patch of jungle of greenery within hours. It was loaded into aircraft from drums by Aussie soldiers wearing just their greens - sometimes just shorts. No-one warned them of its toxicity. Since Vietnam, literally THOUSANDS of diggers (nickname for Aussie soldiers) have contracte incurable and frequently debilitating skin rashes - these are the "lucky' ones. Others have contracted various cancers - all of which kill. One of my best mates was soaked in this stuff and then fought Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for the last 14 years of his life: I buried him about 4 years ago.

DUSTED OFF - pulled out by helicopter - usually referred to pulling out troops in 'hot' extractions i.e. under fire or with the enemy nearby. Dust off was also the term for a battlefield medical evacuation by chopper for wounded diggers - I believe the American term is Medevac.

TINNIES - cans of beer (usually VB as it was supplied to the army

ANZAC - literally it is an acronym for "Australian & New Zealand Army Corps. It generally refers to all Australian and New Zealand Soldiers; but specifically, it refers originally to those Australians and New Zealanders who stormed ashore at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915 in World War 1 and were massacred. They held on for about 10 months before the British High Command realised they'd screwed up and sent our boys in as cannon fodder and pulled them out again.
To this day, the main Australian/New Zealand base area is known as 'ANZAC Cove' (the Turks officially renamed the bay in honour of their foes after the war).

CHANNEL SEVEN CHOPPER - in the Seventies and Eighties, the news services in Melbourne (where the song was written) used twin-bladed helicopters to fly personnel to breaking stories. Twin-blade choppers make a distinctive "thwop-thwop" sound - just as the "Hueys" used for landing troops in the jungle, dusting them off and coming in low-level to strafe nearby VC or NVA as gun-ships. Just the sound can send a Vietnam Vet into "flashback" mode and diving for cover

Sorry, this has been REALLY long - hope you enjoy the songs and the lyrics and the explanation.

BTW - in case you haven't already 'twigged'; the name of the second song is "I Was Only 19" Subtitled "A Walk In The Light Green" - the colour refers to maps used. Light green shading meant light jungle, rice paddy, rubber plantation etc - anywhere an ambush could be laid with an expectation of a fair degree of success. The only thing that frightened diggers going off on a four-week jungle patrol was the thought of having to patrol the 'light green'. A bloke could get killed there. Dark Green areas were too heavily jungled and were thus (surprisingly) "safer".