Karaoke Song KHE SANH, Lyrics Meanings

Next time you sing the Australian Cold Chisel song Khe Sanh, this is what you are singing about.

Song words as seen by a vet. Some words in the song are self-explanatory.

‘I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh’

Sappers were a special Viet Cong combat group that specialised in sabotage, guerrilla warfare etc. He’s saying that he’s left his heart to them with the withdrawal but his heart will always be there wherever he may roam.

‘And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the black-market man’

Whenever you check into a new duty station you are given a rations card for a limited amount of duty free Alcohol and cigarettes to ensure you don’t go over your limit and aren’t selling them for a profit to civilian locals who will buy from you and maybe even sell them again at a higher price off the base. I’m assuming this is his first ‘crime’. Too bad because all of us did it.

“I’ve had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it’s only other vets could understand”

He really misses the place and has trouble being away from it. Your first duty station always has a special hold on you that you can never replace.

“About the long forgotten dockside guarantees”

Guarantees or promises by a girlfriend or spouse as you are leaving that they will stay faithful and be waiting for you. Can’t help but chuckle at this one because I’ve seen the outcome so many times.

“How there were no V-day heroes in 1973”

WWI and WWII had huge ticker tape parades and celebrations for the vets when they came home after winning the war. We didn’t win this one so instead of having parades, the vets had protests and dog sh!t thrown at them and nobody else really cared.

“And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains”

About Asian women just looking for their chosen husband so they can settle down, have children and escape poverty. (thank you for a recent comment advising this change)

“And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, pay-packet lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been”

He’s traded the war in Vietnam for the war in the Divorce Courtroom. Assuming it’s his wife who gave and forgot about their ‘dockside guarantee’ but couldn’t deal with his drop in wages since returning from Nam.

“But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novocaine”

The war dreams don’t seem to stop and he can’t control them. I imagine car parks aren’t his favourite place as open, quiet places with lots of cover and nobody around can make you a bit nervous.

“And I’ve travelled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the more for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia
You know the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m drifting north, to check things out again”

Again about your first duty station and the affect the war had on him, that even though he knows he’s not going to find any answers there’s still a slim chance he might and he wants to see how much things have changed since he left. You can stand there looking at a street corner for hours because of the memories you have of that place. No one else will understand but you.

“Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And it’s really got me worried
I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone”

At the end of it, Australia has nothing left for him. He’s holding on to all this baggage from the war but everybody else has moved on and doesn’t care. He knows he is back because he will never find the answers he’s looking for.

I acknowledge these ideas and words from Flag radoneon November 04, 2010


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