Release Date: November 22, 2021
Music of the Vietnam era had the power to unite and divide, to support and protest, to remind those in-country of home, and to help those at home begin to understand what being in-country meant. It provides a soundtrack that can teach us a lot about the war, the era, and the people who lived it. Michael Croan interviews Doug Bradley, one of the authors of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War.”
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(HOST): [00:00:08] This baseline is instantly recognizable to just about anyone who served in the Vietnam War. It’s the opening statement to We Got to Get Out of This Place by Eric Burdon and the Animals. The song was never intended to be about the Vietnam War, but that didn’t matter. Like so many songs of the era, it took on a special meaning to the people who served music of the [00:00:30] Vietnam era, had the power to unite and divide, to support and protest, to remind those in country of home and to help those at home begin to understand what being in country meant. It provides a soundtrack that can teach us a lot about the war, the era and the people who lived it. In this episode, I hope you’ll see what I mean. From [00:01:00] the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Founders of the Wall. This is Echoes of the Vietnam War. I’m your host, Michael Croan, bringing you stories of service, sacrifice and healing from people who still feel the impact of that conflict. Nearly 50 years later. This [00:01:30] is Episode 18 Music of the Vietnam era. Before we get into the music, I have a few announcements I want to share with you. First, I want to let you know that this is our final episode for Twenty Twenty One. We’ll be back in January with episodes about Casone and the Tet Offensive. If you have interesting stories [00:02:00] or perspectives about either of those topics, we want to hear from you.
(HOST): [00:02:04] Email us at [email protected] or leave a short voice message at 202-330-0963. Second, I’m excited to share with you some big news from VVMF. You know, next year is the 40th anniversary of the Wall. And now you can be a part of its enduring legacy by making a gift to the new legacy endowment. Unless we act now, [00:02:30] the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veterans may be forgotten when their generation is gone for 40 years, VVMF has led the way to help heal our nation. Remember those who gave all and honor, all who served. The legacy endowment will ensure that we can continue honoring Vietnam veterans for the next 40 years and beyond. We’re launching the Legacy Endowment with a $500,000 matching gift campaign. The legacy challenge for the next 12 months. Each new outright [00:03:00] gift or gift established through a will will be matched up to 50 percent with a maximum of twenty five thousand dollars matched per gift. All qualifying gifts established or newly identified before November 12th, 2022 are eligible for the match. Learn more at vvmf.org/legacy. And now let’s get to the music. It’s not possible for us to cover all of the important music that defined the Vietnam [00:03:30] era in a single episode of this podcast. Entire books have been written on the subject.
(HOST): [00:03:35] One of the most comprehensive being we got to get out of this place. The soundtrack of the Vietnam War, published by the University of Massachusetts Press near the book, explores how and why U.S. troops turn to music as a way of connecting to each other and to the world back home, and of coping with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight. The authors also demonstrate that music was important [00:04:00] for every group of Vietnam veterans black and white, Latino and Native American men and women officers and grunts whose personal reflections drive the book’s narrative. Many of the voices are those of ordinary soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines. But there are also submissions from veterans whose writings have shaped our understanding of the war, as well as songwriters and performers whose music influenced the lives of those who served. Together, their testimony taps into memories, individual and cultural [00:04:30] that capture a central, if often overlooked, component of the American war in Vietnam. One of the book’s authors, Doug Bradley, served in Saigon as an army public information officer from November 1970 to late 1971. He spoke to me from his home in Madison, Wisconsin. Maybe talk a little bit about the early years of the war in the Kennedy administration, the attitudes of the young men who joined up to go fight or who were drafted [00:05:00] to go fight and what kind of music they took with them.
(DOUG): [00:05:04] Yeah, that’s a great entry. Because you know, the thing about the soundtrack of the Vietnam War, it’s broad and varied. And as I always talk about Vietnam in the classes and presentations I make, I say, you know, you need to know the three W’s when you were there, where you were and what you did. You know, we had this notion about counterinsurgency, which was sort of hot topic then [00:05:30] at the Pentagon in the middle and the military. I grew up in a neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia, where everybody’s father was a World War Two veteran. You know, our dad stopped fascism, the Germans and the Japanese. So when Vietnam was beginning to rumble, we all registered for the draft selective service when we turned 18. So we were going to train the South Vietnamese army to withstand the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. A lot of these are career soldiers, [00:06:00] primarily men who are making their careers in the military, so they need to get their tickets punched. You know, you didn’t have a lot of them, but you had a different mindset and that was stop communism. You know, this is, you know, the domino theory in some ways, it all with all of Southeast Asia. This is where we’re going to stop it. And they had they had a different situation and a different aspect and a different soundtrack. I mean, you would have thought this was back in World War Two, you know, with [00:06:30] Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, the early guys went over on ships. And so I left my heart in San Francisco. I mean, you’re sailing out of San Francisco pretty close by and then just songs like, you know, that had a notion that it was OK to serve and to be in the military. Soldier Boy The Shirelles. That’s an early song. [00:07:00]
(MUSIC): [00:07:21] (MUSIC) Soldier Boy – The Shirelles (62)
(DOUG): [00:07:21] You know, somebody’s going to be waiting for you. You know, what you’re doing is honorable. Your country is behind you primarily then you know, we had armed forces radio [00:07:30] not nearly as countrywide and permeating and penetrating as it was when I was there. But you could have access to music.
(HOST): [00:07:38] Yeah, it’s interesting how the technology changed and how that enabled the soundtrack to change. You mentioned Armed Forces Radio, but I also was reading in your book, which is excellent, by the way, that you talked about the pervasive availability of of tape players. And cheap, like a lot [00:08:00] cheaper than you could get them in the states.
(DOUG): [00:08:02] Yeah. I mean, you know, I think, you know, we grew up with the old Spiegel catalog as our parents did. I remember one of my parents living room, but you know, it looked like a phone book. But the [unknown] catalog, which was out of Japan, which is where you ordered this stuff, so you had, you know, you had some more popular sounds. Things are changing as you get more troops. But essentially these guys were older guys, career soldiers [00:08:30] listening to a different kind of music and maybe starting to buy the equipment, but in no way having sort of what we had because this is still pretty Adrian Cronauer, the person who sort of was the established that that soundtrack and was the one who knew that what the what the music meant to the morale of the troops and what they could do to lift their spirits. And that’s what the disc jockeys did. They did it, frankly. They did a great job about it.
(HOST): [00:08:59] Hmm. Hmm. [00:09:00] So as the Kennedy years kind of tick by and the our involvement in Vietnam begins to unfold, how does how does the music reflect that, the change in taste, the change in availability?
(DOUG): [00:09:13] Well, it’s interesting because, you know, the Marines land at Da Nang in March of 65. This is after the Gulf of Tonkin, and so now we’re fully committed. You know what? What maybe was a counterinsurgency war in a lot of training and a lot of advising is [00:09:30] now becoming our fight. America didn’t know a whole lot about where Vietnam was, what the fight was about, who was who. But you know, we’re stopping communism that much we knew. This is when Hello, Vietnam by Johnnie Wright comes out that everybody knows from Full Metal Jacket that opening scene when everybody’s getting their haircut. Distant drums by Jim Reeves. You know, our daddy’s in Vietnam. You know, so a lot of the songs are about it’s time to serve. Loretta [00:10:00] Lynn has a great song, Dear Uncle Sam, where she’s basically saying, Don’t take my love, my husband. I mean, you know, he’s mine. And then, of course, she gets the Dear Widow letter and that says, when the Green Berets comes along,
(HOST): [00:10:17] The Ballad of the Ballad of the Green
(DOUG): [00:10:18] Beret and the Green Berets by Sergeant Barry Sadler (66)
(MUSIC): [00:10:22] Fighting Soldiers from the skies. Fearless men who jump [00:10:30] and die, men who mean just what they say, the brave men of the Green Beret silver wings up on their chest…
(DOUG): [00:10:48] When you think of all the incredible music in 1966 still had the British invasion, the Beatles are at the top of the charts. The stones, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, [00:11:00] all the British groups. How good Motown was. The Supremes, the Temptations. Smokey the four tops. You know, Stevie. All the great music and country. How Good Country was the best of country Cash and Haggard and Jennings. You know, the Ballad of the Green Berets was the number one song of 1966. I mean, come on.
(HOST): [00:11:23] Yeah. But when you think about some of the other music that came out in 66, that’s pretty astounding.
(DOUG): [00:11:27] I know. But what you realize, what it [00:11:30] tapped into is we don’t know what this is. This guy is telling us, it’s honorable. You’re proud, you’re chosen, but you got a job to do. It’s got a little cadence in there. It’s service, it’s sacrifice. And it’s no questions asked. You’re going to do that. The crazy thing is, Eve of Destruction comes out at the same time. Barry McGuire. And that was banned on some radio stations. My colleague Craig Warner, who I co-wrote, we got to get out of this place with Craig, said that he was in Colorado Springs and it’s a heavy military community there. [00:12:00] And he said that they banned it Eve of Destruction on the radio, because they thought it was anti, you know, America, and it was propagandistic. But the Green Berets and that that whole notion and ethos held sway got to do this time to do it. It’s an honorable and the right thing to do, and that’s where some of the early music was going, and that’s that’s what people in Vietnam were here.
(HOST): [00:12:26] Mm-hmm. So what changed? What was the trigger? [00:12:30]
(DOUG): [00:12:31] Everything that war was opened up to journalists in pretty substantial ways. They would have long pieces about Vietnam. So you’re getting Morley Safer’s piece about we had to destroy the village in order to save it. Then they put the hooch on fire. You’re getting John Lawrence, you know, with troops right there when they’re getting fired upon when guys are getting killed. So you’re getting Jack Smith at the Ia Drang Valley, you know, which became Joe Galloway, [00:13:00] as you know, marvelous book. It’s coming into your living room. And I think that started to have an impact because now you realize this isn’t cowboys and Indians, and this isn’t easy. This is rough and it’s ugly. And you know, it doesn’t look like we’re gaining it. We’re making any progress here. So I think that started to switch on a light. And then you have people starting to say, I’m not going to go do that. I mean, I don’t understand what the fight’s about. So you’re getting pushback, you’re [00:13:30] getting protest and so and you’re getting eyewitness accounts every night on your television set. So I think the combination of things now, the music is there to reflect that. You have protest music, you’ve got masters of war, you’ve got a hard rain’s going to fall, you’ve got the draft dodger rag, you’ve got Lyndon Johnson told the nation. You know, conversely, you still have, you know, Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall and Ernest [00:14:00] Tubb saying, Hell, no, it’s so you’ve got this cacophony a little bit now, and the country is trying to figure it out. So where are you at a coffeehouse? You hear one song, you’re at a protest, you might hear another song. If you’re at a country bar, you’re going to hear another song. The music, I think, started to begin to amplify what was going on with society at large, and it became, you know, not just an expression of that. Sometimes it would anticipate or light a fuse [00:14:30] to some of what was happening.
(HOST): [00:14:32] You know, what I think is so interesting is this it’s almost a dichotomy because the technology of just having a Sanyo tape player, you know, that was battery powered in your hooch. It enabled individuals or small groups to sort of have their own soundtrack for the war. And yet at the same time, music was sort of a unifying force. Right. It fragmented and unified at the same time.
(DOUG): [00:14:59] Isn’t that a crazy [00:15:00] dichotomy? And it’s absolutely true when I think back on all the interviews we’ve had for the book and then all the presentations we made and where we get more people sharing and reflecting and volunteering information, you really get that sense. There were some ugly moments. There were some real ugly moments. And it happened with a jukebox to, you know, the funny story is about Colin Powell, who was just lost his second tour of Vietnam, and the things he had to do was he had to mediate what was being played at [00:15:30] the EM Clubs on the jukebox because they were having too many problems.
(HOST): [00:15:35] You mean fighting fighting guys, fighting
(DOUG): [00:15:37] Over the jukebox guy, saying, you know, I mean, if you play Detroit City one more time, I’m going to I’m going to knock you out. So music did have that power, but music did more to pull people together, especially when they needed to be pulled together. Then then it pulled them apart. Regardless of we were who we were in the EM club when they were playing. We got to get out of this place and saying that last line, there’s a better life in the USA. [00:16:00]
(HOST): [00:16:00] Things are erupting in the states as well, right? The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 1968. And, you know, just the increasing the increasing unrest at home. I think maybe some of the some of the new guys brought a little of that with them.
(DOUG): [00:16:16] Yeah, especially a lot of the African-American soldiers. I mean, you know, this was this was black power. I mean, you know, and there was racial strife as as you just indicated. And we all had guns. So it’s [00:16:30] a pretty volatile situation.
(HOST): [00:16:32] Hmm. Seems like, you know, when music was more fragmented, it was a lot of it was music that was not of the era, right? It was music that existed independently of the war. It was music that people were listening to before they went to Vietnam. But then you have music that is of the time it is of and from and about the Vietnam era. The Vietnam War is the backdrop for, [00:17:00] for, you know, all creative endeavors, including music. And so then you begin to have music that maybe is a little more uniting because it’s it’s about the thing that we all share. The thing that we have in common rather than about our differences. And so in that context, you know, I think we have to talk about we talk about a lot of people, but for sure, we have to talk about Jimi Hendrix.
(DOUG): [00:17:20] Absolutely. I mean, here’s Hendrix, who a lot of people don’t know was in the military, you know, hard scrabble upbringing and what happened to a lot [00:17:30] of guys in that era. You know, he got into trouble with the law and he’s up in front of the judge and it’s like 30 days and three hundred dollars or, you know, the recruiters just down the street. So I’ll drop everything. And so Hendrix goes in. And by all accounts, he was a horrible soldier,
(HOST): [00:17:46] Ended up in the 101st Airborne, didn’t he?
(DOUG): [00:17:48] Exactly. That’s where, excuse me, while I kiss this, kissing the sky is what paratroopers say. He’s kissing the sky because he’s a paratrooper. All you want to do is play his guitar. So the army kicked him out and [00:18:00] getting a feel for what was going on and how that sounded really affected his sound. And I think there’s probably and we’ve had this echoed by a number of the folks we interviewed. There’s nobody who sonically is Vietnam like Hendrix. It doesn’t mean all the people we talk to and some of the old career soldiers and older soldiers, you know, could could rally around that. But if [00:18:30] you heard that if you hear a machine gun, even parts of Purple Haze, if you hear The Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock, which is a little later. But you know, Hendrix captured that sound of Vietnam. There’s a great line in Michael Herr’s dispatches. I think he says something like Hendrix was the forward scout in terms of penetrating that wall of what Vietnam was and Purple Haze. For some folks, that’s that’s a song about [00:19:00] LSD. It is, I mean, there was a kind of acid that was called Purple Haze. You know, they they were color coded in the day. So sure, that’s an acid song. It’s a drug song. But for a lot of guys, you know, one of the one of the smoke bombs that you popped at LZ was purple. Purple Haze for them is rescue and safety. He had that great statement on the Dick Cavett Show when he was getting static about why he played The Star-Spangled Banner the way he did, and he said, That’s my country, that’s my song. This is battle. This is gunfire. [00:19:30] This is chaos.
(MUSIC): [00:19:35] The Star-Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix (69)
(HOST): [00:20:18] Where [00:20:00] are we now? We’re 68, 69 ish. You know, what’s what’s going on in Vietnam and at home that becomes such fertile ground for protest music? Like why is [00:20:30] protest music really starting to become almost a genre of its own?
(DOUG): [00:20:35] If you look at what’s happening at race in America at the time, and we have a great story in there about Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin, it’s Aretha saying again like she didn’t respect. If you’re going to treat me like crap, I’m out of here. I’m not done with this relationship. I’m breaking this chain. But if you’re African-American in the country at that time, that’s a civil rights song. I mean, there’s no more powerful image in African-American culture than slavery, the chains [00:21:00] of slavery. And so what they’re hearing her say is, you know, the chains are coming off, you know, we’re going to get what’s ours. They pass the bills, but we still don’t have it. So we’re going to get it.
(MUSIC): [00:21:12] Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin (68)
(DOUG): [00:21:38] Everybody [00:21:30] looks at the Tet Offensive as that that big turning point. We all know, is basically a suicidal mission on the part of North Viet Cong But they captured most of the provincial capitals. They were fighting, they were fighting guys like me in Saigon and Long Bien. And that got on the news and it was like Walter Cronkite. You know, the Walter Cronkite, you know, Uncle Walter, you [00:22:00] know, goes on the news and says, I thought we were winning this war. And you know, Johnson, President Johnson said when he was said, If I had lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost in the country. But if you talk to black soldiers, it’s King’s assassination. That is there, one of the guys said he what he heard, the news he wanted to shoot, the first white guy he saw, luckily, and nobody was in the hooch, so he didn’t do it. But he sat down and listened to the Lady Soul album by Aretha. And there’s a line in there about, [00:22:30] you know, the chain is going to break. I’ve taken all I can take and that becomes the chain of command.
(DOUG): [00:22:36] And so you’ve got a song that is about three different things to three different audiences simultaneously. And that’s the crazy thing that music began to do. Nancy Sinatra’s These boots are sitting on Dock of the Bay. You know, I mean, just so many songs like you said, we took them with us. But when they were there, they became something else. And I think [00:23:00] you can’t find probably any era that was more combustible and cacophonous than the era you’re talking about, because it’s the height of Black Power riots in America, assassinations, I mean, everything the society is breaking down. Huge anti-war protests. A lot of pushback in the military as well itself, and just a whole generation of people who basically the only thing they can agree on is [00:23:30] how good the music is. I mean, the Beach Boys aren’t doing fun, fun, fun anymore. We’re doing good vibrations. What the hell is that about? I mean, James Brown, I thought I thought he had a brand new bag, or he was. He felt good. Now he’s saying it loud. He’s black and he’s proud.
(MUSIC): [00:23:45] Say it Loud, We’re Black and Proud – James Brown (68)
(HOST): [00:24:12] You [00:24:00] mentioned we got to get out of this place. I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far into the conversation. We haven’t really talked about that song, which, by the way, is, you know, we’re at the title of your book comes from. We did a little bit of an informal poll on our Facebook page. We asked folks, what song do you most associate with that era? And [00:24:30] I mean, the winner, just like it wasn’t even close. We got to get it out of this place was was number one by a long shot.
(DOUG): [00:24:38] It’s not about Vietnam, but everybody thinks it’s about Vietnam and about the protest. Cynthia Weiland, Barry Mann, the songwriters for we. We got to get out of this place. Intended that song to be the follow up. So you’ve lost that loving feeling by the righteous brothers. They wanted it to be sort of a get out of the ghetto song. Well, the way the music industry worked in those [00:25:00] days was crazily the sheet music ends up in London, and Allen Klein and Mickie Most, who are running the Animals in their own music stuff. Find it. They show it to the Animals who are, you know, hardscrabble guys in Newcastle who are coming up to London and they look at it and say, This is our song. This is what we’re doing. We got out of there. We’re not going to be like our fathers and slave away in the factories.
(MUSIC): [00:25:26] We Got to Get Out of this Place – The Animals (65)
(HOST): [00:25:55] It’s [00:25:30] about escaping their circumstance.
(DOUG): [00:25:58] Exactly. And we talked to Cynthia Weil [00:26:00] and way back when we started the book, and she says she admits they were really pissed when they heard that that’s not the version they wanted out. And, you know, it wasn’t anything what they intended until they started to get the royalty checks and then they sort of calmed down. Yeah, it becomes Vietnam.
(HOST): [00:26:19] You talked about the change from the draft boards to the draft lottery system and the idea that that would be more fair, that that would be more equitable and [00:26:30] that is largely true. I mean, the draft itself did become more fair and more equitable. But of course, deferments were not always distributed fairly or equitably. And so that brings us to Fortunate Son, which is another one that received a huge response from our Facebook followers.
(DOUG): [00:26:53] Well, and you know, and CCR, just in and of themselves, a rock and roll group like that, two of whom had service [00:27:00] in their resumes, Fogerty and Doug Clifford. And but they knew who was doing the fighting and dying. And they they were the ones that said, you can be against the war, but not against the soldier. And, you know, God bless him. I mean, that that was a real breakthrough. Plus, I mean, the music’s so darn good. I mean, it’s it’s it’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing. So much of their run through the jungle, you know, bad moon rising. It just seemed like they had their fingers on the pulse. [00:27:30] And they said, We know this could be us. You know, we’re here for you guys. We hope you get back safe. And you know, damn that war anyway. And nothing does it better than that song because it basically says, OK, who’s doing the fighting and the dying? Well, it ain’t the senator’s son. It ain’t the millionaire’s son. And I think that really resonated.
(MUSIC): [00:27:57] Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (69)
(HOST): [00:28:19] You [00:28:00] mentioned Eric Burdon and the Animals having accidentally recorded what became the anthem for the Vietnam soldier. Is there anybody you can think of [00:28:30] from outside the United States who wrote or recorded music on purpose to address the Vietnam War as an issue and had some success made some impact with it?
(DOUG): [00:28:45] Jimmy Cliff has a great song called Vietnam and it’s just it’s reggae and it’s it’s relatively early in the war and Vietnam, Vietnam, and he gets a letter from his buddy and his buddy says, I’m OK, tell everybody I’m fine, I’ll be home [00:29:00] in a couple of weeks. Then his mother gets the letter. He’s not coming home. Master Jack by three Jackson to Jill, which was an Australian group. It’s a strange, strange world. We live in Master Jack. Well, that becomes Chuck. And Tom Hagel’s song is they’re serving together and they shouldn’t have been as brothers. Five Purple Hearts Between Them Donovan had Susan on the West Coast, waiting from Anthony in Vietnam fighting.
(HOST): [00:29:28] Satisfaction comes to mind, but you know, again, that was that [00:29:30] was accidental, right?
(DOUG): [00:29:31] Exactly, exactly.
(HOST): [00:29:33] I mean, I don’t know if satisfaction was as important at the time, but certainly in films, satisfaction is part of almost every Vietnam War soundtrack that I could think. Or at least it feels that way.
(DOUG): [00:29:46] Yeah. Well, now as we’re talking about it, I think of another Animal song, Sky Pilot, almost every chopper pilot that was there after that song. You know, when that song was out and later talks about that song as being, you [00:30:00] know, for them being what they did and who they were. Kind of interesting.
(HOST): [00:30:06] Yeah. And actually, it actually reminds me of another tune that we haven’t talked about, which I think would be a good segue way into our next topic. Treetop Flyer. It’s soldiers who’ve come home from Vietnam.
(DOUG): [00:30:18] Yeah. Yeah.
(HOST): [00:30:20] Or who’ve survived the war. And you know, there’s a there’s a whole kind of subset of songs about Vietnam after the fact. I mean, Charlie Daniels [00:30:30]
(DOUG): [00:30:31] Still in Saigon.
(HOST): [00:30:32] Mm hmm. Billy Joel Goodnight Saigon. Yeah, I’d never I hadn’t thought about Treetop Flyer as belonging in that group, but it certainly does.
(DOUG): [00:30:40] I think that’s a good call on your part. Not a lot of people would make that kind of connection, but there were other artists, too. Bruce Springsteen, you know, comes to mind. You know, Dan Daley, who we interviewed, who wrote Still in Saigon. They sent it to two people, Bruce Springsteen and Charlie Daniels and [00:31:00] Charlie Daniels took it. But it says something about Springsteen, too, who has really stood up for and stood by Vietnam vets, even devils and dust, which is about Iraq. But, you know, go back to brothers under the bridge, lost in the flood, et cetera. I mean, that’s Vietnam born in the USA. I mean, I mean, you listen to that. Wait a minute. What’s that? Well, that’s about growing up tough in a blue collar town and never getting a chance. Then you go to the war. [00:31:30] They don’t want to give you a job when you get back. Your brother got killed in Vietnam. I mean that that is a tough song by a lot of people missed what that was about. [00:32:00]
(MUSIC): [00:32:07] Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen (84)
(DOUG): [00:32:07] How do you come back here and make sense of all the all the craziness and chaos? Plus there’s no parades, there’s no welcome home, you know, there’s nothing, there’s no healing. Yeah.
(HOST): [00:32:21] It’s tragic, and as you said earlier in the conversation, it’s shameful. On the other hand. The way that you [00:32:30] guys looked after each other. Because your grateful nation wasn’t looking after you the way you changed the VA. Because it wasn’t working for Vietnam vets, the way that you changed how troops are treated when they come home. You changed everything for the generations that followed and the fact that we have a Wall, a Vietnam Veterans Memorial, you guys did that for each other. It’s the argument I would make for your generation [00:33:00] being the greatest generation.
(DOUG): [00:33:03] Well, I love that. And you know, we really we Vietnam vets should pay more attention to the kind of things you just you just said and I think. Too much emphasis is put on the disgrace and the shame, et cetera, the shunning and the not welcoming, and I think what you just summarized is more fitting, and I think it’s truer in [00:33:30] many, many ways. People just needed somebody to listen, just to listen. It’s like the beauty of what’s going on by Marvin Gaye. You know, he. Frankie Gaye, his brothers in Vietnam, having a hell of a time and writing letters home. And Marvin Gaye reading Frankie’s letters. And he meets Frankie when he comes back from Vietnam and says, Hey, you know, if I’m going to be able to appreciate and understand and assimilate any of this, I got to listen because I wasn’t [00:34:00] there. I got to know what being there was. And that was the beauty. I think of what Marvin Gaye did.
(MUSIC): [00:34:06] What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye (71) Brother, brother, brother. There’s far too many of you that. You know, we’ve got to find. To bring some loving. Father, father, we don’t need to [00:34:30] escalate. See, was not the answer. For only love can conquer hate…
(DOUG): [00:34:39] And if you listen to what’s going on the original album version as each song just sort of Segways into the next and then inner city blues goes back to what’s going on. It’s so it’s
(HOST): [00:34:53] So the album is a loop.
(DOUG): [00:34:54] Exactly. And it’s Frankie Gaye and every Vietnam vet coming back saying, You know, [00:35:00] mercy, mercy me. You know, I mean, like, you know, is the planet going to blow up. I mean, am I going to get a job or am I going to find God? Or am I going to do drugs? Am I going to throw a brick through a window? Paul Hardcastle is a song called 19, which sounds like a disco song.
(HOST): [00:35:14] Yeah, I remember it.
(DOUG): [00:35:16] Yeah, walking a thin line. Huey Lewis. It’s all about PTSD. My neighbor doesn’t know what’s going on with me. You won’t ask me. You won’t talk to me. I’m struggling here. I’m walking a thin line orange crush by R.E.M.. I mean, there’s probably a lot more [00:35:30] as much about music is as the two of us know, there’s probably stuff we’re missing.
(HOST): [00:35:35] So I had a colleague point one out to me the other day. I’m aware of The Lumineers. I’ve actually seen them, but I don’t, you know, I haven’t followed them that closely. And apparently there’s at least one song in their catalogue about an uncle who’s on the wall.
(DOUG): [00:35:48] Yeah, their first album that the Hayhoe is on has a song called Charlie Boy. It’s about somebody who listened to Kennedy’s call. It’s not what your country can do for you. Served [00:36:00] and was killed in the war.
(MUSIC): [00:36:05] Charlie Boy – The Lumineers (2012) Charlie Boy. Don’t go to war. First morning. Forty four.
(DOUG): [00:36:19] I mean, let’s face it, I always, you know, I thought we would still be fighting the Vietnam War until the last one of us was not here anymore because it was it was America’s second civil [00:36:30] war in many ways. Now we’ve been superseded by COVID and culture wars and George Floyd and everything else. Vietnam is not the touchstone anymore. Where we go musically with that will be interesting to see. I doubt it’ll be something we all share, like we did in Vietnam and continue to do now.
(HOST): [00:36:52] Well, again, I think technology plays a role there, right? I mean, now everybody’s got their own earbuds like you don’t have to share a musical moment or experience [00:37:00] or feeling with anybody else. I mean, I don’t know anybody who listens to radio.
(DOUG): [00:37:05] No, it’s a really good point, and radio was our internet, you know, back in the day, whether you were in Dallas or Detroit, you know, Bismarck or Boston. The guy sounded the same and they pretty much played the same set list. So if you didn’t want to hear a little green apples or patches, you just had to wait because satisfaction. And you know, my girl, were going to come on. You said that you had to be paid. You have to be patient. [00:37:30] And you’re right. That’s all gone.
(HOST): [00:37:32] We’re pretty fragmented, even to the point where you know, you and I don’t get the same results for the exact same Google search.
(DOUG): [00:37:39] Mm hmm.
(HOST): [00:37:40] Everybody’s pipeline of information is tailored. There is no Walter Cronkite.
(DOUG): [00:37:46] Right, right. That’s absolutely right.
(HOST): [00:37:48] And so I wonder for the current generation of fighting men and women, people who who came home from Iraq or Afghanistan. If we had this conversation about music [00:38:00] of that era. I wonder if we would find so much common language.
(DOUG): [00:38:05] And even though now anybody could probably access any song that’s ever been recorded, they’re not sharing it, you know? I mean, not necessarily, whereas for us, that was in our DNA. That’s who we were as a generation and we shared it.
(HOST): [00:38:20] There’s an important point, though. I think you shared it in context, right? I can listen to a song that I like on my earbuds and I can share that song with you, but I’m not going to be there [00:38:30] when you hear it. And more importantly, we’re not going to be sharing an experience at the same time that we’re hearing the song.
(DOUG): [00:38:36] Very, very well said. And the point we just made about the accessibility of music, the great thing was when we taught our class and, you know, these kids would come in, you know, they were born late 1990s, early 2000s. I mean, they this could be the Peloponnesian War. They have no idea about Vietnam, but they know the music.
(HOST): [00:39:00] That [00:39:00] was Doug Bradley. His book, again, is We got to get out of this place, the soundtrack of the Vietnam War. It’s fun and it’s fascinating, and it goes so much deeper than we were able to in our conversation. Rolling Stone magazine called it the best music book of 2015. If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend you check it out. Also, I’m sorry that we couldn’t play more music in this episode, but there are some technical, if not legal hurdles to doing that, but we don’t want to leave you hanging. So we made a [00:39:30] companion playlist for you on the VVMF YouTube channel. It’s got every song mentioned in this episode in its entirety. Thirty four songs and all again, you can find that on the VVMF YouTube channel. And we recommend turning it up nice and loud. Thanks for checking out the official podcast from the founders of The Wall in Washington, DC. Since we launched the podcast on March 29th of this [00:40:00] year, we’ve grown from zero listeners to nearly 20000. We’re really, really grateful for your support and we look forward to bringing you more amazing stories in the new year. Enjoy the holidays. We’ll see you in 2022.
Full Interview with Doug Bradley
- VVMF Legacy Endowment – vvmf.org/legacy
- We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War by Doug Bradley – https://www.amazon.com/Gotta-Get-Out-This-Place/dp/1625341628
- VVMF EP18 Companion Playlist – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLK63b6Cn53unEg-MKZZ83AML945r8-s9L
- Doug Bradley Full Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jWFacJLHcs
- YouTube Echoes of the Vietnam War Interview playlist – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLK63b6Cn53unMMj-yZYEch0RuYy1YN1zl