Talking Vietnam Potluck Blues

Tom Paxton
Language: English

List of versions

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Lyrics and music by Tom Paxton
Testo e musica di Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton.
Tom Paxton.

Esistono le canzoni geniali? Ne sono convinto. Questa di Tom Paxton ne è un esempio. Non so se parli di un episodio realmente avvenuto durante la guerra in Vietnam, anche se mi piace pensarlo e, comunque, la cosa è altamente realistica. Ho visto coi miei occhi, in un'altra guerra, dei "nemici" scambiarsi sigarette e saluti dieci minuti prima di spararsi addosso; ci può ben stare la storia di questo "picnic alla buona" nel Vietnam. [RV]
When I landed in Vietnam,
I hardly got to see Saigon.
They shaped us up and called the roll,
And off we went on a long patrol.
Swattin' flies, swappin' lies,
Firing the odd shot here and there.

The captain called a halt that night
And we had chow by the pale moonlight.
A lovely dinner they planned for us
With a taste like a seat on a crosstown bus.
Some of the veterans left theirs in the cans
For the Viet Cong to find. . .
Deadlier than a land mine.

Well naturally somebody told a joke
And a couple of fellas began to smoke.
I took a whiff as a cloud rolled by
And my nose went up like an infield fly.
The captain, this blonde fella from Yale, said
"What's the matter with you, baby?"

Well, I may be crazy, but I think not.
I'd swear to God that I smell pot.
But who'd have pot in Vietnam?
He said, "What do you think you're sittin' on?"
These funny little plants, thousands of them.
Good God Almighty... Pastures of Plenty!

We all lit up and by and by
The whole platoon was flying high.
With a beautiful smile on the captain's face
He smelled like midnight on St. Mark's Place.
Cleaning his weapon, chanting the Hare Krishna.

The moment came as it comes to all,
When I had to answer nature's call.
I was stumbling around in a beautiful haze
When I met a little cat in black P.J.'s,
Rifle, ammo-belt, B.F. Goodrich sandals.
He looked up at me and said,
"Whatsa' matta wit-choo, baby?"

He said, "We're campin' down the pass
And smelled you people blowin' grass,
And since by the smell you're smokin' trash
I brought you a taste of a special stash
Straight from Uncle Ho's victory garden.
We call it Hanoi gold."

So his squad and my squad settled down
And passed some lovely stuff around.
All too soon it was time to go.
The captain got on the radio. . .
"Hello, headquarters. We have met the enemy
And they have been smashed!"

Contributed by Ranger Jack - 2006/7/21 - 03:03

Language: Italian

Versione italiana di Riccardo Venturi
3 agosto 2006

Quando sono arrivato in Vietnam
manco ce l’ho fatta a vedere Saigon.
Ci hanno bardati e hanno fatto l’appello,
e siamo andati a fare un lungo pattugliamento,
schiacciando mosche, scambiandoci bugie
e tirando colpi a casaccio qua e là.

Quella notte il capitano ci disse di fare uno stop
e si mangiò qualcosina al pallido chiardiluna.
Ci avevano preparato proprio una bella cenetta
che sapeva tipo d’un sedile in un bus di linea.
Qualcuno dei veterani lasciò tutto nelle scatolette
perché lo trovassero i Vietcong…
Più letale di una mina antiuomo.

Beh, ovviamente qualcuno raccontò una barzelletta
e un paio di tizi si misero a fumare.
Io mi feci un tiro come avvolto da una nuvola
e il naso mi partì come una mazzata da baseball.
Il capitano, quel biondino uscito da Yale, disse:
“Ehi, bimbetto, che ti prende?”

Eh, sarò pazzo, però non penso di esserlo…
Giuro su Dio che sento odore d’erba.
Ma chi ce l’ha la maria, nel Vietnam?
Lui disse: “Su cosa credi di stare seduto?”
‘Ste buffe piantine, ce n’erano a migliaia,
oddìo santissimo! I Pascoli dell’Abbondanza!

Tutti quanti s’appicciò, e poco a poco
l’intero plotone era partito per la tangente.
Il capitano aveva una bella faccia sorridente
e odorava come a mezzanotte in St. Mark’s Place,
pulendo l’arma e salmodiando “Hare Krishna”.

Venne il momento, come succede a tutti,
in cui dovetti andare a fare un bisognino.
Barcollando bello di fuori come un vaso di gerani
incontrai un tappetto giallo con addosso pigiama nero,
fucile, cinturone e sandali di gommaccia.
Mi dette un’occhiata e disse:
“Ehi, bello, andale tutto bene?”

Disse: “Noi stale accampati giù vicino al passo
e annusato voi fumale elba,
e siccome, dal puzzo, voi stale fumando melda
io poltale voi cosina speciale che voi non conoscele,
venile dilitta dal gialdino della Vittolia di zio Ho.
Noi chiamale lei ‘Olo di Hanoi’.”

E così il suo squadrone e il mio ci si mise a sedere
passandoci proprio della bella robetta.
Ma troppo presto venne il momento di andare.
Il capitano andò alla radio…
“Pronto, Quartier Generale. Abbiamo incontrato il Nemico
e lo abbiamo annientato!”.

2006/8/3 - 12:20

"Talking Bayonet Rap" è il titolo del monologo con cui Paxton era solito introdurre "Talking Vietnam Potluck Blues"...

"It being vacation time, I’ve been thinking a lot about a fantastic vacation I had some ten years ago at a little-known garden spot. . . Unknown even to the most adventurous travel agents. A place called Fort Riley, Kansas, where I spent eight fun-filled weeks during which time I learned to do some very interesting things.

I learned how to throw a hand grenade, how to crawl in mud under barbed wire – stuff you can always use, you know. Especially if one is planning on a college education nowadays these skills are vital. And as a matter of fact the whole thing was so thrill-packed that it was only with a couple years perspective that I was able to pick out THE big moment for me which has to be the day they marched us out onto the drill field wearing, for the first time, our full combat gear. Which was very exciting, you know, a little heavy; all the boots, and the helmets and stuff and we were a little nervous ‘cause the rumor was we were going into combat that afternoon. You know. Right there in Kansas! You know. Those of you who have been in will know how plausible such a rumor can sound even in the middle of Kansas. But no, they didn’t have that planned that day. What they did instead was line us up in two long lines facing each other and a sergeant stalked dramatically down to the end of the lines pulled himself up to his full five-foot one bellowed the immortal command, “Fix Bayonets!”

So we put ‘em on for the first time. A little clumsily. We were just learning. We had to leave the covers on too because we were just starting out. Some of the guys got very cross about that. Uh. They, uh. They’d heard about them gherkas and they wanted to draw a little blood and the sergeant said, “no, no.” They had to wait until they met, “the dirty commies.” And, as far as he knew, there were none in our company with the possible exception of those of us who’d been to college. And since, as it happened, I was THE college man in the company, I was getting nervous about that time but there is safety in obscurity and he passed me by.

Now that we had the bayonets on, he gathered us all around him in a very tightly packed heap and he got up on this platform and pulled out his bayonet which was chrome plated and began waving it back and forth. Rhythmically. Hypnotically. Some of the cretins went right under. And he gave us the “History of the Bayonet”. Went right back to the Roman short sword which apparently started that whole thing off and he went into great graphic detail of how the Legionnaires used to come hacking their way through the Gauls and the Visigoths – he called them Visigoths, who was I to argue about it? – carving out an empire as it were. And when I say that he went into details of blood and gore, he left out no details. And it was very heady stuff and some of the younger guys began to get a little excited, pawing the ground, hitting each other in the shoulder, “hey, hey!” And now that he had us started like a master conductor he played on our emotions and started taking us up through history - The great bayonet charges of the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, he even got excited and rang in the Charge of the Light Brigade. It wasn’t bayonets but what the hell. And guys are now guys are now beginning to jump up and down, you know, getting very worked up and their eyes are blood-red and they’re beginning to strangle one another in excitement. Now he’s got us up to the first World War, Bayonet charges into the face of machine gun fire. Which made sense, didn’t it? You know. If you had the machine gun, I suppose it made sense.

By this time we are almost out of control and he knows it. And at the exact psychological moment he suddenly held up his bayonet again and he yelled, “What is the purpose of the bayonet?” And we all yelled, “To kill, to kill” and we killed him!

Then his replacement got up. “All right mens, dat is enough now of theory. It is time to learn de practice uh dis weapon.” And now he taught us all the little jumps that you have to make; all the little John Wayne dance steps. You know. You saw Sands of Iwo Jima. All the, the High Thrust, and the Low Thrust, and my favorite, the Butt Smash, terrible thing. More importantly we learned that in this type of quarrel, finesse is not where it’s at. No no. It isn’t Douglas Fairbanks after all. What they’re looking for is something more on the order of brute ferocity. So whatever you do with the bayonet must be accompanied with sharp animal-like cries, along this line. This is to frighten your enemy. It isn’t enough, they figure, to run 200 yards across an open field and wave a bayonet in his face, you gotta yell at him too, right? I can see myself in a foxhole saying, “Oh my God! Here comes someone with a bayonet. What’ll I do if he yells at me?”

It’s been a long time but I, I checked with my friends and this is, this is still going on. But one thing, one element of modern military life, uh, is, is there that was not when I was in and I’m a little bitter about it. Perhaps you’ve heard about the astonishing agricultural discoveries made by the troops in Viet Nam. It seems, it seems that there’s an herb that grows there in an abundance to boggle the western imagination. Great waving forests and jungles of nothing but pot. A fact which comes as no surprise to the natives who have been merrily blowing grass for centuries now. What happened in the modern era was the first G.I. got off the plane, was there five minutes, scored, and began a chain of events leading up to the present weird situation where we have the Viet Cong, on the one hand, stoned in the jungle, the villagers caught in the middle, swacked in self-defense, and the G.I.’s on the other hand out of their gourds up to and including the general staff, which explains a lot when you think of it. Not all highs are good highs. We know that.

When I heard this shocking story, naturally I had to quickly write a song, maintaining my traditional posture of neutrality."

Alessandro - 2009/5/22 - 09:39

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