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I’m an Australian – 20 Years Old

Don Henderson
Language: English


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The song "I'm an Australian – 20 Years Old" also featured in The Vietnam Songbook, although no recording from the time has been found yet. The song took a comedic approach to a 21 year old caught-up in major court case for resisting the draft. It started out with the man going down to the barracks, lighting a cigarette, and his "call-up papers accidently caught on fire". Misinterpreted as a deliberate act, the "C.N.D. embraced me" - a reference to the protest group the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, while the other side "called me a traitor".

Vietnam War Song Project
I am an Australian. I am twenty years old,
So I went down to the barracks as I’ve been told.
While waiting for the officer in charge to call my name
I lit a cigarette with my Ronson’s merry flame.
Well, something was not right with it and as the flame grew higher
My call-up papers accidentally caught on fire.

Well, it was just a little thing, but created quite a fuss.
The C.N.D. [1] embraced me and said, “Now you’re one of us.”
A young man called me “traitor” and he ranted for a while.
Then his eyes turned glassy and he screamed, “Sieg Heil!”
The officer called me “conchie” and he said, “Are you a sort?” [2]
And to all my protestations he said, “Tell it to the court!”

Then the press took my picture and my name was spread
All across the front page with an article that said
I was one more of a number who emphatically stood for
Australia withdrawing from what was a civil war.
Our influence was mounting as our number grew.
I read it in the paper, so it must be true.

In court the army said, “This man” and pointed straight at me,
“Won’t fight for queen and country, church or B. H. P.” [3]
The magistrate swore sagely and turning to me said,
“What if a Viet Cong attacked your mother in her bed?”
I said, “Well they ain’t here yet, but if perchance they come,
I’ll run down to the T.A.B. [4] and put five quid [5] on Mum.”

Now the army wants to send me to jail.
Old women send me white feathers in the mail.
I went down to my girlfriend’s place, met with her father’s fist.
He said, “Stay away from my daughter, you dirty communist.”
A spokesman for the R.S.L. [6] said my type should
Be horse-whipped and castrated. Hanging is too good.

Now if at first I would have gone, now I will not go.
But I since have found out lost of things I didn’t know
And Vietnam seems a good place to leave to Viet Cong.
Three million bloody Frenchmen can’t be all that wrong.
Well, I said to my mate, Charlie, “We’ll stick around out here.”
We won’t hurt nobody,” and he said, “No fear!”
Some notes for non-Australians:

[1] C. N. D. = Committee for Nuclear Disarmament

[2] sort = girl

[3] B. H. P. = Broken Hill Propriety Company Ltd, a big oil company, incorporated in 1885

[4] T. A. B. = Totalizer Agency Board, for any Off-Track Betting

[5] five quid = five dollars (The original lyrics say "a spin", but this slang is unfamiliar even to me.)

[6] R. S. L. = Returned Servicemen's League, a veterans' organization with a reputation for being right-wing.

2021/11/14 - 15:37



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