“Wish You Were Here, Buddy!”

I was recently contacted by craig werner who’s writing a book on music and the Vietnam War. He’d read my reaction to Creedance’s “Fortunate Son” and wanted my perspective on what part music played in my experience, both during and after the war.

Needless to say, that got me thinking about my experiences, and one song stood out, this one by Pat Boone:

Well, hi there, buddy
Thought I`d drop you a line
I haven`t seen you
For a hundred years

When you get time
Will you let me know
If it`s true what a fella hears

Heard you been leading
Those campus demonstrations
You`re as busy as you can be
If the sit downs, walk outs
And others aggravate you
Bet you hardly ever think of me

Well, I`m on a little
Vacation in South Vietnam
And expense paid trip for one
I got my own little rifle
And a great uniform
And a job that must be done

For it’s sleeping in the jungle
And ducking real bullets
And man, it`s a lot of fun
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)

I heard you let your hair grow
Til it`s hanging on your shoulders
And you hardly have time to shave
Bet the girls all flip
‘Cause you look so fine like
Something crawled out of a cave

Heard Uncle Sam
Done scared you to death
But you fooled him just in time
Just stuck a little match
To your old draft card
Then you burned up
A future like mine

Well, I`m on a little
Vacation in South Vietnam
And expense paid trip for one
I got my own little rifle
And a great uniform
And a job that must be done
For it’s sleeping in the jungle
And ducking real bullets
And man, it`s a lot of fun
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)

Oh, I know you`re not scared
You’re a real brave guy
You’re a regular Cassius Clay
And I know you`da fought
When the country was young
But the world`s just different today

Well, you just stay home
And leave the fighting to us
And when the whole
Durn mess is through
I`ll put away my rifle
And the old uniform
And I`ll come looking for you

For it’s sleeping in the jungle
And ducking real bullets
And man, it`s a lot of fun
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)

Wish you were here, old pal
(Wish you were here)
Wish you were here
(Wish you were here)
Wish you were here, little buddy
(Wish you were here)

I wanna introduce
You to them Comms
(Wish you were here)
Come on over and we`ll just
Hold em ’til you get here, okay
Wish you were here.

This was definitely one of the most played songs on the local GI station, along with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and Barry Sadler’s “Song of the Green Beret.” Perhaps not surprisingly, I had one hell of a time finding the album to buy when I returned to the states. Apparently not everyone found it as humorous as I did. Amazingly, I still find it very funny, though perhaps for different reasons than I originally did.

I’m sure this is the only Pat Boone album, or song for that matter, I’ve ever purchased. I was always an Elvis fan; my older brother was an Pat Boone fan and I used to tease him over that. Pat Boone was/is a hopeless square, nothing else to say.

But this song reminds me of one of those old Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road Movies that I used to love as a kid. I’m sure that most of us in Vietnam shared at least some of these feelings, though I don’t remember ever thinking “I’ll come looking for you.”

Considering my crewcut, the lines “Bet the girls all flip/ ‘Cause you look so fine like/ Something crawled out of a cave” must’ve certainly struck me as funny at the time, though they might not have seemed so funny a few years later when I had a beard and a pony tail and the border agents kept giving me strange looks when I traveled to Alaska.

Probably one of the few constants in my life has been the ability to stand back and laugh at myself, and others. My hiking partner Bill once stated that one of the things that stood out when we got ourselves into a “bad place” was that I would always laugh, probably thinking “Dumb Ass, how’d you get yourself in this mess.” the whole time.

Perhaps I learned that from my Dad at a very early age when we were out fishing and a storm would come up and waves would be breaking over the edge of the rowboat and he’d yell out, “Aren’t we having a great time?!” Looking back, and Thank God we COULD look back, he always seemed right.

3 thoughts on ““Wish You Were Here, Buddy!”

  1. Interesting that that song came from hopelessly square Pat Boone, isn’t it? I haven’t thought about Pat Boone for a long long time. I liked Elvis better, too. Funny how the sound of “Wish You Were Here, Buddy” makes me think of Woody Guthrie and, for that matter, Country Joe McDonald’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag.”

    Great story about your dad’s ability to stand back and laugh and how he passed that gift on to you!

    And good to read again what you wrote in December of 2001.

    When Richard was in Vietnam a few years later in 1970, he wrote about hearing this song and identifying with its sentiment:

    http://www.justsomelyrics.com/1908116/chicago-Does-Anyone-Really-Know-What-Time-It-Is%3F-Lyrics

    During that year in Vietnam he was hearing Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan and The Beatles (“Get Back”) And he even heard George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” before returning from Vietnam in December 1970. And, of course, there was The Band, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

  2. I can certainly identify with the Chicago song, am.

    The sentiment is pretty similar to another song I identify with my post-Vietnam feelings, Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes.”

What do you think?