Friday, 6 January 2017

Yellow Peril

The Ballad of the Green Berets is one of the most famous pro-Vietnam songs of all time, Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s patriotic march was a hit around the world, making Number One on the Billboard charts, going Top Five in Germany and Australia and reaching Number 24 in the UK. The song was written by Sadler while he was recuperating from a leg wound suffered as a medic in the Vietnam War, and co-authored by Robin Moore, who published a book, The Green Berets, in 1965. The lyrics were written in honour of Green Beret US Army Specialist James Gabriel, Jr., the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam, killed by Viet Cong gunfire while on a training mission on April 8, 1962.

Covers of the song have proved particularly popular, and have been made by everyone from Dolly Parton, Teresa Brewer and Kate Smith to Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton Jr. and the Lonesome Valley Singers. There’s even an instrumental, twangy guitar and rocking sax version by Duane Eddy.

But we’re not concerned with that today – oh no! Here instead is The Ballad of the Yellow Beret, a mish-mash of parody, answer record and protest, although this time the disc is clearly protesting against those protesting against the war – if you see what I mean.

Performed by The Beach Bums and written by D. Dodger (Draft Dodger, geddit?), what makes this disc particularly interesting is that it is one of the earliest outings for famed rocker Bob Seger, recorded when he was a member of Doug Brown and The Omens: the Beach Bums and the Omens are, in fact, the same group. Draft Dodger is reputed to be Bob Seger himself. Within two years Bob would have an about turn in his attitude towards the war and would write another song, the resolutely anti-Viet Nam psych-rocker 2+2 = ?,  issued as a single on Capitol by the Bob Seger System in 1968, and an inspiration on The White Stripes’ 2003 hit Seven Nation Army.

Soon after the release of The Ballad of the Yellow Beret Sadler and his record label (RCA) threatened a lawsuit and the recording was withdrawn. Copies now sell for upwards of $100.

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to track down a copy of the B-side, Florida Time. If anyone out there can help, do let me know. Instead here’s folk singer Nancy Ames, with her The Ballad of the Green Berets answer record, He Wore The Green BeretUPDATE! Thanks  to the rather excellent DAYS OF BROKEN ARROWS blog I am now able to bring you the flip to The Ballad of the Yellow Beret, so here are The Beach Bums with Florida Time!

Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. If you want to hear Florida time, go to my blog and search out a post called "Waves Of Sunshine." It's on that.

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