About the long forgotten dockside guarantees...
I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh
And my soul was sold with my cigarettes to the black market man
I've had the Vietnam cold turkey
From the ocean to the Silver City
And it's only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-day heroes in 1973
How we sailed into Sydney Harbor
Saw an old friend but couldn't kiss her
She was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

And she was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, till they found their chosen one
And their legs were often open
But their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains
And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, pay packet lean
And the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
But the car parks made me jumpy
And I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and Novocaine

So I worked across the country end to end
Tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed up life could mend
Held a job on an oil-rig
Flying choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I've traveled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the more for wear
And I've been back to South East Asia
But the answer sure ain't there
But I'm drifting north, to check things out again

You know the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Only seven flying hours, and I'll be landing in Hong Kong
There ain't nothing like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
Yeah the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone
And it's really got me worried
I'm goin' nowhere and I'm in a hurry
And the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone


Lyrics submitted by TheLuckyChicken

"Khe Sanh" as written by

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Khe Sanh song meanings
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46 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentYou know you're truly Australian when you can't sing the second verse of the national anthem, but will happily belt out Khe Sahn at the drop of a hat...
    universalsolideron June 17, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is one of the most beautiful songs to come out of Australia. My Uncle fought in Vietnam and it brings tears to his eyes when ever he hears it.
    He disagrees with all of you though, it's not about hookers and drugs. It's not about how Australian's should never of been in the war.
    “I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh”
    These guys had to find mines buried in the ground. He left his heart with them because they’re doing a horrendous job.

    “And it's only other vets could understand”
    No matter what stories we hear, or how many movies we watch, the experience is theirs alone.

    “How there were no V-day heroes in 1973”
    Back then the troops that went to Vietnam were treated really badly. Australian’s didn’t believe in the war and they didn’t see any point for our soldiers to be there. It didn’t matter to them that the men had no choice, one lady even spat on my uncle when he got back and called him filthy.

    “And their legs were often open
    But their minds were always closed”
    Not about hookers but the fact that they were so unwilling to accept that these guys had no choice but to go over and fight.

    “Or the growing need for speed and novocaine”
    This line doesn’t make the song about drugs. It just reinforces the message of how horrific it was and how there were limited means of escaping those horrors.

    He’s been back to Vietnam, and as much as he hates the place he’s going back again. It was such a major part of his life, and when he got back he was treated badly, as were most Vets.

    This song means so much more to them than it can ever mean to any of us. But it’s still beautiful and insightful.
    MagicTownon June 17, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIn response to vieires:

    Firstly, to the best of my knowledge, Don Walker didn't fight in Vietnam either.

    Secondly, the reason this song is regarded as our national anthem by so many people is not the situation itself, but the ideas behind it. The guy in the song is struggling to survive, feels abandoned by the government, has an awareness of the head-in-the-sand attitude becoming prevalent in society "the telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been", and is frustrated by the increasingly restrictive social atmosphere. It's a common theme in many Chisel songs (Star Hotel, Wild Colonial Boy, Cheap Wine, Bow River), has been a constant throughout Australia's history, and is still going on today.

    Here's the best part. He's "travelled round the world from year to year", searching for "the answer" as it's called in the song. Despiteall the problems he faces in Australia, he would rather be here than anywhere else. That's why Khe Sanh is the national anthem.
    Regos the Saneon August 25, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGreat comments, people. This is the quintessential Aussie "shafted-by-society" song that this country sadly continues to promote to this day. It started with the convicts and it lives within every generation of larrikins and fair-dinkum battlers - men AND women.

    To "Pentecost", the Silver City is the nickname for the city of Broken Hill, NSW, founded over 120 years ago was one of the largest silver-lead mines in the world, and home to some of the longest running battler societies this country has ever seen. It is also the foundation for the "Broken Hill Proprietary Company", now known as BHPBilliton, one of the world's largest mining companies. Despite the immense wealth, technological, political and social change generated there, it remains ones of the poorest cites in the state, with long term health impacts from mining lead being just one.

    Many Vietnam Vets returned to mining towns after the war, to seek anonymity and respite from sheer prejudice in the capital cities in the 1970s. Often it was the only jobs they could get.

    So the "cold-turkey" refers to the hostile reception the vets got all over the country from deep inland (eg Broken Hill) to the coastal capital cities.

    "Held a job on an oil-rig
    Flying choppers when I could
    But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend"
    There are still many ex-military people in the oil and mining industry, I guess you need a military mind to put up with the isolation and the abject hard yakka and inherent destruction of mining.

    But Khe Sanh still gets a good workout in these mining camps, and it is not far off the mark to declare this song as an unofficial national anthem
    kamahl_o_koalaon May 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about a poor fella who can't fit in to society after the things he saw in Vietnam.
    lawryon June 19, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThats basically it. Its one of my Dad's favourite songs as well, always makes me think of him.
    Khe Sanh is a city in Vietnam.
    Vets are veterans.
    V-Day was the day WW2 ended in 1945, stands for Victory Day.
    Sydney is a city in Australia (unless you were hiding under a rock for two weeks in September 2000, you'd know this).

    Cold Chisel are a great band, with an important place in Australian rock and roll history.
    Arianrhodon June 16, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentExcuse me? Nowhere did either of use say we didn't like the song.
    Chill out man.
    Arianrhodon June 24, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe greatest song ever. You haven't really heard it until you've been to a Chisel show. Ahh, memories... 6th June 2003 Hordern Pavillion, Sydney. Being surrounded by 4000 people all singing our true national anthem was just surreal. And this after I thought I'd never get to see them because they broke up before I was born.
    Regos the Saneon April 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA sapper is a military title given to demolition experts and is a term that has been in use since the Middle Ages
    Baseball_cocconuton December 08, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's also probably about the heavy drug use that was evident among soldiers during Nam, and about pros in South-East Asia
    Baseball_cocconuton December 08, 2004   Link

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