Next Stop is Vietnam

Next Stop is Vietnam, a 13-CD box set on Germany’s Bear Family label, offers an overwhelming reminder of a time when war and the fate of our soldiers was at the forefront of national consciousness.

Bear Family Records is perhaps best known for gigantic box sets that chronicle the recording careers of  country and rockabilly artists in exhaustive detail but they’ve recently expanded their creative territory with themed projects like Atomic Platters, a 5-CD box set that explores songs about the nuclear bomb.

Johnny Wright — “Hello, Vietnam”

Next Stop is Vietnam includes a 304-page hardcover book and 334 music and spoken word tracks. The selection includes both songs that support and songs that protest the war in addition to tracks that include contemporary news reports.

SSgt. Barry Sadler — “Ballad of the Green Beret”

The Fugs — “Kill for Peace”

The set does a good job collecting the most famous songs about Vietnam. “Ballad of the Green Beret” and “Kill for Peace” are joined by Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” Peter Paul and Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” Edwin Starr’s “War,“Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over) and Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee.”

Stonewall Jackson — “The Minute Men (Are Turning in Their Graves)”

Johnny Cash — “Singin’ in Vietnam Talkin’ Blues”

But it’s the less-famous songs that make Next Stop is Vietnam so compelling. The war in Southeast Asia weighed heavy on American popular culture, dominating the conversation in a way that seems distant and alien when compared to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maybe it was the draft that inspired a lot of the anti-war songs and maybe it was those anti-war songs that inspired a lot of the amazing country songs that tried to defend both the war and attack the changes happening in the culture here at home.

Bob Seger — “Ballad of the Yellow Beret”

Jan Berry — “The Universal Coward”

C Company — “Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley”

There were dozens of answer tracks, records that rewrote the lyrics of other songs to make a different point. If you know Bob Seger’s raging anti-draft anthem “2 + 2 = ?” (unfortunately not included on this box), his anti-protester “Ballad of the Yellow Beret” sounds a whole lot more like an anti-college-boy swipe than a song supporting the war.

Taken as a whole, the hundreds of tracks on this box set offer dozens of different perspectives on Vietnam. There was a real conversation going on in the country, one where people’s opinions sometimes contradicted something they’d said themselves just moments ago.

Contrast that to the few songs we’ve heard post-9/11, whether they’re limp, by-the-numbers anti-war songs or half-assed country anthems with rote lyrics that sound more like Lee Atwater talking points than actual attempts to speak truth about a soldier’s experience.

Freda Payne — “Bring the Boys Home”

It’s hard to a contemporary pop or R&B record that speaks so directly about the fate of our troops. Of course, there aren’t many singers these days who can sound as desperate and dramatic as Freda Payne, but even taking that into account, you have to wonder why there aren’t any modern songs that even try to address the topic.

Huey Lewis and the News — “Walking on a Thin Line”

The set also includes a lot of songs recorded long after the war ended, making a strong case for how much the Vietnam war has continued to inhabit the national consciousness long after the country itself has embraced capitalism and normalized relations with the United States.

Next Stop is Vietnam is sprawling, messy, complicated and often contradictory. No matter what you think about that war, there are songs here that were written in hopes of pissing you off. For that reason, this box set is an invaluable historical document that reminds us just how engaged Americans can be when they feel like everyone has a stake in both the prosecution and the outcome of war.

Next Stop is Vietnam is an import but you can buy it at Amazon or mail order it from Germany direct from Bear Family.

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17 Comments

  1. Wilson L Brame says:

    As a DAV of the Vietnam war “in country 69/70″ this should cost me $263.25 Enough money had been made off this was and niw you wants the VETS who were injured to pay again. Think about it.

  2. Michael L Robinson says:

    I agree with Mr Brame. I was on the DMZ with the 5th Inf. Div. 70–71.…$263!? As a PFC that was a months pay over there at the time.

  3. My husband SSgt Warren G Kollross served 68/69,DanangAFB,Teit Offence.Died of Agent Orange.He would have loved this,even at the high price.Commerce and the value of the dollar today makes some difference,but not enough for me​.It would be nice if the book makes it to the library.Our children and grandchidren/greatgrandson need to know more about the time than I can tell them.I was in my own cocoon at that time changing diapers and prepareing for and holding Cub Scout meetings. We had four kids age 10 thru 12 months. No time,money,or outside contacts,moral support was non existant!!! Thats another important side to the story no one ever really looks at. A lot of us who kept the home fires burning are still hurting.

    • jerry catron says:

      i am a vietnam vet. “combat engineer land clearing team” in 1967–68. have been fighting va for 10 yrs 606 348‑5421 would like to know more about your husband. thanks and i am sorry for your loss

    • Bill Morgavi says:

      I am sorry for your loss and also know the effects of Agent orange. Thank You SSgt Kollross and thank you Julia for giving us your husband.
      L/cp; USMC
      RVN 68–69

  4. Richard Bonte says:

    This is the most spectacular piece of music and literature ever assembled on the period. It should be required reading and listening of all our high school age children in all nations. It might teach them about their responsibilities to themselves, the nation, the world and their fellow man. The piece is so outstanding because it does not take sides, we can all learn from this past painful experience in our lives. As a teenager in the 1960’s I can relate to all the emotions it now brings back, and how timeless the material is expecially when one considers our present day dilema.

  5. Gary Bowen says:

    Initially I had a lot to comment on… But now my soul has become flooded with vivd memories I cannot adequately express here…

    The Forgotten ones…

  6. Thomas Todhunter says:

    This brought back a lot of flash backs for me having lived through this time period and my Signal Officer Basic Course was first class with no one being sent to Viet-nam. This was a very memorial and confusing time in our history.

  7. Robert Pratt says:

    I was a young infantry lieutenant serving with 1/5 Cav, 1st Calvary Dision in Viet Nam and Cambodia. Now in retirement after 22 years of active service I look back with very mixed emotions. We lost a lot of good young men and women and I am not sure even today if I understand the real purpose of our involement.

  8. Don Stewart says:

    As another DAV from vietnam 70/71. 11bravo,this goes on in my head every day and night.The price is a lot steep.

  9. Don Stewart says:

    By the way I was with Aco2/5th cav(airmobil) First Cav.Div.

  10. Jeffrey Deitelbaum says:

    Well I saw my name and my song “Veteran’s Song” (Welcome Home) was listed but you have no address and no email. You now have my email. Also ck out “Say My Name” on youtube and http://​www​.broadjam​.com
    jeffrey
    PS Both song’s are music video’s on http://​www​.broadjam​.com

  11. audimurphy says:

    I wouldn’t give 2 cents for this crap. Anything or anyone who lends credence to scum like Hanoi Jane and John Traitor Kerry should be shunned and scorned. There is no “two sides” to the story. The liberal democrats who tied our hands behind our backs with their “free fire zones”, the bullsht “Paris Peace Talks” that prolonged the war and their sanctimonius sympathy for the enemy were responsible for thousands of American deaths. Their final act of craven treachery was when the democrats cut off funding for the war leaving over 3 million Vietnamese and Cambodians to be slaughtered by the democrats communist comrades.

  12. Gary Bush says:

    jerry catron, get in touch with me. I may beable to lead you to a good source. Not sure.

    Gary Bush USAF, Ret

  13. Van says:

    By Thunder!
    How in the devil did this E-3 PFC manage to make $263.25 a month???? In 1968–1969 as an MMFN (E-3) I was taking home $42.00 and change every two weeks. What was his secret? When I went over 2, it was around $80.00 every two weeks.
    Somebody’s mind is failing.….…..and my wife and I remember how bloody little money we made then. No one believes it in this day and age, but, it was true. Anyone else out there that remembers being impoverished and somehow getting by? We did.….…

  14. Bob says:

    I remember making $125.00 a month in Nam, that included $35.00 a month combat pay, 1969/70 K-9 handler. I had made more as a paperboy in Highschool. Just saying.…..