Torturing others with Barry Sadler


barry Sadler.Green BeretsI had a grand time after church in late October. And I had S/Sgt. Barry Sadler to thank.

A group of us were talking about music. For some reason, the truly awful song The Men In My Little Girl’s Life came to my mind. Pure treacle. It was sung by Mike Douglas, the TV host. The very title made my companions shriek. I remember it went to #6 in ’66. – sign of the devil. So yeah.

One of my buddies was talking about how they had gone through all of the songs that had reached #1 on the pop charts. The discovery was that some of the ones before the rock and roll era weren’t very good.

I wondered if The Ballad of the Green Berets by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler was an outlier, but they didn’t remember it. This surprised me because it’s so different than most of its contemporary tunes. I confidently said it was the #1 tune of 1966, which was true if being #1 for five weeks is the measure. We Can Work It OutSoul and InspirationMonday MondaySummer In The City, and Winchester Cathedral all topped the charts for three weeks that year.

But they were young and didn’t understand its impact until I asked someone younger than I, I think, but older than them about the song. She immediately launched into “Fighting soldiers from the sky…” This generated a look of utter disbelief, and I had to laugh. You did not need to be a supporter of the Vietnam war to have that song stuck in your head for decades without having heard it again.

A new verse?

The song was so ubiquitous in the day that I could have, but didn’t, recite the lyrics of the last verse.
Back at home, a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed.
Leaving her his last request…

I knew the song was controversial at the time, of course. What I didn’t realize until recently is that there is a new, more inclusive version that has this verse:

Delta Force and CIA
They clear the way.
Covert missions are now in play
These special ops
like the Green Beret

Some in the military apparently hate the additional words. I think they’re clunky.

I blame Chuck Miller for getting the original song stuck in my head. On his radio show, he played the B-side of Ballad of the Green Berets, a song called Letter from Vietnam, right before that church discussion.

The movie

Oh, yeah, I also saw the movie The Green Berets (1968), starring John Wayne, and fresh off the TV show The Fugitive, David Janssen. It also starred Jim Hutton of Binghamton, NY as Sgt. Petersen, which may have been a factor in me seeing it at the time.

Janssen’s character, George Beckworth, was a newspaper reporter cynical about the war until seeing Col. Mike Kirby (Wayne) and his troops in action. That’s a little oversimplified, but so was the film, which was pilloried by the critics as a WWII film.

Music albums for the year 1966

I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

East-west_coverA couple of months back, I was nominated on Facebook “to post 10 albums that affected my life. No stories, no reason.”

That was unpossible, as someone said. I did it anyway, but I limited it to albums released in 1966. I didn’t necessarily BUY them in 1966, or even in that decade.

Watchout! – Martha and the Vandellas. I’m pretty sure I bought this as an LP cutout from some store – Woolworths, maybe?
Jimmy Mack, #10 pop, #1 RB in 1967.
I’m Ready for Love, #9 pop, #2 RB in 1966.
Full album.

Daydream – the Lovin’ Spoonful. I got this album on the Kama Sutra label from the Capitol Record Club because I didn’t send the card back in time. And a good thing, too, because I LOVE this album.
It’s Not Time Now – I took this as a conversation among Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, and Jerry Brown fighting for the 1980 democratic nomination for President. Brown: “I can’t seem to get a word in edgewise anyhow.”
Jug Band Music.
Full album.

East-West – The Butterfield Blues Band. Another cutout, and an outstanding find.
Mary, Mary – a Mike Nesmith song that the Monkees were criticized for recording in some circles!
Work Song.
Full album.


The Supremes A’ Go-Go – the Supremes. The one album on the list that I didn’t/don’t own. My sister Leslie did, so I heard it a lot.
Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart, #9 pop, #7 RB in 1966. Possibly my favorite Supremes song.
You Can’t Hurry Love, #1 for two weeks, both pop and RB.
Full album.

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears – the Mamas and the Papas. I probably bought this debut album in a store. The first of two 1966 albums by the group, the other being the eponymously-titled one.
Go Where You Wanna Go – Leslie and I would sometimes sing this in our green Family Singers days, a rare pop song in the repertoire.
Got a Feelin’, B-side of Monday, Monday.
Full album.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme – Simon and Garfunkel. A store purchase. Did my father buy this? He was really taken by 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night.
A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission).
The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine, B-side of the Dangling Conversation.
Full album.

Aftermath – the Rolling Stones. A cutout. The first real Stones’ album, I thought, as opposed to hits and filler.
Lady Jane, B-side of Mother’s Little Helper, #24 in 1966.
I Am Waiting.
Full UK album.

The Cream

Fresh Cream– Cream. Probably a cutout. Our 7th-grade history teacher, Mr. Stone, referred to the group as The Cream. My friend Karen quickly corrected him.
I Feel Free, #116 in 1967, not on the UK album.
N.S.U., B-side of I Feel Free.
Full US album.

Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan. I heard this a lot – my HS girlfriend was a big Dylan fan – but never actually BOUGHT it until the CD era.
I Want You, #20 pop in 1966. This appeared on a Columbia compilation album called Best of ’66.
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.
Full album.

Revolver – the Beatles. The last Beatles album I got from the Capitol Record Club. I first owned the UK version on a The Beatles Collection.
Got to Get You into My Life, #7 in 1976.
Tomorrow Never Knows.
Full UK album.

Pet Sounds.
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice , #8 in 1966.
Full album.

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