Khe Sanh

One of the most iconically Australian songs known to the popular culture is the Cold Chisel rock anthem Khe Sanh. The song is a disaffected, angry, lost shout from the throat of a PTSD-addled Vitenam veteran, sung in classic pub-brawl yell by… well, honestly, by pretty much everyone.

This song is a classic, and I love it. It’s full of fascinating little references, too, to the time in history it references, not just in brand names like Telex, the ‘Vietnam Cold Turkey,’ as a loss of access to drugs, or the talk of casual helicopter work for oil rigs and refineries. There’s one little line that has particularly taken on a new cast in recent years:

Carparks Make Me Jumpy

The voice of the song has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which back in those days was typically called being Gunshy or Shellshocked. PTSD is a really frightful condition for people to labour under, but for those of you who don’t know it, the necessary detail is that experiencing something that reminds you of a powerful, traumatising memory, makes you re-live it. Carparks, during the 1970s, were where a person might hear a car backfire, a bellowing yell of combustion that sounds like a gunshot. You haven’t heard one? Well, that’s because they don’t really happen any more, in Australia – thanks to modern standards of car safety and environmental impact, since the 1980s, cars have been phased out that backfire.

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