Talking Target Island Blues

Words and music Creative Commons License 1977 by Jim Bearden

This was the first full song I ever wrote, in 1977, shortly after moving to Hawai’i. The idea came to me when I was out on a long run, practicing for the Honolulu Marathon; and pulled together, in a standard “talking blues” style, several things that were going on then locally. One was the frequent use of the island of Kaho’olawe for target practice by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and the attempts by a local group (the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana) to block that practice by occupying the island. The other was the documentation being gathered by a local anti-war group, showing evidence for nuclear weapons being stored in and around the population center of Honolulu, a practice which the military refused to acknowledge. Putting those together led to the main idea in the song, that maybe the real “target isle” wasn’t Kaho’olawe, but O’ahu, where most of us were living.

Verse 1:
Well, I had a strange dream the other day,
I dreamed I was on Kaho’olawe;
The one they call “the target isle”,
And it was quiet and peaceful for a while.
Just me…
And the goats…
And the past.

Verse 2:
But then the ships and the planes came in,
And they kicked up an awful din;
They practiced so hard, protecting us,
They bombed that whole island into dust.
They bombed the goats…
Bombed the heiaus…
Even an ‘Ohana member or two.

Verse 3:
Well, I’ve got to learn to quit having those dreams,
‘Cause every time, it only seems,
It just makes it harder to understand
Why they’d want to bomb our land.
Of course, it’s for our own good…
Got to protect us…
They say.

Verse 4:
Well, I had a strange dream the other night,
I dreamed I grew wings, and took flight;
High up over O’ahu,
A lot of things came into view.
I saw the ships…
Saw the planes…
Even a few nuclear weapons.

Verse 5:
As I flew high up, into the blue,
The strangest sight of all came through:
I dreamed I saw, on the ocean foam,
Rings around my island home.
Crazy dream…
Sure it was just the surf…
Sure looked like a target, though.

Verse 6:
Well, the strangest dream just came to me,
I dreamed they’d started World War III;
And I’m not one to raise a fuss,
But the very first place they hit was us!
They bombed the ships…
Bombed the planes…
Even H-bombed our H-bombs.

Verse 7:
That war was hell, but we survived,
In fact, most of us were still alive;
But the Russians took over, and made it tough,
With all that new language stuff.
Hey, howzit, comrade?…
Do svedanya, bra’…
You see the problem.

Verse 8:
The Americans couldn’t let us go that way;
They planned an attack that saved the day:
They dropped a bomb so big that “Zap!”
We were blown right off the map.
Friendly fire…
Had to destroy the island in order to save it…
Called it “Operation Aloha ‘Oe”.

Verse 9:
Well, a million of us died in that attack,
But they say we’re all heroes, and that’s a fact;
And when the war’s over, they’ll come back,
And put all our names up on a plaque…
At Pearl Harbor…
If they ever find it again.

Verse 10:
Now I’m up in heaven, where, they say,
All things are clear; but still, today,
I’ve got some questions, and the biggest one
Is: Who the hell did they protect us from?
It wasn’t the Russians…
Sure wasn’t the Americans…
Was it you, Fiji?…
Tonga? …
Anyone still out there…?

Verse 11:
Well, this song’s been a lot of fun,
But I hope, in your thoughts, you’ll take this one:
When they talk about “the target isle”,
Remember: You’re on it…
And try to smile.

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