This is a work in progress. If you have any comments, suggestions, amendments or additions, please send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don't have official permission to print these lyrics yet, and have been warned about it by a friendly person. I'm working on getting real live honestagod permission from Chrysalis, but in the mean time, please don't tell any lawyers on me, okay?
Thanks to David Dodd, author of The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, whose work showed me how it oughta be done.
"Do you still see me even here?
(The silver cord lies on the ground.)
"And so I'm dead", the young man said -- over the hill
(not a wish away).
My friends (as one) all stand aligned although their taxis came
There was / a rush along the Fulham Road.
There was / a hush in the Passion Play.
Such a sense of glowing in the aftermath / ripe with rich attainments
all imagined / sad misdeeds in disarray / the sore thumb screams aloud,
echoing out of the Passion Play.
All the old familiar choruses come crowding in a different key:
Melodies decaying in sweet dissonance.
There was a rush / along the Fulham Road / into the Ever-passion Play.
And who comes here to wish me well?
A sweetly-scented angel fell.
She laid her head upon my disbelief and bathed me with her ever-smile.
And with a howl across the sand I go escorted by a band of gentlemen
in leather bound -- NO-ONE (but someone to be found).
All along the icy wastes there are faces smiling in the gloom.
Roll up roll down,
Feeling unwound? -- step into the viewing room.
The cameras were all around.
We've got you taped -- you're in the play.
Here's your I.D.
(Ideal for identifying one and all.)
Invest your life in the memory bank -- ours the interest and we thank you.
The ice-cream lady wet her drawers, to see you in the passion play.
take the prize for instant pleasure
captain of the cricket team
public speaking in all weathers
a knighthood from a queen.
All your best friends' telephones never cooled from the heat of your hand.
There's / a line in a front-page story / 13 horses that also-ran.
Climb in your old umbrella.
Does it have a nasty tear in the dome?
But / the rain only gets in sometimes and / the sun never leaves you alone.
Lover of the black and white -- it's your first night.
The Passion Play / goes all the way / spoils your insight.
Tell me / how the baby's made / how the lady's laid / why the old dog howls in sadness.
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
(The examining body examined her body.)
Actor of the low-high Q, let's hear your view.
Peek at the lines upon your sleeves since your memory won't do.
Tell me / how the baby's graded / how the lady's faded / why the old dogs howl with madness.
All of this and some of that's the only way to skin the cat.
And now you've lost a skin or two -- you're for us and we for you.
The dressing room is right behind
We've got you taped -- you're in the play.
How does it feel to be in the play?
How does it feel to play the play?
How does it feel to be the play?
Man of passion rise again, we won't cross you out -- for we do love
you like a son -- of that there's no doubt.
Tell us / is it you who are here for our good cheer?
Or / are we here / for the glory / for the story / for the gory satisfaction
of telling you how absolutely awful you really are?
There was / a rush along the Fulham Road.
There was / a hush in the Passion Play.
Owl loved to rest quietly whilst no one was watching. Sitting on a fence one day, he was surprised when suddenly a kangaroo ran close by.
Now this may not seem strange, but when Owl overheard Kangaroo whisper to no one in particular, "The hare has lost his spectacles," well, he began to wonder.
Presently, the moon appeared from behind a cloud and there, lying on the grass was hare. In the stream that flowed by the grass -- a newt. And sitting astride a twig of a bush -- a bee.
Ostensibly motionless, the hare was trembling with excitement, for without his spectacles he was completely helpless. Where were his spectacles? Could someone have stolen them? Had he mislaid them? What was he to do?
Bee wanted to help, and thinking he had the answer began: "You probably ate them thinking they were a carrot."
"No!" interrupted Owl, who was wise. "I have good eye-sight, insight, and foresight. How could an intelligent hare make such a silly mistake?" But all this time, Owl had been sitting on the fence, scowling!
Kangaroo were hopping mad at this sort of talk. She thought herself far superior in intelligence to the others. She was their leader; their guru. She had the answer: "Hare, you must go in search of the optician."
But then she realized that Hare was completely helpless without his spectacles. And so, Kangaroo loudly proclaimed, "I can't send Hare in search of anything!"
"You can guru, you can!" shouted Newt. "You can send him with Owl." But Owl had gone to sleep. Newt knew too much to be stopped by so small a problem -- "You can take him in your pouch." But alas, Hare was much too big to fit into Kangaroo's pouch.
All this time, it had been quite plain to Hare that the others knew nothing about spectacles.
As for all their tempting ideas, well Hare didn't care.
The lost spectacles were his own affair.
And after all, Hare did have a spare a-pair.
We sleep by the ever-bright hole in the door / eat in the corner / talk
floor -- cheating the spiders who come to say "Please",
They bend at the knees.
Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
Old gentlemen talk / of when they were young / of ladies
lost and erring sons.
Lace-covered dandies revel (with friends) pure as the truth --
tied at both ends.
Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
Scented cathedral -- spire pointed down.
We pray for souls in Kentish Town.
A delicate hush -- the gods / floating by / wishing us well --
pie in the sky.
God of ages / Lord of Time -- mine is the right to be wrong.
Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
Jack rabbit mister spawn a new breed of love-hungry pilgrims
(no bodies to feed).
Show me a good man.
I'll show you the door.
The last hymn is sung and the devil cries "More."
Well, I'm all for leaving and that being done, I've put in a request
to take up my turn in that forsaken paradise that calls itself "Hell" --
Where no-one has nothing and nothing is
well meaning fool, pick up thy bed and rise up from your gloom smiling.
Give me your hate and do as the loving heathen do.
Colors I've none -- dark or light, red, white or blue.
Cold is my touch (freezing).
Summoned by name -- I am the overseer over you.
Given this command to watch o'er our miserable sphere.
Fallen from grace / called on to bring sun or rain.
Occasional corn from my oversight grew.
Fell with mine angels from a far better place, offering services for
the saving of face.
Now you're here, you may as well admire all whom living has retired
from the benign reconciliation.
Legends were born surrounding mysterious lights seen in the sky
I just / lit a fag then / took my leave in the blink of an eye.
Passionate play -- join round the maypole in dance (primitive
Summoned by name / I am the overseer / over you.
Flee the icy Lucifer.
Oh he's an awful fellow!
What a mistake!
I didn't take a feather from his pillow.
Here's the everlasting rub: neither am I good or bad.
I'd give up my halo for a horn and the horn for the hat
I once had.
I'm only breathing.
There's life on my ceiling.
The flies there are sleeping quietly.
Twist my right arm in the dark.
I would give two or three for one of those days that never made
impressions on the old score.
I would gladly be a dog barking up the wrong tree.
Everyone's saved -- we're in the grave.
See you there for afternoon tea.
Time for awaking -- the tea lady's / making a brew-up and / baking
Pick me up at half past none -- there's / not a moment to lose. There
is / the train on which I came.
On the platform are my old shoes.
Station master rings his bell.
Whistles blow and flags wave.
A little of what you fancy does you good (Or so it should).
I thank everybody for making me welcome.
I'd stay but my wings have just dropped off.
Son of kings / make the ever-dying sign / cross your fingers in the
sky for those about to BE.
There am I waiting along the sand.
Cast your sweet spell upon the land and sea.
Magus Perde, take your hand from off the chain.
Loose a wish to still / the rain / the storm about to BE.
Here am I (voyager into life).
Tough are the soles that tread the knife's edge.
Break the circle / stretch the line / call upon the devil.
Bring / the gods / the gods' own fire.
In the conflict revel.
The passengers / upon the ferry crossing / waiting to be born / renew the
pledge of life's long song / rise to the reveille horn.
Animals / queueing at the gate that stands upon the shore / breathe the
ever-burning fire that guards the ever-door.
Man / son of man / buy the flame of ever-life (yours to breathe and
breath the pain of living): living BE!
Here am I!
Roll the stone away from the dark into ever-day.
There was a rush / along the Fulham Road / into the Ever-passion Play.
Lyrics ©copyright 1973 Chrysalis Music Corp. All rights reserved.
Two possible readings of this line are:
Interestingly enough, both these hills are crowned with "trees", the one with the Rood (as it was called in Medieval times; the Cross), the other with the blackthorn tree of Faerie.
The more obvious reference is that you can't get much more "over the hill" (ie, old) than being dead.
Traditional in the language of out-of-body experiences, whether induced by hypnosis or by near-death experience, is the silver cord that binds the soul to the flesh. The authors of the Bible knew of it too, and the Greeks -- from The Fall of Troy, Book II:
Beneath the breast-bone then Of godlike Memnon plunged Achilles' sword; Clear through his body all the dark-blue blade Leapt: suddenly snapped the silver cord of life.
The cord in this case is the thread of life spun, measured, and cut by the three Fates...
A long street in London, running from near Putney Bridge to South Kensington. Maison Rouge Recording Studios, where the band occasionally recorded, is at 2 Wansdowne Pl., Fulham...
Possibly a reference to the angelic Beatrice, who appears in Dante's Divina Commedia, first to the poet Vergil in Inferno, to encourage him to rescue Dante (Canto 2, Terzettas 54-117), then later to Dante himself.
From Dante's Inferno (John Ciardi's translation):
Here monstrous Cerberus, the ravening beast, howls through his triple throats like a mad dog over the spirits sunk in that foul paste. ... And they, too, howl like dogs in the freezing storm, turning and turning from it as if they thought one naked side could keep the other warm.
This line refers to Canto 32, Terzettas 21-72, of Dante's Inferno. In the lowest circle of Hell, Dante finds those who had been traitors in life, consigned to suffer in a lake of solid ice up to their necks.
D. A. Scocca reminds me: how about some mention of all the animal puns lurking in "The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles"?
"Bee wanted to help.... answer began..."
"all the time Owl had been sitting on the fence scowling"
"You CAN, GURU, you can!"
"Newt knew too much to be stopped..."
A lot of these are lost on the reader who hasn't actually heard the recording; Jeffrey Hammond's (or is it John Evans'? There seems to be some debate on the subject, though my copy of the album credits "speech" among Evans' performances) narrative style makes the puns really obvious.
And, in a fascinating redux of "the 15 minutes of blank tape" of the Watergate scandal, Gerald Neily makes this observation:
The Chateau D'Isaster version of "Passion Play" [as can be heard on Nightcap proceeds directly from "How absolutely awful you really are" right into the familiar music from the Box Set - three cuts entitled " Scenario", "Audition" and "No Rehearsal". So I was right all along!!!! Those three cuts ARE precisely the music which was replaced on the final "Passion Play" album by the "Hare and His Spectacles". It sounded incredible to hear Tull play the music in exactly the same order as I had edited it on my own cassette and minidisc years ago. Passion Play was now exactly as I envisioned and heard it in my head for the past ten years WITHOUT the damn hare and spectacles!!! I felt liberated!!!! So basically the "Chateau D'Isaster Tapes" represent 50 minutes of music that was pared down to about 20 minutes on Side One of "Passion Play" to make room for the hare, and for the length restrictions inherent in vinyl records. Admittedly, the final version of Side One of "Passion Play" flows much better and includes some great stuff not included in the Chateau Tapes. And Side Two is all different (and fabulously great!) It ends with some heavy resurrection references. But why did they include that damn hare on the final version? The Chateau tapes have the (Passion) Play end with a "bomb in the dressing room that blows the windows from their frames". I guess "The Hare and His Spectacles" is a bomb of a different sort, an actual play that bombs. It reminds me of the same premise as the Cable TV show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" - A man is banished to spend eternity watching horrible movies in the utter isolation of outer space. Except Jethro Tull sentences the man to an eternity of playing in the most utterly horrible imaginable kiddie play. "The Hare and His Spectacles" is a much more concrete metaphor than simply a bomb blowing up a theater. But as music, the latter is much better. PS The beginning of side two, "We sleep by the ever-bright hole in the door", has more meaning when it is heard following the conclusion of the Chateau D'Isaster Tapes, in which "the ceiling crashes in." (causing the hole in the door.) This meaning is lost when heard immediately after the hare and his spectacles.
I have Nightcap, and I'm fully prepared to buy Gerald's discovery that "Scenario", "Audition", and "No Rehearsal" belong in the Hare's place... I'm not so sure about the eternity of acting in children's pantomimes, but guess what? You get to decide! ;)
Andrew Jackson (email@example.com) gave me such a good annotation that it goes up here instead of in the "Further Comments" section. I quote:
Hi Leigh Ann,
I thought I'd clarify a PP lyric for you, since it's a very English thing, and I don't see a reference to it on your Annotated page as yet:
"Well I'll go to the foot of our stairs" - - is actually a Northern English phrase (Lancashire, which includes Blackpool, and Yorkshire), pretty much equivalent to "Well I'll be damned!" In other words, an expression of mild disbelief or surprise.
Unfortunately I can't say exactly how this phrase gained currency in the North especially. If I find out I'll let you know.
I have a suspicion, though, that Ian is adding a metaphorical meaning to this common phrase . . . the foot of the stairs being a mid-way point between the Above (upstairs, or 'heaven') and the Below (the basement, or 'hell') . . . between good and evil, if you like.
Thank you, Andrew! I note also, that if the phrase is actually euphemistic for "Well I'll be damned", and not just equivalent, then that's thoroughly in theme with the song, too. Damn clever, that Ian... ;)
I think this may refer to the pre-Nicene Gnostic Christian philosophy that equates Satan with the Demiurge -- the "god of this world". This would also connect with the "miserable sphere", Gnostic belief being that this world is a cast-off shell of the divine light.
A variety of articles on Gnosticism (picked from the results of a query to AltaVista):
From the first chapter of Milton's Paradise Lost:
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd
The Mother of Mankinde, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High,
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
Lucifer traded his halo for the devil's horns; but "the hat I once had" might be the antlers of Cernunnos, or possibly the horns of Pan, both of which were deities from whose iconography evolved the current image of the goat-footed, goat-horned Devil.
Another Dante reference, this time from Canto 34, Terzetta 30 (Longfellow's translation):
The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice...
Beelzebub literally means "the lord of the flies" in Hebrew.
This probably refers to the Greek myth of Prometheus, but one should also bear in mind that "Lucifer" is Latin for "light-bearer".
Perhaps no phrase in this song has gotten me more mail than this one. Everybody seems to have an opinion. So here we go with my interpretation, based on my pocket Latin dictionary and Wheelock's Latin :
Magus is, as one might expect "magician". Straightforward. So far, so good. ("Master", by the way, which some have suggested this to mean, is actually magister.)
Perde is the hard one. Perdo means "destroy, ruin, undo" or "waste, squander", or "throw away, lose". But the adjectival form of the noun is perditus, not perde (which would make the form of the genetive adjective perdite (of the lost)). Another possibility is perduco, to lead or bring along, to seduce, or to carry on; or yet another, perduro, to endure. But in all those cases, there's no, and please listen to me when I say this, NO form anything like perde.
My only guess, then, is that it might be "magician of the lost", in rather doggy Latin. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)
There is a pun on this, of course -- "tough are the souls", but this line also refers to the sword-bridge over the Abyss, the most famous instance of which is in the tale of Lancelot told by Cretien de Troyes called "Le Chevalier de la Charrete", or the Knight of the Cart. In it, Lancelot must undergo numerous humiliating ordeals before finally coming to the Pont de l'Espee, the Bridge of the Sword, which he must cross to rescue Queen Guenevere ("Ganievre" in the French), who has been kidnapped by Sir Meleagans. To cross it, he must divest himself of all but his helmet and hauberk and cross on bare hands and feet. The original French is here; see lines 5126-5148.
These are notes that I've received from people commenting on this page.
The second most common subject for mail I get about my Passion Play annotation is the shouted words at the very very end of the recording. Here's The Definitive Answer, as very kindly provided me by the ever- helpful Andrew Jackson:
I was taking part in the online discussion with Ian Anderson last night, and fortunately he answered four of my questions . . . one of which was, "What are the very last words on the Passion Play album??" Answer: "Steve! Caroline!" . . . shouted by Jeffrey. Ian thought it might have been a reference to two journalists; either he was being coy about it, or he wasn't entirely sure since it was maybe Jeffrey's idea. Thus endeth 20 years of speculation! (On my part at least!)
Robert Pahre (firstname.lastname@example.org) suggests "I always assumed that 'Kentish town' was a reference to Canterbury, seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury." Interesting idea; I just took the direct, rather than the indirect view.
Bob Pahre is also responsible for reminding me of some of the Milton references, and was one of the many people who pointed out "take up thy bed and walk" as from John 5:8. He says:
Milton also has many references to summoning of angels ("summoned by name") of which the closest is probably:
As Heaven's great year brings forth, the empyreal host
Of Angels by imperial summons called,
Innumerable before the Almighty's throne
Forthwith, from all the ends of Heaven, appeared
Under their Hierarchs in orders bright
Paradise Lost, 5:583-587
Yah, that's true, but Medieval grimoires also contained the names of various summonable angels and demons... And there's also the old saying: "Speak of the Devil, and he appears."
Laura Moustakas (email@example.com) sends a very interesting set of cross-references to Dostoyevsky:
Consider the lines following 'the story of the hare who lost his spectacles':
"We sleep by the ever-bright hole in the door / eat in the corner / talk to the floor -- cheating the spiders who come to say 'Please,' (politely) They bend at the knees. Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs.
Reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment recently I was struck by the similarities between those lines and two passages that appear in that work. Refer to World's Classics, translated by Jessie Coulson, Oxford University Press, 1995.
"'I do not believe in a life hereafter,' said Raskolnikov.
Svidrigaylov remained thoughtful. 'What if there is nothing there but spiders or something like that?' he said suddenly.
'This is a madman,' thought Raskolnikov.
'Eternity is always presented to us as an idea which it is impossible to grasp, something enormous, enormous! But why should it necessarily be enormous? Imagine, instead, that it will be one little room, something like a bath-house in the country, black with soot, with spiders in every corner, and that that is the whole of eternity. I sometimes imagine it like that, you know" (277).
"'Then I lurked in a corner like a spider. You've been in my wretched little hole'" (400).
I believe the connection is definite and strong and that perhaps Ian read Dostoevsky and carried his idea about eternity (and in many ways, the afterlife) into 'A Passion Play'.
I've never read any Dostoyevsky, I blush to admit, but it's certainly an interesting idea.
Scott Jordan (firstname.lastname@example.org) mentions:
I went to London a few years ago and walked several miles (oops! They were km over there!) of the thing to try to get the meaning. There was a very large cemetary as well as a good sized hospital
Best I can tell, the reference was to an ambulance trip to the hospital which didn't work out for Billy Pilgrim...
Neil Thomas thinks I'm off base about the Icy Wastes:
The icy wastes' - nice idea, but doesn't fit the context. At this stage of the story, Ronnie has just died and is in the limbo between Heaven and Hell. The rest of this section, up to 'The Hare...', is in this limbo, reviewing Ronnie's life to determine whether he should go to Heaven or Hell. The Hell he eventually gets to isn't really that seen by Dante.
That's as may be, but I'm operating off of the lyrics themselves, having never seen the original plot synopsis. And frankly, I prefer to think of the plot synopsis (based on what little I've seen of it) as yet another piece of the artwork that is APP, not the be-all and end-all of its existence; IA is, quite demonstrably, the happy recipient of a classical education, and I don't think I'm fetching at all far with some of what I think are his references. Although Neil does bring up a further interesting possibility: "My own favourite lyric is: 'I go escorted by a band of gentlemen / in leather bound' which refers, quite simply, to a Bible." Hmmmm. Could be....
Robyn McNamara (email@example.com) says:
The line "Renew the pledge of life's long song" is probably a reference to "Life's a long song", off Living In The Past. Ian frequently refers to his earlier material, examples: "Looking for a sign that the Universal Mind(!) has written you into the Passion Play" (Skating Away (on the thin ice of a new day), from Warchild); "The wino sleeps -- cold coat lined with the money section/looking like a record cover from 1971" (Strange Avenues, from Rock Island).
You might also want to note that Ian also uses trains and railway stations in various metaphorical ways in different songs: in A Passion Play, of course, "the train on which I came" is the path to rebirth; in Two Fingers (off Warchild) the "high-strung locomotive" refers to the transition between birth and death; and in Locomotive Breath (Aqualung) the voyage from cradle to grave is seen as a trip on an out-of-control train.
Ian also writes about the sea a lot. My former Myth tutor would call that a reference to sexuality in a liminal space; however, I think it's just because he's a fish farmer. :)
Here're some more comments from Andrew Jackson (good point, Andrew, about the Harrowing...):
I take "Over the hill not a wish away" to be a re-working of the phrase "Over the hill and far away . . . ", a traditional fairy-tale motif, referring to the 'magical world beyond'.
I read this as a reference to the afterlife, and the idea that it is a happy, blissful, magical place - - a real fairy-story! But this child-like (Christian?) view of the afterlife is the very myth that is to be shattered throughout the course of the Passion Play.
As regards Kentish Town, yes, it's just an area of London. Interestingly, if you look at the Marquee contract printed on page 6 of the '25 Years' box-set booklet, Ian's address in 1968 is 28 Burghley (?) Road, Kentish Town, NW 5. So it was an area he was well familiar with.
I take the 'gentlemen in leather bound - - NO-ONE' to be a reference to the Bible as well, or at least a book or some sort i.e. the gentlemen aren't 'real' (NO-ONE) and the hero is still alone at this point. The 'someone to be found' may be the hero's own Identity or sense-of-self in this bleak disembodied experience ('no bodies to feed' ), or a refeference to God / Christ . . . converts usually express the feeling that they have 'found God'. In this context, perhaps a desire to find the true Spirit within the Bible, the creative fire.
Also, I can't see any references to The Harrowing of Hell, which seems to me to be central to the Play . . . Christ's descent into Hell. The earliest French passion play, La Passion du Palatinus, dealt with this story, as did the medieval English text 'Piers Plowman'. You can also find a text of the story in one of the York mystery plays (English Mystery Plays, Penguin Classics 1985, ed. Peter Happe). The Harrowing of Hell takes place directly after Christ's death and burial, and before the Resurrection . . . an exact reflection of Passion Play's story, in my opinion: the death / memory-recall / descent / rebirth story.
For the original non-canonical scripture in which this story first appeared, have a look at the Gospel of Nicodemus at http://wesley.nnc.edu/noncanon/gospels/gosnic.htm
If, as I suspect, Passion Play is a creative re-working of this popular apocryphal story, the 'hero' of the Play may be Christ himself, or at least a passionate Christ-figure, similar to the one that William Blake imagined in preference to the 'meek-and-mild' character of the New Testament.
Here's a series of comments from David Rosskam (David.Rosskam@usdoj.gov):
Here are several cogent comments from Steve somebody (firstname.lastname@example.org)
That last bit about "Heave"... well, see my note about that.
Thanks to Mike's Internet Tribute to Jethro Tull for listing me on the links page and getting me more hits! The more hits, the more comments, and the more comments, the completer we get here. By the way, if you come to this page and send me comments, please let me know how you got here.This page last updated 3 Aug 2000