Evermore Versions

I have always loved Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore, a song full of Tolkienesque imagery and mythic allegory. But I never knew until recently that Sandy Denny, the woman who sang the original backing vocal with Robert Plant, was the only backup singer ever featured on a Zeppelin album.
I listened to this song often when I was  high in school in high school, but somehow the magic of it has intensified with the passing of time. I have been recently obsessed with rediscovering many Led Zep songs. The mandolin melody that begins this one has been pushing me to the brink of melancholic crisis in the last several days, and my esteem for the musical prowess of the band has grown. My eyes fill with tears at times and I feel like a neurotic fool but it is all redeemed by the magic of this song; something about the progression of the chords and plucked strings in the first bars sends me over the edge.

The mandolin melody calls to mind E.A. Poe’s Israfel . . .

I bring to your attention three versions of this song.
But first (since this is a poetry blog) the LYRICS:

The Queen of Light took her bough, and then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, and walked the night alone
Oh, dance in the dark of night / Sing to the morning light
The dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all
Oh, throw down your plow and hoe, rest not to lock your homes
Side by side we wait the might of the darkest of them all . . .
I hear the horses’ thunder, down in the valley below
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow
The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care; repay, do not forget no, no
Oh, dance in the dark of night / Sing to the morning light
The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant’s face is red
War is the common cry, pick up you swords and fly
The sky is filled with good and bad and mortals never know
Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow
The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall, the ring-wraiths ride in black, ride on
Sing as you raise your bow, shoot straighter than before
No comfort has the fire at night that lights the face so cold
Oh dance in the dark of night, sing to the morning light
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back
bring it back . . .
At last the sun is shining, the clouds of blue roll by
With flames from the dragon of darkness the sunlight blinds his eyes

Alive to the Dead

I have had a secret crush on the Dead ever since the late 70’s.

I had never heard of them growing up, but in 10th grade a girl I liked a lot who was musically gifted had the album Skeletons From the Closet in her collection. Since then, I always associate this band with her. After she transferred to a different school, I bought the album. Later, in the 80’s, I prided my punk-rock self on hating the free-form hippie vibe of the Dead. (Ever heard Pop-O-Pies cover Truckin ?)

I reviled tie-die patchouli-oil types. But in the back of my mind I felt ashamed because I knew I still liked Uncle John’s Band and Mexicali Blues, so I was a punk-rock heretic and a secret hippie sympathizer. As the years rolled by I still associated the songs on “Skeletons From the Closet” with that girl from 10th grade. It was the only Dead album I was familiar with.

Now I have a daughter of my own who is 8 and I played Uncle John’s Band for her.
She immediately loved it and we like to sing it together in the car. I realized how lovely the harmonies are. I perceived, as if for the first time, the Americana roots behind the tune. I appreciated the tripped-out Biblical imagery, even Tea Party 1776 themes, and I realized what an amazing song it truly is. I discovered other Dead songs that I have learned to love: Eyes of the World and Box of Rain come to mind. I like these songs for the fusion of music with poetic lyrics.

I think the Dead mixed country-rock with Hippie ethos like few other bands. And I believe Robert Hunter’s lyrics can stand on their own as poetry without the music.
I still don’t care for the noodling around on extended jams before religiously adoring crowds of acid-laced freaks, but I have a new respect for the studio-recorded music of the Grateful Dead. I am no longer a bad punk-rocker who has to hide my shameful secret; just another person who loves certain songs by the Grateful Dead.


Well, the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore
‘Cause when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door
Think this through with me, let me know your mind
Whoa oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?
It’s a buck dancer’s choice, my friends, better take my advice
You know all the rules by now and the fire from the ice
Will you come with me, won’t you come with me?
Whoa oh, what I want to know, will you come with me?
Goddamn, well, I declare, have you seen the like
Their walls are built of cannon balls, their motto is “Don’t tread on me”
Come hear uncle John’s band playing to the tide
Come with me or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
It’s the same story the crow told me, it’s the only one he knows
Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go
Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait
Whoa oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?
I live in a silver mine and I call it beggar’s tomb
I’ve got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
Anybody’s choice, I can hear your voice
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home

Roxy Fave: Serenade

Darkness falls / Around your window pane
A light still burns, but just a smouldering flame
Is it the end of another affair / An open engagement with gloom ?
Or will you be smiling when the sun conjures up
A broken spell au clair de lune?

Silhouette / As you draw the shade
Cloak of night / You know it’s tailor-made
G-Plan gymnastics by an everglow fire
Could never mean the same
As summer enchantment by an old mill stream
From courtly love to costly game . . .

Maybe I’m wrong for seeming ungrateful, unforgiving
Oh how it hurts now you’re finally leaving
I couldn’t take anymore . . .

Now’s the time! Let’s hide away / Sacred hours saved from yesterday
Boo-hoo willows weep around you still, mirror reflections of dew
But waterfall pages of an open book could shower new horizons soon
Call the tune / Will you swoon / As I croon / Your serenade