09 January 2005

Who By Fire


This is less about Gavin Friday and more about the song itself.

Gavin Friday - Who By Fire

I first heard it in it's orignal Leonard Cohen version when I was about 13 and it sent my along some dark (and sometimes dead) pathways into metaphysical singer songwriting... Subsequent versions by Coil, and now this one, seem to find new ways to stretch the meaning...

It's based on a prayer recited at the sacred time of atonement and seems suffused with the expectation of judgement, ontological enquiry and trial. Cohen seems to allow some ambiguity here: the 'who shall I say is calling?' is intonated in such a way that everything is left open. Self-determination (as well as divine intervention) appears one possibility amongst many.

Or maybe I've got it all wrong?

And who by fire,
who by water,
who in the sunshine,
who in the night time,
who by high ordeal,
who by common trial,
who in your merry merry month of may,
who by very slow decay
and who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip,
who by barbiturate,
who in these realms of love,
who by something blunt,
and who by avalanche,
who by powder,
who for his greed,
who for his hunger,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent,
who by accident,
who in solitude,
who in this mirror,
who by his lady's command,
who by his own hand,
who in mortal chains,
who in power,
and who shall I say is calling?

Still, the Gavin Friday live version is excellent... the simple instrumentation creating whorls of circular sound underlaid by a ticking Man Ray metronome and piano tickles... anyone know is there's a studio version of this? Or any other versions of the song?


heath said...

this is really good! thanks.

guanoboy said...

Gavin keeps surprising me...thank you...very nice.

Anonymous said...

House of Love did a cover of Who By Fire for the mid-90s "I'm Your Fan" tribute. This was the good Leonard Cohen tribute -- not to be confused with the overall pathetic "Tower of Song" of a few years later, which didn't even contain a cover of Tower of Song! Sign of the first compilation's quality is that it has two covers of Tower of Song -- Nick Cave's is pretty amazing.

Enjoy reading your posts and listening to what you share.

Anonymous said...

Would you PLEASE be so kind to repost this???

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