Music: Sir Charles H.H. Parry (1916)
Lyrics: William Blake (1804)
The track features the debut of the prototype Moog Apollo, the first-ever polyphonic synthesizer. Jerusalem was ELP's take on a famous British hymn sung in schools and played in The Royal Albert Hall in England. The lyrics are taken from William Blake's 'And did those feet...'. This famous poem based in parts on the once widely believed English legend of Jesus Christ's visit to Glastonbury, escorted by Joseph Of Arimathato, after his ministry in ancient Palestine. The subject matter of this song indicates a nod to ELP's unabashed englishness and simultaneously lends an air of timeless tradition and ceremony to the music. But Jerusalem was banned in England on the radio when it was issued as a single. The BBC would not accept it as a serious piece of music. The single fails to chart and was not released in the US.
"Jerusalem was perhaps more of a leftfoot thing in that we didn’t feel we’ve gotta do that. It just seemed an interesting tune, a fantastic melody and something that fitted in with our general vibe. Also it was quite a chalIenge to play it without making it sound hack and terrible. When we recorded that, learned it and arranged it, we really dug the beauty in the melody and the words.
Sometimes I think what you write is said to somebody and other times it's just said. Some things are simple statements and others are meant to communicate. I know full well that there exists a large number of people who search a group's lyrics with the zeal of some rabbinical scribe. I did not write Jerusalem. It's a beautiful song, though, and we felt no-one had recorded it and we wanted to do so. I was amazed when people came out with some incredible interpretations, there was one going the rounds saying it was all about the Arab-Jewish fighting at that time. Nothing could have been further from our minds. In America fans get backstage and deliver amazing exegesis of the lyrics but even if some do take things too far. Some of my lyric work has a religious dimension, oft-times rather surrealistic. Usually the music is written first and then I have to sweat and work like mad for seven days and of course everyone is saying 'Come on' for they want at this point to get the record finished.
It's a piece of music that will sound better the louder you hear it. That's the first thing, but by the nature of the way it's constructed, it always seems to require just a bit more of everything than it's getting, and when we mixed that, we mixed it twice on two, almost 18 hour sessions, so in other words, we spent the best part of almost 36 hours mixing that, and I assure you, I tried every type of echo that there was and every type of delayed echo on the whole track and went through it unbelievable amounts of time, and whatever you want...whatever you put on there, it always wants a little extra, a little more...and it's like the lost chord, y'know, no matter how much you try, you'll never find the absolute. It'll never be absolutely right."
"I had always loved the tune. The opening chord progressions sound a bit like 'Pictures At An Exhibition', and everybody in England knows that hymn. It's a traditional, patriotic tune that evokes good feelings in every Englishman. I had originally wanted to do it with 'The Nice', but we never got around to working it up.
The screaming chorus effect on the organ was double-tracked and the second organ was put through a flanger. I tried to develop an electronic thing which would produce that effect live. It would accept the direct signal and split it in two. One signal would remain straight and the other would go just a fraction out of tune to give the organ a ringing sound. It worked okay and sounded all right, but there were all kinds of side noises. I wanted to use that on the piano also, so you could go straight from a honky-tonk piano to a normal piano sound."
"We wanted to put it out as a single. We figured it was worthy of a single. In England, they have this format where four or five people have to veto it in before it gets played on the airwaves; it's a very old-fashioned way of doing it, but that's the way it was being done at the time. I think there was some apprehension to whether or not we should be playing a hymn and bastardizing it, as they said, or whatever was being called at the time. I think it got rejected, I recall. We thought we'd done it spot-on, and I thought that was very sad because I've got a jukebox at home, and that's a piece of music that I've got on the jukebox, so I actually thought the recording and just the general performances from all of us were absolutely wonderful. I couldn't believe the small-mindedness of the English, sort of, whatever-they-are, committee to vote these things onto the radio or off the radio. They could even, really, they obviously didn't even listen to this. It got banned and there was sort of quite a big thing about it, these people just would not play it. They said no, it was a hymn, and we had taken it the wrong way."
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848 - 1918) is best known for a single work, the choral song Jerusalem, this forgotten English romantic who was instrumental in bringing about the English musical renaissance at the end of the nineteenth century, and who, for the first time since Purcell, brought a distinctively English quality to western music. The brief entry devoted to Parry in Baker's Concise Dictionary Of Musicians Concentrates solely on the social impact of Parry as an academic colleague of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and a teacher of the likes of Ralph Vaughan Williams. No mention is made of any of his compositions or the effects these works may have had on the development of the English school in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Parry is a romantic composer who managed to balance an affinity for both Brahms and Wagner in a time when there were few composers or other cognoscenti willing to admit being influenced by both.
William Blake (1757-1827) was a British poet, painter, visionary mystic, and engraver, who illustrated and printed his own books. Blake proclaimed the supremacy of the imagination over the rationalism and materialism of the 18th century. Misunderstanding shadowed his career as a writer and artist and it was left to later generations to recognize his importance.
Milton, a poem by William Blake: In the first book, John Milton returns from heaven to the mortal world and unites with the imagination through the person of William Blake. Together, they set out to reconfigure the relationship between a living poet and a great predecessor. In the second and final book, Milton unites with his feminine aspect, Ololon, in progress towards the apocalyptic overcoming of divisions between the sexes, between the living and the dead, and between human consciousness and it's alienated projections into the external world. This plot is integrated with expansive references and allusions that range from the Bible to Blake's own life. Blake etched forty-five plates for Milton in relief, with some full-page designs in white-line etching, between 1804 and 1810.
From the preface to Milton:
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green? (1)
And was the Holy Lamb of God
on England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills? (2)
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of Fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand!
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
(1) Mountains Green: Gen. 3: 8. In the unfallen world England's green and pleasant land and the Garden Of Eden in the Bible would be identical.
(2) Satanic Mills: The imagery of the extract from plate 15 of Jerusalem.
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