Fire In The City

Lyrics: Peter Krug
Music: Peter Krug

Recorded by the Dead as a backing band for Jon Hendricks in 1967

Pause for a minute and ask yourself why
[There's fire in the city]
The red glow of fire lights up the sky
[There's fire in the city]
And the sound of the siren screams through the [black]
[There's fire in the city]
And the streets re-echo with the rifle's crack
[There's fire in the city]

Oh what are the thoughts that go racing through your brain
And mess your mind up
At the sight of the city that's gone completely insane
Where will it wind up

Come on with me let me take you down there
[There's fire in the city]
To the hate-haunted canyon of human despair
[There's fire in the city]
Over the dark invisible wall
[There's fire in the city]
Through the sickening stench of the tenament hall
[There's fire in the city]

Oh how can I tell in terms of black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight

Oh what are the thoughts that go racing through your brain
And mess your mind up
At the sight of the city that's gone completely insane
Where will it wind up

I know by your face that you don't know the sound
[There's fire in the city]
Of a club that's beaten a man to the ground
[There's fire in the city]
Where your home is your prison, your skin a disgrace
[There's fire in the city]
And the gates of your nation swing shut in your face
[There's fire in the city]

Oh how can I tell you in terms of black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight

Oh what are the thoughts that go racing through your brain
And mess your mind up
At the sight of the city that's gone completely insane
Where will it wind up

Oh pause for a minute and ask yourself why
[There's fire in the city]
The red glow of fire lights up the sky
[There's fire in the city]
And at the sound of the siren you really know
[There's fire in the city]
That you truly do reap just what you sow
[There's fire in the city]

Oh how can I tell you in terms of black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight
Oh how can I tell you in terms of black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight
Oh how can I tell you in terms of black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight
The song was written by Peter Krug, a San Francisco Bay Area singer/songwriter. It was issued on the B side of the first EP by Country Joe & The Fish - though there is no other connection between the two.

The original Peter Krug version has lots of verses that were omitted by Jon Hendricks - in red below. Thanks to Matt Schofield for the transcription.
Sit at your window, ask yourself why
The red glow of fire lights up the night sky
Far below where the sirens scream through the black
[Cloud] streets re-echo with a sharp rifle's crack
Down there where the screaming mob surge like the sea
In broken glass, gasoline, flying debris
The troopers press forwards with bayonets fixed
Into the shower of bottles and bricks


What are the confused thoughts that race through your brain
At the sight of a city gone completely insane

Oh how can I tell you in terms black and white
Why there's fire in the city tonight

I can't talk to you, you've never been down there
In the hate haunted canyons of human despair
You've never been back of the invisible wall
Through the sickening stench of a tenement hall
You've never walked down the trash littered streets
Seen fear and suspicion on the faces you meet
Where your presence brings silence to the children at play
Angry eyes watch from a dark passageway
The women fall silent and stare as you pass
On a street without trees, without flowers or grass


Where the volcano slumbers and the dark eyes indict
There's fire in the city tonight

In your chrome plated, air conditioned, white universe
In your own hand-made heaven you're free from the curse

I know by your face that you don't know the sound
Of a club that is beating a man to the ground
As his friends stand by helpless, their fists clenched tight
And they wait through the years for a night like tonight
You've never known the hunger, you've never known the fear
Like running for cover when the police are near
Be part of a world that wants no part of you
Where the laws are deceitful and justice untrue

Where your home is a prison, your skin your disgrace
And the gates of a nation swing shut in your face

Condemned unto darkness, forbidden the light
There's fire in the city tonight

And this is the price of the wrong that's been done
A [?] that rages on past the sun
Like the roar of a river that's been too long held back
Striking out blindly in wanton attack
Smashing and burning the whole city wide
Onward and onward in mad suicide
Reaping the seeds that for years have been sown
Striking out blind in a world not their own
A mad twirling cyclone of hate against hate
In this hour of darkness, friends, pray it's not too late


For as long as the wall stands between black and white
There'll be fire in the city all night
Grateful Dead and Related Recordings
     Date Album
     studio 1967 Birth Of The Dead (note 1)
 
Other Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     rec 1965 Collectors' Items: The First Three EPs Country Joe & The Fish (performed by Peter Krug)
Notes
(1) originally released as part of the Rhino box set The Golden Road (1965-1973)