Armageddon Rag

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Robert Hunter

Written by Robert Hunter for the soundtrack of the movie "Armageddon Rag." This was to have been produced by Phil DeGuere from the novel by George R.R. Martin, but was never in the event completed. In the book it is played by a band called The Nazgûl. It was recorded by a group comprising Robert Hunter, John Cipollina, Merl Saunders, Tony Saunders and Gaylord Birch, with its companion piece Resurrection Rag. See also Raise Your Arms, Clap Your Hands, Blood On The Sheets and Raging. See below for more background and for the lyrics set out in George R R Martin's book. These are Hunter's lyrics:

Ready for the countdown (ready)
Ready on the right (ready)
Ready on the left (ready)
Very much obliged
Ready all round (ready)
Let me hear the sound (ready)
OK, mothers
Count it on down

(Ten) When
(Nine) Fine
(Eight) Too late
(Seven) What you gonna do about
(Six) Sixty Six
(Five) Bust this jive
(Four) Ready for more
(Three) Count it for me

(One, two) Armageddon Rag
(Three, four) Armageddon Rag

You and me got debts come due
I can't pay, neither can you
Life is just too weird to live
I don't forget and don't forgive

Shake your bones to Armageddon Rag
Dance with Jones to Armageddon Rag
Sticks and stones, Armageddon Rag
Soul stone, baby, ain't it a drag
(Ain't it a drag)
(Ain't it a drag)

Walk the mighty final road
Till flesh and bones fall from your soul
Turn and face your enemy
All the dead look just like me

All the living look like you
Now tell me what you're gonna do
You, you, you, brother
We can be mistaken for one another

Armies of the night (Armageddon Rag)
Soldiers of the light (Armageddon Rag)
Idiot's delight (Armageddon Rag)
Hold on tight, ready on the right
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three
(One, two) Armageddon Rag
Armageddon Rag
Armageddon Rag
Getting ready for, getting ready for
Armageddon Rag, Armageddon Rag
Robert Hunter played a truncated version in a solo performance in 1984:
[This] is where all causes meet
[Weave the pattern] in between
Ready on the left
Ready on the right
Ready in the center
OK countdown

Ten, nine, eight seven
Six, five, four, three
One, two, Armaggedon Rag
One, two, Armaggedon Rag

All the dead look just like me
All the living look like you
You, you, you brother
We could be mistaken for one another
Armageddon Rag was registered with the US Copyright Office in 1984, described as "on 1 sound cassette + lyrics ... with Ragin' and Ashman." Hunter has performed Ragin' in solo concerts, but I've never seen any other references to his version of Ashman (described in the registration as "lyrics with chord symbols") - unless (see track list below) it's a version of No Place Here which starts with the line "Ashes, ashes all fall down". Resurrection Rag was also registered (separately) in 1984, as "words only". Blood On The Sheets, and Raise Your Arms Clap Your Hands do not seem to have been registered.

In the novel by George R.R. Martin, Sandy plays a cassette by The Nazgûl - their album titled "Music To Wake The Dead" - with the following track list:
Side One
1. Blood On The Sheet     2.07
2. Ashman (Ashes, Ashes)     5.09
3. Ragin'     3.01
4. The Survivor     3.15
5. What Rough Beast     2.02
6. Prelude To Madness     5.23
Side Two
1. The Armageddon/Resurrection Rag     23.14
In the book, The Nazgûl play several of these songs at their reunion concert, with rather different lyrics. This is what they sing for "Armageddon Rag":
This is the land all causes lead to
This is the land where mushrooms grow

To the battleground I'm coming
Oh, don't you hear the drumming?
They're playing the armageddon rag, oh
Playin' the armageddon rag

This is the day we all arrive at
This is the day we choose

Well I'm here to make things right
To fight the last good fight
And they're playing the armageddon rag, oh
Playin' the armageddon rag

This is the day of soulstorm, baby
The day all debts come due
Remember the things you done to me
While I'm doin' 'em to you

Kill your brother, yeah
That sucker done you wrong
Kill your friend, goddamn traitor
Just listen to the song
They're playing the armageddon rag
Kill your brother, kill your friend, kill yourself
'Cause you're a killer too
All the dead look just like you
When they're playin' the armageddon rag
Yeah, they're playin' the armageddon rag
Of the songs in the track list above, Hunter seems to have written words and music for the film for Blood On The Sheet, Ragin', Armageddon Rag, Resurrection Rag and, it seems, Ashman. Of the other songs, "What Rough Beast" is a setting of William Butler Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" (with the line "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last"). The novel also quotes what look to be original lines from "The Survivor":
Well, he came back from the war zone all intact
And they told him how lucky he had been

But the survivor has a different kind of scar
Stillborn dreams and no more hope
Hooked on booze or hooked on dope
The survivor has a different kind of scar
Yeah, the survivor has a different kind of scar
from "Prelude to Madness":
Right is wrong, black is white
Who the hell's got justice tonight

I hear laughter in all the wrong places
See color in all the white spaces

Wolfman looked into his mirror
And Lon Cheney looked back out

Queens beat aces every time, yeah
Dead man's hand, dead man's hand
And Charlie is the joker in the deck
and from "Ashman":
See the ash man, gray and shaken, too powdery to cry
(Ashes, ashes all fall down)
(Ashes, ashes all fall down)


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