Fire On The Mountain

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Mickey Hart

Robert Hunter says this in "Box Of Rain" about writing this song:

Written at Mickey Hart's ranch in heated inspiration as the surrounding hills blazed and the fire approached the recording studio where we were working; verses three and four don't appear on the Grateful Dead recording of this song, but lines five and six of verse three became one of our mottoes, along with "Record More than You Erase."
This is the full version of the lyrics. Once the song had become established the Grateful Dead performed the first two and the last verse. But in 1977 performances, they just played the first and last verses, often rather garbled. And in a studio outtake from 1977, when the song was being developed, they included some lines from the other verses as well as other lyrics.
Long distance runner, what you standing there for? (note 1)
Get up, get off, get out of the door (note 2)
You're playing cold music on the bar room floor
Drowned in your laughter and dead to the core
There's a dragon with matches that's loose on the town
Take a whole pail of water just to cool him down (note 7)

Fire, fire on the mountain
Fire, fire on the mountain
Fire, fire on the mountain
Fire, fire on the mountain

Almost ablaze, still you don't feel the heat (note 3)
It takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a living, we all gotta eat
But you're here alone, there's no one to compete
If mercy's in business, I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true


Baby's in scarlet, her shackles in gray
If loves to love she's got it salted away
Out of the rat trap and under the wire
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
Put it down heavy, strip it down lean
Got to lay it down dirty and play it back clean


Fireman, fireman, call off your dog
This isn't a blaze, it's just a hog in the log
Cut up in sections, squirming alive
Lost to the world on that fifty-cent jive
There's a fire on the mountain, running around
What doesn't go up can never come down


Long distance runner, what you holding out for (note 4)
Caught in slow motion in a dash to the door
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor (note 5)
You gave all you had, why you want to give more? (note 6)
The more that you give, the more it will take
To the thin line beyond which you really can't fake

Mickey Hart recorded a rap-type version of this in the early 1970s, and subsequently performed a similar version with Mystery Box, The Other Ones, the Rhythm Devils and other bands (full lyrics). As well as re-ordering the lyrics above, these versions include some additional lyrics, which I presume Robert Hunter wrote:
Wound in barbed wire, hell I ain't sore
Only hurts when I laugh, or roll on the floor
Only hurts a little, at least that's what I'm told
When you drown in hot oil it can even feel cold
I know I'm in love but I can't tell you why
It feels like poison, shoot me down when I cry

Gonna drink a hot water before I die
It cools me down, I ain't telling no lie
Hunter sang a version with the Dinosaurs in January 1984 which includes an additional opening verse - partly ad-libbed:
I asked my mother for fifteen cents
To see this Italian fella jump the fence
He jumped so high [fell] on the [grass]
Ever see an Italian French fry, yes, yes, yes

(1) On at least one occasion in 1977, Jerry sang "Wrong way runner ..." (thanks to Brian Schnapp for this). This echoes the the original Mickey Hart 'rap' version, which starts "Wrong way Billy, what you standing there for?"
(2) the sheet music has "Get up, get out ..." but Hunter wrote (and Jerry sang) "Get up, get off ..."
(3) this is what Jerry sang, but the Hunter lyrics are "Almost aflame ..." as in the Mickey Hart version.
(4) on at least some occasions (eg 8 May 1977) Garcia starts this verse "Long distance runner, with a foot out the door; caught in slow motion, in a fall to the floor"
(5) in the first version, on 18 March 1977, Jerry sang "Baby is begging for the [?] once more"
(6) this is what Jerry sang, but the Hunter lyrics are "You gave all you got ..." and that's also what Mickey Hart does.
(7) on 31 Oct 1980, and peraps on other occasions, Jerry sand "just to slow him down". (Thanks to Gene Baran for pointing this out).

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     (studio) Feb 1977 Terrapin Station   (note a)
     25 Apr 1977 30 Trips Around The Sun
     30 Apr 1977 Download Series Vol 1
      5 May 1977 May 1977: Get Shown The Light Box
      8 May 1977 May 1977: Get Shown The Light Box (note k)
     11 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     13 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     17 May 1977 May 1977 Box Set
     21 May 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 29
     25 May 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 1
      7 Jun 1977 Winterland June 1977 - The Complete Recordings
     2 Oct 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 45
     16 Oct 1977 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 2
      2 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 12
      6 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 25
     31 Dec 1977 New Year's Eve At The Winterland
      5 Feb 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 18
     24 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Volume 7
      7 May 1978 30 Days Of The Dead (2013)
     11 May 1978 Dick's Picks Vol 25
      3 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
      7 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
     (studio) Aug 1978 Shakedown Street (note b)
     16 Sep 1978 Rocking The Cradle: Egypt 1978 (CD and DVD) (note c)
     22 Oct 1978 Road Trips Volume 1, Number 4 ("From Egypt With Love")
     31 Dec 1978 The Closing Of Winterland (DVD & CD)
      1 Sep 1979 30 Days Of The Dead (2017)
     24 Oct 1979 30 Days Of The Dead (2019)
      1 Nov 1979 Dick's Picks Vol 13 (hidden track)
      3 Dec 1979 Dave's Picks Vol 31 (note n)
     30 Dec 1979 Road Trips Vol 3, No 1 (bonus disc)
     30 Aug 1980 30 Days Of The Dead (2011)
     14 Oct 1980 30 Days Of The Dead (2021)
     31 Oct 1980 Dead Set (note m)
     31 Oct 1980 Dead Ahead (video/DVD)
     30 Nov 1980 Dave's Picks Volume 8
     10 Mar 1981 In And Out Of The Garden
      9 Dec 1981 Dave's Picks Volume 20
     31 Jul 1982 30 Trips Around The Sun (note h)
     20 Sep 1982 In And Out Of The Garden
     14 Oct 1983 Dick's Picks Vol 6
     21 Oct 1983 30 Trips Around The Sun
     27 Dec 1983 Grateful Dead Scrapbook (DVD) (note d)
     20 Apr 1984 Dave's Picks Volume 35
      3 Jul 1984 30 Days Of The Dead (2014) (note j)
      3 May 1986 30 Trips Around The Sun
     27 Mar 1988 Download Series Vol 5
     31 Mar 1988 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 2
      7 Jul 1989 Crimson, White and Indigo (DVD & CD)
     22 Mar 1990 So Many Roads (1965-1995) (note e)
     27 Apr 1991 30 Days Of The Dead (2020)
     19 Jun 1991 Download Series Vol 11
     27 May 1993 Road Trips Vol 2, No 4
      3 Jul 1994 30 Days Of The Dead (2020)
      1 Oct 1994 30 Trips Around The Sun
      3 Jul 2015 Fare Thee Well (CD and DVD) (note i)
Mickey Hart Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     studio 1973 Area Code 415 Mickey Hart (unreleased)
     studio 1974 Fire On The Mountain Mickey Hart (unreleased)
     studio 1976 Diga Diga Rhythm Band (note f)
     studio 1996 Furthur Mystery Box
     24 Oct 2006 Fall Tour 2006 Rhythm Devils
(Plus live recordings by The Dead, Furthur, Dead & Company, Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends etc not listed here. See Grateful Dead Family Discography for a full list.)
Other Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     1994 Club Stuff Zion Tribe
     1995 Still Having Fun Merl Saunders
     1996 Fire On The Mountain Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead (Chalice)
     1996 Mitakuye Oyasin Oyasin/All My Relations The Neville Brothers
     1997 Fire On The Mountain Vol 2 Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead (Chalice)
     1998 Too Hot To Handle Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band
     1999 Gathering On The Mountain, Live Part 3 Merl Saunders
     1999 Gathering On The Mountain, Live Part 1 Toni Brown Band
     2001 Retrospective Railroad Earth (note g)
     2003 Live On Tour Merl Saunders and Melvin Seals
      8 Feb 2006 Live At The Fillmore Grateful Grass
     2007 Light, Bend and Rhythm Fragile Dragon
     2007 On The Spirit Trail Woody
      5 Jul 2008 Owsley's Golden Road, Denver, CO Puja
     2008 Beyond East Martin Case
     2008 Ithica 30 Years Later Dark Star Orchestra
     2009 Yoga Tribute To Grateful Dead Yoga Pop Ups (note l)
     2010 Dead To The Core Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
     2010 Songs Of The Grateful Dead Jesse McReynolds
     2010 Seattle Peace Concert Ultraviolet Uforia
     2010 Blottopia XI Day 2 Mr Blotto
     2010 Dead To The Core Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
     2010 Seattle Peace Concert Ultraviolet Uforia
     2011 Sessions, Vol. 1 Jah Grateful Dead
     10 Feb 2011 Jerry Jams for Rex II Widespread Panic
     2012 Live At The 2012 Wanee Music Festival Mickey Hart Band
     2012 Royal Southern Brotherhood Royal Southern Brotherhood (note g)
      12 Jul 2012 Baltimore, MD Yonder Mountain String Band (note g)
     2013 Harpin' On The Dead Anela Lauren
     2013 Into The Future Normal Bean Band & Tom Constanten
     14 May 2015 Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia Jimmy Cliff, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann
     2015 Songs Of Their Own Jelly Bread
      23 Feb 2016 Brooklyn, NY Jackie Greene (note g)
     2017 Dead Songs Vol 1 Barton Hills Choir
     2018 Grateful Dub Roots of Creation
     31 Dec 2018 Rising Up To Paradise Big Swell
     2019 Sabertooth Plays Dead Sabertooth
     2019 Dead Air J Roddy Watson And The Business
     2021 Grateful Deadication David McMurray
(a) issued as a bonus track on the reissued version first included in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990))
(b) also on the compilations The Very Best Of The Grateful Dead and The Best Of The Grateful Dead.
(c) also included as a bonus track on the reissued version of Shakedown Street (first issued as part of the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990))
(d) DVD included with deluxe edition of the Scrapbook
(e) also on the box set Spring 1990
(f) intrumental version, titled "Happiness Is Drumming"
(g) The list above includes only one illustrative example of the series of live recordings by these artists. For a full list see the Grateful Dead Family Discography.
(h) also made available for download in 30 Days Of The Dead (2012)
(i) also on the compilation Best Of Fare Thee Well.
(j) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2016).
(k) also on the Long Strange Trip Soundtrack
(l) also released as "Lullaby Versions of Grateful Dead"
(m) also on the compilation The Best Of The Grateful Dead Live
(n) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2018).

Leftover Salmon do a spoof called
Pasta On The Mountain on their CD "Bridges To Bert" (also on the compilation "Stolen Roses" and on various of their live albums)

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Very Best Of The Grateful Dead (guitar TAB)


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