When The Wall’s Caved In

‘Greatest Story Ever Told’ was written by Michael S. Hart, Robert C. Hunter and Robert Hall Weir and it came out on Bob Weir’s 1972 solo album Ace, but an earlier version appears on Mickey Hart’s 1972 solo album Rolling Thunder as ‘The Pump Song’.  The song began with a recording of a water pump from a well on Mickey’s ranch, and he gave the tape to Bob with a challenge to turn it into a song.  Hunter added lyrics, which Weir altered a bit for instance, “Moses come ridin’ up on a guitar” became “on a quasar”.  I guess Weir liked quasar, because it was new and not understood at the time.  In the 1980s quasars became defined as a mechanism that was causing galaxies to blast out jets of radiation from their cores.  Later it was found that all galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers, and when material gets too close, it is blasted out as an enormous amount of radiation.

Bobby also changed the title which was originally ‘Moses’.  There is a line about a left-handed monkey wrench which actually doesn’t exist, because a monkey wrench is symmetrical, so it does not come in left-handed or right-handed versions.  This reminds me of when I had a job in a panel shop and my boss told me to get the sky hook so he could move the panel.  I asked him what the sky hook was and where I could locate it and he told me that somebody in the shop was probably using it and all I had to do was go around shouting “Sky Hook” and I would find it.  He sent me on a fool’s errand which is often done to a newcomer being sent off to find some nonexistent tool and everyone had a good laugh at my expense.

Moses asks the song’s narrator for mercy, and he gives Moses a gun, and then the narrator asks Moses for water, and he gets wine instead.  Most of these lyrics don’t make a lot of sense, but they do rhyme.  The song also mentions Gideon who thinks the door won’t close, because the hinge is missing, but Moses says that the door won’t close because the walls have caved in. Abraham and Isaac also make an appearance in this song as they are sitting on a fence and then digging a well.

Moses come ridin’ up on a quasar
His spurs were jingling, the door was ajar
His buckle was silver, his manner was bold
And I asked him to come in out of the cold

His brain was boiling, his reason was spent
His motto is nothing is borrowed, nothing is lent
He ask me for mercy, I gave him a gun
He said these things just got to be done

Abraham and Isaac sitting on a fence
You’d get right to work if you had any sense
You know the one thing we need is a left-hand monkey wrench

Gideon come up with his eyes on the floor
Said “you ain’t got a hinge, you can’t close the door”
Moses stood up above his six foot and ten
Said “you can’t close the door when the wall’s caved in”

Ask him for water, he poured me some wine
We finished the bottle and broke into mine
You get what you come for, ya ready to go
Well, it’s one in ten thousand that come for the show

Abraham and Isaac diggin’ on a well
Mama came quick with the water witch spell
Well cool clear water well you can’t ever tell

Abraham and Isaac sitting on a fence
You’d get right to work if you had any sense
You know the one thing we need is a left-hand monkey wrench

Written for Song Lyric Sunday Floor/House/Roof/Walls.

17 thoughts on “When The Wall’s Caved In

    1. Most Grateful Dead songs are written by Hunter and Garcia and Box of Rain was Hunter and Lesh. Weir did a lot of covers, and the songs that he wrote were with Barlow. Hunter and Weir did collaborated on Corrina, Jack Straw, Playing in the Band and Sugar Magnolia.

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