Today’s assignment is to share a song with a number in it.
I first heard “40,000 Headmen” on the third album by Blood, Sweat & Tears, called, not surprisingly, Blood, Sweat & Tears 3 (1970). (The same guy that named Chicago’s albums obviously did that.) I knew from reading the liner notes (remember those?) that Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi from Traffic had written it and assumed that Traffic had also recorded it, but I didn’t hear their original until a few years later. It was on Traffic’s eponymous second album (1968), and Winwood has recorded it solo as well. The Blogger’s Best Friend™ has this to say:
The protagonist of the song, a profane demi-god, follows the eponymous headmen across the sea, on foot, to a hidden cave where they have stored up a large treasure. Taking as much as he can carry, he travels to a shrine only to find that the headmen have followed him; they open fire, wounding the protagonist but not killing him, and he decides to flee. The dream-like story seems to start and end with his confrontation with the headmen, as if he’s experiencing his life in a closed loop. The lyrics were inspired by what Capaldi refers to as “a hash-fueled dream.” He also described them as “a loon”. They have been described as being “an evocation of a dream state”.
The lyrics, from AZLyrics:
If I had to take the choice between the deafman and the blind
I know just where my feet should go and that’s enough for me
I turned around and knocked them down and walked across the sea
Hadn’t traveled very far when suddenly I saw
Three small ships a-sailing out towards a distant shore
So lighting up a cigarette I followed in pursuit
And found a secret cave where they obviously stashed their loot
Filling up my pockets, even stuffed it up my nose
I must have weighed a hundred tons between my head and toes
I ventured forth before the dawn had time to change its mind
And soaring high above the clouds I found a golden shrine
Laying down my treasure before the iron gate
Quickly rang the bell hoping I hadn’t come too late
But someone came along and told me not to waste my time
And when I asked him who he was he said, ‘Just look behind’
So I turned around and forty thousand headmen bit the dirt
Firing twenty shotguns each and man, it really hurt
But luckily for me they had to stop and then reload
And by the time they’d done that I was heading down the road
And that’s Song Lyric Sunday and Song of the Day for May 17, 2020.