Songs About Fire 1

Cover of Songs About Fire Back of Songs About Fire

Released: 1995
Label: Cassiel

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Liner notes

The Mountain Goats are John and Rachel. These songs were recorded Winter 1995-96 by Bob DURKEE: thanks, Bob. Thanks also to Dan, and to the infectious monkey, who only wanted to help.

In theory, if we who presently claim to be human were to forget our efforts to find the traces of divine movements in our own actions, our fate should be something like the people in the Popol Vuh. 2 For them, the forgotten force of divinity reasserted itself by inhabiting their own tools and utensils, which rose up against them and drove them from their homes. Today they are swinging through the trees.
— Dennis TEDLOCK 3

Songs About Fire was included in its entirety on the compilation Ghana.

Table of contents

  1. Pure Gold
  2. Papagallo
  3. Song for John Davis
  4. Stars Around Her

Pure Gold 4

"One, two, three, four, one, two."

Hey, don't touch the door 5
Because the door will surely kill you
I hear you saying that you don't see what I mean
Well, you better look again

Stop looking at the floor
'Cause the whole building's turning and turning and turning
And don't touch the door
Can't you see the door's burning

And all at once the street is filled with light
And all at once the street is filled with sound
When I hold you I know our number's being called somewhere
Let them come on down

Papagallo 6 7

You were standing near the water
When the wind ripped through
Heard your throat open up like a champagne bottle
I heard the one perfect song pouring out of you
There was a darkening sky reflected on the river
There's no way of determining where we were
Low hills, colors gone crazy
You standing like a ghost with the water behind you
It's hard to grab a hold of something, sometimes
Like you need me to remind you

You were standing near the water
And I was looking at the water
And then you went down in the water
And the river began to boil
There was a minute when I thought I knew what you were about
And then you opened up your eyes and the Lord came out
Low hills, colors gone crazy
You rising from the water like a bird
You had a pure song possessing you from shoulder to hip
And I recognized every single word

Song for John Davis 8 9

The day we set sail from England
The wind behind us was fair
The day we set sail from England
There were smiling faces everywhere

And the snow came down on New Hampshire today
And the snow came down on New Hampshire today

The day we put the grain into the ground
There were smiling faces all around
And underneath the trees we'd planted when we landed

And when I was a child
I spoke with the language of a child
But when I became a man
I put away childish things 10

And the snow came down on New Hampshire today
And the snow came down on New Hampshire today

Stars Around Her

I saw the darkness coming down
It posed no threat to me
I let the darkness ease its way around
It was every good thing I'd expected it would be
I saw you coming through the twisting vines outside
I saw the new moon collide
With the stars
Clustered around her

I saw the young fruit on the new lime
I felt your breath catch its rhythm
I heard your legs push away the tall, dry brush
I saw the moon and the stars and knew the secrets within them
I heard you saying my name into my ear
No one has to tell me why you've come here
'Cause I know, I know
I know

  1. Songs About Fire, Nall, accessed May 1, 2014.


To my complete shock and awe, Tim Chevalier figured out the pinball reference in Pure Gold — amazing work.

Thanks as always to Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the album art.


  1. Songs About Fire is part of the Song for ... series

  2. Popol Vuh is a collection of text regarding the mythology and history of the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj in Guatemala, a group of Mayans which lasted from the 13th through early 16th centuries. The texts begin with describing the creation of the world, through prehistory, and up to the movements and family trees of some living tribes. 

  3. Dennis Tedlock is a professor of English and Anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He specializes in North and Middle American Indians and translation. This particular quote is the concluding paragraph of the introduction to his multiple-award-winning translation of Popul Vuh.

    The wooden people in question are part of the creation story in Popol Vuh. The creator, Heart of Sky, creates the animals, then a failed creation of mud, then another of wood. The wood beings can move, but have no minds, hearts, or worship in them, and so Heart of Sky turns them into monkeys, as unsuccessful attempts to make humans.

    Tedlock, Dennis (1996). Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. New York: Touchstone. 

  4. Pure Gold is part of the Pure ... series

  5. In the liner notes to Ghana, John writes:

    To date nobody has spotted the pinball reference in one of these four songs. I suppose that in order to catch it, you'd have to have spent countless hours leaning up against a machine, occasionally swearing at it or kicking it's legs in outrage, feeling your brain melding with the tiny CPU in its belly as its cheap speakers spat out commands, suggestions and taunts. I'll bet you thought I was going to give some other hint as to which pinball machine it was, and I was, actually, but the machine said not to tell.

    Unbelievably, Tim Chevalier actually figured this out! "Don't touch the door!" is a callout that precedes the first multiball in the Twilight Zone pinball game, released in 1993. Completing the gumball machine (which releases pinballs instead of gumballs) locks the first ball. Immediately after, the display shows an animated door and the message, "Beyond this door is a dimension of sound", referencing Rod Serling's opening narration for seasons 4 and 5 of the original Twilight Zone television series. He says these lines as a floating, ghostly door rotates in space before opening:

    You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... the Twilight Zone.

    After the first lock, Robby the Robot (a character taken from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet) says, "Don't touch the door!" This phrase is repeated multiple times until multiball begins, followed by Serling stating, "You've just crossed into... the Twilight Zone."

    Thanks enormously to Tim Chevalier for somehow deducing this reference.

    Kerins, Bowen. Twilight Zone. Professional & Amateur Pinball Association. Retrieved July 29, 2019. 

  6. Papagallo is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  7. In Spanish, papagayo means macaw, six genera of neotropical parrot, characterized by their large beaks, colorful plumage, and generally light facial patches. Some species are flourishing, while many others are endangered or extinct. 

  8. Song for John Davis is part of the Song for ... series and the informal series of Biblical references

  9. This refers to the musician John Davis, a friend of John and Peter's who sometimes played with them in the 1990s. A short article of his about the Mountain Goats and to some extent, his relationship to the band, can be found on his blog

  10. A reference to the famous lines from Corinthians:

    When I was a child,
    I spoke like a child,
    I thought like a child,
    I reasoned like a child.
    When I became a man,
    I put aside childish things.

    1 Corinthians 13:11. Holman Christian Standard Bible. Retrieved May 10, 2014.