Round 8, Pick 11, Thursday, October 21, 2021, “Spill The Wine,” by Eric Burdon and War. 

I don’t remember the first time I heard, “Spill the Wine,” but I do remember being mesmerized by it.  Flutist Charles Miller feels like the Pied Piper as the protagonist is led to an altered reality when he decides to lay down in the grass on that hot summer day.  I love how sounds and reality begin to bend and how magical and exotic that reality is.  At my pre-teen age, I had no care nor concept that there might be symbolism in the words, only that it was like a fairy tale with music.

Released in May, 1970, “Spill the Wine,” by Eric Burdon and War, first appeared on the album Eric Burdon Declares War.

Cover art trivia:

The cover, credited to The Visual Thing (with Burdon credited for the concept), depicts two disembodied but joined arms, one white and one black, both giving a three finger salute, similar to the peace sign which uses two fingers. The three fingers may represent the letter “w” in the word “war”. This salute was also used on the cover of a future album, War. The use of a background sun also appears as a recurring theme on both front and back covers of The Black-Man’s Burdon and the inner sleeve of Deliver the Word.

Personnel and Songwriters:

Eric Burdon – lead vocals

Lee Oskar – harmonica

Charles Miller – tenor saxophone, flute

Howard Scott – guitar, backing vocals

Lonnie Jordan – organ, piano

Bee Bee Dickerson – bass, backing vocals

Harold Brown – drums

Dee Allen – conga, percussion

Burdon and War were together from 1969-1971.

Harold Brown, … a founding member of War, … [said] that record executive Steve Gold arranged for War and Eric Burdon to record together. Says Brown:

“Steve wanted first to see what we could do. So for about a year we just kept going in and out of studios. And then one day we were up in San Francisco, just playing and stuff. Lonnie (Jordan, War keyboard player) came in acting all drunk and stuff and out. They had a bottle of wine, and some of that wine got spilled in the console. Lee (Oskar, War harmonica player) says he felt that the song didn’t have anything to do with the wine going into the console, but all I know is after that they moved out of the A studio, they moved us into the B studio, and then we were playing a Latin thing, and even if Eric had been writing ‘Spill The Wine’ all along, and writing the concepts, that’s when it all came together. I think that Eric was already working on an idea about leaking gnomes waking up in a grassy field, and then when the wine inadvertently got knocked over, whether it was part of the song or not, it all just came together right at that moment.”

One bit of trivia I found interesting was, “Due to contractual intricacies, Burdon was not credited as a songwriter on this or any of the other songs he worked on with War.”  I have no confirmation of that; wiki says he is credited as a songwriter.

Another is that, “Spill the Wine” was used in the movie Boogie Nights as part of a pool party scene with the porn stars.

Lisa Shea at The Wine Intro website has an interesting theory about the song’s lyrics:

Unfortunately for us wine drinkers, the lyrics actually have nothing to do with wine (or girls for that matter). The pearl referred to the pearl of the orient, i.e. heroin. Spilling the wine was a slang term for the blood that dripped when you were doing the drugs.

Whatever hidden meanings any of the terms in the song might or might not have, there is no denying that this is a good jam. 

Youtube video link of live version:

youtube link of studio version:

I was once out strolling
One very hot summer’s day
When I thought I’d lay myself down to rest
In a big field of tall grass
I lay there in the sun
And felt it caressing my face
As I fell asleep and dreamed

I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie
And that I was the star of the movie
This really blew my mind
The fact that me, an overfed long-haired, leaping gnome
Should be the star of a Hollywood movie

But there I was
I was taken to a place
The Hall of the Mountain King
I stood high up on a mountaintop
Naked to the world
In front of
Every kind of girl
There was long ones, tall ones, short ones, brown ones
Black ones, round ones, big ones
Crazy ones

Out of the middle
Came a lady
She whispered in my ear
Something crazy
She said

Spill the wine, dig that girl
Spill the wine, take that pearl
Spill the wine, dig that girl
Spill the wine, take that pearl

I could feel hot flames of fire roaring at my back
As she disappeared
But soon she returned
In her hand was a bottle of wine
In the other, a glass
She poured some of the wine from the bottle into the glass
And raised it to her lips
And just before she drunk it
She said

Take the wine, take that pearl
Spill the wine, take that pearl
Take the wine, take that pearl
Spill the wine, take that pearl
Take that pearl, yeah!
It’s all good
Oh, you got to do it
Spill that wine, spill that wine

Spill the wine, spill the wine, spill the wine, spill the wine, spill the wine
Take that pearl

Songwriters:  see above under personnel





top image  

Eric Burdon Declares War album cover 

*Interestingly when I went to look for links for the Pied Piper, I came across a more sinister aspect on the story that I had never heard before. Because it’s Halloween time, read more about it here — if you dare! If you believe the song is talking about heroin, the parallels between it and the piper are chilling!

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post. Looking forward to reading the comments on this one.


  1. It took a while for this one to grow on me but grow it did. I would hear it occasionally and then I visited a second hand record store in the early eighties and found the single…great song.

    • I love how the white singer and the black funky band groove together. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Burdon sings his soul into it in more ways than one. I was surprised by how many theories there are on what the lyrics mean. I like to take it as a simple fairy tale.

    • This is the first time I have actually seen the band. I had no idea the lead singer in this was white. This piece has always reminded me of Sly & the Family Stone in a way, a band I loved. I was never much of a War fan but, this song is cool. “Leaping gnome…” LOL!

      I’ve read about the Pied Piper, before.

    • Yep. I just caught that. Silly me…I should have recognized that voice. Um…DUH. I guess his talking thru the lyrics threw me off. And, on that note, that voice doesn’t match that face.

  2. It sounds so unforced; don’t think, don’t overthink it, just follow the lyrics along as it meanders along, going its own way to where it comes to whatever conclusion you want it to. Nice off-the-wall pick Msjadeli.

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