Lyrics & Analysis: Wolf At The Door

Clock strikes four, the wolf is at my door
Ain’t got no bread so don’t come back no more
Clock strikes five, the wolf is still outside
I thought I was dead but man I’m still alive
	No no no I just can’t stand no more
	Got to get myself together that’s for sure

I used to get mad at the things I would do
I just couldn’t see that my stars were all true
My past pages said that my life will be sore
The pain in my head and the wolf at the door

Time goes on eating life and me
Taking all, chaining up the free
Plodding on so relentlessly
Won’t be long before he comes for me
	No no no etc. 

Repeat chorus

Backwards organ solo with flute sounds (1 verse)

Repeat chorus

I’m very sorry now, I really have got to go
I’ve had my fill of sitting here snow
Gonna fly Trans Love to Frisco in the sun
I’ve heard it said it’s the place for everyone
	No no no etc.

Repeat chorus

Jim Pembroke 1967

Artist: Blues Section
       Jim Pembroke, vocal and harmony vocal
       Hasse Walli, guitar
       Måns Groundstroem, bass
       Ronnie Österberg, drums, bongos
       Otto Donner, flute
Release: From the album BLUES SECTION, Love Records LRLP 3, 1967
Studio: Finnvox
Producer: Atte Blom, Otto Donner
Engineer: Erkki Hyvönen

General comment: This is the fourth track on Blues Section’s one and only ‘real’ LP. For more general comment see ‘Only Dreaming’.

The Music: I may not be the right person to review this. For Christmas in 1967, when I was nine years old, my ‘progressive’ parents gave me a set of bongos, though I had specifically wished for (you guessed it) a helmet and a plastic Tommy Gun.

Now these bongos come back to haunt me.

It was a general problem for Blues Section to gel properly on the rhythmical front. The fault was normally with the bassist and the guitarist, but here for once it is the otherwise God-given timekeeper Österberg who is to blame. Obviously, the bongos on this track are overdubbed. They are very loud in the mix – and it just doesn’t work. Perhaps the rhythm section was so off the mark that the bongos were overdubbed, hoping they would glue things together. Unfortunately, they just add to the problem.

With backing this poor it is almost impossible to judge the quality of the composition, but really it is not a bad effort. My main objection is that the music is rather jolly and doesn’t really reflect the quite depressed mood of the lyric.

A year before the release of this album the Beatles had used a backwards guitar solo on the George Harrison composition ‘Taxman’ – at least that’s what it sounded like – and it was something new and interesting. Here we have a backwards organ solo with a few strange flute sounds in the background – but it is not interesting. You just get the feeling that the group couldn’t come up with a decent solo and hoped they might get away with this instead.

As with nearly all the Blues Section material there is a missed potential here, and with a small effort things could have been much better. The problem is mainly overplaying (in this case on the bongos front). It is my impression that Love Records had a very laissez-faire attitude to a lot of things, which in some ways can be good, in other ways not. It’s a compromise, as always. It took them a few years to get it right, but luckily they eventually did.

The lyric: This is another milestone in Pembroke’s lyric writing, since there isn’t any real narrative here, just a feeling – and a rather depressed one too, you may say. The term ‘wolf at the door’ means that you are very close to getting into trouble, particularly of a financial kind, underlined by the fact that the wolf is asking for the narrator’s ‘bread’ (not the sort of food wolves normally eat), which is slang for money. Unfortunately, the narrator has some kind of problem that prevents him from getting his act together and sort out his everyday situation – it would be obvious to suggest something drug related, I suppose. There is also a general sense of paranoia, which sensitive and artistic people, in particular, can easily get from smoking hash. Unlike many other Pembroke songs there is no humorous relief to be found in this one.

Remarkably, this lyric in some ways resembles Keith Reid’s ‘Seem to have the Blues’ written and recorded also in 1967, but not released until some ten years later. Reid, of course, is Procol Harum’s lyricist and an influence on Pembroke’s writings, though this particular song is probably written before anyone had even heard of Harum.

A certain horoscopic issue is involved (‘my stars were all true’). Unfortunately, along with occurrences in the narrator’s past life (his ´past pages’), they predict that his future will be painful. ‘Stars’ often figure in Pembroke’s lyrics.

As with a few other songs around this time Pembroke seems to base this lyric quite closely on his own life. He has had ‘his fill’ (meaning ‘had his share’ or ‘had enough’) ‘of sitting in the snow’ and longs for warmer places, the obvious choice in 1967 being ‘Frisco’ (i.e. San Francisco), the world capital of the Hippie movement. The term ‘Trans Love’ refers only to an imaginary airline company – this was years before the gender-bender phenomenon took off.

Mats Huldén told me some 15 years after the writing of this song: ‘Jim is always talking about moving away from Finland. For many years it was India, now it’s America.’ Well, he made it in the end and seemed to find that warmer climate he was looking for in Kansas City. Only Finland keeps calling him back. It’s the classic dilemma of the immigrant, and this song is only one of many fine examples of Pembroke’s ability to turn these feelings into good quality pop lyrics. With a tune to match the mood it could have been great.

-- Claes Johansen with thanks to Nic Stayt, 2007