Chariots of Fire

Originally Performed ByVangelis
Original AlbumChariots of Fire Soundtrack (1981)
Phish Debut2003-08-03
Last Played2003-08-03
Current Gap663
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2023-11-27


In his composition of the score for the film Chariots of Fire it was the intention of Vangelis to create a contemporary piece that was influenced by the Victorian concept of the film. The film itself focused on the religious struggle between two collegiate athletes (Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams) in early 1920s England who would subsequently grow to respect each other and win gold medals at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France. The title “Chariots of Fire” is a biblical reference to the living ascension of the prophet Elijah, who by the power of a whirlwind that emanated from just such a craft, was lifted aloft to walk in heaven. Can you say “UFO abduction?” 

Vangelis, "Chariots of Fire"

Although the song was performed as an instrumental for the film, lyrics written by Jon Anderson were added to the Vangelis composition when it was released as “Race to the End” on Melissa Manchester’s 1982 album Hey Ricky. Also of note is the thematic inspiration for the film (and presumably the song); an English hymn popular in the 1920s commonly known as “Jerusalem” which was composed by Hubert Parry, augmented with an orchestral score by Edward Elgar, and featured “lyrics” that consisted of a poem by William Blake that was originally called “A Preface to Milton.” Blake had written this poem while on trial for high treason. He was subsequently acquitted. 

The "official" Phish debut of “Chariots of Fire” on 8/3/03 during IT arose from the vocal jam at the conclusion of “You Enjoy Myself.” The IT performance of the tune was as an instrumental by Mike, Page, and Fishman while Trey announced the top three male and female finishers in the Runaway Jim 5K held earlier in the day. In reference to the trophies awarded to the winners, “Chariots of Fire” was followed by “Loving Cup.”

While only the IT rendition counts as a full performance, the “Chariots of Fire” theme previously appeared several times in Phish history: throughout the excellent 9/22/90 UMass gig during “Golgi Apparatus,” “Possum,” “Suzy Greenberg,” “Magilla,” and “David Bowie;” again during "Golgi" on 10/1/90; and in the “YEM” vocal jam at Evergreen College on 4/25/92.

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