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Eric Burdon sang lead on this track. Before Burdon joined, the group was known as Nite Shift and was playing backup for Deacon Jones, a former US football player who was trying to become a Soul singer. The group was re-named War and played with Burdon for 2 albums, both credited to "Eric Burdon and War."
Harold Brown, who was drummer and founding member of War, told us 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."
This is widely believed to be about, or at least heavily influenced by drugs. According to Brown, this song celebrates women: "All ladies are beautiful. You've got to look at them. God, I believe, put all of us here and made us all different so we could be like the flowers, you know. Like women. I look at them as beautiful flowers. Even when they get older, the flowers and so on, and that's what it really boils down to, they can be skinny, big, fat, I've seen some fine voluptuous women. And then I've seen some that are skinny, and if you look at them, they could be beautiful, depending on personality and stuff."
The lady speaking Spanish in the background was Eric Burdon's girlfriend. Says Brown: "We went back there and we put up a little tent, candlelight, and some wine back there. They were behind there, and Eric was doing things to her and making her talk."
The chorus is often misheard, but the proper lyrics are "Spill the wine, take that girl, spill the wine, take that pearl." The "Pearl" is a sexual reference, meaning the clitoris.
Due to contractual intricacies, Burdon was not credited as a songwriter on this or any of the other songs he worked on with War.
Jimi Hendrix' former girlfriend sang backup. Hendrix was managed by Animal's bass player Chas Chandler.
This song features a harmonica, flute, and conga drums.
War went on to a long and successful career after Burdon left the band. The death of Jimi Hendrix, who played with War the night he died, weighed heavily on Burdon, as did other personal problems. Says Brown: "We got back in the studio, we started recording with Eric. We came up with a couple of more songs, couple of albums. Love Is All Around
, Black Man's Burden
, which was on MGM. Now, Black Man's Burden
, Mike Curb was the president at the time, and he wanted to be a lieutenant governor for California at one point. But he had it in for Eric and Steve Gold and different companies, because he thought he was getting us, too. And by some kind of hook or crook, Black Man's Burden
never really got distributed in the United States. It was put up on the shelf to get back at some of the guys against the business deal. We go forward, and finally we were in Europe touring with Eric. Now see, Eric and I know exactly what happened, why he left the group. He and I had an unusual kind of relationship. Years before that we were out somewhere, and I'm walking around and I come back in and Eric is all mad at the band, I guess because of a bad show or something. He started poking me in my chest and I pushed him back and I said, 'No. I don't work for you, I work with you.' After that he started giving me Porsches and stuff. He'd come by New Orleans and see me. So he came to the room, he was burned out. He'd been traveling all that time, he'd just gotten married... he was just burned out. I looked at him and I said, 'Eric, you know what? We can handle the show. If you want to go back, I say go back.' So that's when he left us there in Northern England. That's when we became our own. We started playing songs that we had on our first album War
that went vinyl. That's our joke - it never made platinum or gold, it went vinyl. We had enough of our own new material, and old songs that we'd been playing before we met Eric, so we just started playing them." (Thanks to Harold Brown
for speaking with us about this song. Along with original members B.B. Dickerson, Lee Oskar and Howard Scott, he plays in the Lowrider Band
The Isley Brothers covered this in 1971 on their album Givin' It All Back.
This was used in the movie Boogie Nights as part of a pool party scene with the porn stars.
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