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Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3

Album: Exile on Coldharbour LaneReleased: 1997
  • This became famous as the theme song for the HBO TV show The Sopranos, but it was around long before the show. The song first appeared on the group's 1997 debut album Exile on Coldharbour Lane, and remained an obscurity until David Chase, who created the HBO show The Sopranos, decided to use it as the theme song. Chase originally wanted to use a different song for each episode of the show, but HBO insisted on one song for the sake of branding and consistency. Chase says that the first time he heard "Woke Up This Morning," he knew it was the one (Chase says he bought the CD after hearing a different song by the group on the radio). A3 received $40,000 for the use of the song; It was an offer they couldn't refuse.
  • With the refrain "Woke up this morning, got myself a gun," the song does sound very gangster, but it's actually about a case in which a wife finally shot her abusive husband after twenty years. The song is about female empowerment, not the mob.

    The woman in question is Sara Thornton, who killed her husband in 1989. The case made headlines in England, where Alabama 3 founder Rob Spragg heard about it and got the idea for the song. He wrote the song with his bandmates Jake Black, Simon Edwards and Piers Marsh.
  • Alabama 3 are neither a trio nor from Alabama. Formed by Rob Spragg and Jake Black, they are from south London, but have an affinity for American Country music, which they would combine with House music. Like Chumbawamba, they were a collective with rotating members, often performing songs with political leanings.

    Spragg and Black started out playing raves around England under the name Larry Love and the Reverend D Wayne Love, speaking in American accents. Their first album in 1997 was adored by some music critics, but left no impression on the charts, as their fusion of Americana with Eurodance proved a little too niche. That niche turned out to be perfect for The Sopranos, however, as it provided an appropriate song that was unheard to all but a tiny sliver of the show's viewers.

    When the show became a huge hit, Alabama 3 brought their act to America, where they played a series of shows.
  • As detailed in the liner notes for the album, this song samples "Tell Me" by Howlin' Wolf, "Standing at the Burying Ground" by Mississippi Fred McDowell, and "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf, under his real name Chester Burnett, is a credited writer on the song along with four members of Alabama 3.
  • In the US, the band used the name A3 for legal reasons, as the Country band Alabama threatened a lawsuit (even "Bama 3" and "Alabaman 3" were denied). The name Alabama 3 derives from a 1930s case involving two black men were lynched after being accused of raping a white woman. The men were called the "Alabama 2" in the media.
  • At the 1999 Emmy awards, the house orchestra played a version of this every time a Sopranos actor or writer won an award. It was played many times that night.
  • To get the song on the radio and MTV, the word "gun" had to be removed. This posed a problem because the phrase "Woke up this morning, got yourself a gun" is repeated many times throughout.
  • There is a degree of irony in this song that made it apropos for The Sopranos, which is about a Mafia family and their emotional struggles. As Jake Black explained in The Times of London: "It's totally ironic that we, who disapprove of anything villains do, should be picked for the theme song of a show that shows the human side of villains. You see the guy knocking f--k out of someone... but he's got heart. All the while the guy's controlling thousands of people's lives, squeezing them. So that is ironic."
  • By the time this song became the theme for The Sopranos, Alabama 3 had been dropped from their American record label, Geffen. Sony Music, which issued the soundtrack to the show, re-released the song as a single in 2000, but it went nowhere, as the song got very little airplay (a battered-woman song by British guys with American accents somehow couldn't find a format) and the band was too obscure to generate sales.

    In the UK, the band is better known for their song "Ain't Goin' To Goa," which hit #40 there in 1998.
  • The original US release on this song was a 12" single containing five different mixes of the song:
    Chosen One Mix
    Urban Takeover Mix
    Drillaz In The Church Mix
    Y'all Gotta Come
    Dam Metal Jam Mix

    The Chosen One Mix was edited for use on The Sopranos.
  • Unlike most TV shows, The Sopranos didn't use theme music composed for the show. Instead, they used real songs. This costs a lot, but is much more realistic and can make a big difference in a scene. The producers spent a lot of time picking out music for the show.
  • This song was used in The Simpsons episode "Papa's Got A Brand New Badge." (thanks, Campo - Sydney, Australia)
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Comments: 19

The original Woke Up This Morning appeared on Exile On Coldharbour Lane. After David Chase heard it they did a remix for The Sopranos theme and this version appears on the album La Peste. So, two versions on two different Alabama 3 albums.Ken - London, United Kingdom
Coldharbour Lane is a street in Brixton, known for its drug dealing and drunks walking about. It was also the site of the Brixton Riots in the early 1980s. A "cold harbor" in older times was a thatched hut where travelers could stay the night, but had no services or staff.Willie - Scottsdale, Az
a "Blue moon" curse, is powerful curse in Italian witchcraft.
To say someone is born under a bad sign
( Astrological Sign) with a blue moon in their eyes means that they were cursed at birth, and will never lead a good life.
Karienna - Dallas, Tx
In re: 'Blue Moon' is used to describe the rare event of the second full moon in a calendar month. Thought you'd like to know.Doug - Brumley, Mo
I came across a version of this song that has the singer singing in first person...the lyrics go " I woke up this morning and got myself a gun"... which version is that ??Easy - Prague, Czech Republic
Here's the 1:45 or so of intro dialogue.
"And after three days of drinkin' with Larry Love
I just get an inklin' to go on home
So, I'm walkin' down Coldharbour Lane
Head hung low, three or four in the mornin'

The suns comin' up and the birds are out singing
I let myself into my pad
Wind myself up that spiral staircase
An' stretch out nice on the chesterfield

Pithecanthropus Erectus already on the CD player
And I just push that remote button to sublimity
And listen to the sweet sculptural rhythms of Charles Mingus
And J.R. Monterose and Jackie Mclean
Duet on those saxophones

And the sound makes it's way outta the window
Minglin' with the traffic noises outside, you know and
All of a sudden I'm overcome by a feelin' of brief mortality
'Cause I'm gettin' on in the world
Comin' up on forty-one years

Forty-one stoney gray steps towards the grave
You know the box, awaits it's grissly load
Now, I'm gonna be food for worms
And just like Charles Mingus wrote
That beautiful piece-a music, 'Epitaph for Eric Dolphy'

I say, so long Eric, so long, John Coltrane
And Charles Mingus, so long, Duke Ellington
And Lester Young, so long, Billie Holliday
And Ella Fitzgerald, so long, Jimmy Reed
So long, Muddy Waters, and so, long Howlin' Wolf"
Jck - Chicago, Il
"Blue Moon In Your Eyes" is an astrological reference, like the line before it "Born Under a Bad Sign". If you've ever heard the phrase "once in a blue moon", it means very, very seldom, something that almost never happens.Matt - San Antonio, Tx
Does anybody know what "blue moon in your eyes" means? Thank you.Elizabeth - Maspeth, Ny
The above is untrue. Alabama 3 was always A3 in America, where "Ain't Goin' to Goa" received attention long before "Woke Up This Morning."Tj - Champaign, Il
In response to an eariler comment on this..the version that has a 2 minute intro of dialogue is the version that is on the "Exile on Coldharbour Lane" and not the Sopranos soundtrack...the Sopranos version of this song is a shortened version and came out 2 years after the release of the album it originally appeared onNick - Arlington Heights, Il
Another version of lyrics to Sopranos theme song:

The Sopranos Soundtrack 1999
Woke Up This Morning (Chose One Mix) 4:04

Gonna take it down, deep down, with a friend..
You woke up this morning got yourself a gun; Mama always said you'd be The Chosen One.
She said: you're one in a million and you?ve got to burn to shine,
But you were born under a bad sign, with a blue moon in your eyes.

When ya woke up this morning all that love had gone,
Your Papa never told you about right and wrong.
Buttcha buttcha looking good, baby, I believe that ya feeling fine, shame about it,
Born under a bad sign with a blue moon in your eyes.

So sing it now, woke up this morning, ya got a blue moon , got a blue moon in your eyes.
So sad, God*amn, it?s a godd*mn shame about it
Woke up this morning, ya got a blue moon, got a blue moon in your eyes.
Woke up this morning, sing it

Woke up this morning the world turned upside down,
Lord above us, things ain't been the same since the blues walked into town.
Buttcha buttcha one in a million cause you got dat shotgun shine.
Shame about it, born under a bad sign, with a blue moon in your eyes. Yea.

Yea, woke up this morning, ya got a blue moon, got a blue moon in your eyes.
So sad, God-d*mn, a God-d*mn shame about it
Woke up this morning, ya got a blue moon, got a blue moon in n your eyes. Yea

Yea I hear ya, you just can?t help you rself. Just can?t help your self.
Lord I been bad, makes the daylight sad,

Bring it, woke up this morning everything was gone.
Bout a half past ten your head was going ding-dong.
Ringing like a bell from your head down to your toes,
Like ya papa?s voice telling you that there?s something you should know.

Last night you were flying but today you're so low ?
Ain't it times like these that makes ya wonder if you'll ever know
The meaning of things as they appear to the others;
Wives, mothers, fathers, mother?s father?s sisters and your brothers.
Don?t ya wish you didn't function,
Wish you didn't think beyond the next paycheck and the next little drink'
Well you do so make up your mind to go on, '
Cause when you woke up this morning everything you had was gone.

Woke up this morning, Woke up this morning, Woke up this morning,
Ya wanna be, ya wanna be the chosen one.
Yea you know it you just can?t help yourself,
Woke up this morning, woke up this morning, woke up this morning,
N got yourself a gun, and you got yourself a gun, got yourself a gun
Dan - Harrisburg, Pa
Did they change the song from the first years to this year? Woke up this morning seems to be sung by someone different this season and it sounds like a different mix to the song.

Has anyone else noticed this? Thanks
Di - Sacramento, Ca
blue moon

You woke up this morning
Got yourself a gun,
Mama always said you'd be
The Chosen One.

She said: You're one in a million
You've got to burn to shine,
But you were born under a bad sign,
With a blue moon in your eyes.

You woke up this morning
All the love has gone,
Your Papa never told you
About right and wrong.

But you're looking good, baby,
I believe you're feeling fine, (shame about it),
Born under a bad sign
With a blue moon in your eyes.

You woke up this morning
The world turned upside down,
Thing's ain't been the same
Since the Blues walked into town.

But you're one in a million
You've got that shotgun shine.
Born under a bad sign,
With a blue moon in your eyes.

When you woke up this morning everything you had was
gone. By half past ten your head was going ding-dong.
Ringing like a bell from your head down to your toes,
like a voice telling you there was something you should
know. Last night you were flying but today you're so low
- ain't it times like these that make you wonder if
you'll ever know the meaning of things as they appear to
the others; wives, mothers, fathers, sisters and
brothers. Don't you wish you didn't function, wish you
didn't think beyond the next paycheck and the next little
drink' Well you do so make up your mind to go on, 'cos
when you woke up this morning everything you had was gone.

When you woke up this morning,
When you woke up this morning,
When you woke up this morning,
Mama said you'd be the Chosen One.

When you woke up this morning,
When you woke up this morning,
When you woke up this morning,
You got yourself a gun.
Kupotek - Cleveland, Oh
A3 has been in a movie too, Gone In Sixt Seconds, the song Too Sick to Pray, very good songTommy - Lake Bluff, Il
ok that 1:45 version is the real beginning to the song and yes it is blue moon in your eyesTommy - Lake Bluff, Il
An interpretation of this song was later included in the song "Got Urself a Gun" by Nas.Nick - Erwin, Nc
blue moon in your eyesDavid - Penacook, Nh
I have a version that has a 1:45 is the lead singer just talking, I was wondering if that was part of the song or did I just get a wierd version?Tim - Milestone, Canada
Hi

Does anyone know the lyrics to 'Woke up this morning' (Sopranos theme song by A3) and in particular just what it is that is in your eye? (boombone???)

TonyA
Tony - Hobart, Australia