This song was originally a poem, And did those feet in ancient time written by William Blake. It was part of the preface to his long poem Milton, which was published between 1804 and 1808. It was inspired by the old legend that Jesus, while still a young man, accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury in south western England. Blake, who had an idiosyncratic view of his Christian religion, believed in this legend. Ironically, considering its later success, Blake decided to discard it in later editions. Sir Hubert Parry put it to music in 1916 to beef up British morale during the bleakest days of World War 1.
This hymn is the official anthem of the British Women's Institute, and historically was used by the National Union of Suffrage Societies. Many of the English population would like this to replace "God Save The Queen" as the English national anthem.
In 1988 Manchester band The Fall recorded a Rock version that reached #59 in the UK chart, and in 2000 Fat Les recorded an updated version with a 60 piece orchestra, gospel and children's choirs and a group of celebrities for the official fan song for Euro 2000. This version reached #10 in the UK charts. Fat Les are the English comedian and actor Keith Allen and the artist Damien Hirst. They originally got together to record "Vindaloo," a football anthem during the 1998 World Cup, which reached #2 in the charts. Allen was previously involved in another football hit, "England's Irie," together with Black Grape and Joe Strummer during the 1996 European Championships.
"If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is infinite." is a quote from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. From this quote came the title of Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception. In turn this book inspired the naming of the Rock band The Doors. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (he was then the Chancellor of Exchequer), picked this as his favorite hymn during a 2005 poll on BBC 1's Songs of Praise program.
The 1981 Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire got its title from a couplet in this hymn, which is sung in the film. The couplet in question is: "Bring me my bow, of burning gold. Bring me my arrows of desire/Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold. Bring me my chariot of fire."
The most famous modern version of this song was recorded in 1973 by British progressive-rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer, as the opening track for their album Brain Salad Surgery.
In 1995 "Jerusalem" turned up in the unlikeliest of settings: an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At one point during the episode "Explorers," two of the regular characters get drunk together and sing this song. (thanks, Joshua - La Crosse, WI, for above 2)