On The Border

Album: Year Of The Cat (1976)
Charted: 42
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Songfacts®:

  • Speaking about this song with the BBC, Stewart explained: "The first verse is about the Basque Separatist movement and then the second verse is about what was then the Rhodesian crisis. Mugabe: 'The hand that sets the farms alight has spread the word to those who're waiting on the border.' Thirty years after I wrote the song, Mugabe was actually setting fire to all the white farms."
  • The Spanish guitar on this track came courtesy of Peter White, who was brought in to play piano on the session. "First thing he ever recorded on a guitar," Stewart said in the same BBC interview. "First time he was ever in a studio. I hired him as a piano player and Alan Parsons, of course, produced the record and we were sitting around in the studio and he said, 'I can hear some Spanish guitar on this.'

    None of us could play Spanish guitar. And then Peter said, 'Well, I can play Spanish guitar.' And like, 'Wait, you're a piano player.' He said, 'Well, I can play it.'

    I had this really cheap Spanish guitar, it cost I think £30 or something and I gave it to Peter. What you hear is I think either the first or the second take. He just sat down and just played it and we're looking at him going, 'Wow, I didn't know you could do that.'"

Comments: 3

  • David from San DiegoI was surprised, no kind of shocked to learn that Peter White played the spanish guitar solo on this song. I've been listening to this song since its inception in the 70s, and always credited Al Stewart in my mind. Great song, nevertheless. Cinematic, with lyrics to match...
  • Janet In Eastlake from Eastlake, OhioI love this ... even when speaking of something as awful as having one's farm burnt to the ground, his lyrics have a deft touch.

    I love the part of that goes:

    "Late last night the rain was knocking at my window
    I moved across the darkened room and in the lampglow
    I thought I saw down in the street
    The spirit of the century
    Telling us that we're all standing on the border."

    He paints such a vivid picture with those words ...
  • Mary from WisconsinWhat a haunting tune with beautiful, mysterious lyrics! At first I thought it was about Spain in the 30s, but the Basque Separatist movement makes more sense. Looking back, it seems that Al Stewart, Gerry Rafferty, Steely Dan and a few others began taking music in a more interesting direction in the mid-to-late 80s...
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