Spill The Wine
by War

Album: Eric Burdon Declares War (1970)
Charted: 3


  • 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 two albums, both credited to "Eric Burdon and War."
  • Harold Brown, who was the drummer and a 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.

Comments: 38

  • Adams from CanadaI'm surprised, everywhere I look for lyrics to this song it states she was holding a bottle of wine. We all know he doesn't say that. Can nobody spell Liebfraumilch. From the vineyards of Liebfrauenkirche (Church of our Lady). He is talking about a virgin here..
  • Mrjleex from FlI believe the line in STW is: an over faired, long haired 'leaping' gnome. ie, not overfed and not leaking. Eric was short and very white.
  • Ccc from UsaAm curious about the middle spoken recitation part. Was that Eric or was that another band member? I ask because I understand that Eric is from British and the spoken part doesn't sound British at all.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some obscure trivia:
    On September 10th 1897, the first documented DWI occurred when London, England cab driver George Smith was arrested after he slammed his taxi into the side of a building...
    He was fined 25 shillings...
    And seventy-three years later on May 17th, 1970 Eric Burton and War's "Spill the Wine" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #99; thirteen weeks later on August 16th it would peak at #3* {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 21 weeks...
    * The week it was at #3, the #2 record was "(They Long to Be) Close to You" by the Carpenters and at #1 was "Make It With You" by Bread.
  • Steve from La, CaEric told this story on KROQ-FM in L.A. He said it was New Year's Eve and he was in a VW bug with a crazy Mexican girl. Didn't mention who was driving. At midnight she cracked open a bottle of tequila. He said Spill the Tequila just didn't sound right, so he changed the lyric to "wine."
  • Cesare from Roseau , DominicaI am afraid I disagree with Bill

    The Spanish translation is thus:

    azul cosa de locos pero asi es, bueno, pero todas las cosas estan azul azul, porque estoy ? Translation: Blue's crazy but so is, well, all things are azure blue, because I'm.....

    si aqui pero yo no estoy aqui mi cuerpo no esta aqui esta volando volando, verdad afuera Translation: I am no longer here in my body; I am flying there outside of my body among truth

    aqui estoy con mis padres..???...es mi onda Translates: - [Refer to the previous sentence for context] - In my opinion, she is saying that as she is flying there, outside of her body & among truth, and that she is among the spirits of her dead relatives

    y esa mujer que le encanta...??? Translates (this one can go several ways) I believe she is saying, "...and this woman the he loves.... " or ".. and this woman to which he is enchanted..." etc.

  • Kat from Adelaide, Australia"Spill the wine" = ejaculate
    "Take that pearl" = on to a woman
  • Kathleen from Greenwich, CtChase Sapphire - stole War's beat / when they are spraying the gold on the items - spill that wine rings in me head..................make sure they recognize the true artists!
    Great lyrics
  • Myla from San Diego, CaDid anybody hear Michael Hutchence's version? I think they used it in a movie with Pamela Anderson. That version sounded pretty good.
  • Myla from San Diego, CaHa Ha! I liked Rob from Santa Monica's interpretation of the chorus. Funny!
  • Joan from Orange, Vawhen I was growing up in the 70's, this song was always credited to just Eric Burdon, War was never mentioned
  • Joaquin from Miami, FlAs to what the lady in the background is saying: some people swear she says, at one point, "Esa mujer es puta, esa mujer es rara" (that woman is a whore, that woman is weird).
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaI use to see Eric Burden strolling down 7th Street in Long Beach in the 70's. I had no idea he was until later. He must of been hanging with the guys from War, them being from the LBC...Anyways, great song and collaboration...
  • Richard from Tigard, OrIt's interesting that despite the interview with Harold Brown above, so many people still want to read heroine into the lyrics. Give it up, dudes.

    It's also interesting that so few people seem to be aware of the version where Burdon says he lay down in "a big tall field of Mexican grass". Either he was improvising or maybe the original version was expurgated. In any case, dope is very consistent with the storyline.

    Thanks for the Harold Brown interview!
  • Rory from New Hope, MnAll the facts are posted above I can't believe you knuckleheads are still posting commnets on what oyu think it is when it tells you exactly what it is and what it means!!! Duh put down the pipe and read for christ sake!!!!!!!!!
  • Mo from Dallas, TxThe pearl referred to the pearl of the orient, i.e. heroin. Spilling the wine was a slang term for the blood that dripped when you were doing the drugs.
  • Steve from Centereach Ny, NyIn regards to Joshua's comments about"hot flames of fire." Take it easy Josh..As Jagger points out "It's only Rock and Roll, but I like it"...Music's main function is to stir emotions, and possibly an idea or two that hopefully has a strong backbeat. Not grammatical correctness...You want to be a copy editor, go work for Simon & Schuster!
  • Kevin Cox from Springfield, IlI always thought it was "Do the wine, dick that girl"
    Kevin; Springfield, IL
  • Teddy from Hew York, NyI hope you are kidding. When these lyrics were written everything had to be in code. Too many censors. The only person that was close whoever mentioned the pearl as a sexual reference. Pearl = clitoris. If you ever get a chance to see one:) Spill the wine in just a nice way to say open up my ****. She is asking him to wack her. Plus he says "mexican grass" hes high as a kite in this song. So the song is a great piece. Hes basically saying he is completely wasted and some girl wants her to do em. Sorry but thats whats it about.

    Maybe watching the video and original lyrics. helps. Its like Pass the dutchie is not about food. and Puff the magic dragon is not about a dragon. They are all about smoking pot.
  • Chip from Columbus, OhSpill the wine, take that pearl. Vinegar (and wine)are the only substances that dissolve pearls. In ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times, pearls were dissolved in wine and vinegar and drank as a beverage of choice.
    I wouldn't try it though...
  • Milton from Milwaukee, WiWhile listening to this tune on AFVN my reverie was interrupted by the sound of a frogfoot slapping on the surface of the river off to my left. Only sappers were out and about at midnight. I killed him and his partner with grenades. Both were members of the 126th North Vietnamese Naval Sapper Regiment, and they were up to no good.
  • Bobby from Memphis, TnThat song captivated me as an eleven-year old boy, as I envisioned this song to be the anthem of the elusive Hollywood lifestyle of, "If it feels good, do it."

    Musically, it's a monster, as well. I've often thought WAR to be an incredibly underrated band. I couldn't buy a lot of albums as a boy, but WAR's Greatest Hits was one of my favorites.

    I put down Amazing Grace as my favorite song, but if I had to pick a pop song? Sad Cafe by the Eagles or Doctor Wu by Steely Dan.

    I don't know if I'll be adopted or even accepted by the folks at this website, but I'd love to contribute my perspective from time to time.

    Bobby in Houston from Memphis
  • Heather from La, CaI think it's, "Dig that GIRL"; not, "Dig that PEARL". What other reference is there in the song to a pearl? Whereas the whole song is ABOUT a girl...
  • Luciana from London, United StatesHas anyone else noticed how like the plot of Ibsen's "Peer Gynt" this song is? "Hall of the Mountain King", "Spill the wine", the frenzied madness?
  • Groovyjazzyfunky from Seattle, WaI always thought the chorus of this song was the girl telling him to shoot his load (spill the wine) and perform cunnilingus on her (dig that pearl). Seems pretty straightforward to me.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThis song includes what may be the most redundant lyric of all time: "I could feel hot flames of fire roaring at my back." As opposed to what, fire without flames? Hot flames of something other than fire? Cold flames? Give me a break...
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesI literally cannot get enough of this song. It's a splash of cool in the baking summer. I have always experienced it as a peculiarly *blue* song -- not in the sense of blues music. I imagine the glass the woman holds or the wine itself as light blue, or perhaps she has a pale blue dress on, or blue jewelry... I do not have synaesthesia, so I can't account for this feeling.
  • Bill from Cedar Rapids, IaWell, I am a Spanish interpreter at a county hospital, and I have always loved this song...glad I could help!!
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaAfter all these years of me not knowing but wanting to know and someone FINALLY comes up with what the lady just might be saying. Thank you, thank you!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaBill, that was amazing! I can't believe you figured that out!
  • Ralph from Newton, MaI heard Eric Burdon on the radio years ago explain this one was about the desparation to write a hit. War was drinking wine in a studio and someone spilled a bottle, destroying thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment.
    They owed the studio all this money and knew they needed to record a hit to be able to play it, so he wrote this song and it worked.
  • Brian from La Mesa, Ca"Y esa mujer que le encanta" could mean "and this woman who enchants you (or him)".
  • Bill from Cedar Rapids, IaWhat does the woman say in Spanish? Well she has 5 speaking parts...and here they are as best as I could....

    out of the middle came a lady:
    azul cosa de locos pero asi es, bueno, pero todas las cosas estan azul azul, porque estoy ??? (blue thing of the crazies, but thats how it is, right, but everyhting in blue, blue, because I am ..???)

    am I going crazy?:
    si aqui pero yo no estoy aqui mi cuerpo no esta aqui esta volando volando, verdad afuera (yes here, but I am not here my body is not here my body is flying flying, right, outside)

    and then:
    aqui estoy con mis padres..???...es mi onda
    ( I am here with my parents...???...it's my deal..)

    soon she returned:
    ...???...tengo, tengo (???..I have...)

    and raised it to her lips:
    y esa mujer que le encanta...???...(and this woman likes...???)

    Anybody got anything better or more accurate let me know. It's hard to distinguish sometimes because of the overlying music

  • Bill from Cedar Rapids, IaWhat does the woman say in Spanish? Well she has 5 speaking parts...and here they are as best I could...

    azul cosa de locos, pero asi es, bueno,
  • Kendall from Thomasville, GaThis is probably one of my favorite songs right now, it's just so different yet so kick ass... I was wondering what that instrument in the back was, is it a harmonica? Also, what about that girl, is she supposed to be Spanish or something?
  • Rob from Santa Monica, CaAs a kid I thought the words to the chorus were: "Cool Ride, Tic Tac Toe!"
  • C.j. from Tunkhannock, Pathe woman talking was supposedly jimi hendrix's girlfriend at the time.
  • Edward from Miami, FlWhat does the lady say in the background? (it sounds like she's describing something because she stretches the word "like blue" (como azul) in spanish.
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