Info → Hymn Of The Big Wheel
UK Release: 8th April 1991 (Blue Lines)
Track Duration: 06:36
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Cassette, Digital. View Discography Entry.
Written By: Grant Marshall, Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Neneh Cherry and Horace Andy
Produced By: Grant Marshall, Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja and Jonathan Sharp
Additonal Arrangement: Neneh Cherry
Mixed By: Jeremy Allom
Because of the strong ties between Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry what with her husband, Cameron McVey being the executive producer of Blue Lines and 3D and Mushroom already having some experience with working with her on her own songs, it was a natural enough occurrence that she should would get involved in some capacity with production of the album (with most of Blue Lines being produced in her own London home). Thusly, Hymn Of The Big Wheel came about mostly from a writing partnership setup between herself and 3D. 3D had already helped write a song of her’s called Manchild that had appeared on her last album.
The only song on Blue Lines with no samples (at least that we know of).
The fact that Neneh Cheery also provides backing vocals on Hymn Of The Big Wheel apart from just helping to write it, is a not very publicized fact, as it is not credited as so on Blue Lines.
Besides this song, every Horace Andy song has been a cover version of one kind or another. This fact was finally broken with the release of Everywhen and Name Taken on 100th Window, but resumed again on Heligoland withGirl I Love You.
Originally, a promo video for Hymn Of The Big Wheel had been intended. It was to be directed by Dick Jewell and filmed in Horace Andy’s homeland of Jamica. Nearly £60,000 had been earmarked for its completion, but soon into filming, the band and crew got carried away with drinking and partying with the Studio One crowd and the promo video was ultimately abandoned.
Hymn Of The Big Wheel has been played almost perpetually on every tour since 1995 up until the 2008 tour, were it was dropped to make way for the various new songs that would enter the setlist that year. Besides this exception, only on the 2006 for a small handful of dates in Europe did Hymn Of The Big Wheel fail to appear because Horace Andy was unable to make those dates due to an injury just before them.
When Hymn Of The Big Wheel is played, it usually occurs roughly halfway through each setlist and of course has Horace Andy doing the vocals as he does not the album. He is joined on stage by Deborah Miller who supplies backup vocals , fulfilling the role Neneh Cherry did on the album version, with the only exception being on the 2004 tour were Deborah Miller was temporarily replaced on that tour by singer Hazel Fernandez.
All the live versions omit the final minute or so on the album version tending to end right after the last chorus.
Nellee Hooper Mix – Following on from remixes for the Unfinished Sympathy and Safe From Harm singles, Nellee Hooper would complete his final remix for Massive Attack with this mix, even though he would later go on to be the co-producer of Protection. Included on all singles releases of the Massive Attack E.P.
Hot Knives Mix – This is a extremely rare remix (with a pretty inexplicable name) of Hymn Of The Big Wheel which was remixed by Massive Attack themselves. It appears only during the end credits of the 1996 film “The Fan”, and even then it is only played for roughly 1 and 1/2 minutes. The regular album version of Hymn Of The Big Wheel also appears on the soundtrack album for “The Fan” but sadly not the Hot Knives mix.
3D on his feelings regarding Hymn Of The Big Wheel and use of the didgeridoo – “The sentiments and the idea of the track are about life in general. I mean a didgeridoo is one of the oldest sounds you could possibly imagine” [Sounds Magazine – April 1991]
3D on the anti-pollution message in Hymn Of The Big Wheel – “Hymn Of The Big Wheel does build a bigger picture than the rest of the tracks on Blue Lines, because the rest are kind of unfocused – they just drift around and round in their own way, which is what we’re into, rather than paint an obvious picture or leave a message. We’re as worried about things like pollution as everyone else, it’s just we don’t want to write about it so obviously. We ain’t got no solutions to the problems, we’re just the same as everyone else living it. We’re just pointing things out to ourselves, rather than to everyone else. It’s just a story about a man talking to his son, talking about the future or what’s gonna happen, what’s it all about? Just questions, y’know. We don’t offer alternatives like solar power or anything like that.” [NME Magazine – June 1991]
The big wheel keeps on turning. On a simple line day by day. The earth spins on its axis. One man struggle while another relaxes. There’s a hole in my soul like a cavity. Seems like the world is out to gather just by gravity. The wheel keeps turning the sky’s rearranging. Look my son the weather is changing. I’d like to feel that you could be free. Look up at the blue skies beneath a new tree. Sometime again. You’ll turn green and the sea turns red. My son I said the power of axis over my head. The big wheel keeps on turning. On a simple line day by day. The earth spins on its axis. One man struggle while another relaxes. We sang about the sun and danced among the trees. And we listened to the whisper of the city on the breeze. Will you cry in the most in a lead-free zone. Down within the shadows where the factories drone. On the surface of the wheel they build another town. And so the green come tumbling down. Yes close your eyes and hold me tight. And I’ll show you sunset sometime again. The big wheel keeps on turning. On a simple line day by day. The earth spins on its axis. One man struggle while another relaxes. As a child’s silent prayer my hope hides in disguise. While satellites and cameras watch from the skies. An acid drop of rain recycled from the sea. It washed away my shadow burnt a hole in me. And all the king’s men cannot put it back again. But the ghetto sun will nurture life. And mend my soul sometime again. The big wheel keeps on turning. On a simple line day by day. The earth spins on its axis. One man struggle while another relaxes (x2)
- Interpretations From SongMeanings.com
- Horace Andy Performing Hymn Of The Big Wheel Solo With His Own Band On “Later With Jools Holland” In 1996
- Belgium 1998 Live Performance
- Audience Shot Footage From Greece Show 2003
- Audience Shot Footage From Dallas Show 2006
- Clip From The TV Series “The Fan” Featuring Hymn Of The Big Wheel On The Soundtrack