Riot In Cell Block Number Nine

Lyrics: Lieber, Stoller
Music: Leiber, Stoller

This was sung by the Beach Boys with the Dead on 27 April 1971

On July 7th 1953 (note 1)
I was serving time for armed robbery
About three o'clock in the morning I was asleep in my cell (note 2)
I heard a whistle blowing, and I heard somebody yell

Chorus
There's a riot goin' on
There's a riot goin' on
There's a riot goin' on
Up in cell block number nine

The trouble started in cell block number four
It spread like fire across the prison floor (note 3)
I said "OK boys, get ready to run
'Cause here comes the warden with his tommy gun"

[chorus]

The warden said "Come out with your hands up in the air
If you don't stop this riot, you're all gonna get the chair"
Scarface Jones said, "It's too late to quit (note 4)
So pass the dynamite, 'cause the fuse is lit"

[chorus]

The twenty seventh hour, the tear gas got them in (note 5)
We're all back in our cells now, but every now and then

[chorus]
Notes
(1) it certainly sounds as if Mike Love (?) sings "July 7th" even though the original version by The Robins has it as "July 2nd".
(2) here, Mike Love definitely sings "three o'clock" even though the original was "4 o'clock".
(3) thanks to John Pizzutelli for his help wih this line.
(4) I think it's "Scarface Jones", as in the original, though it might be "Scarface Don" or "Scarface John" - hard to distinguish.
(5) Mike Love sings "twenty seventh" even though the original was "forty seventh".

Mike Love re-wrote the lyrics for the Beach Boys record "Surf's Up", released in 1971. It was retitled "Student Demonstration Time" but credited to Lieber, Stoller and Mike Love.
Starting out with Berkeley Free Speech and later on at People's Park
The winds of change fanned into flames, student demonstrations spark
Down to Isla Vista where police felt so harassed
They called the special riot squad of the L. A. County Sheriff

Chorus
There's a riot going on
There's a riot going on
There's a riot going on
Student demonstration time

The violence spread down South to where Jackson State brothers
Learned not to say nasty things about Southern policemen's mothers
Nothing much was said about it and really next to nothing done
The pen is mightier than the sword but no match for a gun

[chorus]

America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree, the Bachelor of Bullets

I know we're all fed up with useless wars and racial strife
But next time there's a riot, well, you best stay out of sight

[chorus]

(Stay away when there's a riot going on)
Student demonstration
(Stay away when there's a riot going on)
Student demonstration
(Stay away when there's a riot going on)
Student demonstration
(Stay away when there's a riot going on)
Student demonstration
[etc]


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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