Melbourne’s Hunters & Collectors started as an arty new-wave band, but ‘Holy Grail’, released in 1992, is slice of Australian pub rock. There’s plenty to critique; it’s based around the straightforward I – IV – VI – V chord progression, most famously utilised by Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’, while Mark Seymour’s lyrics are often a series of unrelated cliches strung together (“We were full of beans/But we were dying like flies”).
But it’s the details in the arrangement that make ‘Holy Grail’ work. The rhythm guitar part livens up the familiar chord sequence, the keyboard part adds a memorable motif, and the horns add body. As well as a horn section, the band’s official membership also includes their live sound engineer.
While it’s been co-opted as an Australian football anthem, the song’s lyrics are actually about Napoleon’s failed conquest of Russia in 1812, paralleling the band’s unsuccessful attempts to find success in America.
Holy Grail Lyrics
Woke up this morning,
from the strangest dream
I was in the biggest army,
The world has ever seen
We were marching as one,
on the road to the Holy Grail
Seeking fortune and glory
It’s a short song, but it’s a
Hell of a story, when you
Spend your lifetime trying to get
Your hands on the Holy Grail
Bud have you heard of the Great Crusade?
We ran into millions, and nobody got paid
Yeah, we razed four corners of the globe,
For the Holy Grail.
All the locals scattered,
They were hiding in the snow
We were so far from home,
So how were we to know,
There’d be nothing left to plunder
When we stumbled on the Holy Grail?
We were foolish beings
But we were dying like flies
And those big black birds,
they were circling in the sky,
And you know what they say, yeah,
Nobody deserves to die.
I’ve been searching for an easy way
to escape the cold light of day
I’ve been high, and I’ve been low
But I’ve got nowhere else to go
There’s nowhere else to go
I followed orders
God knows where I’d be
But I woke up alone,
all my wounds were clean
I’m still here
I’m still a fool for the Holy Grail
I’m a fool for the Holy Grail