the song
title : Three crosses
written by : Neill MacColl, Calum MacColl, Leroy Lendor and Robert Bond III
song copyright : © 1993 Rough Trade Recordings Ltd
source recording : the writers, the band Liberty Horses, recorded this for their Joyland album

the performance
musicians
Eddi Reader vocal, backing vocals, guitar?
Teddy Borowiecki guitar
music
key : F sharp major
time-signature : 4/4
tempo : MM 117
form : V B R V B R b r B R P
lyrics

provided for research and private study only (see above for copyright details):

Three crosses

one moment of fame from the fifty-third story
high above the ground
there is no pain, just power and glory
falling through the crowd

it’s so good to know that the world is round
makes me feel better before I hit the ground
then you will call and say that you’re sorry
    just in time

high on a hill stands three empty crosses
one is yours and the other one is mine, all mine
and one of them’s bent under pain, under losses
    misery divine

and we fly through the night
sure that it will turn out right
and we’ll be safe from where the sun don’t shine
then someone will come
yes someone might save us
    just in time

– guitar solo, with vocalise

and we fly through the night
sure that it will turn out right
and we’ll be safe from where the sun don’t shine
then someone will come
yes someone might save us

    just in time

ah, someone will come
yes, someone might save us
    just in time

explanations
The reference to “three empty crosses” is probably in part a reference to the three crosses of Calvary, which are sometimes pictured empty and used merely as symbols of Christ’s passion. In my parish church when I was a child, for example, the altar-piece was a painting (done in the 1930s I think, when the main part of the building was erected) showing Christ ascending. In the background, but still quite prominent, were the three crosses on their hill (or hills, I forget). The painting had caused no little controversy once, because the central, larger, cross was shown broken near its base to symbolise Christ’s power over death, but a number of theologians argued that, for Christians, the cross on its own symbolises this anyway and that showing it broken was theologically unsound. Which only goes to show how careful one has to be with symbols (see the commentary below!).

the recording
personnel
produced by : Eddi Reader and Teddy Borowiecki
recorded by : Teddy Borowiecki ? in Vancouver
mixed by : ?
mastered by : ?
technical
signal path : DDD?
track timing : 4:10
song timing : m:ss
released on
single : Joke (I’m laughing)   CD 2 track 2

commentary
Some instructive comparisons of Eddi’s version of this enigmatic song with the Liberty Horses original present themselves. Among the differences, one notes, for a start, that Eddi’s instrumental verse is in a different place. In the Liberty Horses version it splits the song into two parts – a ‘me on the ledge but you will come and save me’ part and a ‘me on a cross but someone (Jesus? an angel?) will come and save me’ part (well, that’s one interpretation anyway – let’s call it the Christian interpretation). Eddi loses this distinction by putting the instrumental later and gives an impression that the sequence of thoughts is following on instead of counterpointing.

In addition, when referring severally to the crosses Eddi adds the words “the other” which are not in the original version. This gives an apparent illogicality in verse three by setting up an opposition among three elements. I guess that she does it because the scansion is irregular here and Neill (who I assume is singing lead on the Liberty’s version) has rather awkwardly to hold up the flow of the vocal line, waiting for the chord change in order to fit the melody round it. It has however caused some confusion amongst Honeychildren and was discussed on the mailing-list in March 1998.

Note here that in the Christian interpretation of these later verses, they may be seen as referring to the third cross as the one “bent under pain, under loss” (although the theological comments in the ‘explanations’ section above are perhaps relevant here). In this interpretation the singer and their partner have one each of the thieves’ crosses at the Crucifixion and the central one has the “misery divine”.

The final change is possibly the most significant. Each time the chorus comes Eddi changes the second “will” to “might”, giving “Then someone will come / yes someone might save us / just in time”. If this half of the song is interpreted with the Christian overtones, Eddi’s version shows a distinct loss of religious belief!
Adrian Dover