IF I WAS THE PRIEST

Allan Clarke's cover version


Now there's a light on yonder mountain
It's calling me to shine
There's a girl standing by the water fountain
She's asking to be mine
Well, and ain't that Jesus, he's a-standing in the doorway
With a buckskin jacket, boots and spurs, so really fine
Well, he says, "I need you up in Dodge City, son
'Cause there's oh so many outlaws tying to ride the same line"

Well now if Jesus were the sheriff, oh, and I were the priest
If my lady was an heiress, oh, and my mother was a thief
Yeah, well now, Papa rode shotgun for the Fargo line
There's still too many bad boys
Trying to work the same line

Old sweet Virgin Mary
She runs the Holy Grail Saloon
Where for a nickel they'll sell you whiskey
And a personally blessed balloon
The Holy Ghost, he's the host with the most
He runs the burlesque show
Where they let you in for free
Ah, but hit you for your soul when you go
And Mary runs Mass on a Sunday
Oh, then sells her body on a Monday
To the bootlegger who can pay the highest price
But he don't know he got stuck with a loser
Mary's a stone junkie, what's more she's a boozer
She's only been made once or twice
By some kind of magic

Well now if Jesus were the sheriff, oh, and I were the priest
If my lady was an heiress, oh and my mama was a thief
Yeah, now Papa rode shotgun for the Fargo line
There's still too many outlaws
Trying to ride the same line

Now there's a light on yonder mountain
And it's calling me to shine
There's a girl standing by the water fountain
She's asking to be mine
And ain't that Jesus, he's a-standing in the doorway
With his six-guns drawn, ugh, and ready to fan
Well, he says, "I need you up in Dodge City, son
'Cause I'm already overdue in Cheyenne"


Info

The above lyrics are for Allan Clarke's cover version of Bruce Springsteen's IF I WAS THE PRIEST. He first released it in the UK on his 1974 album Allan Clarke.

Allan Clarke -- Allan Clarke
Allan Clarke -- Allan Clarke

LP - EMI (EMC 3041) - UK, 1974

Bruce Springsteen and The Hollies

In 1972, Bruce Springsteen signed a global publishing deal with then-manager Mike Appel, and Appel's company Sioux City Music handled it. Appel changed his publishing company's name to Laurel Canyon Music in the spring of 1973. The company only had a couple of employees and there was no way it could properly look after Springsteen's publishing worldwide. Appel decided to sub-contract out the non-USA publishing to companies much better positioned to promote Springsteen overseas, so he signed a deal with Intersong Music Ltd. (directly with the company's owner Adrian Rudge) in 1973. The UK company looked after Springsteen's publishing for all of Europe and many other parts of the world. Initially it was just Laurel Canyon and Intersong, but as the seventies progressed, Appel (later Springsteen & Co) did some further regional publishing sub-contracts; for example Australia's large publishing company, Jonathan Music, eventually got the subcontract to look after Australia, New Zealand, most of Oceania and parts of southeast Asia. Intersong Music handled Springsteen's song publishing in the UK up until 1982, and after Appel sold Springsteen his half of the publishing rights in 1983 (which he'd held since the original 1972 contract), a different group named Zomba Music Publishers Ltd. took over the UK publishing of Springsteen's music.

Terry Sylvester replaced The Hollies cofounder Graham Nash in 1969 as the band's singer-guitarist. In the early seventies, Sylvester's company Charlotte Music signed a publishing deal with Intersong Music, which was owned by Sylvester's friend Adrian Rudge. Rudge played Sylvester and The Hollies lead vocalist Allan Clarke some demos of the then-unknown Bruce Springsteen who was also signed to his company. This led Allan Clarcke and The Hollies to record several Springsteen songs in the mid-seventies. However, Clarke claims that it was him, who brought the song of Bruce Springsteen to The Hollies. "Bruce and I were both with the publishing company, Intersong," he told David Wells, author of the liner notes of the 2006 various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album If I Were The Boss: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen. "I had a good friend at Intersong called Adrian Rudge. He called me up one day and said he had about twenty demos from this new singer/songwriter by the name of Bruce Springsteen that he thought would interest me. As soon as I heard the demos, I thought that I could do really well with them."

Allan Clarcke recorded and released cover versions of IF I WAS THE PRIEST in 1974, BORN TO RUN in 1975, BLINDED BY THE LIGHT in 1976, and 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY) with The Hollies in 1975. The Hollies also attempted to record BORN TO RUN in 1975, but they quickly abandoned it and Clarcke immediately cut his own version.

Clarke was one of the first acts in Britain to champion the work of Bruce Springsteen, and the first ever to release a Springsteen cover. He and The Hollies did Springsteen quite a service by covering some of his songs during the period when he was a virtual unknown in most of Europe. Manfred Mann's Earth Band also helped in an even bigger way during the same period. Clarke released BLINDED BY THE LIGHT in 1976 on his fourth solo album, I've Got Time. According to him, "the record company did not agree that 'Blinded By The Light' was the kind of material that would be played on the radio." Manfred Mann was a neighbor of Clarcke in Hampstead, London, and Clarke told Mann that he was not going to release BLINDED BY THE LIGHT as a single. As a result, Manfred Mann's Earth Band did a version of the song which became a major hit in Europe the United States.

Allan Clarcke recalls that Springsteen came to see The Hollies when they played at The Bottom Line in New York City, and went out on the town with them later that night. "He wanted to thank us for recording some of his songs, and he said he'd come to see us when he played in England -- but it was about another twenty years before I saw him again!"

Liner Notes

Allan Clarke wrote in the liner notes of the One Step Up / Two Steps Back: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen tribute album:

It was a great privilege to be one of the first artists to record a Bruce Springsteen song. From the first hearing of "Born To Run," I was blown away by the power of then unknown talent. I knew then that Bruce Springsteen was going to be the next generation's hero. So glad I was there at the beginning.

Official Releases

In addition to its release on his album Allan Clarcke, Allan Clarke's cover of IF I WAS THE PRIEST was also included on a few other releases.

Allan Clarcke -- Best Of
Allan Clarke -- Best Of

LP - Aura (AUL 718) - UK, 1981
Allan Clarke -- "Born To Run / If I Was The Priest"
Allan Clarke -- "Born To Run / If I Was The Priest"

7" single - Aura (AUS 129) - UK, 1981

No picture sleeve.

A1- BORN TO RUN
B1- IF I WAS THE PRIEST
Allan Clarcke -- Heroes & Survivors... Aura Anthology 1978-1981
Allan Clarke -- Heroes & Survivors... Aura Anthology 1978-1981

2xCD - Sanctuary / Castle (CMDDD984) - UK, 2004
Various artists -- One Step Up / Two Steps Back: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- One Step Up / Two Steps Back: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen

2xCD - The Right Stuff (7243 8 59780 2 9) - USA, 1997
2xCD - EMI (TOCP-50377/8) - Japan, 1997

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album. Disc 1 was reissued in 2000 as The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen.
Various artists -- If I Were The Boss: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen
Various artists -- If I Were The Boss: The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen

CD - Castle (CMQCD1422) - UK, 2006

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album.

Credits

Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the lyrics help.

Requests

Please contact me if you have scans or info about any official release containing Allan Clarke's cover of IF I WAS THE PRIEST that's not mentioned on this page. I also need scans for the following releases:

  • Allan Clarke -- "Born To Run / If I Was The Priest" || 7" single - Aura (AUL 129) - UK, 1981

Any additions, comments, or corrections to this page are welcome. You can contact me via the below form or by email: . You will be credited. Thanks in advance.

Available Versions

List of available versions of IF I WAS THE PRIEST on this website:

IF I WAS THE PRIEST [Studio version]
IF I WAS THE PRIEST [April 1972 demo version]
IF I WAS THE PRIEST [03 May 1972 demo version]
IF I WAS THE PRIEST [Allan Clarke's cover version]

Page last updated: 08 Apr 2013