Tonight, the Midnight Jukebox is playing especially for Joe Wakelee-Lynch who sent me an email earlier today in which he wrote:

You mentioned Gavin Bryars. For some time, I've considered asking if you know his "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet." I heard it years ago, probably on KCRW (an NPR affiliate) here in the L.A. area, and it was immediately seared into my memory. I had no clue about Bryars, but Tom Waits' music I certainly knew.

So for Joe and for anybody else who likes weird but pretty stuff, here is the orchestral version of the tune complete with the Tom Waits' vocals.

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet is a 1971 composition by Gavin Bryars. It is formed on a loop of an unknown homeless man singing a brief stanza. Rich harmonies, comprising string and brass, are gradually overlaid over the stanza. The piece was first recorded for use in an Alan Power documentary which chronicles street life in and around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo, in London. When later listening to the recordings, Bryars noticed the clip was in tune with his piano and that it conveniently looped into 13 bars. For the first LP recording, Bryars was limited to a duration of 25 minutes; with the invention of the cassette tape, Bryars was able to complete a 60-minute version of the piece; and later, with the advent of the CD, a 74-minute version. A further recording was made in the 1990s with Tom Waits singing along with the original recording of the tramp during the later sections. (WIKIPEDIA)

And, as a bonus, here is Nashville, Christian rock band, Jars of Clay, with their 2003 version, which is actually rather lovely.



  1. Is that the same “Jesus Blood Never Fails Me” that you posted for Good Friday a couple of years ago? [I admit: when I dl’d it then, I ended up filing it under “Where Does He Find Them?” ;-X]

  2. The Bryars-Waits collaboration is such a beautiful piece. For me, it speaks to the difference between right belief and the experience of faith. At times in life, I’ve been certain that I hold a right belief in God–a good thing, of course. Yet, in the last two years I’ve become more immersed in the spirituality of Ignatius. More foundational than the periods when I thought I believed correctly has been acknowledging the occasions when I experienced the presence of God. Those cannot be denied, unless I’m willing to deny who I have been. That’s why this piece by Bryars is so powerful: It’s the testimony of one of ‘the least among us’ about his experience of God.

  3. Thank you MP- I had heard of that piece but never listened to it. Thanks- I am going to search it out now.

    Love the Jars of Clay version. Despite largely falling out with ‘Christian rock’, I have always liked Jars of Clay- they seem to have real musical integrity and their lyrics are a long way from ‘Problems? They are a sin. My Jesus will always win’

    (actually that rhymes- I might try and right a song in the holy key of G about that- no minor chords- they are of the devil).

    Thanks- you have set me up- I am going to watch Low tonight…

  4. Thanks, Graham.

    THIS IS the version I own. Amazon have it at a ridiculous price. If you are unable to purchase it at a sensible price drop me an email and I can at least send you a MP3 quality copy of the whole album via YouSendIt.