The Song

Small Voice Calling > The Voice > The Song

“He remembers us from way back.”

Ralph McTell put Small Voice Calling on the B-side of his ‘When I Was a Cowboy’ single in 1972. Despite ordering it from my local record store, I was unable to obtain a copy. I eventually found one on eBay thirty years later. Although Ralph had been kind enough to sing it for me twice or thrice in concerts, I never really heard the verses till I played the single on my turntable.  

Then, in 2005, the song appeared in ‘Time’s Poems’, a collection of Ralph’s song lyrics, where it reads differently from the version he recorded in 1972: there is a new first verse, the last verse is absent, and there are variations in the choruses. The core of the song, however, remains unchanged.

Small Voice Calling finally featured on CD in 2011, when Ralph chose a recent live recording for his Songs for Six Strings 6-CD box set. This version is essentially that printed in ‘Time’s Poems’ with minor variants and the first verse repeated.

The song is obviously a very personal statement and my curiosity as to its source has not abated over the years.


Here are the ‘original’ and ‘revised’ lyrics of the song that inspired this website.
Click hear to listen to the original 1972 recording.

Small Voice Calling

‘Original’ lyrics
as sung on the 1972 single

In order to judge me
I have to agree to put you above me
And that would not make sense
When the course you are taking
Is causing an aching I believe
From sitting too hard on the fence

And there’s a small voice calling your name
Outside and he wants to come in
He says he remembers you from way back
Don’t care where you’ve been

The humble can stumble
Over the feet of the shuffling meek
Whoever put out that line?
They can wait for the earth for what
It’d be worth well I don’t mind
So long as they leave me some wine

There’s a small voice calling our names
Outside and he says that he knows us
He says he remembers us from way back
But his name ain’t Jesus
That’d be too easy now don’t you agree?

Don’t give me no hard lines
I’ve done my share of crying
Hard luck brings me down
Give me something to smile about
Something to make me laugh out loud
And we’ll both get up off the ground

There’s a small voice calling our names
Outside and he says that he knows us
He says he remembers us from way back
But his name ain’t Jesus
That’d be too easy now don’t you agree?

To each and every one
Assembled here well let’s make it clear
Right from the very start
There’s no reason or rhyme
To put out a line about what to do
Unless it comes from the heart

‘Revised’ lyrics
as printed in ‘Time’s Poems’, p 404

Don’t ask me no questions
You must know I can’t give directions
When I’m finding the way myself
My bill for expenses
Was only a way of raising defences
Against getting filed on some shelf

There’s a small voice calling my name
Outside and he wants to come in
He says he remembers me from way back
How can I avoid him?

In order to judge me
I have to agree to put you above me
And that would not make sense
When the course you are taking
Is causing an aching I believe

From sitting too hard on the fence

The humble can stumble
Over the feet of the shuffling meek
Whoever put out that line?
Inherit the earth for what
It would be worth I don’t mind
So long as they leave me some wine

And there’s a small voice calling our names
Outside and he says that he knows us
He says he remembers us from way back
But his name ain’t Jesus
That would be too easy

Don’t give me no hard lines
I’ve done my share of crying
Hard luck only brings me down
Give me something to smile about
Something to make me laugh out loud
And we’ll both get up off the ground

There’s a small voice calling my name
Outside and he wants to come in
He says he remembers me from way back
He knows where I’ve been

There’s a small voice calling our names
Outside and he wants to come in
He says he remembers us from way back
Oh how can we avoid him?

Words and music by Ralph McTell