The version of this song featured as Track 11 of Hamell On Trial's first full-length album, Big As Life is Hamell at his "one guy and one guitar" sparest, but the musical and emotional tone are strikingly subdued as compared to the rest of the album --- which is not to say that the song lacks intensity by comparison. Rather, the quiet tenderness of "Open Up the Gates", introduced by Hamell in live performances with the simple words, "This is a song about my mother," adds a new dimension of emotional depth to Big As Life, and reminds listeners that there's a human being inside all of Hamell's rockingness.

On Testimony, a promotional "words and music" sampler put out by Mercury Records to promote Big As Life, Hamell waxes a bit more lyrical in his introduction to this song, describing his late mother as "a saint" in whose eyes he could do no wrong. If he'd come home from school one day and admitted he'd gotten in a fight with Mother Teresa, the singer/songwriter says, his mother would have responded fiercely, unquestioningly, to defend him by asking, "What did that slut do to provoke you?" In "Open Up the Gates", Hamell reflects and refracts and returns his mother's unconditional love with words and music.


Open up the gates. . . for her
Hear the trumpets blare
a warm Miles Davis welcome
let her dance with Fred Astaire

Open up the gates. . . for her
bring her Estée Lauder
and pictures of her daughter
and her only son
She'll want them.

Open up the gates. . . for her
she don't need no resumé
no credit check today
no references 'cept mine

and open up your ears. . . to her
she will teach you of compassion
and she will help you fashion
tenderness and time

Don't lose her
in paperwork or files
don't shuffle her along with phony smiles
'cuz I've lost faith in even you

Open up your ears. . . to me
though I'm no man of great renown
I've got no weight to throw around
perhaps I'm headed down.

but if I hear she's been ignored
deprived of her reward
Heaven hath seen no fury
like a son that's scorned
be forwarned

Open up the gates. . . for her
wider, wider, wider
see the love that is inside her.

—Copyright Ed Hamell, 1997. Reproduced by permission; see Hamell on Trial for details.

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