Not much information in this song exists and I'm not really sure what it is about. Sonic Youth has been known to draw influence from other outside sources but "Brother James" has some surreal lyrical content. "Take my hand he said to me" starts the song. I have always thought this song was about drugs and being seduced into the power of being in an altered state of mind.The line "brother james gave it to me" being repeated leads me to believe this when the next line says "take my hand you might as well, were going straight to hell!"
"Brother James" has remained in the live set since 1983. Out of the 9 shows I have attended, the song has been played 5 times. Pretty constant huh? "Burning Spear" is the only other song from this era that has survived throughout the years but does not get as much play as "Brother James." Reason? lets face it, its their best song from this era and represents evverything the band was trying to accomplish in its early years.
This video is from 8-27-04 from the Sonic Nurse Tour in Paris.