There are women and women…

I think I’ll let this song speak for itself…as Bernie’s lyrics so often do…

In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room

Come down in time I still hear her say
So clear in my ear like it was today
Come down in time was the message she gave
Come down in time and I’ll meet you half way

Well I don’t know if I should have heard her as yet
But a true love like hers is a hard love to get
And I’ve walked most all the way and I ain’t heard her call
And I’m getting to thinking if she’s coming at all

There are women and women and some hold you tight
While some leave you counting the stars in the night

Those last two lines are some of my favorite Bernie lyrics of all time, which says a lot, because I have so many favorites! And I must say that I’ve always likened myself to the latter of the two…

I do love the harp, don’t you?  And the vocals feel a bit tentative to me, almost stuttering, if that makes sense.  Like the suitor isn’t quite sure if the object of his affections will meet him after all.

Come Down in Time

Sting also recorded a version of this tune for Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.  Distinctly different than Elton’s version, but I think he captures the poignancy as well:

Come Down in Time (Sting’s version)

Come Down In Time (Tumbleweed Connection – 1970)

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Fifty Candles in the Wind

This past Thursday night, my sisters and brothers surprised me with a poem, commemorating my 50th birthday celebration earlier this year. Of course, they knew whatever they wrote must have some linkage to EJ, so here it is…

Fifty Candles in the Wind*

Told to pack for two days, Kim asked “Where are we going?”
She was told . . . (dot, dot, dot) the ellipsis, it was showing.

On Facebook, by texts, hoping someone would spill
Curiosity mounting – Oh, the cats she could kill.

With Dad’s knee, leg and shoulder – and not daring to leave
It’s hell getting older; she sighed, “I need a reprieve.”

Once arriving in Jax, her tiara in place
The celebration began; there’s a smile on her face.

She requested some footwork, some colorful toes,
Red, pink or coral – only Kimberlee knows.

Mystified, in the dark, her breath it was bating…
We delighted to serve as her Ladies-in-Waiting.

Then off to the spa; a masseur or masseuse?
It was over too soon and we bid them “a-deuce.”

In St. Augustine proper, so warm and so windy
We shopped; we rode trolleys and laughed at blue Cindy.

Good food was eaten and fine wine was tasted;
Coffee was sipped – not a beverage was wasted.

Now Pam, she’s a riot, a countdown to tears;
And Lisa’s up next as we tally the years.

But for now, we’ll remember “our princess, our queen”
Another year older, yet HER underwear’s clean!**

She’s lovely, she’s special; fill her glass to the rim,
She’s funny – “just kidding” – she’s our dear sister, Kim.

By Pam, Cindy, Lisa, Mark and Paul

Now don’t I have the bestest siblings ever?  Note that the uncensored, director’s cut version is available upon request.

*Alternative titles:

  • I’m Still Standing Even After Fifty Years
  • Turning Fifty…I Know That’s Why They Call it the Blues
  • Mama Can’t Buy You Love and She Definitely Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

**Don’t even ask, but it’s not me they’re referring to!

You can cage the songbird, but you can’t make her sing

Candle in the Wind, the boys’ tribute to Marilyn Monroe, is essentially ubiquitous (which doesn’t make it any less amazing, by the way).  And, of course, the version of Candle in the Wind dedicated to Princess Diana perhaps even more so.  On the other hand, Cage the Songbird, also a tribute (albeit obscure), is from Blue Moves (also obscure), and is dedicated to the legendary French singer Édith Piaf.

I don’t know much about Ms. Piaf – I know that she was a beloved French singer and I know “La Vie En Rose” (the song, not the movie).  This song inspired me to get one of her CDs, since I wanted to know her voice.  And a unique voice it is!  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a francophile, so I figured I should know at least a little about her.  Apparently, she led a very interesting but troubled life and died at the very young age of 47.

And you can cage the songbird
But you can’t make her sing
And you can trap the free bird
But you’ll have to clip her wings
‘Cause she’ll soar like a hawk when she flies
But she’ll dive like an eagle when she dies

Sidebar: Davey Johnstone is credited with music authorship on this song along with Elton.

The cellophane still on the flowers
The telegram still in her hand
As whispers circulate all day
Their back-stage baby princess passed away

Sidebar 2: Did you know that was Édith Piaf singing in Inception (Non, je ne regrette rien)?

A recurring theme in Bernie’s lyrics – the caged bird, imprisonment, flying free…one of my favorite themes, and it was perhaps never as fitting as in this song, this tribute.  Plus, the music (to me) feels a bit melancholy, which is apropos.

Let down before the final curtain
A shallow heart that left her cold
She left in rouge upon the mirror
A circled kiss to the faithful fans who’d miss her

I’d like to think The Sparrow would have approved.

Cage the Songbird

Cage the Songbird (Blue Moves – 1976)

Hey, there’s an angel in my tree!

You tell me there’s an angel in your tree
Did he say he’d come to call on me
For things are getting desperate in our home
Living in the parish of the restless folks I know

If you don’t recognize these lyrics, they’re from Burn Down the Mission (but I’m sure you knew that already).  Great, great, great, great song – especially live.  One of my favorites in concert. (Did I mention its a great song)?

The oppressed uprising against the oppressor – albeit not so successfully.  Could be religious, could be political…powerful lyrical images and the music seems to mirror that theme…starting kind of slow and building to a crescendo (the burning of the mission), slowing back down again (the upriser is taken away) and then of course the incredible crescendo again.  Arguably one of his most complex tunes musically, at least from my layman’s perspective.  Tempo changes, key changes, sophisticated orchestration…quite impressive!

Deep in the woods the squirrels are out today
My wife cried when they came to take me away
But what more could I do just to keep her warm
Than burn, burn, burn, burn down the mission walls

Of course, I must mention that my kids and I just love the way he says “sqwee-erls”…  🙂

I believe this was one of the tunes Elton played in his infamous 1970 concert at the Troubadour in LA.  His breakthrough performance. Said the LA Times:

Rejoice. Rock music which has been going through a rather uneventful period recently, has a new star. He’s Elton John, a 23-year-old Englishman, whose debut Tuesday night at the Troubadour was, in almost every way, magnificent.”

A star was born – and it’s still shining brightly…and he’s still playing Burn Down the Mission forty (!!!) years later.

BTW, apparently Leon Russell was in the audience at the Troubadour that night…and now they have their album “The Union” coming out on October 19th.  Full circle?  Kismet?  I don’t know, but I have a good feeling about it!

As a side note, my husband and I used to play (or more accurately, tried to play) this song together – me on piano, he on guitar, both of us singing our hearts out.  We certainly didn’t give EJ any competition, but it sure is fun to play!  I must say I couldn’t ever quite get the piano solos right – I had to cheat a bit..those chords are intimidating – and he plays them so fast!  Just be thankful I don’t have an MP3 of that to post!

So burn, burn, burn, burn down the mission walls!

Burn Down the Mission (Tumbleweed Connection – 1970)

Come on, Razor Face, my old friend…

Today was a Madman Across the Water kind of a day…do you ever have those?  I feel like I’ve had about 3 weeks of them in fact.  That’s the main reason I haven’t blogged in a while (I know you’ve missed me)!

Anyway, I was listening to the Madman CD today while heading down the highway and back, and I had a crazy thought…these may be the best first four songs of any Elton John album:  Tiny Dancer, Levon, Razor Face and (of course) Madman.  I’ll have to give that hypothesis more consideration in another blog post, but for now, let’s just go with it.

A shout out to my brother Mark for putting the bug in my head to take a listen to this album again…I hadn’t listened to it in a while.  And, in particular, this song.  Without a doubt, the least known of the four.  IMHO, it gets extra points for that (for me, the more obscure, usually the better).

In any case, I’m not exactly sure what it means.  To me, it’s just a vignette about friendship, no more, no less.  I don’t need to read anything else into it.  I enjoy the raw, almost staccato vocals. Coupled with the piano, guitar (Caleb Quaye, not Davey Johnstone) and organ…it’s pretty cool.  And of course, Bernie’s lyrics lend some classic moments, too:

Oh it must be hard for the likes of you to get by
In a world that you just can’t see through
And it looks so cold
How does it feel to know you can’t go home
How does it feel to know you can’t go home

I kind of know that feeling myself (don’t we all)?

Razor Face, oh amazing grace
Protects you like a glove
And I’ll never learn the reason why
I lu-uh-uh-uh-uh-uv your Razor Face

I especially love the “Love your Razor Face” repetition at the end of the song…

If you’ve ever seen the movie Moonlight Mile, this song is on the soundtrack.  I didn’t know that (for shame, for shame) until my brother pointed it out to me.  So, of course, I found the movie on NetFlix On Demand and had to watch it…uncomfortable movie, I must say, but great song choice!

Anyway, if you’ve never heard the song, here it is…and if you have, feel free to enjoy it again!

Razor Face

Razor Face (Madman Across the Water – 1971)