My high-flying, high-flying bird

I’ve been listening to Don’t Shoot Me… this past week, and I had almost (but not quite!) forgotten how much I really like this song.  And since the CD is playing in my car whenever I transport my daughter, she tells me it is one of her favorites, too.

You wore a little cross of gold around your neck
I saw it as you flew between my reason
Like a raven in the night time when you left
I wear a chain upon my wrist that bears no name
You touched it and you wore it
And you kept it in your pillow all the same

More Bernie poetry (I mean, come on…”as you flew between my reason”…classic!) adorned by Elton’s superb vocals and simple, timeless orchestration…and of course my favorite bird-flying to-freedom theme.

My high-flying bird has flown from out my arms
I thought myself her keeper
She thought I meant her harm
She thought I was the archer
A weather man of words
But I could never shoot down
My high-flying bird

You know, it’s very comforting to listen to a song like this again after such a long time.  It’s like reacquainting with an old friend…you may not have thought about him/her for a while, but it’s like yesterday when you do.  And it brings back so many memories.  I vividly recall the album photograph that accompanies this song…Bernie with outstretched arm trying to keep the ocean at bay.  Loved that photo, loved so many of the photos from this album (and had so many of them plastered on my bedroom wall).

But I digress once again…now onto the tune itself.  And be sure to listen to the second verse, too – it’s just as beautiful as the words I’ve included here.

The original version

I was pleasantly surprised to hear EJ play this song during his 60th birthday concert…he said it is one of his all-time favorite songs, too.  And, since he said he had to relearn it for the concert, I don’t feel so bad about almost (but not quite!) forgetting how much I like it, too!

From the 60th Birthday concert at MSG

High Flying Bird (Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player – 1973)

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Rolling in heavy traffic

Ok, so this is not exactly my scene, but this piece is musically provocative (and not just because of the lyrics)…I realize that the vignette portrayed in this song is a bit too realistic (AKA raw) for many, but you know, if nothing else, it is an honest portrayal of a side of life that (thankfully) most of us don’t have a whole lot of experience with.  I’ll leave it to you to read the rest of the lyrics.

Cause we’re rolling in heavy traffic
Judy’s in the jump seat and Jody’s in the bucket
Billy likes to drive and Jackie’s just high
And Cindy thinks we’re all gonna commit suicide
‘Cause we’re rolling in heavy traffic
Yeah we’re rolling in heavy traffic

EJ (or should I say Reg, given the title of the album?) sounds like he’s having fun singing this song…(“Ahhhh yeahhhh…” as he transitions to the instrumental interlude)…and the background vocals are fun – and catchy, too.  (My son loves these).  But the best part is the jazzy, breezy piano. Oh yes, and the pauses.  I never knew a musical pause could express so much, perhaps even more than a note or a riff or a drumbeat…cool.

Is there meaning in the pause(s)?  I like to think so…I liken it to a missed heart beat…or a life stopping in a millisecond…apropos, perhaps…

Be that as it may, this is another one of those tunes (like Club at the End of the Street) that you just can’t help but notice…you’ll either be bopping your head, singing along, snapping your figners or something…whatever, You.Will.Notice.It.  Listen to it loud sometime, you’ll understand.

One last thought: This song is reminiscent of The House Fell Down, which also describes a very heavy subject (Elton’s own drug abuse) but has a very light musical tone to it.  Unexpected but effective.

Rolling in heavy traffic

And with all the names in this song, do you think Bernie could’ve written in a “Kim”? He at least mentions Cindy (which happens to be one of my sisters’ names).

Heavy Traffic (Reg Strikes Back – 1988)

And just like us, you must have had a once upon a time

Arguably one of my favorite lines…(I have a lot of those, don’t I)?!  From the song Curtains, a melancholy piece from Captain Fantastic…meandering through some beautiful imagery and culminating in that masterpiece of a line.

When I first heard this song, I thought Bernie was foreshadowing the end of the Elton/Bernie partnership.  Perhaps he was. They did subsequently collaborate on Rock of the Westies and Blue Moves, but then went their separate ways for a while.  Thank goodness they found their way back to each other!  Two rooms at the end of the world (but that’s another blog post).

It’s not a long song, so bear with me as I share the full lyrics:

I used to know this old scarecrow
He was my song, my joy and sorrow
Cast alone between the furrows
Of a field no longer sown by anyone

I held a dandelion
That said the time had come
To leave upon the wind
Not to return
When summer burned the earth again

Cultivate the freshest flower
This garden ever grew
Beneath these branches
I once wrote such childish words for you

No, no, no, no, no…never childish, always honest…

And my favorite part…

But that’s okay
There’s treasure children always seek to find
And just like us
You must have had
A once upon a time

Can you imagine being Elton and Bernie and thinking about their “once upon a time?”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I love the vocals…and there’s also some killer drum sequences at the end (you go, Nigel)!

I used to know a lonely, lonely scarecrow, too

Curtains (Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – 1975)

¿Qué palabra en español!!!

I do love this song, but it is has always been a source of frustration to me.  Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…what the heck word in Spanish are you referring to? I realize that the mystery of not knowing adds to the song’s intrigue, but please, I beg you,  just tell us what word brings the female lead to tears? I wanna know!

And there’s a word in Spanish I don’t understand
But I heard it in a film one time spoken by the leading man
He said it with devotion, he sounded so sincere
And the words he spoke in Spanish brought the female lead to tears
A word in Spanish, a word in Spanish

BTW, the Spanish guitar is just awesome, Davey!  It brings this female lead to tears…

So maybe you can figure out what word in Spanish Mr. Taupin is alluding to:

Una palabra en español

A Word in Spanish (Reg Strikes Back – 1988)