If the Phoenix bird can fly…

…then so can I…

I always loved that line and the image and even hope that it provokes.  With that said, Grey Seal is one of those lyrically obtuse songs (and that’s not a complaint, mind you), although musically it is quite distinctive (at least the second, GBYBR version is).

Why’s it never light on my lawn
Why does it rain and never say good-day to the new-born
On the big screen they showed us a sun
But not as bright in life as the real one
It’s never quite the same as the real one

Say what, Bernie?

I never learned why meteors were formed
I only farmed in schools that were so warn and torn
If anyone can cry then so can I
I read books and draw life from the eye
All my life is drawings from the eye

Hmmmm…

I always took the song to be something of an indictment on education and the efficacy of learning through experience (“all my life is drawings from the eye”).

And tell me grey seal
How does it feel to be so wise
To see through eyes
That only see what’s real
Tell me grey seal

So what (or who) is the Grey Seal?  Others  perhaps more learned than I have suggested:

  • Higher authority
  • The seal on a diploma or certificate
  • An actual grey seal
  • A symbol (e.g., the seal of the United States)
  • A seal of approval

Funny, according to the author himself, “Grey Seal was very oblique. I hadn’t a clue what I was writing about. It was just images.”  I wonder if he gets a good laugh at those of us trying to lay some deeper meaning on to it.

Just goes to show that we think too much sometimes.

As for the music, I really love the flourishing piano, the intoxicating “wah” (is that a word?) of Davey’s guitar, the mania of Nigel’s drumming, the soulfulness of Dee’s bass…and the voice, of course, the voice.  You’ve got to listen to this one loud.

As alluded to earlier, Grey Seal was actually recorded twice by Elton.  First, as the B-side to Rock and Roll Madonna in 1970 and second, on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  I prefer the second version myself – perhaps because it was the first version I heard, but mostly because it (musically) expresses the rage  and intensity that the lyrics are (I think) trying to convey.

You be the judge:

Vintage 1970

Vintage 1973

Grey Seal (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)

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