I’ll begin this by simply coming out and saying that the creative team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin is perhaps the greatest out there today. I don’t think much more evidence needs to be given than the extensive history of great hits that they have consistently put out. Now, if you’re one of those people who believes someone like Eminem or Fifty Cent is one of the greatest song writers of all time, leave now. There’s a nice little X button on your page to leave.

Actually, don’t leave, I could use the visits and perhaps comments as well; I like to feel like I’m reaching someone.

Back to  the point at hand, though, one of John’s songs strikes me beyond most of the others. Off  the album Caribou, a somewhat lackluster album, apparently, the song wasn’t even, to my knowledge, much of a hit when it was released. If for nothing besides its length, I can believe it was never a single. Have you guessed it yet? From the title, those of you who know Elton John probably have. “Ticking” is a song that tells the story of a young man who goes on a killing spree. Just a little bit macabre, right? But in spite of the gruesome story behind the  song, it has quite a few lines that strike me as quite interesting and thought-provoking, especially when sung in John’s astoundingly wonderful voice. (A gay teacher of mine who saw Elton John in concert with Billy Joel described the experience as “orgasmic.” What more needs to be said to prove his amazing talent?)

Similar in tone to “The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934),” the song is a slower number with a solemn tone throughout. Usually I imagine songs playing out as stories in my head, perhaps the reason this plays out so well; going by that literary-esque stylization of it, the narrative seems to flash back and forth between the current day events, namely, the shooting, and the past, his growing up. The title, “Ticking” and the lyrics which carry the same word, clearly refer to the ‘protagonist’ of the song as ticking, akin to a bomb, counting down awaiting the inevitable eruption and shooting. Similar to “In Cold Blood,” you begin to feel a certain amount of empathy towards the ‘protagonist.’

That isn’t the point of this, though. Back to the point I raised earlier about the striking lyrics which John sings throughout the song, probably written by Taupin, but I am not sure there and should not presume.

“‘Now you’ll never get to heaven,’mama said/remember mama said.” This occurs early on in the song and, in writing, it doesn’t appear to carry much meaning, making me begin to wonder if perhaps the wonderful talent and depth of the lyrics comes solely from John’s masterful way of spinning them. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that when sung by him they seem to bring up memories, to strike me and make  me think about the meaning, what deeper definition could be behind here. Or it just makes me realize how well written the song is and I’m just over analyzing.

“‘Don’t ever ride on the devil’s knee,’ mama said/remember mama said/ticking, ticking/’Pay your penance well, my child/Fear where angels tread.'” This is another line, and though it carries more of the original tone when written, it still does not compare to the magnificence that is carried when the words are crooned by John. Still, there are some deeper thoughts which can be attributed here, especially in the first line and the last as well. (Personally, the last line reminds me a little of “The Prophecy” with Christopher Walken, where the idea is proposed that it wouldn’t be too great to meet an angel; would you want to encounter a being that had spent several thousand years doing God’s dirty work?)

What do you think? If you have heard the song did you find it as touching and intriguing as I do or am I just off my rocker? Or if you have just decided to look it up and listen to it, what do you think, this being your first listen to it? Get at me!

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