Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Billy Bones and the White Bird

Westies' closer is an odd one- Rime of the Ancient Mariner-style lyric content, married to a slamming Bo Diddley beat, which gives way to a stanza accompanied by a disco-style high hat and the bogus pomp of fanfare-style synth horns, and also spiced with a nifty, jazzy middle section which features a lively synth/guitar duet by James Newton Howard and Davey Johnstone.

What, if anything, the lyrics mean is open to interpretation; I've seen it mentioned that they are perhaps some sort of allusion to John's escalating drug abuse, which is valid, but I suspect that the "white bird" is less a literal reference to cocaine than a reference to the albatross that Coleridge's protagonist was haunted by, and which would seem to represent the bad vibes, unease and dismay with which Bernie surely must have been experiencing in regards to most aspects of his (and John's) career in 1975- events which began with their meteoric ascent to fame and all the attendant insanity, the abrupt early 1975 sacking of half the original EJ Band, and would come to a head a little over a year later, leading to the post-Blue Moves separation of the pair in 1978.

It's interesting that as with Moves' "Crazy Water", Taupin chose to illustrate his unease with nautical-style lyrical content. The Brown Dirt Cowboy didn't seem to be at home on the open seas.

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