Sunday, April 6, 2008

Talking Old Soldiers

Elton on solo piano, singing the imagined conversation of a couple of Civil War (I'm assuming, given the Old West theme of Tumbleweed, but it's not specific) veterans, in his best Ray Charles voice.

It's meant to engender sympathy for the speakers, perhaps even to deliver a subtle anti-war message as well. It certainly is a bleak set of verses:

Yeah that's right, you can see me here most every night
You'll always see me staring at the walls and at the lights
Funny I remember oh it's years ago I'd say
I'd stand at that bar with my friends who've passed away
And drink three times the beer that I can drink today
Yes I know how it feels to grow old


But the decision to perform it in solo piano, I believe, works against it- rendering it static and dull and blunting the impact. It's not a favorite track of mine from this album, sorry to say.


Lyrics and a sample

4 comments:

Little Earl said...

Hey, terrific blog. I've never met a bigger Elton John fan than myself - until now, perhaps? I think his early period (you picked the right release to end it on, with "Ego" in 1977) has been one of the most underexplored catalogues in rock. I might leave a few comments on some of the songs you've already posted on, so keep your eye out. Or I might just click around and say nothing. Either way, nice work!

Rick Aiello said...

I actually love this song. Over the years, I've come to equate the story of the song to the AIDS crisis, and the narrative now becomes Elton's, as he looks back on those he lost to the disease over the years. It gives new meaning to the lines "Well do they know what it's like / To have a graveyard as a friend / `Cause that's where they are boy, all of them / Don't seem likely I'll get friends like that again"

Steve Ross said...

I love your blog, and I love this song. It has evolved for me throughout the decades, and now that I'm older and have had loss, it is a song that goes through my mind frequently. At first, I took it as it seems at face value, a younger man seeing an older, veteran at a bar. The young man is interested and emotional about seeing this one time fighter all alone. He expresses interest, and acts with empathy. Now, for me, it is a song about loneliness and it is very sad. The young man goes on with his life, and the old guy will return to his spot at the bar again and again, until he dies. My favorite line is "Don't seem likely I'll have friends like that again". How sad, and how true. The song is a masterpiece of early Taupin, and is a perfect intro to Burn Down The Mission.

Thanks again for your great website, I've had it bookmarked for years.

David Jones said...

Thank you! Glad you have enjoyed it and glad people still check it out.