Monday, June 9, 2008

Curtains

Captain Fantastic's closing track doesn't exactly conform to the unwritten rule of concept records, that of a grand statement to provide contrast and clarification, not to mention closure, to the other songs in the album.

It's a slow-building track, which seems to be constantly working up to the Grand Statement about Their Career to that Point one expects, but Taupin undermines this by instead providing a backward-looking rumination on his childhood and his first songwriting efforts, culminating in this verse:

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


...and if there's supposed to be some sort of summation or observation about where they stood in 1969, on the cusp of stardom, I'll be darned if I can see it.

Elton seems to be striving for a "Hey Jude" approach, with each verse accompanied by instrumentation that's similar in nature to their "Lucy in the Sky" cover, and eventually punctuated by chorus "whoa-oh-ohs" following directly after the verses are done. Then, in what surely seems to be a move to get lighters and hands swaying to the concert audiences to come, the chorus singers take over as Olsson's staccato drum fills and Johnstone's guitar/Elton's piano riffs play, Elton sings a line over and over again in a falsetto voice (which defies my best efforts to make out exactly what he's saying- sounds like "love to love again" or something like that), all building to...not much, really. The song plods on to its extanded fade conclusion, and Captain Fantastic is done. The lyrics are vague, the message is therefore muddled, and the music builds up to a cathartic moment that never really comes.

It's a lovely melody, but I don't think it achieves what it sets out to do. Others, I'm sure, will disagree.


Lyrics/sample

10 comments:

Michael said...

As you said in your note on "We All Fall in Love Sometimes," that song and this song do segue together, and though they don't logically make one piece in terms of the lyrics, I always hear them together in my mind. I don't think I've ever listened to either song separately in my life--maybe on the 8-track ;-)

Johnny B said...

I don't think I had either, until I was trying to figure out what to write about it for the last week or so...

Roger Green said...

Curtains and Goodbye - wotta hoot! I hadn't checked this probably in a month. And now it's over and I'kll never see you again! (Sob) Oh, wait, the other pages. I'm better now.

Disciples of Poker said...

I do love Curtains. Side 2 on the Vinyl -- it was a good way to end another epic EJ/BT album.

extinct said...

If you have never had to permanently leave behind a place or a person, I suppose you wouldn't fully understand "Curtains" - one of BT and EJ's most brilliant songs. Last words in the song: "Lovely autumn day..." Perfect.

Johnny B said...

That's a good interpretation, extinct, and I think you're right about the intended meaning. I'm not 100% convinced that B&E got it across all that successfully, but it's probably a case of me not seeing the forest for the trees.

extinct said...

Like Michael, I can't spearate the two songs either. I first heard the medley when I was falling in love and shortly thereafter had to leave both love and home behind. Those two songs will always stir the most intense emotions attached to both of those events. Maybe it was written for me...

Levon83 said...

This is by far, my favorite Elton album, and one of my favorite songs. The song is original and touches me.

doctorcasino said...

Just discovering this blog, looking forward to digging into the backlog.

"Curtains" is one of my favorite EJ songs; seems to me it's not at all about where they were in '69 but rather, where they were in '74. Going back for a visit to the old turf, the places sketched out in the opening track, finding them smaller and more ordinary than they looked when they were kids...and yet, no mistake, stirring up some incredibly powerful, wistful, inexpressible emotions (hence the wordless coda, which may be a cheap trick but does seem appropriate to me). The "once upon a time" is a gift to the audience: Elton and Bernie started from this ordinary place (both in geography and in terms of muddled early work, the 'childish words'), and so might you yourself. The next journey through the album is your epic rise: savor it.

David Jones said...

Thanks, doctorcasino! Great interpretation. I was kinda hoping, when I wrote these entries and this one in particular, that someone would come along and provide some insight I was missing, and you and extinct have certainly done that.