Something has bothered me about Elton John's "Rocket Man" since sometime around my fourteenth birthday, when I used my prezzie money to plunk down the necessary for a copy of Honky Chateau in that halcyon year of 1974. (He lost me with the next one, Don't Shoot Me, and by Goodbye Yellow Brick Road I wouldn't cross the street, etc. Still like Madman, though, and will occasionally pull it out for a nostalgia-binge.)
The thing that bothered me was this:
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kidsDo you see it? Does anything leap out and grab you by the throat as it does me?
In fact, it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
Here it is: "If you did."
If you did what?
There's no one there to raise them if you... raised them? On Mars?
I mean, whaaaa...?
Yeah, but you know what does make sense there:
"And there's no one there to raise them if you died."
One little letter, and the whole thing makes perfect sense. The rhyme-scheme doesn't demand a rhyme of "kid" and "did"; in fact there's no rhyming at all in the verses.
So what was it? How does this howler still survive? (I saw Elton singing it on my teevee recently, and he still sings it that way.)
I think it was this: It's late at night in the studio, they're cutting vocals, Bernie Taupin hands Elton a scribbled verse and then runs off somewhere. It's the Seventies, everybody's coked and Quaaluded to the tits, Elton misreads "died" as "did" (or maybe Bernie's dropped the letter in his scribble), and nobody (Seventies, remember?) stops the tape and goes whoa-whoa-whoa.
And since it's on the single and the printed lyrics on the album that way, it's set in stone. Thirty-five years later, he still sings it that way, even if it makes no sense at all.
I think a very cranky letter to Sir Elton is in the offing. Don't you?