Friday, July 17, 2009

Audio Typo Revealed!

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 kids
In fact, it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
Do you see it? Does anything leap out and grab you by the throat as it does me?

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?


bobby lightfoot said...

Write Him Immediately.

"If you should ever find someone new/
I know he better be good to you/
Because if he doesn't
I'll be there..."

(Just look over your shoulders baby) ouch, eh? That'll put a kink in.

"there's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true- we make a better day
Just me and you..."

See how th' rhyme scheme is destroyed by using "me 'n' you" instead of "you and I"?

MJ could have moved some product with me on board. Elton and Bernie might have had a prayer w/ the English major contingent with us behind th' board. Losers.

Hendsto, motherfucker!!

blue girl said...

Ha! That line's always stopped me too, Jeddie.

If you write him, tell old Razor Face I said hi.

HomefrontRadio said...

I only know this version. (BTW, what is that instrument he's playing at 3:24?)

Plausible theory. Now explain to me exactly what "The movement you need is on your shoulder" means.

Mike Kretzler said...

Go fer it, dude.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

Right there with you Ned. He lost me after Honky Chateau too, though there are some good songs after that.

I've gone off on Taupin's lyrics before so I won't here except to say that occasionally he wrote something good (Empty Garden still brings a tear) but mostly I think he's mediocre.

The one that always got me was from Harry Chapin:

What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car KEYS / see you later can I have them PLEASE?

when very obviously it should have been:

What I'd really like Dad is to borrow the car please / see you later can I have the keys?

Then of course there's this one from Sting:

With words they try to jail ya...rhetoric of failya

When very obviously it should have been:

I wrote these words on jetlag / I really am a douche bag

Wren said...

You know, I always wondered about that sentence, too. Thanks for clearing it up for me, Nedster. Wow.

Neddie said...

I think that might be the Uilleann Pipes, Simon (and thank FSM for Auto-Complete because I'd never have pulled that spelling out of my ass...).

Boy howdy, that Kate Bush can pack my bag pre-flight anytime...

Tom said...

I dunno, "cold as hell" never struck me as a particularly apt metaphor either (not that it's unique to this song). Personally, he lost me after Tumbleweed Junction, although I can still listen to Madman Across the Water without cringing. Andy Partridge's lyrics make Bernie Taupin's look like they were written by a 5 year old.

Mark said...

I think he may have been referring to "the help", y'know, as in nannies, wetnurses, and the like.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

In case anyone is interested:

blue girl said...

Hey, Al. Thanks. Those sound great.

blue girl said...

Oooh, Levon sounds good.

Ben said...

That line always bothered me too. But I disagree that there's no rhyme in the verses; it's a slightly unorthodox scheme, and it varies a bit, but it's basically ABA:

...miss my wife
...lonely out in space
... timeless flight I don't understand
...five days a week
...a rocket man

The lines under discussion fit this pattern: kids-did.

Interestingly enough, these are all half-rhymes. Probably deliberate.

Nevertheless, that line's a clunker all right.

Neddie said...

You're commenting in a 7-month-old post, Nonnie, but at any rate...

Can you please point to any single word in this post and comment thread that made fun of Mr. Dwight's sexuality?

Go project somewhere else, mmmmkay?

Anonymous said...

I know this is a super-old post, but the problem if there is one with harry chapin's line about borrowing the keys is that he says "see you later" before asking for the keys. please/...them please was alright. But I like the sting correction

Thomas Houck said...

I think you're bloody daft, mate. Bernie Taupin did wrote them lyrics and that rhymes with 'kid'.