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More terrible song lyrics

August 1, 2017

A couple of days ago I promised to put up more posts about terrible song lyrics. I’m keeping my promise by pouncing on Elton John’s 1972 singalong number, Rocket Man. It is a song about an astronaut going off to his job up in space, and it contrives to make that job sound both completely banal and totally unrealistic at the same time.

Consider: “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”. This simply does not make sense. If you were raising your kids on Mars then by definition there would be someone there to raise them, ie you.

Further on we get: “And all the science stuff, I don’t understand/ It’s just my job five days a week”. In the first place it seems very unlikely that you’d get a job as an astronaut if you understood nothing about science. And “five days a week”? What sort of astronaut is he? One who comes home every weekend? Then how did he ever get as far as Mars?

Moreover, he keeps insisting in the refrain that he thinks “it’s gonna be a long long time” before he comes home again. But I don’t see how that can be true, if he’s only ever away for five days at a stretch.

Perhaps I am giving the impression that I don’t like this song. I actually do. I think it has a lovely, plaintive melody, suggesting loneliness and melancholy. But the words just don’t match up. Understandable, perhaps, had the song been dashed off by a talented musician who wasn’t much of a wordsmith. Yet the lyrics were written, not by EJ himself, but by Bernie Taupin, whose job is writing the words. That’s all he does. He’s a professional lyricist, who wrote the words for all of Elton John’s songs in the 70s, and made a fortune from so doing. Sorry, Bernie, but I think you had a bad day at the office with this one.

P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.

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4 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    A special mention for Toto – Africa. “As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”.
    Firstly, no it doesn’t. Secondly as Kilimanjaro is about 3000 metres higher than Olympus it isn’t much of a compliment anyway.

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    OK, so I know I have mentioned this one before, but it still bears repeating. ‘The choir of children sing their song, they’ve practiced all year long. Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong’. (Paul McCartney ‘Simply having a wonderful Christmas time’). It’s only August, but already the mere recollection of this Christmas horror sets my teeth on edge. First, they must be an extraordinarily bad choir with an extraordinarily unimaginative singing teacher if they have to practice anything all year long, but if all they have had to practice is ‘ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong’ then they are so completely beyond redemption that you wonder why they are allowed to sing at all. And this from the man who gave us ‘Eleanor Rigby, puts on her face which she keeps in a jar by the door’. Makes you weep.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    Yes it does; its a fabulous line. Also the line about Father McKenzie darning his socks was written as Father McCartney but Paul changed it because he thought it would upset his dad. The title was supposedly inspired by Eleanor Bron.
    As Tony Hancock said, “One for the teenagers there”.

  4. Yes, Mark, you are right about ‘Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time’. And the title-line doesn’t even fit the tune properly. I heard that McCartney earns £40,000 a year in royalties from that dreadful song.

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