by Ray Ramsay
One of Elton John ( and Lyricist Bernie Taupin ) great
LP’s (1970) ‘TumbleWeed Connection’ which, as I understood it, was a throw to the changing Old American West, ‘Ballad of a Well Known Gun’ as an example; a Gunfighter, while referencing automobiles/trucks and industrial equipment/water
pumps, countered by ‘horse drawn men’.
One of its, and his best songs (to me at least) is ‘Country Comfort’ which I have listened to since it first came out, but it didn’t dawn on me
til about a week ago (what’s that, 45 years?) that there was lyrically something amiss.
There are curious lines like….’soon the pines will be falling everywhere’, problem is unless they’re
being cut down, Pines don’t fall anywhere unless they have the damn bad luck to run afoul of a Pine Beetle infestation, they never lose their needles/leaves, so…what was falling?
Read this NEXT line….’the village children fight each other for their share’…of what? Surely not Pine needles! Pine CONES? What would they do with those other than put somebody’s eye out throwing them at each other?
BUT, if you think of ‘spines’ instead of ‘pines’ you might conclude the ‘spines’ to be the pods of the Chestnut tree, which the kinders would fight over as the inner ChestNUT
can be roasted and eaten, and if the Chestnut trees LEAVES are falling, which they are wont to do in the Fall, then it all makes sense; roasted chestnuts, an English tradition Hastings! The little gray cells!
‘The Hedgehog’s done in clay between the bricks’ what does that mean?
This is not a Luau where you bury a pig in the filthy ground and
cook the bejesus out of it!
I mean, really, who would eat a goddam HEDGEHOG!?
They’re prickly things if you ask me and if you DID eat one, you could pick your teeth
with the spines.
No, people don’t eat Hedgehogs, because Hedgehogs eat things that would make a Billy-goat puke, is why, and Billy-goats ain’t fussy.
to the American West, Hedgehogs are peculiar to Europe, not North America and ergo, the American West. Why, it’s not even a good name for an Outlaw.
But this, might resolve the dilemma: In England in the 1800’s,
they had ceramic (or a type of clay called pygg) Hot Water Bottles called a ‘Stone Pig’ which would be filled with hot or boiling water, then placed within the bed, usually near the foot, under the covers to warm both the bed and the somnolent
incumbents tootsies, and I’m thinking this ‘Hedgehog’ is one of these, sans spines, I mean, you wouldn’t want the reclining riser to be unable to walk again, right?
So..’done in clay’/fired,
between the bricks/kiln!
Elementary my dear Whatisitnow!
So…(excuse me, where are you going? I’m not finished yet and you’re no better than the rest
of us so please take your seat!)..Now where was I? (What? NO! Not another planet!) So now, this leaves us with less a mystery than mixed images, that being..’Across the valley moves a Herdsman with a torch’…(What! No, he’s NOT running
away from me, and if you keep interrupting, you’re going to have to leave this story!) Now, I can’t think why a Herdsman would be out in the American Wild West wilderness after dark, it was dark as he had his ‘torch’
on or alit, but there he was, tramping through boggy fen and grassy swale, IN the freaking dark with God only knows how many herdy things bumping into each other and farting. In England p’raps but doubtful in the American West, I rather suspect that
what he was herding was Moths, yes, Moths and they were easily handled as they simply followed the flame! And the reason he was out at night? I suspect it’s because he was embarrassed to be seen in daylight as his charges had likely eaten great holes
in his clothes, Yeah!
One can only hope the Shepherd wasn’t herding Hybrid Praying Mantis/Termites as they likely would have said Grace then eaten his house.
What this scene does suggest, that IS West, is the scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they are being hotly pursued by a professional posse, all holding torches, and appearing to be floating across
the evening hills and plains like so much St. Elmo’s Fire; who ARE those guys?!
So, what does all this mean?
To me it means Sir Elton/Bernie had an Englishman’s
long arm’s length perspective of the American West, and while being extremely gifted writers-Blue Thumb (and a Musician), they were piss poor Botanists-Green Thumb. But I wouldn’t hold that against them as the imagery is gifted and the song craft
excellent, just not necessarily, cowboy.
Now, in closing..(Yay? Who said Yay?!) in my opinion, Elton’s ‘Skyline Pigeon’ (either the B side of Levon, or Benny & the Jets) is one THE most beautiful
songs, and one I found buried, quite by accident, in the jukebox at the Fraser Arms Hotel (which is quite in keeping with the Western theme as that bar was like Dodge City on a Saturday night EVERY night of the week!) and Skyline Pigeon certainly holds a candle
to ‘Candle in the Wind’ in my outspoken opinion.
I did meet Elton John as our
Record Company TPC/Quality had the ‘Friends’ soundtrack which he did a lot of the music for and which produced ‘Can I Put You On’ as something of a hit; Elton was signed to MCA/Universal, we just got lucky.
I didn’t meet Bernie, but I did work one of his LPs that RCA was so excited to have: Hey! YAHOO!! We signed the guy that doesn’t sing or play anything!
Leave it to the Music Biz to make ‘Weird’ an Olympic event.
The material herein remains
the property of Ray Ramsay / ALadinLadner Publishing:The Written Werd and Dirty Book Store is not intended for Publication, Reproduction, or Broadcast without the Authors permission. Yeah.