One of the most wonderful and also difficult things about music is how closely it can be associated with certain people, times, and places.
I knew I would run into this when I started trying to write about music, that eventually the song that inspired the most Thoughts would be one of those I keep in the little pony pen in my head that is labelled "songs that will never not remind me".
(where all the songs are little ponies and they graze peacefully when undisturbed!)
I mentioned a while back the ignominious moment when I couldn't think of any lyricists other than Bernie Taupin which obviously bruised my ego quite a bit, but I also knew why. It was because the only reason I even know who Bernie Taupin is is I had a friend, who loved Elton John as ya do, but we also knew that yes, occasionally, those lyrics are just REDONKULOUS: "now I know Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say"?
WHEN WERE THEY EVER JUST PRETTY WORDS TO SAY AND WHY DOES THAT EVEN MAKE SENSE AS A THING TO SING?
yknow? These moments are rife when you're a fan of Elton John. For every "losing everything is like the sun going down on me" there's a "someone saved my life tonight, sugar bear" -- and LEST I FORGET, the queen of them all:
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.
But it's impossible not to love these songs, these lyrics, because in everything they are -- grasping for meaning and finding it only very occasionally -- they are EXUBERANT.
When my friend and I would listen to Elton John, these moments would happen ("Levon wears his war wound like a crown, he calls his child Jesus cause he likes the name") and we would laugh and shake our heads and say "Oh, BERNIE."
We were often embarrassed by Bernie Taupin's lyrics but also it was understood that we loved them, because I think it's true that you can't love Elton John without at least part of that love stemming from the fact that he really throws his voice behind some ridiculous shit sometimes. In fact most of the time.
A lot of times with Elton John songs you can tell there's a real feeling or story somewhere behind the song but you can't tell exactly what it is because Bernie got his hands on it
(and I sort of love that)
but when Elton sings, "Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much" you don't really need to know who Daniel is or what he was to the singer or why he goes to Spain so often.
If you look at the YouTube comments for this song you'll see it's full of people saying things like, I don't know why this reminds me of this person I loved but it does and I miss them.
I guess you don't have to know why. Oh, Bernie!
The song: Elton John, "Daniel"; 1973
Bernie Taupin says "Daniel" is the most misinterpreted song he's ever written. That it's about a war hero returning from Vietnam who only wants a simple life.
Do you get that? I don't know that I do. But it reminds me of this person that I loved and I miss them.
(Let it be said, though, before this post dips too perilously close to self-pity: the fact that "songs that will never not remind me" can be personified as little happily grazing ponies and not WILD UNTAMED MUSTANGS WITH HOOVES OF LIQUID STEEL obviously means that the pain of my separation from this friend has healed a bit with time. Appropriate, I think, to the gentle "doot-doot-doot"ness of "Daniel".)