Top 10 Bernie Taupin Lyrics
Although lyricist Bernie Taupin has collaborated with other musicians, it shouldn’t be a shock that the Top 10 Bernie Taupin Lyrics all come from Elton John songs. The John/Taupin partnership has been going strong for more than 45 years (with a short hiatus), since each man answered an ad in the ‘NME’ for aspiring musicians and lyricists. As the man responsible for the words that Sir Elton sings, Taupin has drawn on all sorts of lyrical inspiration – from his rural upbringing and romantic relationships to his songwriting partnership and the events of Elton’s life. Here are 10 of the Brown Dirt Cowboy’s best lines.
“Blue-jean baby, L.A. lady / Seamstress for the band / Pretty-eyed, pirate smile / You’ll marry a music man“
This minor hit has often been mischaracterized as being about Taupin’s first wife just because it was dedicated to her on Elton John’s album. However, the wordsmith has gone on record that ‘Tiny Dancer’ is about his (and Elton’s) first trip to Los Angeles and the free-spirited “ethereal” women who sought to be part of the music scene in any way they could. (No wonder it was such a perfect fit for ‘Almost Famous’ and Miss Penny Lane.) The song is a perfect example of Taupin’s knack for creating these golden snapshots with an economy of language.
‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’
“A couple of the sounds that I really like / Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike / I’m a juvenile product of the working class / Whose best friend floats in the bottom of a glass”
When writing this most rocking of Elton’s hits, Taupin drew on his teenage days hanging out in music clubs with boorish, violent characters. His intention was to take the “out on the town” concept of ’50s American rock songs and transport it to an English setting. Apparently that meant lots more alcohol – including the famous euphemism, “get about as oiled as a diesel train.” The rhythm of Bernie’s words perfectly matches the revved-up energy of Elton’s music.
‘This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore’
“I used to be the main express / All steam and whistles heading west / Picking up my pain from door to door / Riding on the Storyline / Furnace burning overtime / But this train don’t stop there anymore“
Taupin sometimes writes from his perspective and sometimes channels Elton’s view – which appears to be the case on the No. 8 entry in the list of Top 10 Bernie Taupin Lyrics. The lyricist uses a train metaphor to allow his worn and weary superstar partner to look back on his hard-partying days and over-romanticized music. The minor hit is a melancholy masterpiece sung by a rocker who, yes, is still standing, but hardly feels like a little kid anymore.
“Oh you danced in death like a marionette on the vengeance of the law“
This song was written when mass shootings were a freak occurrence in the U.S., and not a media event that seems to happen multiple times a year. In the chilling ‘Ticking,’ Taupin creates a fictional scene of 14 dead in a Queens bar at the hands of an unstable gunman. It’s probably tempting to write a song like this as a parable, but we’re offered no easy answers in this seven-minute ballad, just a humane look at tragedy. The most descriptive line is also the most unsettling, in which Taupin invokes a marionette to describe the killer’s bullet-riddled demise.
‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’
“For we were spinning out our lines walking on the wire / Hand in hand went music and the rhyme / The Captain and the Kid stepping in the ring“
Taupin and John created ‘Captain Fantastic’ as a concept album to tell stories from their pre-fame struggles in the late ’60s. As such, Taupin wrote the songs in the order they appear on the record – starting with the steady-rolling title track, which is an origin story for the comic book personas of these two musical heroes. The language is weird and wonderful and the story sets the scene of two halves of a whole, hoping to take the whole world by storm.
‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’
“I can’t light no more of your darkness / All my pictures seem to fade to black and white / I’m growing tired and time stands still before me / Frozen here on the ladder of my life”
Elton and Bernie planned something epic – their inspiration was the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ – for this ‘Caribou’ highlight. Although Taupin has said he’s not sure if their plans caused him to vary his lyrical approach, it looks like he pumped up the prose to imbue a song about love and loss with the stakes of life and death. That’s not a bad thing. Anything less would have been swallowed by the sweeping accompaniment. As in every entry in the Top 10 Bernie Taupin lyrics, his words hold their own.
‘The Greatest Discovery’
“In those silent happy seconds / That surround the sound of this event / A parent smile is made in moments / They have made for you a friend“
Taupin drew from his own life on this often overlooked jewel from Elton’s breakout album. Yet, he didn’t employ his own memories for ‘The Greatest Discovery’; instead, he imagined what it was like for his older brother Tony when Bernie was born. It’s one of those warm and fuzzy songs that never overshoots into saccharine territory. That’s because of how well it captures the feeling of childhood wonder, as well as how all these little details in your brain add up to memories of the most important moments in your life.
‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’
“You know you can’t hold me forever / I didn’t sign up with you / I’m not a present for your friends to open / This boy’s too young to be singing the blues”
The story goes that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was the first movie Taupin ever saw. So on this soaring ballad, he pitted childhood memories (the yellow brick road from the Hollywood movie and the farm he grew up on) against each other in a repudiation of the opulence of the superstar lifestyle. The irony is that this song (along with the LP that shares its name) made John and Taupin even bigger stars; it remains Elton’s best-selling studio album.
‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’
“A slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams / I’m strangled by your haunted social scene / Just a pawn out-played by a dominating queen“
For this magnum opus, Taupin told a story that actually happened to his buddy Elton. In 1969, John was being cajoled by a woman into a marriage that was destined to be a mistake (for reasons we fully understand now), and he nearly committed suicide. He was convinced to stay alive, get out of the engagement and focus on his music by Long John Baldry, and Elton lived to sing the tale – as penned by Taupin. The lyricist manages to treat the incidents with the decorum they deserve while still creating vivid scenes packed with imagery that is nothing short of, ahem, fantastic.
‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’
“Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true / You stand at the edge, while people run you through”
Taupin wrote this classic (one of Elton’s personal favorites) after his first time in New York City. It represents the mercurial city through contrasts – all-night revelers and lonely artists, rich men and doomed hobos, ‘Spanish Harlem’ the song and Spanish Harlem the actual place. There’s beauty in all of it, even to a country boy like Bernie. ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ has been termed one of Taupin’s most direct compositions. That’s true, but his language is never so basic that it’s unable to continue to grow in the listener’s imagination. These are magic words, specific enough to get you to the place, playful enough to let you decide what happens.