Monday, August 01, 2005

Song interpretations, Part 1; or, the Tiny Dancer's Funeral

Ugh, way to not post for ever and ever, but hey, job, and cat, and sick, and yeah. Anyway.

Note: I didn't internet-research this at all beyond copying the lyrics in, so feel free to call BS or unoriginal on me, as this is all just out of my head.

Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand

Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad

Piano man he makes his stand
In the auditorium
Looking on she sings the songs
The words she knows, the tune she hums

But oh how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you and you can't hear me
When I say softly, slowly

Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
you had a busy day today

First off, as many before me have said, the Tiny Dancer is a music box figurine. Hell, I have one of those musical jewelry boxes at home, from when I was little.
*However*, I think that there is more to it than that - the 'seamstress for the band' is a person. Clearly, the 'she' in the line before the first mention of the TD does not refer literally to the TD it/herself. The TD reminds him of the woman he used to know, and probably love (whether romantically or not doesn't matter, so no 'omg but Elton John's queer!!1!') It's a memento of their time together, when she was there for him and his band, supporting them in any way she could, by making their costumes or being their audience or just being there.

Now, here's the jump. The song is clearly a reminiscence, set in the past despite its use of present tense verbs in the verses. I think it's a eulogy of sorts, as the woman the TD reminds him of is dead.
'Lay me down in sheets of linen' - why specify this unless it's significant what kind of sheets they are? Symbolically speaking, linen is used for death shrouds.
He lays next to her in the sheets of linen, and speaks to her but she can't hear.
She's had a busy day today - her full and rich life, but can't hold him anymore, as she's been taken too soon.
'Now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand' - she's clearly gone, the language indicates finality, but nothing else in the song suggests that she left him because she stopped loving him or didn't want to struggle along with the band anymore.
And the song is much too gentle and bittersweet (at least in terms of EJ style) to have been for a lover who left - think "Candle in the Wind" - clearly a eulogy, vs. "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues", which is clearly for a leaving lover/failed relationship, and has much more of a tone of sadness, whereas "TD" has the sense of missing someone, but not really in sadness anymore.

Any thoughts? And any guesses as to who the woman is?


  1. I may never have bothered to point this out, but the song is written by Bernie Taupin, Elton's writing partner, and the "LA lady, seamstress for the band" is a reference to his wife/girlfriend who traveled with them and would and sew up costumes and clothes. I'm not aware of what became of the two of them or how much, if any, of the song beyond that verse has to do with her.
    Also, Rick Wakeman of Yes (about a year before he joined Yes) played keyboard on the album, "Madman Across te Water" but I don't know about that song.

  2. Yeah, I figured that either way, whether Elton or Bernie, the interpretation still could work. The narrator of the song is the key, and I referred to him as Elton just for simplicity's sake.

    And of course, yay for Rick Wakeman!