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My Song: “Come Down in Time” by Elton John was the perfect song to get me through the long night

Joined: 5/17/2011
Posts: 2
For a suburban male teen in the late ‘60s-early ‘70s, it was a crowded temple—the pantheon occupied by “Rock Guitar Gods.” I saw many of them in concert: Allman, Beck, Clapton, Page, Winwood. However, the stringed instrument that I returned to again and again to savor its unique sound was the harp in Elton John’s “Come Down in Time,” from the 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection.

Long ago, I worked as a night watchman at a lumber mill. It started as a lark, a summer job in 1974 between semesters at college. But when fall came, I stayed on. I had to work only 10-15 minutes of each hour, which left plenty of time for homework. The 32-hour work week actually meshed with student life, such as working from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

I didn’t have a portable music player at the time, so I borrowed a friend’s cassette player and several tapes that included Tumbleweed Connection and Cat Stevens’s Tea for the Tillerman. I was among those who considered the music-and-lyrics partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin magical. Over time, I did buy some additional music. However, Connection was so amazing—and the night hours so long—that I abused the cassette until its sprockets screeched, ferric oxides pleading for mercy. In the realm of rock music, there was nothing else like “Time’s” combination of oboe, harp, and evocative lyrics

In the quiet silent seconds I turned off the light switch
And I came down to meet you in the half light the moon left
While a cluster of night jars sang some songs out of tune
A mantle of bright light shone down from a room

One would think that familiarity—the lack of musical choice—would breed contempt for a song I listened to over and over. Not in this case. The song’s cryptic, unfathomable lyrics no doubt contributed to its allure. What, exactly was a night jar? Cold cream? A lava lamp? That salve your grandmother touted? And why were the jars singing? No matter. If you’d listened to that song as many times as I did, you’d conjure a strong mental image of what night jars looked like. Nothing fancy, just some beige-colored containers on a shelf in a room, illuminated by moonlight slanting through a curtainless window.

The song also spoke to the angst of my tumultuous relationship and unrequited love: when the love one feels isn’t returned

There are women and women and some hold you tight
While some leave you counting the stars in the night

The meaning of the enigmatic “night jars” lyric was revealed to me in 1987, when I started birding. Nightjars are a family of birds that includes Whip-poor-will, so named because their resonant, mournful songs could “jar the night.” Now, of course, it makes perfect sense. Nightjars: a cluster of them singing.
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Wonderful post! I even had to check out the song, which, amazingly, I'd never heard. Though I've followed Elton John since the '60s, I was out of the country when that song came out. Thank you.
Posted: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 12:33:05 PM
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Comment by DarkStar49

Joined: 5/28/2009
Posts: 332
I find it so gratifying when you discover the meaning in a cherished and memorable song so many years later! There is nothing like that era of music and never will be again. Incredible memories and meaning came out of that time! Great post!!
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 6:37:53 AM
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