"Ticking" as written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin....
"An extremely quiet child" they called you in your school report
"He's always taken interest in the subjects that he's taught"
So what was it that brought the squad car screaming up your drive
To notify your parents of the manner in which you died

At St. Patrick's every Sunday, Father Fletcher heard your sins
"Oh, he's unconcerned with competition he never cares to win"
But blood stained a young hand that never held a gun
And his parents never thought of him as their troubled son

"Now you'll never get to Heaven" Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Grow up straight and true blue
Run along to bed"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

They had you holed up in a downtown bar screaming for a priest
Some gook said "His brain's just snapped" then someone called the police
You'd knifed a Negro waiter who had tried to calm you down
Oh you'd pulled a gun and told them all to lay still on the ground

Promising to hurt no one, providing they were still
A young man tried to make a break, with tear-filled eyes you killed
That gun butt felt so smooth and warm cradled in your palm
Oh your childhood cried out in your head "they mean to do you harm"

"Don't ever ride on the devil's knee" Mama said
Remember mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Pay your penance well, my child
Fear where angels tread"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

Within an hour the news had reached the media machine
A male Caucasian with a gun had gone berserk in Queens
The area had been sealed off, the kids sent home from school
Fourteen people lying dead in a bar they called the Kicking Mule

Oh they pleaded to your sanity for the sake of those inside
"Throw out your gun, walk out slow just keep your hands held high"
But they pumped you full of rifle shells as you stepped out the door
Oh you danced in death like a marionette on the vengeance of the law

"You've slept too long in silence" Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Crazy boy, you'll only wind up with strange notions in your head"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking


Lyrics submitted by battaryacid

"Ticking" as written by Elton John Bernie Taupin

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Ticking song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentAn old Vincent Price movie called 'Targets" inspired Bernie Taupin to write this excellent lyric. A model young man snaps and goes on a desperado shooting spree. The analogy is that he was a 'ticking' timebomb all along, and no one ever saw it coming. Sad but all too common. This is probably my favorite Elton song.

    One change, though (near the end) it's: "...you danced in death like a marionette"
    Groucho2on May 01, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"One change, though (near the end) it's: "...you danced in death like a marionette"
    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, thought I might be wrong. My favorite Elton song too, with 2nd being "All the Girls Love Alice". I guess I like his creepy and depressing songs the best. :)
    Great song.
    loderunneron August 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwasn't this song actually based on a spree killing in new york during the 1960's?
    seabee0f13on August 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSuch a good song, just Elton and piano with these excellent lyrics. It's just so haunting, and I love the improvisations he does with the piano.
    madman885on May 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song and "come down in time" are the best Elton and Bernie have made ------by far
    itsbeenjismon June 21, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBrilliant piano.

    In today's politically correct times, I don't think it would be possible to record a song that shows such empathy for a mass killer. It almost scares me to listen to it, as if anyone could snap and lose control. I love it, but don't think I should listen to it too often.

    matt4444on July 15, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis BT lyric is so haunting (& appopriate) considering it was written back in 1974 & could more easily be appiled to the days in which we now live. And EJ's musical interpretation makes it even more so moving. What a wake up call it could be to people if the stars aligned for whomever is now out there, ticking.....
    NatureMuzicon September 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGreat song I agree with pretty much everything everyone else said. The meaning is pretty clear but I've often wondered if his violent outburst wasn't unprovoked.

    The lyrics

    'they had you holed up in a downtown bar,
    SCREAMING FOR A PRIEST'

    seems to insinuate that he was in danger in some way or at least he thought he was. The latter seems to make more sense since someone tried to calm him down. Perhaps he was imagining that someone meant to do him harm as is said in a latter lyric. Who knows, doesn't really excuse his actions but it's interesting to think about.
    amhereston July 02, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe movie TARGETS was one of director Peter Bogdonovich's first, and though it didnt have Vincent Price it DID have Boris Karloff so Groucho2 can be forgiven. The character and actions of the killer are patterned after Charles Whitman, the University of Texas sniper.
    Tunesteron March 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was a huge Elton John fan in the seventies and have always loved this song. I think it's just straight story telling from Bernie. I also love the musical arrangement which helps the song flow nicely through the different passages. The song is so haunting I can't just listen to it once and sometimes listen to it four or five times straight!

    Absolutely superb, storytelling at it's best. It has stood the test of time and is probably my favourite EJ song (along with Indian Sunset) although I have never cared that much for the rest of the album which, after Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, was a huge disappointment.
    steeviec60on March 10, 2012   Link

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