"Hey Ahab" as written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin....
It's a constant struggle getting up that hill
There's a change of guard every day
When you're clinging onto a driftwood boat
You pray a great white whale might come your way

No freeway traffic in the frozen North
Just a chain link fence full of birds
And when the harpoon's loaded in the cannon bay
You'll be rolling through the pages lost for words

Hey Ahab can you tell me where
I can catch a ride out of here
Hey Ahab hoist that sail
You gotta stand up straight
When you ride that whale

In a crumbling city we were trapped for days
With a broken sun above the clouds
Caught like Jonah forty fathoms down
And a sign on the wall says, "Hope Allowed"

All the cryptic symbols carved on bone
A far cry from a tattooed rose
And when the boys in the rigging catch the wind
We'll all weigh anchor and it's westward ho

Hey Ahab can you tell me where
I can catch a ride out of here
Hey Ahab hoist that sail
You gotta stand up straight
When you ride that whale

Hey Ahab can you tell me where
I can catch a ride out of here
Hey Ahab hoist that sail
You gotta stand up straight
When you ride that whale

Hey Ahab can you tell me where
I can catch a ride out of here
Hey Ahab hoist that sail
You gotta stand up straight
When you ride that whale


Lyrics submitted by RedEchidna

"Hey Ahab" as written by Elton John Bernie Taupin

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Hey Ahab song meanings
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3 Comments

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  • +1
    Song MeaningThis song is definitely a very clever allegory using Captain Ahab's voyage from Melville's Moby Dick, as torteforte mentioned. The allegory is that, despite the constant struggles and hardships encountered in everyday life, one should always stay true to his or her self, persevere, and overcome the challenges in life.
    RedEchidnaon April 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentApparently this song is about the voyage from Captain Ahab for hunting the White Whale Moby Dick (due to the novel "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, 1851.

    But he also mentioned Jonah (third verse, third line: "Caught like Jonah forty fathoms down") what links to the bible (old testament) text from "Jonah and the Whale".

    In any case there must be another deeper meaning behind these words.

    Personally for me, and I hope it does not sound too histrionically: It is about life itself, what is hard for everybody and an everlasting chase to a methaphorically "White Whale". What could be a better Job, another relationship,...whatever. However he is saying "Hope allowed" and that's the important point!!

    Great lyrics
    torteforteon January 27, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthaving written more than anyone needed/wanted me to (and 7 years late to the party, no less) i return to the top to apologise for it. no need to repeat previous commenters’ thoughts, but i do think i’ve got something. the whale ahab pursues in moby dick symbolises his irrepressible drive to succeed, so it would make sense to speak about him in a song that deals with life’s everyday hardships, as the others have said. indeed, the first verse suggests that such a quarry would give the bored and disenchanted something to do with themselves.

    ahab’s single-mindedness turns out to be a bit of a bummer, though. his all-consuming passion extends even to the rejection of god, and in his faustian adventure he brings devastation to his ship and crew. the book is rich with religious allusion, and the comment here about jonah strikes the same note - jonah pluckily rejects god’s instruction to go to nineveh, jumps ship (literally) and is duly punished into repentance. if we’re ‘caught like jonah’, it can only be because we’re pursuing the wrong goals, or living in willful ignorance.

    still, to be ‘caught’ like jonah and yet asking an ahab for a ride ‘out of here’ seems entirely circular (unless my shabby reasoning and surface-level interpretation of books i barely understand is putting me wrong, but i’ll let you be the judges, there), and simply exchanging one folly for another. but i think the comment about ‘hope allowed’ is the most suggestive. dante famously spotted a sign on his way into hell inviting him to leave his hope with the umbrellas (a comment which i’d guess we should have in mind here too: ‘all hope abandon, ye who enter here’), but the situation set forth in the song would, in contrast, be a little more what you make of it. the sign on this wall reads ‘hope allowed’.

    it’s not hell, then. but don’t be too hopeful: the contrasting of vitality and petrification, of agency with inanimacy -suggested by the carved bones and rose tattoo in verse two- explicitly favours the latter, we being ‘a far cry’ from the rose. so, between two sinners (incidentally, ahab takes his name from scripture: an apparent wankstain of a king ‘more evil than all before him’, who, if you couldn’t guess, ruins everything for everyone by worshipping the wrong god), we find ourselves looking for meaning, wellness, or just something to do. wisdom is thin on the ground, all about is ‘cryptic’. we’re ‘rolling through pages lost for words’.

    if a solution is proffered, it’s really more of a hasty a patch job: drop your tools and get the hell out of dodge. the tone is almost decadent, certainly rambunctious, particularly in the chorus when we’re aggressively grabbing at ahab’s coattails; it’s not a song about being optimistic, so much as a paen to the throwing of caution to the wind: confusion and strife are rampant. the horizon awaits. eat your heart out.
    oliverfrenchon March 30, 2018   Link

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