Ticking – Elton John (1974)

Ticking is the last song on Elton John’s 1974 album Caribou.  This is my favourite song of the album and tells the story of a troubled adolescent, most likely suffering from schizophrenia.

Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are a reminder for more understanding of mental illness and how people are not always in control of their actions.

A colleague of mine suffered fr0m a form of schizophrenia and took his own life in 2006. Apparently he was under medication and maybe would still be alive today with better mental health care.

Elton’s piano playing is superb and in the latter part of the song you can hear a synthesiser adding to the sound mix.

Listen to the studio recording, and live recording and follow the lyrics later in the article.

Studio Version

Live version


“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. Patricks 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


Yuri – this song makes me think of you.

Your smile still radiates in our office.

You are sadly missed.

Read the newspaper article about Yuri.

Lyrics from Eltonography.com


Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

One thought on “Ticking – Elton John (1974)”

  1. This for me is my favorite song on the Caribou album. I think this song was way ahead of it’s time. With so many people killing innocent others that we hear in the news today, this song reflexs that with it’s lyrics. And the melody is so very haunting. What an incredible song.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s