Elton John - Ticking Lyrics

"An extremely quiet child" they called you in your school reports
"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

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Elton John Ticking Comments
  1. herb walsh

    So Haunting ...

  2. Anti Gen

    Hit or miss I guess he never miss huh you got a boyfriend I bet he doesn’t kiss ya muah he gonna find another girl he won’t miss ya the he gonna skrt and hit the dab like wiz kalifa I bet he play with them balls like it’s fifa!

  3. Melodie Frances

    And there, but for the grace of God, go I ...

  4. Melodie Frances

    Whoah this song.

    Unfortunately, even more timely now 😥

  5. Deep Heat

    As a *Brit, America* please take this as a gift from us to you with lots of love *BUT* with a note attached - *"Please do something about your fecking gun laws!"*

    Melodie Frances

    As an American, thank you for this gift. Many of us want desperately for the laws to change, and we are drowned out by trumpets and the NRA and their millions, and a blind totally skewed interpretation of the 2nd ammendment, which, to many, is a sacred cow that must be protected at all costs, even the loss of innocent lives.

    There seems to be an inability to walk the middle ground. Even though it keeps getting worse and worse.

    And having lost my brother to senseless random gun violence (he was an innocent bystander caught by gang violence), I know first hand what this kind of violence does to the surviving family members.

    The US is just outright insane when it comes to guns.

    Deep Heat

    @Melodie Frances

    First off Melodie I'm terribly sad to hear of the loss of your brother.

    I just find it unbelievable how, in the face of so much evidence & so many mass shootings, that the government doesn't do something about this. Politicians will turn up at the site of some latest mass homicide & blame everything except for the elephant in room standing there with a smoking semi automatic! I get the 5th Amendment thing & the bigger civil rights issues but do people honestly think that if a government went rogue they could protect themselves from Abrams Heavy tanks & A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft with a 30 year old single shot revolver?

    I read something somewhere that more Americans have been killed by guns in the States than have been killed in all the wars America has fought in!

    I think the genie is out of the bottle now though as there are *SO* many guns in circulation you are never going to be able to pull them all back in. It is just such a shame as we can travel around Europe knowing that is something we don't even have to consider. Gun ownership is actually legal in the UK, I could go out & buy one tomorrow, but the don't seem to require this imaginary "penis enlargement affectation!"

    I love the States & Americans so this is all so doubly sad... Anyways, hey ho, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  6. 2degucitas

    60 year old me remembers how the 14 year old me felt listening to this, singing all the words. I thank Elton and Bernie for helping me through a troubled adolescence.

    Melodie Frances

    Me too.

    I feel like but for some very fortunate steps, I could have gone this way ... people don't realize what they do when the ostracize the humanity out of another human being. You can become so disconnected you stop seeing others as human because you don't know what it feels like to be seen as human yourself.

    Thankfully my innate ability for empathy and some kind of ability for hope allowed me to make it to therapy and end up on a very different path.

    But I wonder if I had been male instead of female and had been subjected to the crap that adolescent males are subjected too if things might have gone in a very different direction. Or if I had had access to guns when I was 13-14.

    No one who knows me now would ever guess how at risk I was then. I often forget myself. Then I listen to this song ...

  7. Carlo D'Angelo

    Cette chanson lui est venue de là haut.. Pas possible autrement...

  8. 1964gladiator

    I listened to this song over and over as a teen. It looks like by the time I understood the world the song came true.

  9. Malamute Rescue and Rehabilitation


  10. John LaStrada

    Why is this song listed as a bonus track? My American album from 1974 always ended with "Ticking." It's no bonus. If songs follow "Ticking," they may be a bonus'. I think they may have added the original single "Philadelphia Freedom" & Elton's cover of "Pinball Wizard," to the CD version of this LP. That's a bonus. Those were never on an album.

    I admire Elton if he performs this live -- there are tons of lyrics to this. Lots of memorizing. It's like one of those Bob Dylan lyrical novels (like "Highlands").

  11. Phil Naccarato

    Maybe the most incredible and emotional song from Elton that went completely unnoticed due to some giant hits on the same record. It's premium Elton who gets back to basics with just him and a piano - with a smattering of support tracks to go along to add intensity. There lyrics really show Bernie's chops as a poet. Such a tragic and moving story. And of course, Elton finds just the right music and translates this magical poem into a musical masterpiece. Elton and Bernie at their absolute best.

  12. Roger Whitacre

    "Within an hour the news had reached the media machine." - As a teenager in the 70's, I don't remember being aware of "the media machine." Probably because I was, well..., a teenager! But so relevant now - as is the entire song!

  13. Stixkid

    Elton is great, but Bernie's lyrics get cheesier as time goes on. I lost respect for him when he "We Built This City" Undoubtedly, one of the worst songs ever written. I thought this was great though, back in '74. Unfortunately, it IS even more relevant now than it was then, and that's sad.

    Deep Heat

    When he wrote an ode in adulation of his hometown *Grimsby* was the low water mark for me.... There isn't *"Grim"* in Grimsby for no reason!

  14. DoctorOcculator

    Brilliant songwriting and terrifying at the same time, it's so real in this world.
    I think this is Elton's most expressive piano technique ever recorded.

  15. Hellbent Hornball

    Crying crying crying...and so prophetic.

  16. Stacy Renggli

    Everytime I hear it takes me back to a little girl in Tacoma, especially my dad. Aka Twinkie my dad's nickname for me 💞

  17. sunnykat11

    a foreshadowing perhaps???? very sad

  18. Leonard O'Brien

    The weird thing is....the movie Dog Day Afternoon features an EJ song at the start of the movie....

  19. WC Smith

    Great lyrics by Bernie and performed to perfection by Elton...the piano is perfect for the song.

  20. Deep Heat

    As a *Brit, America* please take this as a gift from us to you with a note attached - *"Please do something about your fecking gun laws!"*

  21. Jerusha Pierce

    I just seen a good documentary on him. So proud of him for his recovery from addiction. He did it in a rehab for the average person. The hard way!

  22. Jeff Olsen

    At age 14 I memorized the Lyrics to this and sang them out loud... I think it disturbed my parents..

  23. Diane Kimball

    This reminds me of Columbine.💔

  24. Andy Nicholes

    The understated ARP Synth towards the end of this track is spine tingling - played by Dave Hentschel. Brilliant.

  25. KdpPhila

    Caribou and Ticking was always among my favorites by Elton and Bernie. This song and especially the piano punches you right in the heart!

  26. David White

    This song reveals Elton's virtuosity like no other.

  27. Henry Radtka

    Powerful song after what happened in Texas and Ohio, :(

  28. manco82

    Levon Part II?

  29. Maddox Bedford

    All the dislikes are the people who tried to play the song but couldn’t

  30. Gianluca Luchina

    Ticking Fantastic Song

  31. Michael Rizun

    A week later and it still kills me!!!
    Probably his best piano work , bar none. So heartfelt and honest .
    Just, Just, Just....

  32. Michael Rizun

    I've listened to this song before, but listening to it again just now I finally realized how fuckin great a song it is. The playing, the lyrics, the whole thing. Words just can't describe it. Unbelievably powerful. Going back to listen to it again.

    Vinny D

    genius of our time / mozart

  33. Debi Diana

    I bought this album when I was in high school. This song struck me so hard. I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Fortunately, I had a good home life and loved people. I can see how being beaten down when you are already depressed could do something like this. We need better care for mental illness. Still, this is one of my favorite songs.

  34. Trish Tilquist

    One of the MANY great Elton John songs. No better combination than Elton and Bernie. True Musicians.

  35. Esjbv K

    I bought this album around when it first came out. I was 15 or 16. Played it hundreds of times over the next two or three years. Hadn't heard it again until just two or three years ago, looking it up here on YouTube. I am 60, still remembered all of the words to this song. Great song!

  36. Kimfosterga

    Kind of prophetic, wouldn't you say? Nowadays stories like the ones told in this song are everyday news.

  37. Lonesome John

    Not a big fan of "Caribou". Elton John has many albums that are better. This song, however, is a gem, and one of Elton and Bernie's best.

  38. Steve Shovlar

    A stunning song that never ages. As relevant today as it was 44 years ago due to Amercian gun laws.

  39. Billy

    This has eerie similarities to Thousand oaks or is that just me?

  40. Malgorzata Piotrowska

    I Love Elton in 70ties

  41. mizofan

    One of Elton's many superb songs- what a catalogue!-, and of course credit to Bernie Taupin for the lyrics.

  42. Peter Wareham

    Elton's Magnum Opus

  43. Irish rover

    I remember back in 1974 that most music critics hated this song for its graphic content. And me, at 15 years of age? I originally thought it way too disturbing and hated it as an album closer.

    But none of us in 1974 had any idea how prophetic it would be. Back then, mass slaughter of innocents by a gunman was almost unheard of. Sadly, it is too common of an occurrence these days.

    45 years later, I still think the song is very uncomfortable to listen to but.. I have to listen to it.

  44. Marty

    "remember mama said ... hear it hear it ..ticking...ticking..." wow
    Amazing Song by Sir Elton John

  45. Dennis Osborne

    Another under the radar gem on Caribou along with Pinky .This album was recorded in about a week and always suffered under the shadow of the masterpiece Yellow Brick Road but there are some great songs on it . Proud that this was the 2nd LP I ever bought on my 14th birthday . Elton was on fire between 1970-75. These lyrics are not only amongst Bernies best but the best of anyone . He wrote 40 years ago about what sadly happens all the time now

  46. Deep Heat

    A song from a nation that has no guns that wonders why a nation we love dearly & care about has such a dangerous obsession with them?

  47. Deep Heat

    How many of the new fan boys & girls from the film will find their way here?

  48. AlbertoVO5

    In its day, following the continual blossoming of his preceding albums, Caribou was critically thought to be a lesser effort. I think it has aged extremely well and displays every bit of EJ's melodic range from Bitch is Back to Grimsby and Dixie Lilly to DLTSGDOM. But as an album closer this may be John & Taupin's masterpiece. A gut wrenching tragedy spun with dozens of memorable lyrics and acrobatic piano improv. Brutal and beautiful!

    Deep Heat

    I think *"Grimsby"* was Taupin's lowest point! I don't know if you are English but a song about an extremely rundown & ropey NE former fishing village... Really?


    Deep Heat yeah, “really.” I don’t know if you’re familiar with literature but throughout the modern era writing about the commonplace and mundane was a recurrent theme. That’s what Taupin was doing with Grimsby.


  49. Winston


  50. Douglas Hegle

    Heard Elton perform this live @ St Paul Civic in 82 with Dee Murray on backing vocals was CRAZY POWERFUL !

  51. greg wilkinson

    Elton John/Bermie Taupin masterpiece. One hundred years from now people will still be listening to Elton John.

  52. Stephen Fermoyle

    and the piano playing

  53. Stephen Fermoyle

    its beyond amazing the writing

  54. Stephen Fermoyle

    these were all classic songs i forgot about this one...its great

  55. David Bonham

    Elton John- the greatest singer/pianist in our generation

  56. leonard Alphonso


  57. Johnnie Brooks

    Elton at his best....

  58. Austin Gonzales

    I was fortunate to see him perform it live. June 10, 1982 at Poplar Creek Music Theater in Illinois . Stunning.

  59. Francis DiMenno


    Deep Heat

    Great schmaltz though!

  60. haysfordays

    Was just listening to this tonight for zillionth time. It occurred to me that its point of view is of recognition of the shooter's humanity and that even though he is severely disturbed, he is a human being. Is that the hardest thing we can achieve as humans?; The ability to see that these situations are a loss on both sides of the gun. The tragic figure committing a tragic act.

  61. marisha4sure

    The trilogy of albums, goodbye yellow brick road , caribou and captain fantastic are my favourite Elton albums.

  62. marisha4sure

    One of Bernie and Elton's best songs.

  63. Peter Wood


  64. Sean Moore

    What a wonderful song. I had this on vinyl in the 70's

  65. Steve Jackson

    Still gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.

  66. Steve Smith

    One of my many Elton & Bernie faves, such a dramatic song.

  67. MyLife3636

    An amazing song! Still relevant.

  68. Trey Meynig

    The piano 🎹 is unbelievable!!!

  69. Daniel HKHK7

    From the first to the final chord one of the greatest songs ever...

  70. Critter

    Beautiful but depressing song by Bernie and Elton. Thanks for posting.

  71. David Maholchic

    You will find this in the dictionary under the best song of all fucking time

  72. Barry Taylor

    Cant help but think that boomtown rats ,'I dont like mondays' must have been influenced by this. Elton at his best. This, one more arrow and talking old soldiers shows Eltons genius.


    "I don't like Mondays" was inspired by an actual shooting, however, this wasn't inspired by any specific mass shooting. I do see similarities though

  73. Tom Cooley

    Caribou Ranch Nederland Colorado !

  74. Gregory James

    Story of my life.

  75. Stuart Nelson

    This, 'Texan Love Song' and 'Indian Sunset' are three examples of the beauty Elton and Bernie created together. Nothing can rival their early work.

  76. Golden Boy

    This tune was way ahead of it's time. Just Golden! 😎

  77. Bruce Dillinger

    And that ending! I can only think of very few artists who would sustain the last note for so long as is done here.
    And it's perfect. Really allows the lyrics to sink in.

    Mike T

    Elton, Bernie and let's not forget Gud Dudgeon who produced this masterpiece. The ending is as you say ... think about what you just listened to.

  78. Joseph Duggan

    My favorite Elton /Bernie song

  79. Mario Farrugia

    A haunting ballad. I am reminded of it each time I see a mass shooting tragedy on the news.

  80. sjj48706

    Best song of all time.

  81. Frank A

    The piano playing almost speaks the words. Who knew a song written 45 years ago would be so prevalent of today.

  82. George Hering III

    Really pulls at your heart strings since all the school and club shootings we have witnessed since this song came out 40+ yrs ago

  83. Rude1 Wasszzzup

    Listen in headset and listen to the piano !!! Damn it's mad the Harmony is all over the place .and the the voices are the only thing that follows the straight line .so damn geunins thank you sir Elton for this masterpiece .

    Melodie Frances

    I'm going to have to try that. The piano is astonishing in what it does and where it goes, and is the perfect counterpoint to the vocals.

  84. Residential Estate Services LLC

    Elton & Bernie are GIANTS.    I thank them both for a life of beautiful music..  Credit?  Credit will be paid over Millennia..  It has NO value in present..   <3  Much love to Bernie & Elton  :) My favorite album?  Tumbleweed.

  85. Tim’s RV Tips

    Bernie Taupin should re-write this song with a positive message, hopefully reversing the irreparable damage this insanely clever and beautiful masterpiece has done to society.

  86. jerry kolbe

    OH. MY. GOD!

  87. G J

    First heard this at 14...45 years ago...blew my mind. Its not music.....its a story. Incredible.

  88. Susan Rieder

    "Deliver me from the thought that pulled the trigger..." Neil Young

  89. luis marcelo inostroza bidart

    Definetily a masterpiece of Sir Elton....

  90. Lonesome John

    This song never gets old. That album cover isn't a good look for Sir Reg, though.

  91. Fuphyter

    This song always gets to me

  92. Fuphyter

    Bernie Taupin wrote such incredible lyrics and paired with the best pianist ever....perfection

  93. Thomas Fraunberger

    your childhood cried out in your head, they mean to do you harm - great stuff

  94. Jamie Martinez

    After what happened last night in Thousand Oaks last night(a mass shooting at a bar , 13 dead) and Vegas last year, this song comes to mind...Haunting and extremely sad..


    Yeah, I saw similarities in thousand oaks too:
    1)in the song, 14 people die, in Thousand Oaks 13 die
    2)both at a bar
    3) both perpetrators used knifes

    Too much of a stretch maybe?

  95. Deep Heat

    Make the most of this quite reflective corner as the modern world realises the musical & cultural shit it lives amongst it mines deeper & deeper into the *REAL* stuff!

    Love to you all from the *UK!*

  96. Joseph Duggan

    My favorite Elton song. More relevant today than when it was released