Friday, March 25, 2011

Learning English Through Songs: Bennie and the Jets

The commentary is in green.

Bennie and the Jets (Elton John, 1974)

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather

The singer is using the interjection "hey" to get the attention of a group of human beings between the stages of birth and puberty. The following imperative is a command for them to collectively cause something ("it") to move back and forth. Whether or not the singer will join in the shaking of the undefined "it" remains unclear from the adverb, "together." He's also making a non sequitur statement about the spotlight hitting something the result of which has been known to create changes in the weather.

We'll kill the fattened calf tonight
So stick around

The singer is now informing the aforementioned children that a baby animal (could be a baby cow, a baby whale, or a baby elephant) which has been made plump will have its life terminated this evening. He's using the killing of said animal to motivate the children to stay where they are.

You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Another reason is cited for why these minors should not leave the scene: they will hear music which is electronically created. This music, based on the following appositive, is akin to multiple architectural partitions characterized by good substantial quality.

Oh, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
But they're so spaced out, B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

It's unclear at this point whether the singer is addressing two children named Candy and Ronnie who are part of the group or he is turning his attention to a completely new group of people of which Candy and Ronnie are part. Regardless, he wants to know if Candy and Ronnie have ever seen Bennie and the Jets, two never-before-mentioned entities (one singular and one collective?) who are described as being stupefied or disoriented from, or as if from, a drug.

Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen

The singer is opining that these two entities are preternatural and strange in character and that they are extraordinarily good. Bennie, in particular, the singer asserts, is finely sharpened.

She's got electric boots, a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

According to the singer, Bennie has in her possession the kind of protective footwear that is operated by electricity as well as an outer garment of fabric created with yarn made from the silky hair of the Angora goat. It is unclear as to whether she has them on her person at the time of the singing or she merely owns these items. The singer, however, makes it clear that the source of his information about Bennie's personal belongings is a periodical containing a collection of articles (also possible: a receptacle in which anything is stored, especially military stores, as ammunition, arms, provisions, etc.).

The names of Bennie and the Jets are again invoked. Reasons for this are unclear.

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they're blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless

The singer is again turning his attention to the same group of minors. This time he calls upon them to use an object, such as a cork or a wad of cloth, to fill tightly a hole of those who are described as disloyal, unreliable, and having no religious faith. He makes a supposition that these people -- into whom the plugging is to be performed -- have been deprived of sight. Bennie, however, is making these people exist forever in an unchanged stage. (The cause-effect of this part of the song is a bit questionable.)

We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who's right and who's wrong

The singer is concluding his speech by stating that he and the children (we) will remain alive and continue to function or prosper. He's encouraging them to take themselves to a place where they can contend in battle or physical combat in the public ways (or thoroughfares in a city or town) with the people who have begotten them. The purpose of this hostile activity is to determine which party is being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper and which is not.

The end.

And then we have this version. (h/t @ThaiFoodBlog):