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Someone Saved My Life Tonight by Elton John

Album: Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt CowboyReleased: 1975Charted:
  • This song deals with a time in Elton's life when he was going to get married to a woman named Linda Woodrow. In the 1991 Two Rooms tribute project, Elton explained: "I was going to get married once when I was younger, and I went out and got drunk with Long John Baldry and Bernie and John said I shouldn't get married. I knew he was right but I didn't know how to get out of it so, I just got drunk and went home and said I'm not getting married."
  • "Sugar Bear" in the lyrics refers to Long John Baldry, who recalls, "Apparently, I gave Elton some very good advice when he was in a pickle, and he wrote a song about it. But I still can't figure out what the song is about."
  • Elton wrote the music in 1975 while he was on a cruise. He was aboard a ship called the SS France for it's last voyage, and used the onboard piano to write the songs he used for the album. He had to write in short spurts because there was an opera singer who had booked most of the time on the piano.
  • Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics to this song, explained: "It tells a story that actually happened. For the most part, most of the things I write are an amalgam of several subjects or feelings that I then cut and paste to create one entity. Not always, but a lot of the time, I mean, I guess you could even say that with this song, the crux of its meaning is sort of surrounded with visual props that are intended to help set the scene for the main event, which was Elton saying adios to this woman who was pushing him into a marriage that he knew deep down in his heart would be a lie on a multitude of levels.

    It's packed with imagery, like most of the songs from that album. I was most definitely trying to conjure up an atmosphere and project a moment in time when we were struggling with the mundane areas of life, the everyday struggles to make ends meet. So when I hear that song now, it really makes me think of grey skies and wet streets, smoky pubs; in all, that fragile feeling you just kind of get inside when you're unsure of the future."
  • Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy tells the story of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's early years together as friends and writing partners - the songs are in chronological order. The album entered the US chart at #1. Elton was very hot at the time, and advance orders for the album were over a million.
  • Regarding the lyrics, "clinging to your stocks and bonds, paying your H.P. demands forever," there are two schools of thought:

    1) "Clinging to your stocks and bonds" refers to Elton's fiancé's inherited investment portfolio. "Paying your H.P. demands forever" refers to his fiancé's penchant for the more luxurious things in life that they would not be able to sustain with said portfolio but, would require Hire Purchase (H.P.) packets to satisfy. (Note to US readers: Hire Purchase Packets are the same as an Installment Loan, with the exception being an H.P. is drawn directly from your "pay packet" (weekly/monthly check) directly by your employer (and paid to the bank) rather than receiving a monthly statement and issuing a "personal check" for payment.)

    2) "Clinging to your stocks and bonds" is a metaphor for a married gay man being physically and mentally restrained in a marriage of "convenience" (think of the "Stocks and Bonds" of Medieval times). "Paying your H.P. demands forever" means paying for this "convenience" on a weekly basis. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Randy - Seattle, WA
  • According to Tommy Mottola's autobiography Hitmaker, when he knew his marriage to Mariah Carey was crumbling, the music mogul accelerated their split by leaving her a note with lyrics to this song: "Butterflies are free to fly. Fly away."
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Comments: 47

I think the over-laying fiance" breakup story makes sense. But nobody seems to be getting a double entendres of the under lying story with the many B/D S/M reference. It seems obvious that Bernie is painting a picture of the NY underground leather scene that was exploding in the early 70's. Elton was still labeling himself as "bi", and this woman most likely a rich Dominatrix type who was central in these types of parties. The song being inspired by a lucid and sobering monday after a rough n wild weekend ( or something to that effect). Just as J Lennon didn't admit that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD, Bernie nor Elton would not likely admit to its gritty basement/dungeon aspect. One of the less obvious clues...
"... I'm strangled by your haunted social scene just a pawn outplayed by a dominating queen "
Offendzall - Reno, Nv.
Sugar-bear, your timeline seems off. You could not have talked to him in 1973 and a few months later heard "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" on the radio, because it was not released until spring of 1975.

This is one of my favorite EJ songs, and when I went to see him in concert (performing solo, just him and his piano) in 2000, I couldn't wait to hear it. Unfortunately, he didn't perform this one or "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", another one of my favorites that I was looking forward to hearing. A friend who is an avid EJ fan from his first USA hits told me that he had some throat problems, and then it made sense because he couldn't hit the high notes of either song. My guess is that when he performs it live with his band, someone else sneaks in and hits the high notes for him.
Susan - Atlanta, Georgia
On a last note, I noticed a few commenters did not know what HP stood for. He referred to her based on her ridged sentiments as the "High Princess" So, "HP demands" meant just that, her demands that he drop all of his friends and all of the parties if they were to be married.

My comment to him that the Butterfly without its wings looses what makes it special really sunk in.

That conversation took place I think it was in December of 1973 and he had mentioned earlier in the night he was out with a few friends that also were recommending he should leave her but he was still leaning towards staying with her. The Butterfly analogy I gave him sinking in made his decision definitive. Bye, bye.
Sugar-bear - New Jersey
The story behind the story: 1973 - Manhattan - Scottish Pub - 12:30 AM to 3:45 AM - a long Conversation

Elton was wearing tennis shorts, shirt, and sneakers - I was from NJ, 17, and looked 20 (drinking age in NJ was 21 and in Manhattan 18 where I never got carded) so I traveled to Manhattan to hit a few bars.

Being that I was drinking underage I used a nick-name I picked of Sugar-bear and once in a while would mention my first name, Walt.

I looked for someone to talk to that seemed to know everyone in the place. I watched the people in the bar for a while.

The pub had a small bar in the front and mostly tables going back in the bar.

There was a chap sitting by himself at the bar but almost everyone who walked in, stopped said hello to him so I went over and sat down next to him to have a conversation. We spoke sitting at the bar from 12:45AM to about 3:45 AM.

When I asked what his name was he said John Elton (reversed his name) and he said he was a musician.

After a long talk in general about life, the world, etc. he said to me: "Sugar-bear it sounds like you know what you are talking about, what would you do in this situation?"

He went on to tell me: "He was in love with a woman who was rather wealthy, he had gone out with her for quite some time, he loved her very much, wanted to get married but she hated all of his friends and hated all of the parties he went to."

He had already told me he was the life of the parties and when he walked in the party started.

She told him they could get married but only if he dropped all of his friends and all of the parties. That he was seriously considering doing so and asked what I thought?

Well, I told him: If she loved you, and even if she hated your friends and the parties, if she knew they were special "to you" she would tolerate your friends and go to a few of the parties. I said she does not love you, she wants you as a possession.

In regards to him being "the life of the party", I said picture a butterfly with those beautiful wings. When it takes off, if one person sees it or five-hundred, all say: look at that beautiful, butterfly, those colors, those wings. All are amazed.

I then said: What she wants to do to you is snip your wings and what is a butterfly without its wings? A squirmy little moth that no one notices. That butterfly's were free to fly and in doing so brought wonder to all that saw them.

Again I said: She does not love you, she just wants you as a possession.

He said: "Thank you, I think you have answered my question. I am going home to be by myself tonight and I am calling her to tell her to kiss off."

He left shortly thereafter at about 4 AM and I never saw him again, I did not go to that pub again, and did not think any more about the conversation until:

A few months latter while listening to the radio a song came on that I never heard before; Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Well, as I listened to the song, heard the words, I then made the 1 + 1 = 2 equation and smiled. The meaning of the song and all of the words I knew very well.

They came from that prior conversation late that one night in that Scottish Pub. Again I smiled.. and have smiled ever since when I hear that song played.

AKA: Sugar-Bear

PS: If you know Elton, you may want to pass this communication on to him. I think it will bring a smile to his face also.
Sugar-bear - New Jersey
This is one of the FEW (very few I might add) Slow Songs I loved when I first heard it as a youngin. So of course as you mature with age, such as song becomes a lot more meaningful.

I love the line "It's four o'clock in the morning, Damn it listen to me good" and it's because Ole Elton's passion in saying/singing "Damn It".
Markantney - Biloxi, Ms
This song became personal for me when I almost lost my life 2 years ago due to prescription drugs & alcohol overdose. I had a rough childhood and never learned to see the positive side of life. I met my fiance and he was literally my rock, but when things got rough or we argued, I would numb the pain. One day he found me & I claimed to want to end my life. (by that point I didn't remember anything) The paramedics pumped my stomach and after 72 hours in a psychiatric hospital, I saw how I believed my fiance (now husband) and God saved my life! I'm thankful and blessed to know "someone saved my life" that night.Bella Vida - Los Angeles, Ca
"H.P. demands" would be the equivalent of "Macy's bills" in the U.S. Quite a few British retailers allow you to finance high-ticket items by signing an HP (Hire Packet) which allows you to pay for your item in allotments (deducted directly from your pay cheque in most instances).
Andrew - Surrey, United Kingdom
This song was out when I was 16 years old in love with someone 21, who played with my heart. It gave me the courage to move on. I did it big girl style walked away without uttering a word. Just walk walked away.Marie - Houston, Tx
Wendy in Tyler: I absolutely believe it, and I wish you and your mother well.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
My mother told me that she wished that she were a butterfly to float in the wind a month before she died of liver disease. She died in the morning of April 17, 2007 at four a.m. They brought her back once before letting her go. I got the phone call from my brother to come home. I packed up the car and headed out on the four hour trip. I had turned the radio off so that I could hear the kids talk in the back seat. I hit a bump in the road and the radio turned itself on playing this song. My mother had often talk about EVP's she would tease that she would find a way to talk to us when she got to the other side. The song never made since to me, but suddenly it took on a new meaning as the one verse fit so well....believe what you like but my mother was with me that morning.Wendy - Tyler, Tx
#1 Favorite Elton John song of all time!!Jj - Washington, Dc
My fave Elton John song. This song makes me tear up, love the lyrics.Theresa - Murfreesboro, Tn
This song is actually about him coming out of the closet. the curtains drawn and friend rolling on the basement floor was his friend fooling around with his fiancee'. another friend was with him and showed him what was going on, then he was done with women, hence a butterfly.David - Lakeland, Fl
I remember, albeit vaguely, Elton John on the Tonite Show with Johnny Carson saying that this was one of his favorite songs of his.

I think the song actually speaks for itself. Not left up for tons of interpretation. The song is called: SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONITE. You can kinda guess the state of mind someone was in when they wrote it, right? This isn't Lucy in the Sky with Friggin' Diamonds!
Belle Mann - Philadelphia, Pa
Susan, that would be a really neat time-travel trick. This was written fourteen years before "M. Butterfly". You are confusing the musical with the 1904 Puccini opera Madama Butterfly. In either case, I doubt he was trying to refer to his sexual orientation. It's much more likely he was thinking of "Butterflies Are Free", a play from the early 1970s, about a woman who is a hippieish and somewhat irresponsible "free spirit".Ekristheh - Halath, United States
"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was written about a dancer Reginald Dwight (Elton) met in Los Angeles, after she announced to him that she was pregnant. He left town, and no one knows what happened to her or the child.Joanna - Los Angeles, Ca
I always wondered if "You're a butterfly" reffered to Madame Butterfly, the opera about about a man who falls in love with M. Butterfly, a transvestite. a reference to Elton's sexual preference...Susan Schank - Parkville, Mo
Elton John is my all time favorite artist.I have always loved his music.My sister did as well & i sure wish someone saved her life that march,28.2003 night.RIP Renee. http://community.webtv.net/rpp64/64 7/13/08James - Yucaipa, Ca
These lyrics, like most respectable lyrics, are not relegated to an objective understanding. I'm sure Elton had a feeling and that feeling was connected to a memory which was connected to a chain of relative events which was connected, eventually, to everything, and then that feeling was transformed into a song. And now we all know what it is about because that feeling is universal, and I would like to share what memory that song recalls when it gives me that feeling: I am alone in a cabin in the mountains, coming off a 3 year opioid addiction, trying to maintain a standard of freedom and clarity which does not exist anymore. For the second time in my life--after childhood--I am completely dependant upon something outside basic necessity. Youth is diminishing, friends are walking dead, nothing ahead and nothing holding me from behind. I crawl home for x-mas and meet a young woman that reminds me of life, pure and simple. She reminds me that my music justifies my existence and that it will always be around. She exemplified free will under pressure and she made me love myself again. She also made me love her. And marry her. Without a past to show you beauty ambition can seem dangerous. I remembered all the good songs and good feelings and good love and I took a step forward. IT ALL SAVES YOUR LIFE in the black tea night of the soul. And that is what I KNOW it means. To me.

(The person who posted this comment wrote this a few months later and was found dead in the basement of his yacht: "I have to commit suicide. She left and this queer song is driving me to death. Good-bye, silly world, good-bye. Oh, and I think the basement floor is what happens after you become wonder struck with the mystery of drugs and end up lost in the dark with the prophets, eating and babbling on about the true lord, Chemicals, for which you are now only a host".
Issac Hunt - Dickbeard, Albania
I remember loving this song back to the age of 3 or 4 years old. When I was really little I thought it was about the "Sugar Bear" cartoon character that was used for the cereal commercial. Of course now as an adult I can appreciate it as one of EJ's best songs, certainly my favorite of his.

I love the was the song starts out quietly and build and builds into the climax (High away, bye bye!) I really like the build up because the first verse is simply quiet, actually sad sounding. Then the drums kick in on the second verse and the song gets more exciting. After the bridge (and I would have walked head on...) the last chorus gets very exciting with all the extra keyboards thrown in until it reaches that peak. After that it is smooth sailing (Someone saved, someone saved, someone saved my live tonight).

I can listen to this song repeatedly. In fact I just listened to it three times in a row (for about 21 minutes, since it is a 7 minute song). It evokes emotion in me, it is so inherently beautiful that it sometimes chokes me up...
Ron - Auburndale, Fl
Tricky song to memorize on piano, I make tiny notes to remind myself the flats of chords in this song. Fun to watch Elton play this one solo. Elton always sings the last line "High-a-way bye-bye" just a tad different each time I hear it live (even on the same tour). Anyone out there attend the 'Capt. Fantastic' shows in which he played almost the entire album in order of the track list? To my knowledge he only did a few of these shows (too bad!) I went to the second show on Saturday in Boston, MASS September 2005. Very historic concert for Elton fans. Bye now.
-David, Bristol, CT
David - Bristol, Ct
Posted 11/17/2007. Of all the great great songs Elton John has made over the decades this song may very well be my favorite by him. Since Elton John is one of my all-time favorite artists this consequently makes "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" by default one of my all-time favorite songs ever! That's saying a lot cuz I like a lot of music. You gotta hand it to him. Elton John has been consistent in making terrific music for over the course of more than 3 decades now. Infact, I think I remember hearing that at one point he might've even set some sort of record for reaching the Top 40 chart during each & every calender year since 1970 for more than 20 years in a row, if not longer possibly. How many people can say that? Not many - if any! Can you say enough about what that Madman Across The Water has done for the world of music? The guy has so much energy & just somehow managed to crank out hit after hit after great hit. How does he do it? Sort of like Hall & Oates in the 80's, I think he got something of a bad rap for being perceived somewhat as a deliberate "hit-maker". I don't know. Say what you will, but there's probably a good reason why he's made so many hits. That's because he made great songs! And a lot of them! Isn't that what it's all about? He's probably made enough to fill atleast 5 Greatest Hits albums, and nearly all of them were excellent high-quality songs. Some of my very favorites by him (and of all-time in general) include "Philadelphia Freedom", "Rocket Man", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Bennie And The Jets", "Harmony", "Island Girl", "Circle Of Life", "The One", "Simple Life", "Something About The Way You Look Tonight", "Sad Songs - Say So Much", and so many others that deserve mentioning, but "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" may very well top them all. What a great song. Aside from those powerfully gripping lyrics, I like the way the song starts off softly on piano then slowly builds in a powerful way as the drums eventually kick in, then crescendos near the end when that chordal Arp String Ensemble Synthesizer kicks in along with the drums during the last 2 minutes of the song. Nice touch. I've had the pleasure of seeing him in concert 6 times now from 1989 thru 2005 so far (89,95,98,02,03,05) - 2 of those times together with Billy Joel ('95 & '02 - what a treat). He's like the Energizer Bunny - just keeps going & going. Thanks, EJ, for giving us so much for so long now! Way to go.David - Deerfield Beach, Fl
H.P. Demands are simply high pressure demandsEddie - Cambridge, England
HP stands for Hire-Purchase to the best of my knowledge.Stephen - Trenton, Me
I once heard HP meant "Honey Please", but as someone on here said "High Priced" seems more fitting to the rest of the lyrics.Jane - Los Angles, Ca
Yes the song is about drugs everything is about drugs....It makes so much sense...it's not about his decision not to marry his suicide attempt and his friend who talked him out of making a big mistake, it's about drugs...DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS. Do us a favor lay off the drugs and read the lyrics!Steven - Vincentown, Nj
This song is absolutely epic. The first interesting thing about it is that YOU CAN NEVER TELL WHAT KEY IT'S IN! This is where the off-balance feeling of the song comes from, which fits perfectly into the lyrics. Elton is constantly modulating--the verse itself is a 12-bar trip through three different keys. Typical pop progressions? They couldn't ever measure up to this song. I think that there is also a connection in this song to the Beach Boys not only in the backing vocals, but in the way Elton gives the song a tonal uncertainty. Brian Wilson set out to do the same thing in the song God Only Knows, and Elton is doing something very similar here. From a harmonic perspective, I don't think you will find a more brilliant song. Even if I don't necessarily think so, anyone who says this is Elton's greatest song is very justified in saying so.Stephen - Trenton, Me
I think you are all wrong about what this song is about, except the gentleman who talks about his drug addiction. Elton John wrote this to tell the story of his cocaine addiction, i.e. sugar bear....you had me alter bound and hypnotized means that he would have sacrificed anything to get his fix...he worshipped cocaine....the part about him being like a butterfly this refers to the hallucinations he was having when he was high and almost jumped off building...his friends were also high hence rolling around on the basement floor. He wanted to kill himself, i.e. I would have walked into the deep end of the river....HP....you get your fix and pay for it later.....Susan - Denver, Co
Why do guys think they're the ones being "roped and tied" when the loser in marriage is the woman. Always has been and will continue to be. If Elton broke the marriage off, then he did the lady a HUGE favour as history has proven.Lalah - Wasilla, Ak
I remember reading in the original lyric booklet that came with the album that H.P stands for House Payment, although that was a long time ago.Carlos - Dallas, Tx
Elton John, clearly conficted about his relationship looked to all of his buddies to intervene. They did, and he stopped his marriage. Obviously he has continued his conflicted ways but he wrote this song and matter of factly created one of his best tunes. For those of us that can't sympathize with his plight, it's still a great anthem for any disturbing or life changing moment. He's a great artist, that goes without saying.Jerry - Pittsburgh, Pa
I think its about his own innerself crying for help.Graham - Surrey, Canada
I may be going out on a limb here, but I think HP stands for high pollutant (or what they said above about it being "high purchase").Sara - Gainesville, Va
This song wins the Ekristheh Akanora Moribund Music of the 70s Award for Most Tiresome Track Recorded by Elton John. I know other people think highly of it. I thought "your HP demands" indicated "high priced". Or perhaps "happy pills." But who knows. This is the song that probably inspired a gentleman of my acquaintance at university to design a t-shirt which read "I can't stand Elton John!"Ekristheh - Halath, United States
One of the best songs ever made!!!Kim - TÃ?rshavn, Europe
I could be full of it, but I think it's "playing your H.P. demands forever", "H.P." referring to "Hit Parade". Hey, what do I know? :-)Gb - Toronto, Canada
Didn't South Park's Chef convince Elton John to use Bernie Taupin as a lyricist? :-)Fyodor - Denver, Co
perhaps H.P. refers to H.P. Lovecraft, the infamous horror author?

I always loved this song. Never, ever knew the lyrics until about 5 minutes ago! LOL I had sang the song for years, in bits and pieces, but the lyrics i were singing were wrong wrong wrong! NOW i know the real lyrics. It's funny!
Bateman - Las Vegas, Nv
This song is so moving, I love it. Elton's melody is so complicated, it fits Bernie's emotion-packed lyrics perfectly. One of Elton John's best songs, perhaps THE best! so far :)Andrea Ruhlman - Charlevoix, Mi
I just saw Elton last night and he was so awesome! This was the first "hit" that he performed.Racine - Truro, Ma
I actually OWN the personal GOLD 45 RPM single of this song. Elton himself gave it to me. It has a small piece of paper attached with his signature. It is one of my valued treasures and I would absolutely never part with it, even to Elton himself, who has said that he had forgetten who he gave it to until I mentioned it to him and he contiued to then ask if I would give it back to him!! This was in a message session on the web in 2002.Patrick - Charlotte, Nc
I've heard different explenations for this song, but I could care less which are correct because it's a great song regardless.Dee - Indianapolis, In
This song means a lot to a friend of mine named John, who also made a half-hearted suicide attempt a few years ago like Elton. John was going to jump off a rather tall bridge spanning a river near my hometown, but attached a rope to his waist. Fortunately, a mental health negotiator persuaded him not to jump. He may have ended up looking like a bungee jumper had he jumped. John credits the mental health worker for saving his life and is grateful to this day.R J - Peoria, Il

Hi I'm Jimmy and I'm a recovering addict and alcoholic......On the night of April 27 of this year I lie on my recliner about to I think die...I was trapped in world of addiction I was so scared.....I've been battling cocaine for ten years and as I write this I have 79 days clean..
SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT.......I know God entered my life that night and truly allowed me to surrender to his will........YOU ALMOST HAD YOUR HOOKS IN ME.......Cocaine and whiskey had it's "hooks" in me for almost 10 years and I had been dangling for dear life out of "water"....

ALTAR BOUND, HYPNOTIZED.........I go to church every morning now is Astoria and pray deeply to the LORD , MY GOD, the being who saved my life.....and for that i am eternally grateful...I approach the altar and receive the BODY OF CHRIST each day which helps me DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.......THANK YOU JESUS....I am truly a "spiritual butterfly" and I am free to fly away high away to sobriety and away from the chains and fire of addiction and alcoholism....thanx elton and bernie........theevolution4285@aol.com
James Wells - Queens, Ny
Elton said that Bernie Taupin wrote they lyric partially about Elton trying to commit suicide because of his sexual confusion. Elton admitted it was a "comical" suicide - he turned on a gas stove but forgot to close the windows!Ken - Louisville, Ky
Bernie has said the recording of this song was very difficult emotionally for Elton. The producer kept asking him to do over. After the 7th take Bernie had to tell him about it. Also the part about "my best friend's rolling round the basement floor" is about Bernie throwing up after they came home from drinking the night Elton breaks it off.Celeste - Drexel Hill, Pa
The song is actually about a poorly made suicide attempt by Elton. Someone found him in a very well ventilated kitchen with all the windows open while he had his head in a oven. The fresh air and the gas served to cancel each other out.Aaron - New Glasgow, Canada
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