Tin Man

Album: Holiday (1974)
Charted: 4


  • This song is about eschewing love for sex, the "perfect prize that waits among the shells," for which the bait is a quick, loveless seduction, while real love is the real reward. And anyone who remembers The Wizard of Oz knows that the Tin Man really wanted a heart, which the Wizard showed him he already had. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    S.D. - Denver, CO
  • America was the trio of Dan Peek, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell until Peek left in 1977, leaving them as a duo. They wrote separately and split lead vocal duties: whoever wrote the song would sing it.

    "Tin Man" was written by Bunnell, and Beckley would like you to know that its themes extend well beyond the movie. "There are so many other beautiful lyrical twists in that song, so it's not fair to simplify it as just a song about The Wizard of Oz," he said in his Songfacts interview. "To a surrealist, it's like a Dali painting."
  • America hit it big with their first single, "A Horse With No Name," and their second album contained the hit "Ventura Highway." Their third album didn't do nearly as well, with only a cover of a song about amorous rodents cracking the Hot 100.

    For their fourth album Holiday, they brought in a ringer: George Martin. The Beatles producer was known for keeping up a faster pace in the studio than America was used to, so the band adjusted accordingly, making sure they were prepared for the sessions. This brought a new focus to the band, and the session were done in 13 days. "Tin Man," released as the lead single, was a solid hit and brought America back to the limelight.
  • Regarding the line, "The tropic of Sir Galahad," Sir Galahad is a knight of legend in King Arthur's court, but what he has to do with a tropic is not clear. Like many of the references in this song, Dewey Bunnell used poetic license to create them, as they kept the song flowing and added intrigue.
  • There is some sketchy grammar in the chorus: "Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't didn't already have."

    This is a classic double-negative, as read literally, it means that Oz did give something to the Tin Man that he didn't have. While this would get flagged in an essay, it works for songwriting purposes, since "Oz didn't give anything to the Tin Man" wouldn't have scanned as well.
  • This was America's first #1 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, which is surprising considering their soft rock success. They would place two more songs at the top of the chart, both written by Dan Peek: "Lonely People" and "Today's the Day."

Comments: 25

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenParts of this sounded as druggy as "Horse With No Name" did. But I always liked that sweet little piano riff that played during the choruses and at the end.
  • Mr. WThe song of the Tin Man for me is about many things: being born gifted. Being able to attain personal achievement where there are people who take short cuts while others are struggling to do the right thing in order to achieve success for themselves and for others they wish to share their success with. We all seek teachers and role models to give us the knowledge and skills to compensate what we lacked that we had no idea that we actually are capable of achieving ourselves. We just need to believe in ourselves that we can and when we do, we can have people believe in us.
  • Nicole from Washington The lyrics “cause never was the reason for the evening or the tropic of sir Galahad” is a play on words “evening” or night/knight didn’t need a cause, “tropic” is another word for latitude/direction.
    So Oz never have nothin to the tin man, that he didn’t already have. And cause never was a the reason for the knight sir Galahad to go the direction he did... in reference to sir Galahad always doing the right thing.
    The lyrics message is you have everything you need, you don’t need a cause to do the right thing, to be pure and true of heart like sir Galahad.
  • Romanong Kurong from NagaThe clear intro plus the cool mumbling of brilliant lyrics prods this genius composition.

    Of course, I hardly knew the lyrics especially—tropic of Sir Galahad, soap sud green light bubbles, oh, oh… Oz never did nothing to the tin man”—“ but the tempo and the music were enough for me to like it.

    And adore anything that went with it, including all subconscious memory it reminds me. The keyboards at the last part—plus the na na na na na defines how life is simply beautiful.

    Yes. It’s amazing how ignorance [of the lyrics, of artist’s realities] makes you know too much [of your own, which are more essential things].
  • Paul S. from Pittsburgh, Pa.think I'm going with Robin from California on the only line that puzzled me from the song i.e. "the tropic of Sir Galahad" - the narrators feelings have him turning towards an approach of purity - as for the Wizard of Oz analogies, of course, everybody who was searching for something proved throughout their travails with the wicked witch that they already unknowingly possessed them when they needed them, even Dorothy had found home among her new friends
  • Robert from CaliforniaI believe that this song should also be classified as a song containing a stutter - the double use of the word “didn’t” in the phrase “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have.”
  • Rama from SidneyThis guy was in love ... Please believe in me :)
    {Sometimes late when things are real
    And people share the gift of gab between themselves
    Some are quick to take the bait
    And catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves}
    People tell stories that they can prove with a photo or a trofee they keep on a shelf
    {But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
    That he didn't, didn't already have}
    Tin Man has a heart but he can't open his chest to show it to the others
    {And Cause never was the reason for the evening
    Or the tropic of Sir Galahad}
    There is no explanation for the evening (to be) or Sir Galahad (to find the Holy Grail in the tropic)
    {So please believe in me
    When I say I'm spinning round, round, round, round
    Smoke glass stain bright color
    Image going down, down, down, down
    Soapsuds green like bubbles}
    So please believe in me (there is no reason why I have such a feeling for you but my heart goes zinggg when you come to my mind ... Believe in me) :)
  • Suedeaunym from Nawth JawjaDreadful lyrics. Obvious cannabis-induced confabulation. Like nearly every America song.
  • George from Vancouver, Canadaas to "shell" -- have you looked at a vagina lately? Now consider with Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" & how Venus(Aphrodite) was the ancient goddess of love
  • Robin from CaliforniaOn tropic of sir Galahad if you look up the words individually you get "tending toward" "purity" (Galahad was the most pure knight and found the Holy Grail)
    There might be something in this.
  • Johnnyzhivago from Holmby Hills, CaSo is it the perfect prize that waits among the shells, or shelf? I think both could make sense, but I always heard "shelf" as in, there's a particular metaphorical book on the metaphorical bookshelf to enhance the subject at hand, to further a conversation that the narrator feels is not really that important. That's my take on it as a ten year old kid listening to it on the radio when it was released. I love reading everyone's comments that open new vistas of interpretation.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaWeird song and lyrics.
  • Don from Oklahoma CityTo me it is so simple. Try to over think or plan or look for a reason (Cause) and you may miss the beauty of just having the experience. It is certainly about love. The man is trying to tell the girl to forget how he may fit into her world or what her friends may think, to drop her calculations of what the budding romance may bring in the future. He wants her to just be there with him and fully experience the here and now (please, believe in me). He doesn't want any cerebral analyzing of the "reason for the evening" or anxiety about the future to ruin the magic ("psychedelic" imagery of second verse) he is experiencing, a magic he is asking her to share, he knows she will share if she "believes" in him. Don't think about poetry, just feel.
  • Jezt from PdxA tropic is a deciding factor in whether one relates.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 18th 1974, "Tin Man" by America entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and on November 3rd, 1974 it peaked at #4 {for 3 weeks} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    On September 29th, 1974 it reached #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart {their next release, "Lonely People", also peak at #1 on the Adult chart}...
    Between 1972 and 1983 the trio had seventeen Top 100 records; seven made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "A Horse With A Name" for 3 weeks on March 19th, 1972 and "Sister Golden Hair" for 1 week on June 8th, 1975...
    R.I.P. Dan Peek {November 1st, 1950 - July 24th, 2011}.
  • Djflwb from Tampa, FlLet's just go to the source shall we? Highway Highlight (from the box set booklet)
    Bunnell's "Tin Man" was released as Holiday's first single, reaching #4 in the fall of '74. The song was a return to the soaring melodicism of "Ventura Highway," and it reestablished America on the airwaves. Still, Dewey has mixed feelings about "Tin Man": "The song is jumbled in my mind--there's not a lot of cohesiveness. I had really liked the chords, those major-sevenths. It was up and kind of bouncy, with a little Latin-y feel to it. That's how it is: I get the chords and the melody, and then I have to get some words."

    Bunnell unravels the lyric as follows: "My favorite movie of all time was probably The Wizard Of Oz, it still amazes me how great that movie is. And here's my classic use of bad grammar: 'Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man...' Another god-awful use of the language. But it served the purpose. But that was really the only cohesive thought I had. How do I convey that? The first verse--I guess that was a little bit of paranoia. We were being exposed to more and more sophisticated people, and there were times that I found myself with my foot in my mouth, saying things I wish I hadn't. The first verse is very ambiguous. 'The Tropic of Sir Gallahad' is a whole other image to me about being chivalrous or a gentleman. 'Spinning round, round, round, smoke glass stain bright colors...'--that's all just purely kaleidoscopic imagery. The melody definitely dictated those words, because it was a swirling, rising thing." (so sorry kids that always try to equate songs to drugs.) Dewey tended to write lyrics to fit the music. There wasn't always a literal meaning.
  • Jodie from Xxxxx, MdWasn't this group high all the time. Lol
  • Rupert from Sa;esville, WiI have looked at these lyrics a bit. Here is my take: Guy goes to a party, and as inhibitions drop and minds expand, talk gets a bit philosophical as per usual. The prize among the shells is from the old street corner "shell game" you've seen live or for sure in a movie, in this case making a profoundly insightful point to a bunch of drunks. The protagonist doesn't care too much for that, and dismissively comes out with the trite "Tin Man/ Oz" statement. Now here is what I think the next and most perplexing lines mean: Since the word "Cause" is capitalized in most of the lyrics for this I see posted, I assume "Primal Cause", which may be scientific or religious in nature (Why are we here? What does it all mean? etc.). But who wants to talk about that...I'm here to party! The next line is easy to interpret once you know that a rather obscure meaning of the word "tropic" is "allegory" or "metaphor". Certainly Arthurian legend is loaded with these, one of the more notable being Sir Galahad. But forget all the talk...Let's just enjoy the ride!
  • Jim from London, OnWhy do you insist that these lyrics have meaning? I don't know but I suspect they are gibberish. Oftentimes, song writers will develop the melody without lyric and substitute gibberish with the intention of returning later and writing something "appropriate". Given the culture of the mid-70's when this was written and their youth, it is completely conceivable to me that Dewey was just bein' screwy. ;)

    Most importantly, keep in mind that these are the same guys who wrote: The ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above.
  • Roberta from Bakersfield, CaS.D. from Denver is correct. You must remember that when this song was released it was illegal for artist to talk about drugs and sex.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxReally deep lyrics, mannnnnnnn....
  • Jibri from Muskegon, MiI agree with Charlotte. I have always felt that the song meant that. People's egos always go in the "left field" late drinking and having a good time. And, there's usually one on the sidelines with the lyrics going through his head while just shaking his head back and forth. Right on, Charlotte!
  • Johnnys Cousin Steve from Villas, NjI like what you wrote below, Charlotte. I basically agree. I've been singing these lyrics for years and never really understood them myself...
  • Charlotte from Houston, TxFirst Verse: "Sometimes late when things are real And people share the gift of gab between themselves Some are quick to take the bait
    And catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves"

    I think is about people sitting around late at night (maybe doing drugs/coke) talking crap about other people and just running their mouths about things that are just not that interesting or important.

    Second verse/chorus: "But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man That he didn't, didn't already have And Cause never was the reason for the evening Or the tropic of Sir Galahad"

    He can think for his self what he wants to about the people (or the subjects) and does not need or care about their gossip that has nothing to do with anything important. So he starts to get bored.

    3rd Verse:"So please believe in me When I say I'm spinning round, round, round, round Smoke glass stain bright color Image going down, down, down, down Soapsuds green like bubbles"

    He is just looking at all the smoke & glass listeing to everyone talk s--t and his mind is going off in to some type of psychedlic trip cause he could care less about all the gossip.

    "And Cause never was the reason for the evening Or the tropic of Sir Galahad" kind of reminds me when my Dad used to tell me "What the hell does that have to do with the price of beans in China?"

  • David from Lynn, Massachusetts, MaSo. . . what's all the mularkey about this: "Cause never was the reason for the evening, or the Tropic of Sir Galahad."

    Talk about yer confoosin' lyrics! Sheesh!

    Suwanee, GA
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