Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ballerina - What does it all mean?

The Melting Pot is an eclectic music blog that covers a wide range of artists.  The following are extracts from his post  attempting to decode Ballerina. 

What Does It All Mean? Van's Ballerina

 I thought I’d ruminate a moment on one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite albums. The nascent music supervisor in me has always envisioned this song being used near the end of a film when a man sees his wife in her wedding dress for the first time and then played throughout the credits. Something about the way the song opens with the vibes and acoustic guitar and bass that just puts the picture in my mind of a man looking up to see the woman he loves as she comes towards him.
From an album of truly beautiful work, this one continues to take the cake for me even though you never hear it on the radio (even non-commercial radio shies away from the 7 minute running time).  I hear this song and I hear a man that desperately wants a woman to be his, perhaps she’s someone he’s just met, or someone who he used to know who he’s become reacquainted with, but the nature of their relationship seems to make him a bit unsure at various times, such as when he sings “and if somebody, not just anybody, wanted to get close to you…for instance me baby” or “well I maybe wrong, but something in my heart tells me I’m right that I don’t think so.” He also strikes me as a man who feels like he can save this woman, or perhaps she can save him depending on who you think he is describing in the lyrics.
You know I saw the writing on the wall,
When you came up to me,
Child, you were heading for a fall,
But if it gets to you,
And you feel like you just can’t go on,
All you gotta do,
Is ring a bell,
Step right up, and step right up

I’ve never been able to tell here if this is what the singer is telling this woman, or if “when you came up to me,” signifies that the woman is telling the singer, “child, you’re heading for a fall,” Similar themes rise up again later on:

Well it’s getting late,
Yes it is, yes it is,
And this time I forget to slip into your slumber,
The light is on the left side of your head,
And I’m standing in your doorway,
And I’m mumbling and I can’t remember the last thing that ran through my head,
Here come the man and he say, he say the show must go on,
So all you gotta do,
Is ring the bell,
And step right up,
I’ve always loved that line about mumbling and not remembering what’s in your mind. (along with the whole “Grab it, Catch it” verse, which I occasionally still hear as “Grab the ketchup” which really confuses the hell out of me with the whole “Sigh it, Die It” later…) Love can have that kind of powerful effect on you when you meet the person that’s right for you. But I like how the singer regains his senses and when the “show must go on” he’s able to give the advice that serves as the chorus, to get up and keep on moving.  I’ve never read anything directly from Morrison on the exact inspiration behind Ballerina. Strangely a number of people seem to be convinced that this song is about a prostitute, perhaps because of some of the other somewhat shady characters that populate Astral Weeks (especially thinking of “Madame George”), but there’s nothing in the lyrics that give me that sense at all. The song’s lyrical narrative seems to tell double stories, one about this new found rush of love the singer feels and another that seems to be related to either the struggles of the singer or of the woman he loves as they attempt to “keep a-moving on, little bit higher” through their life. 

1 comment:

  1. my favorite song. love to hear your thoughts.