What is the meaning of the following verse from Bernie Taupin's Tower of Babel as sung by Elton John on the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy?

Those hungry hunters
Tracking down the hours

I cannot come up with anything except for a reference to the Book of Hours, which would make some sense to me. Obviously, the lyrics deal with drug usage, and "hungry hunters" could be the police, "tracking down the hours" could then mean chasing after them.

Help from a native English speaker would be really useful here.

The lyrics can be found on Bernie Taupin's website here.

Thanks a lot!

  • Modern song lyrics do not necessarily have any particular meaning.
    – Neil W
    May 3, 2014 at 12:28
  • Well, certainly that's true, but in case of Bernie's songs, it is rarely so. Have a look at my previous question, I believe that the result's obvious. Thank you for your comment.
    – David
    May 3, 2014 at 12:37
  • Bernie is referencing the music industry execs. The entire album is a concept album regarding the struggles he and Elton endured during their early years.
    – user136396
    Sep 3, 2015 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


Since you're on English Language & Usage, I'll answer strictly from a literal English grammar POV.

"Those hungry hunters" - referring to people who act like or appear to be predators, looking for their next meal

"Tracking down the hours" - to "track down" is to search methodically, especially to examine tracks on the ground or other evidence of someone's having passed a certain way. To track down "the hours" means their searching for "hours" which doesn't make much literal sense, so this must be a more figurative or poetical sense.

Maybe the "hours" is just referring to time passing, maybe they look like predators who are chasing nothing - wasting time perhaps?

As to the "real meaning", that's an interpretation question that is open to debate. There's a fair amount of Biblical imagery in the lyrics which would take someone with a better literary sense than I have to deconstruct.

  • Thanks. How is it that I missed the "wasting time" meaning?
    – David
    May 7, 2014 at 16:01
  • Just to add some of the Biblical context to this answer... Nimrod is named in the Bible as a "mighty hunter before the Lord". He was king of Babylon and married his mother. After he was killed (tradition says Shem killed him), his mother (and wife) escalated Nimrod to "god" status and claimed to have a child by him (while also claiming it was a virgin birth). The Babylonians are also responsible for the division of the circle into 360 degrees, which they also used to track time.
    – Paul Rowe
    Sep 3, 2015 at 14:14

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