Did not know about Timer

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     Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, released March 3, 1968, is an example of the superb talent Laura Nyro possessed for blending Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building. Musically, the influence of Tin Pan Alley is manifest in “Timer.” The song opens with a cakewalk, i.e. a march cadence which gives way to a strut. The cakewalk is again refrained in the closing.  In the late 19th century, the cakewalk became a fad and marked the onset of Tin Pan Alley (circa 1880’s to 1930’s &/0r 1950’s.

Laura listed herself on the vinyl back cover of Eli as the “writer, composer, voices, piano and witness to the confession.”

It is widely accepted that her earthy musical style and candid sexual imagery are about her men, i.e. “Eli’s Comin,” “December’s Boudoir,” and “The Confession,” e.g. “love my lovething – super ride inside my lovething.”
“Emmie” was “pop’s first lesbian love song.”¹ Laura sang of her beloved in a frank and exalted style, e.g.  “you ornament the earth for me,” “the natural snow,” “the unstudied sea,” “you’re a cameo.”  Laura was a weaver of song, and Laura’s beloved “ you were born a weaver’s lover. Born for the loom‘s desire.” (Laura’s piano)

The inspiration for “Emmie” was Maria Desiderio, aged 13. While respecting by her discretion, Maria’s tender age, Laura could not resist her own love’s vanity. Laura sang in her flame to Maria, “oo who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darling Emmie, oo la la la, oo la la la…” For the past two years, I have interviewed scores of gay, bi, and straight women about the import of these lyrics. Every woman has considered “cuddling  in a woman’s garden” to be a description of an  intimate embrace of the female genitalia.


Laura was  widely reported to have said at concerts that the song “Timer” was about a cat. This was incorrect. The vinyl recording of the live concert  of Seasons of Lights makes it clear that the comment  “here’s a song about another cat” was in reference to “When I was a freeport (& you were the main drag)” and not about “Timer.”#

The opening musical phrasing of “Timer” conjures a pace and the lyrics evoke the imagery of a dog walk. The song is her musings about love, e.g. “and now my hand is ready for my heart.”
But, who was “My lady woke up – and she broke down – she got up – she let go…”?
Who was the muse for “I like her song and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind”?
Who is being put on notice in “And Timer knows the lady’s gonna love again – If you don’t love me – The lady rambles – never more – if you love me true – And if you love me true – I’ll spend my life with you – you and Timer”?

It was also reported that “Timer” was about the passage of time. But lyrically, the song was mostly Laura’s feelings about love and not the passage of time, e.g. “But now my hand is open and now my hand is ready for my heart.”  The song repeatedly identified or was spoken to a lover.

By juxtaposing the lines “My lady woke up – and she broke down – she got up – she let go”  with the lyrics “Baby I’m not trying to talk you down,” is there  the suggestion of a lovers’ falling out? And is the lyrical ultimatum “the lady rambles never more– if you love me true,” an allusion to the reason for the tiff?

“So…let the wind blow Timer / I like her song – and if the song goes minor – I won’t mind.” Is the repeated use of the idiom “let the wind blow” for emphasis and to suggest a willingness to brave what may be  adverse consequences? Is the use of the phrase “…if the song goes minor”  to suggest the possibility of a lost or unrequited love?  Is it also, a subterfuge common to a flame, i.e. a  cryptic reference to  Maria’s age?

Are the lyrics “but I could walk thru them doors onto a pleasure ground. It was sweet and funny a pleasure ground” the same as cuddling in Mama’s garden?

Any doubt as to the lover being a woman was dispelled by Laura’s redacted version of “Timer” performed on May 30, 1971, in live concert at the Fillmore East. It becomes apparent when viewed in the context of the song “American Dove” which was Laura’s love song to her fiancé, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. Both songs were released on the 2004 CD Spread Your Wings And Fly

Maria was also the inspiration for “Désiree” on the album Gonna take a miracle? ³^

The young woman silhouetted with Laura on the back cover of the vinyl album jacket of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession became Laura’s memento  mori to her then flame and eventual life partner, Maria Desiderio.

The picture is worth 1,000 confessions and renderings of the image are an easy find on-line.*


The songs of ELI are a treat, a treasure trove of her musical precocity and lyrical poetry. Even though the silhouetted picture is not on the back of the CD, the re-mastered songs beat the dust off the vinyl.  (The back cover is shown inside the jewel box behind the  CD disc)



¹  http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Emmie_%28Laura_Nyro_song%29

   ²  https://rabdrake.wordpress.com/category/its-been-a-long-time-coming/

³  https://rabdrake.wordpress.com/category/desiree-sapphic-reverie-to-maria-desiderio/

^ Links below to “Désiree”



   * N.B.  be sure to avoid the strict search mode on Google. 




13 thoughts on “Did not know about Timer

  1. Den Knee says:

    #1: Did you ever think that the lyrics to both :Timer” and “Emmie” may be conversations by two different characters? The mother may be saying “Who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden” (literally, and in an innocent way). And there could be two characters in “Timer” as well…and possibly three.
    #2: As for “Desiree”, I’ve already told you time and time again that you are full of “#2” on that one. And I mean it (literally, and in a crude way).

  2. rabdrake says:

    Den Knee,

    #1 I agree that “oo Who stole Mama’s heart and cuddled in her garden? darlin Emmie, la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la, oo la la la” may be “literally, and in an innocent way.” Just two young women of different ages cuddling in a bed as innocently as “two spooners.”

    #2 concerning Désiree, the first 20 seconds of the song establishes my claim.


    As to “Timer” pretty cool Les Steinberg’s find of Beautybelle? “I’ve got this dog Beautybelle. A great big German Sheppard. She’s much bigger than I. She walks me” Please listen to “Timer” ‘68. Be sure to close your eyes. I dare you to comment that you can’t feel Beautybelle pulling Laura down the street on a walk as Laura muses about love.

    I’m still waiting for someone to take my dare. But, I am making progress. Instead of a cat and/or the passage of time, it’s now about two or maybe three other characters.

    Here’s a question for you. The back cover of ELI states “photographs: Bob Cato.” If Bob Cato took the photographs of Laura, how is it that the explanation is that all three pictures are contemporaneous? It is easy to see how Bob Cato took the front and back photos of the grown up Laura. But how did Bob Cato manage to take the photo of Laura as a child? The concocted explanations are that Laura is at a ¾ angle. Btw my photographic people say “no way that is a ¾ angle. You don’t see ¾’s of the younger woman’s face, it’s barely ½.

  3. Matt says:

    Could the “my lady” she speaks of in Timer be about herself? And the “if you don’t love me” lyrics are backing vocals and don’t appear in any lyrics sheets. Are these even the words she says in the background? I only know other background lyrics “I like her song” are the lyrics because that’s what I’ve seen written and see had the printed lyrics came with the album as we know.

    I do get the talking down part but she says “you” for those and “my lady” for other parts (as well as I). I don’t know, “my lady” may be about herself. It’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?

    You make a somewhat compelling, if speculative, case about Emmie being about Maria Desiderio. We don’t even know if they met before 1970 but you did point out she lived in NYC. Pretty speculative but at the same time compelling and possible. It’s all part of the mystery though and perhaps we shouldn’t over analyze.



  4. rabdrake says:

    Matt, thanks for the feedback. The lyrics are exactly as stated. The vinyl for ELI contained the lyrics sheet of all the songs. The lyrics were in a flap form with the cover flap providing the albums Title and song menu. The inside flap provided the lyrics for “Eli’s comin” and “Timer ” Thus Eli & the 13th Confession. This along with the back vinyl dustjacket of ELI is overwhelming. It is factual proof that Maria may be the influence. btw I’m not aware of anyone who has disputed the fact that both the lyrics sheet and the musical voice do contain the lyrics “I like her song.”

    Also as to “So let the wind blow timer…I like her and if the song goes minor, I won’t mind,” I believe she has bracketed the phrase with mutiple tracks as she was striving for multiflous voices and offering varying interpretations. If it was a song about unrequited love the line “I like her song” was backgrounded and was quickly dropped. Both musically and lyrically this worked best on the dl, but not for long.
    Btw if Laura is “My Lady” who is “The lady”? Check the lyrics from ELI ’67

    WHAT do you find “but at the same time compelling and possible?”

    Matt, What do think about “Désiree”?

  5. Matt says:

    “My lady” might very well be a lover. I don’t know. Good point. But maybe my/the lady is interchangeable. I don’t know. And the fact that she kept it out of a live performance when she was engaged is interesting.

    I find the back of the Eli cover to be “compelling” and for it to be possible that it was Maria. If they met before 1970 that is. I’m just saying it’s possible but still might not be so.

    Okay, the words I got online for “Timer” are thus:

    So let the wind blow, Timer, I like her song
    And if the song goes minor, I won’t mind
    And Timer knows the lady’s gonna love again
    Timer says the lady rambles never more
    If you love me true and if you love me true
    I’ll spend my life with you and Timer

    Is this how it appears in the lyric sheet or is this someone’s interpretation. I don’t see “if you don’t love me” in there. Could be the same thing about “I like her song” being backgrounded.

    So, is your contention that “I like her song” was pushed to the background to be discreet about the subject matter?

    Are there lyrics for the other songs or just Eli and Timer?

    As for Desiree’, it was an old song. But she did say Desiree’ a lot. I mean it’s possible. I don’t want to say for certain because I’m just not sure.

    And what’s your take on the “just a little farewell love spell” and “I LOVED you” lyrics in Emmie. In other words, the fact that they are in the past tense.

    I am not comfortable with jumping to definite conclusions here. She isn’t around to dispute anything and was so private she probably wouldn’t want to. And Zoe Nicholson said a lot of these opinions are false. There is circumstantial evidence but not enough hard, concrete evidence for me to say definite. And I want to respect Laura. She obviously wanted some mystery—you even alluded it to when you mentioned the layered backgrounds. I would say it’s possible but I won’t say it is a definite truth. We may never know.

    Please be patient. I am a 27 year old new fan. My mom was a child of the 60s and 70s.



  6. rabdrake says:

    Hi Matt,
    To be completely honest, she left out “I like her song” in a prior live concert circa February ’71. I so wanted it to be that neat, but as she intimates in “Timer” God/life is a jigsaw. I still hold that the omission of the “My Lady” lyric array and “I like her song” were consistent. After all she was in limerence. “It’s been a long time comin’ I’m mean love” singing of her fiancé in “American Dove.”

    “I find the back of the Eli cover to be “compelling” and for it to be possible that it was Maria. If they met before 1970 that is. I’m just saying it’s possible but still might not be so.”
    You appreciate the fact that if I can put them physically together any time prior to 1971, wow. The back cover along with the fact that Brian van der Horst and David L Geffen concocted the rave review which explained the back cover becomes dispositive proof.

    Lyrics exactly as published

    “So let the wind blow Timer
    let the wind blow Timer/ I like her song
    and if the song goes minor
    I won’t mind
    And Timer knows the lady’s gonna
    love again
    if you don’t love me
    The lady rambles
    never more
    if you love me true
    And if you love me true
    I’ll spend my life with you
    you and Timer”

    BTW these lyrics are sung exactly as above on the vinyl

    Don’t the lyrics make Laura sound like a cheater, who got caught, arrogant but still pleading?

    You know that Laura, Maria and their dog Ember are all buried together.
    So the lyrics are no more than a presentment?

    “So, is your contention that “I like her song” was pushed to the background to be discreet about the subject matter?” YES Maria was 13 and Laura was 19. Even in the age of drugs, sex and rock n roll, Maria’s tender age was dynamite. “Did not know about Timer”?

    “And what’s your take on the “just a little farewell love spell”

    As Tori Amos says in her coming out song “Rasberry Swirl,” time for the straight jacket. I think Laura and Maria met when Maria was 12 and taking keyboard from Alice Coltrane. Laura was smitten. I think their “flame” was exposed. “Emmie your mama’s been a callin you.” Maria is relocated to Torrence, CA circa late ’67. They rendezvous again in June 1971 to celebrate Maria’s 17th birthday. Instead of cuddling in Mama’s garden, they do the “wild thing.” In 1978, they again see each other on a fan line with Zoe. Laura’s very pregnant. That’s all that’s needed to rekindle the flame. They begin a correspondence. I think Alice was the go-between. From 1980 to Labor weekend 1982 they were having an affair which Zoe unmasked. Maria goes east to live with Laura. The rest is Herstory.

    The lyric sheet contained ALL the songs of ELI and was perfumed!

  7. Matt says:

    Thanks for the clarifications. Forgot about the Alice Coltrane connection. Thanks.


  8. Matt says:

    Okay, sorry, I know I replied already. Just tell me if I’m wrong here. You said Laura sounds like a cheater. Does that mean “the” lady is Laura and “my” lady is (allegedly) Maria? Because the words are “the lady rambles never more ([but]if you love me true…)” Just slightly confused.


    • rabdrake says:


      “You said Laura sounds like a cheater. Does that mean “the” lady is Laura and “my” lady is (allegedly) Maria? Because the words are “the lady rambles never more ([but]if you love me.

      The actual lines are “the lady rambles never more if you love me true, And if you love me true, I’ll spend my life with you…”

      Now, yes, that’s it. Laura is on a dog walk with Beautibelle musing about love. Trying on thoughts, ideas, feelings. Directing all of this at many different muses, Timer, darlin’ friends, my lady (makes sense to call a lover my lady), YOU, The Lady (Laura herself) and a general audience. The lyrics become inane if you don’t see Laura as The Lady. Laura can not be the YOU and The Lady as well. “if you love me true I’ll spend my life with you…” Also It has to be a woman, e.g. “I like her song.”

      BTW what about the repeated use of “so let the wind blow “Timer.” just prior to “I like her song”? It is a reference to the risk of the “flame” the age disparity and it being verboten. How about and “if the song goes minor” as reference to Maria’s tender age 13, but maybe also “time to design a woman.” Now “minor” may mean sad or unrequited, but it could equally be a double entendre, Freudian slip or all of these.

      What about “walking in through them doors ONTO a pleasure ground.” Similar to who stole Mama’s and cuddled IN her garden.(btw interesting how Mama’s spelled “mama’s and Mama’s in “Emmie.” ) Less we not forget Laura’s own description of coitus “superride INSIDE my love thing.” She seems to describe these as something occurring in Laura or something Laura remembered. These are all very female allusions.

      If you think we have analytically plumbed the depths of “Timer.,” you do Laura a disservice. She intended this album to be multi-themed, multi-faceted and multi-voiced. Remember to Laura the lyrics and her voice were yet other instruments.

      Matt, we haven’t even discussed the music. Can you hear the tin pan alley in “Timer”? Can you name an actual musical device she uses from tin pan alley to bring about a sense of movement (i.e. the passage of time)?

  9. Matt says:

    the Tin Pan alley device is called a “cakewalk” and was kind of a march cadence and went into a shuffle. Also the tempo changes which are prevalent in other Nyro songs. It gives it a kind of sense of urgency, of passion. (the wake me Timer part especially). It shows that she can’t be pigeonholed in one musical category.

  10. rabdrake says:

    You are too quick on the draw. Thanks. It isn’t often I get to dispute the paasage with such civility.

  11. Matt says:

    No problem.

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