Monday, March 26, 2007

Elton John: Once Again I Don't Get It

Okay, I've got a task for all you guys. Explain Elton John. To me, he is like Donald Rumsfeld - I don't get it. He has written some pleasant enough tunes, though most of them ruined by Bernie Taupin's appalling lyrics. "And it seems to me you lived your life/ Like a candle in the wind/ Never knowing who to cling to/When the rain set in..." In what way, exactly, does a candle in the wind not know who to turn to when the rain sets in? Elton John is like Andrew Lloyd Webber; he does rock 'n' roll, but he isn't rock 'n' roll. Then there are all those daft clothes and the absurd Mr-Pooter-Goes-To-Bond-Street consumerism. And now he's sixty and holding absurdly grand celebrations in New York. Who is this for? I give up.


  1. As anyone knows, candles illuminate the dark. Being in a Gradgrind sort of mood, candles go out instantly in wind/rain. They don't cling to anything except the oxygen they burn off. He just road the big girl's blouse wave. With big specs and bigger heels. The big shopping is just designed to make little shoppers feel vicariously comfortable with the lives they lead. Share the tears. Anyway, its very, very bright out there in Sarf London so I've got to get under my tarpaulin.

  2. Must be the clouds in your eye, Bry.

  3. He and Bernie lift the veil from the falsehood of the bourgeois projection of self; a self that masquerades as at ease with itself and life, fulfilled by the nobility of work and the refinements of culture. Elton's art destroys this illusion with shocking violence and emotional detachment. He screams for a return to the primitive or savage, though with a display of almost inhuman honesty, Elton & Bernie resolutely fail to offer the olive branch that this savage is at heart noble.

  4. Who is this for? To those who salivate over the eccentricities of the rich and famous, his life and career are at least far more entertaining than most of the drivel people will gladly pay money to read about in the celebrity gossip rags.

    Take the cover of the current issue of OK! magazine I stared at in disbelief in a supermarket earlier today.

    It's a pretty girl out of Girls Aloud and a pretty boy out of Desperate Housewives. And the pull quote from the article on the cover, the most newsworthy/controversial statement in the entire piece?

    "I'll be happy to babysit for Cheryl."

    With this level of competition, it's no wonder people are fascinated by his Rococo raves.

    I find some of Elton's earlier output to be pretty awesome, in truth. But Taupin is the Hallmark of lyricists - The One is a particularly agonising example.

    And the knock-on effect can be devastating (the money quote is around the 2:05 mark).

    But the greatest crime of the Taupin/John Mawk-O-Matic is in producing the stomach-churning reworking of Candle In The Wind for Diana's funeral.

    At risk of going off topic, I felt ashamed to be British when we became overnight a nation of Liverpudlians. Every time that song came on the radio, my then girlfriend would burst into uncontrollable floods of tears.

    "Why are you crying?"

    "Because it's so sad!"

    I fear his skyscraping popularity these days is in no small part owing to his headline performance at that funeral.

    It certainly isn't down to his recent musical output (although I confess I'm a total sucker for The Lion King).

    But does it really matter whether he's 'rock'n'roll'?

  5. Andrew: Very, very good.

    My favourite example of this kind of thing was Susan McClary's feminist interpretation of Beethoven's Ninth.

    (See also Peter Burnet's link to a dead serious dissertation on the extreme sport that is Rock-Paper-Scissors.)

  6. That Beethoven should have been locked up. My pesonal theory of Beethoven, by the way, is that since he was deaf and couldn't hear what he was writing, he was simply jotting down notes and hoping for the best. By the law of averages some of these scribblings made sense.

  7. Elton John’s music always reminds me of those pictures you see on stalls in markets and shopping centres. They’re usually of a famous painting but improved through the artist's clever use of dayglow paints.

  8. Have you done Liz Hurley yet? What is the point of her? (Big mate of Elton's, true. But what's she all about really?)

  9. EJ's success was born in the 70's when rock and roll reached its low point. His competition was the Cowsills and Disco Duck.

  10. Bernie Taupin's appalling lyrics? ALL lyrics are appalling in one's own language. I can only listen in German. If I were German, I imagine French would do. At a pinch. God knows what the French do.

  11. Bryan - more to the point, what are you about? Haven't seen you for so long. Hope you and your American monster truck, that spills as much shit into the atmosphere as my Ferrari, are still tethered. I just came from Austin Texas where about half of all personal vehicles are 4 x 4 trucks with open space at the back to carry tools, ladders, etc. One of them, the largest I have ever seen, that would start riots in Richmond Surrey, carried a bumper sticker that commanded End Global Warming Now! On the subject of the pop stars you don't get: do you still want to write a biography of Paul McCartney? I think that just about ends my potential for teasing here. I always read you, you always infuriate me. That has to good.

  12. Good grief, Pete! It must have been a Faber & Faber party when we last spoke. Good to hear from you. I keep the emissions from my truck down by not driving it - it's in Norfok and I haven't been there for weeks. Sorry to infuriate, but as long as it's good.... Drop me an email I'd be intrigued to meet - entirely off the record of course.

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