Living with…Elton John…for a week
If we were to meet up for tea, I think we’d find I don’t have much in common with Elton John. Its fair to say we move in different circles. He has more pairs of glasses than me, a more substantial clothing allowance and flower allowance than me (I’d genuinely struggle to spend £293,000 on flowers in 18 months).
I’ve never played a homage at a Princess’s funeral.
I’m not godfather to the Beckhams’ children.
I don’t own four houses spanning England, France and America.
But then I’d turn the conversation round to Brighton beating Watford 1-0 in the last round of the cup at Vicarage Road and how we totally outclassed the ‘golden boys’ so frankly I don’t care. We’re going to Stoke on Saturday and he’s not…so there. That’s how the conversation would go…
And I will always be thankful to Elton’s Watford FC for providing one of the more surreal half-time entertainments in a game a few years back. Instead of the usual tannoy reception at grounds for Brighton of YMCA and Its Raining Men usually met with a chorus of “You’re too ugly to be gay”, Watford laid on an Elvis impersonator at halftime. Resplendent in his white jumpsuit he really shouldn’t have been too surprised at the alternative renditions of All Shook Up that met him as he took to his tiny stage on the halfway line.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s enjoy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I was seven when this came out but don’t remember coming across the album until four years later. And when I say the album I’m not talking about the music. I mean the album. We had an older teenage cousin staying with us who produced this wonderful ceremonial art piece. It comes from an era when packaging was as important as the music itself. I remember loving the lurid cover with the heeled Elton John stepping out in to a cartoon world that spread out over the full extent of the album.
Don’t remember much about the music at the time as I probably gave up after the first couple of minutes of Funeral of a Friend. Fair enough, I was way too young to deal with those sort of pretensions.
Elton John is quintessentially English – a national institution like Big Ben, Nelson’s column, the Tower of London…the London Eye is a mere babe in comparison. And like all national institutions you tend to take him for granted as you walk by. I’ll admit that at the beginning of the week I neither loved or hated his music. It was there. Yes, I’ve got some Greatest Hits albums but I drift in and out of his music knowing that he’ll always be there when I want to listen.
At the end of the week, I felt warmer towards more of the songs. There are four songs on this album that everyone will know – Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. I love them – they’re things of beauty – the music, his voice, the words.
It was particularly good to listen to Candle in the Wind as it originally was meant to be. A beautiful song about Norma Jean, Marilyn Monroe that was quintessentially Elton John. The song became an unexpected victim of Princess Diana’s tragic death in 1997 when it was the musical homage at her funeral and was then itself played in to the ground. It sold more copies than any other song. And then it disappeared as we all move on, and become a little embarrassed at what happened. You never hear it on the radio, and it was a pleasure to hear it again this week…exactly as it originally was in the middle of this album.
The other songs on the album range in style considerably and there are other favourites such as the closing track Harmony. But also rather like the album’s packaging this is bloated in parts, carrying a bit of a paunch. Funeral of a Friend could benefit from a significant slimdown; and fun as it may be Jamaica Jerk-Off doesn’t add much to the proceedings.
Elton’s music will always be there for us and I’ll be returning to his music rather like I love to go to London from time to time and stand on the South Bank and admire the skyline. I’m really glad its there, but if its OK I’ll just visit from time to time…
Footnote: for those reading after 5pm on 19th February. Brighton lost 3-0 to Stoke City. I would explain to Elton over our cup of tea that this is exactly what we wanted to happen, as we can now concentrate on the league. He would, of course, nod sagely…
Operation Zero inbox
I’m delighted to report Operation Zero Inbox achieved its target and I cleared my inbox at 13:18 on Wednesday February 16th. I won’t say how many things are on the to do list, but it did briefly feel good before the next influx poured in while I popped out for a sandwich!
Glee watch Just for the expression on Kurt’s face while the impeccably clad private school boys gave a rendition of Teenage Dream.