Today celebrates the 70th birthday of a great musician; Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton Hercules John. I ain’t calling Elton great, just because he’s released numerous UK number 1s and/or because he’s hugely popular, but because he’s released some songs which I can call plain awesome! In fact, when I wrote my personal Top 11 singles by David Bowie, I kinda compared him unfavorably to David Bowie and said that Elton was ‘a bit too ballady’. I guess it’s because David’s long been my favourite musician and I was so depressed when he passed on, and Elton, if you did read that blog, I apologise. I didn’t mean no offence. However, I’m glad Elton John didn’t die last year and that he’s at the moment still living. With that said, Elton’s more than just ‘ballady’. This is why I shall cut him some slack, actually since it’s his birthday, lots of slack. Here is my top 11 songs by Elton John. Why top 11? Because I’d like to go, as the guys out of Madness might say, one step beyond!
Album: Don’t Shoot Me (I’m Only The Piano Player)
Daniel tells the story of a fictional brother of the narrator who is leaving for Spain, his favourite place and for some reason, I had a feeling the character may have died or something, but then the narrator like sees things that look like Daniel. Apparently Elton got inspiration from an article about a wounded Vietnamese war veteran. He of course wanted to create sympathy to all the veterans of the pointless war, and my god he did a good job with this one.
Daniel is a rather sad song and I’d probably get that feeling if one/some of my relatives went to war and didn’t arrive back for sometime. The feeling is helped by Elton’s smooth flute melody.
Bennie & The Jets
Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Not a lot of people know what Bennie & The Jets is about, but what some of us can gather, it’s Elton’s Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. Bennie & The Jets is based on a fictional glam rock band (“She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit, You know I read it in a magazine Ohh…“). It also addresses the greed and glitz of the 70s (“We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight, so stick around, you’re gonna hear electric music, solid walls of sound.”).
And gee, listen to that glamorous keyboard riff. It always gets us into the groove.
Circle Of Life
Album: The Lion King soundtrack
And here’s a song written for the hugely popular Disney movie. Circle Of Life was used during one of the most spectacular openings to a movie in Hollywood history! Think about it, fade from black to a shot of a rising sun, while at the same time, we hear the Zulu chant which signals that a lion prince has been born. It catches every animal’s attention in Africa and they go over to attend the presentation of Simba. The tune continues until the animals bow to Simba and we see the opening title. Very well written.
Elton John’s own version of Circle Of Life is also worth a listen. Okay, it doesn’t have the chant, but he did write this song and most of the soundtrack to The Lion King.
I’m Still Standing
Album: Too Low For Zero
Here’s a bit of 80s glam rock. I’m Still Standing is one truly entertaining song. But it also feels like it could be used for a political message. I mean, I’m Still Standing. Love it!
Even the music video’s quite stylish. The opening reminds me a bit of the way the James Bond movies commence, considering the circle opening. And extra credit for the split screen.
Album: Sleeping With The Past
Bernie Taupin described Sacrifice as one of the best songs he and Elton worked on. I tend to agree. Sacrifice is a smooth break-up song where the loss of a relationship is no sacrifice. Rather, relationships are lost unexpectedly or when we reckon that a relationship ain’t working.
Can You Feel The Love Tonight
Album: The Lion King soundtrack
Another song written for The Lion King. The reason why I place this one above the Circle Of Life is not because it was the one that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but it’s the one I sang through most out of every song included on the soundtrack. Again, there are two versions of Can You Feel The Love Tonight. The one sung by the cast and some chorus during the scene where Simba and Nala reconcile and their friends Timon & Pumbaa are emotionally observing their relationship. And talking about emotions, that’s how I feel when I see the two lions rubbing their faces together and Timon and Pumbaa in tears when they finish the song. Controversially, I always got a little more teary-eyed at that scene than the famous death scene.
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Album: Breaking Hearts
Don’t let the title get you down. As so explain the lyrics, Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a sympathetic soft-rock-ish pop song that demonstrates that blues songs are there to help a listener who has recently experienced a break-up, a loss of a partner to death or is feeling depressed in any other way to relax and feel motivated through life. In a way, a bit like Sacrifice.
In other words, Sad Songs is a cheering-up song. In fact, it’s also from Elton’s 18th album, which happens to be titled Breaking Hearts. I’ve known this one since I was a kid and I thank BBC Radio 2 for introducing this one.
I’d also like to mention the music video, which reminds me of Schindler’s List. I say that because remember that girl in the red jacket. Exactly, the red was the only colour that was showing, black & white aside, during most of the film. Sad Songs is too filmed in black and white mostly, apart from a few bright colours. The visuals too contrast with the song’s tone.
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (with Kiki Dee)
And here, we have a duet between Elton and a not-so widely known lady called Kiki Dee. The subject matter of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart maybe cliched considering it’s a basic love song. However, it’s more than just a love song. It’s an energetic song! It starts off that way, hence the heart pounding orchestra. Speaking of heart pounding, get it? The orchestra carries on that way through the song. Apparently, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was inspired by the Motown musicians i.e. Marvin Gaye. His and Kim Weston’s song It Takes Two is similar-ish to this one, music-wise.
Don’t Go Breaking my Heart is one of Elton John’s classics which has remained since our earlier lives. Elton & Kiki’s version will remain the ultimate one. Not to say there’s no good covers. I’d also check out that comedy version by Arthur Mullard (I know, I know) and Hylda Baker. It’s absolutely hilarious!
Album: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player
Crocodile Rock is always a lot of fun to listen to and/or play on guitar/whatever instrument you have. The farfisa organ adds a truly distinguishable tone to the song. The song is influenced by Daddy Cool, Del Shannon (a totally underrated rock & roll musician!) and Bill Haley & His Comets. I dunno the precise meaning of ‘Crocodile Rock’.My guess is that…
Apparently, Elton and Bernie Taupin were accused of ripping off a Pat Boone song called Speedy Gonzales, but thankfully the case was dropped. I have to admit, I’ve never heard Speedy Gonzales, nor do I know any other song that shares the same chord sequence as Crocodile Rock.
The Bitch Is Back
And this is the song that caused some controversy. Look, I know the term ‘bitch’ ain’t exactly a friendly word, but it ain’t a swear word. Anyway, nobody objected when David Bowie sang ‘so we bitched about his fans’ for Ziggy Stardust. So why bitch about The Bitch Is Back’s name?
Moving on, apparently the origins date back to some personal yet minor feuds Elton had with the music staff. Apparently, Mrs Taupin once referred to Elton as a ‘bitch’ whenever Elton arrived in not such a good mood, hence The Bitch Is Back. Funnily enough, I always saw Elton as more of the cheerful and/or calm type, but I’m probably over-estimating. I never met him anyway, yet. Rock Profile demonstrates otherwise, but because he’s played by Matt Lucas in that show, that doesn’t count. With that said, the title has been humorously referenced in other media, i.e. that Simpsons episode where he meets Apu, oh and in that Casper movie where Carrigan rises from the dead.
There’s a darn good reason why we need to petition the radio stations to cut The Bitch Is Back some slack. The Bitch Is Back is a massively underrated glam-rock anthem. Seriously, check out the guitar intro. Whoever played that is obviously skilled! The rest is also pure entertainment. Don’t believe me? See the above video.
If ever Elton did an Anarchy In The UK, The Bitch Is Back is pretty close.
And the number 1 Elton John song is;…
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
Album: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
The moment many of us was all waiting for! Anybody up for some Rolling Stones/Who style rock? And speaking of Saturday, that’s what today is!
Every time I listen to Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, I always smile and get into the groove. Seriously, I never get tired of this one. It’s easy Elton John’s best! He probably prefers other songs of his to this one, but that’s a different story. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, like Crocodile Rock and many glam-rock hits in general, owes a lot to the 50s/60s rock & roll scene. Bernie once described it as an American rock & roll song set in Britain.
The ‘fighting’ part was inspired by Bernie’s witnessing of certain fist fights he saw in local pubs as a teenager, but I wouldn’t have said that he or Elton would mean literally fighting. I’m kinda thinking campaigning sort-of fighting, ya know, campaigning to have a good time on a Saturday night, hence, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.
What really stands out about this song though is the guitar and piano dominated bridge. I totally love that bit and I think many Elton John fans would agree. There’s a really hilarious reference to the bridge in that Vicar Of Dibley episode where the church community have apparently invited Elton to perform at a charity community fair; when Geraldine hears that he’s coming, she excitely plays the riff on the church organ. Awesome, ain’t it.
So that was my personal top 11 songs by Elton John. I hope Elton has a great time today considering he’s hit his big seven-o. And happy Saturday. Get ready for some fighting on the night!