Monday 12 March 2012

It's Good Night From Him, And It's Good Night From Her

I've never been much of a fan of Elton John, as I've always regarded him as the Ronnie Corbett of the music industry - no-one's ever really rated him, but there's a kind of forced collective affection towards him nowadays simply because he's an old trooper who's been around for so long. I think this is his one true halcyon record, though. It's a shame that he didn't make the double act with Kiki Dee a permanent arrangement - her voice adds a warm lustre to his rather plywood vocals.

Elton's other problem was of course that he didn't really look like a pop star - he looked more like the kind of bloke you're likely to encounter in a specialist hobby or exotic pet shop. I can easily imagine him informing me how easy a pair of iguanas are to keep, or how the best carbon fibre fishing rods are made in Taiwan. That said, I might just be recapitulating one of his roles in his numerous guest appearance on The Morecombe & Wise show.

A strange character on the whole is Mr. John - quite happy to have himself sent up on comedy programmes, and doing un-pop star things like actually staying in the country and paying his taxes; yet, at the same time, capable of the most ludicrous caprices. Apart from the occasional record like this, though, I think for all his efforts he'll quickly be forgotten.


Matthew McKinnon said...

Is there an element of nostalgia attached to this record, for you? I only ask as I can't hear this without thinking of the blazing summer of 76 [I was five], when this was played everywhere all the time. If radio stations could have played this single on a loop all day, every day, they would have done.

It's nice that you've mentioned it, though: as you rightly say, it's part of a very very small percentage of his records that really works. I also quite rate Rocket Man and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and pretty much nothing else.

It's also nice, because there's a common-sense dismissal of Elton, which I think stems from the beginning of his tortured-artist phase: post-tabloid furore, around the time of Nikita and a slew of miserable, plastic, self-pitying ballads in the mid-to-late-80's; and Elton's growing 'legend/survivor' status in the late-80s pop landscape.

I remember a friend expressing his disbelief at the new, publicly-endorsed 'Elton as artist' myth:
"...but I remember when Elton John was a buffoon! A figure of fun".

As a result, most sensible people just turned away from him and have ignored him ever since. There was an attempt at a cred roots revival about a decade ago, wasn't there? When people were looking [in the wrong places] for some bluesy/folky old albums to get into, and some of Elton's earliest stuff got unearthed? But even that's faded.

Phil Knight said...

I actually think his one other really good record is the comparatively recent "Are You Ready To Love", which swings quite like "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", but generally I've just ignored him, so I can't really comment on his oeuvre as such.

I do remember that there was a long period from about 1977 until his return to the top ten in about 1982 when he was just forgotten (and five years is like two lifetimes when you're a kid), and I think there was a general sense of surprise that he had crawled his way back into the limelight.

But I think the summer of 1976 is worth a post on its own - every person of my age I know has a faourite grotesque memory of that summer. For me it was looking at hundreds of dying fish gasping on the drying beds of the ornamental pools at Wicksteed Park.

Judas Disney said...

Honky Chateau.

Album as long player, give it a go...

David K Wayne said...

My 1976 was memories of a ladybug plague. Big kids showing off letting little armies of them crawl up their arms - and collecting them in jars.