Friday, January 4, 2008

The Bitch is Back

Inspired by an offhand remark made by Maxine Taupin about Elton after witnessing one of his temper tantrums, "Bitch" gets Caribou off to a rousing start.

It opens with Johnstone's pinched-sounding, treated guitar hitting a lick then strumming a funk-soul type of riff, augmented by Dee Murray's "phased Pignose bass". I don't know exactly what sort of studio tricks were applied to Johnstone's guitar to get that sound, but he used it quite often on the next three albums. The Tower of Power horns provide backup, along with Clydie King, Sherlie Matthews, Jessie Mae Smith, and Dusty Springfield, of all people, contributing soulful, gospel-ish backing vocals.

It's a great rocker, and a heck of a catchy tune, and was a big hit when released in the US in September, reaching #4 despite some trepidation because the minor swear word "bitch" was used. It didn't fare quite so well in England, only reaching #15, still not so bad. It was also recorded in one of the first sessions that took place in James William Guercio's Caribou Ranch studios that they named the album for.

It inspired a couple of cover versions, most notably Tina Turner's first take in 1978 (she also re-did it for the Two Rooms tribute album). But nobody ever did it better than the Bitch himself.

3 comments:

Sean T. Collins said...

That opening riff is the glammiest thing ever. I always feel kind of let down by the rest of the song!

Johnny B said...

Honestly, I like that bass note that goes along with it as much as the opening riff...

brendan said...

I always assumed that the "Pignose bass" in question was just a bass put through an ordinary Pignose amp (one of those weird busker's amps that runs on a battery and gives you untold creamy distortion). A friend of mine has a Pignose guitar (with the amp & speaker built in) but I didn't realise they actually made basses like that, as well...

Oh well, you learn something new every day. But right now I'm going to strike up the track and possibly even crack open a beer, to one of Elton's great rockin' tracks. It may not be Exile on Main Street or even Ooh La La material, but it's all right... :-)