Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)

Dan Dare is a British spaceman comic book hero with whom young Reggie Dwight and Bernie Taupin would have been very familiar with, I'm sure.

"Dare" fits right in on the mostly sunny vibe of the outstanding Westies album- it bops along agreeably, with low-register voice-box guitar work (all the rage then courtesy of Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh- Walsh's former bassist Kenny Passarelli played on this LP, and was Dee Murray's replacement in this period) and chiming, burbling high-register synths (courtesy of new sideman James Newton Howard) punctuating its bouncy melody. There is a little tinge of melancholy to the lyric, which seems to have the singer saying goodbye to his childhood hero and, I suppose, childhood concerns in general, with more than a touch of cynicism apparent...yet another example of Elton's apparent love of providing contrasts between words and performance. Fortunately, it never gets maudlin or mean-spirited. A nice touch is the a capella ending (complete with playful yelps), and Taupin gets in a cute joke as the singer confides:

Dan Dare doesn't know it
He doesn't know it
He doesn't know it
But I liked the Mekon.

The Mekon, of course, being Dan's arch-enemy.

John wanted this to be the first single from the LP; wiser heads prevailed and chose "Island Girl", which went on to top the charts. It completes a trilogy of sorts of outer space-themed songs with "Rocket Man" and "I've Seen the Saucers".


Michael said...

Thanks for explaining the Mekon reference. I read a Dan Dare collection last year, but the song had gone out of my head except as a snatch of melody and I didn't put 2 + 2 together.

brendan said...

Hope this isn't too off-topic, but Grant Morrison did a one-off revival of the Dan Dare comic in the '90s - more info here. I guess John & Taupin saw the potential for some gentle satire (and maybe a dash of sexual innuendo) in the impossibly strait-laced 50s superhero, while Morrison for his part updated the whole thing and made it "grim & gritty", introducing adult themes and political undertones. (Good read though if you can find it.)

Johnny B said...

Hey, you know me, I'm always up for talking about teh comics!

I remember seeing where Grant had done a more down-to-earth Dare, but I've never been moved to check it out. Perhaps I'll run across a copy someday...

Vinyl said...

This song is truly one of Elton's hidden gems. This song rocks.