Saturday, July 28, 2007

Holiday Inn

Songs about life on the road have always been a big part of the rock music lexicon, but never more in the 1970's, when everyone seemed to have at least one- from the Kinks ("Sitting in My Hotel", to name just one) to Paul McCartney ("Helen Wheels") to David Bowie ("Aladdin Sane")...many more than I can name. This Madman Across the Water track is Elton's contribution.

Taupin paints a pithy account of arriving in the town, checking in to the ubiquitous titular lodging establishment, and waiting around to do what they came to do:

Boredom's a pastime that one soon acquired
Where you get to the stage where you're not even tired
Kicking your heels till the time comes around
To pick up your bags and head out of town

I'm not so sure about the grammatical correctness of those first two lines, but he gets his point across and evokes the mood well, since by 1971 and at least two US tours and who knows how many others, his was certainly an informed experience. I'm also fairly certain that naming the song after the US based, budget-priced Holiday Inn hotel chain was perhaps a tip of the hat, since I'm sure that by 1971 they most likely weren't staying in Holiday Inns anymore, or wouldn't be soon.

But it's not the lyrics that make this song as good as it is; it's the musical accompaniment. It's dominated by Davey Johnstone on mandolin, and Paul Buckmaster's strings (as much of Madman was), and provides two really nice instrumental breaks in between verses- in fact, the high point of "Inn", for me, is the extended outro, after the final choir-sung chorus, after which we only hear John's piano for a couple of seconds, then each musician joins in in turn, and Davey Johnstone's mandolin solos furiously against the backdrop of John's piano and Buckmaster's symphony orchestra, all playing for all they're worth.

"Holiday Inn" is another really overlooked album track that has always been one of my absolute favorites.

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