Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ego

This 1978 single came out in the wake of the disappointing (both critically and commercially) Blue Moves album, and also marked the temporary end (at least as far as public releases went) of the John/Taupin partnership- caused by, in interviews both during and after the period, tensions between the two and pressure of stardom, along with, well, the egos involved. It was, by most accounts, a down period for both men, who were dealing with various addictions on top of the other things. If this was the case, this song stands as an odd little fare-the-well- and perhaps a bit of an eff-you- to one of the most fruitful songwriting teams in pop music history to date.

In interviews, Elton claimed that the lyrics were directed at the Jaggers, Bowies and McCartneys out there at the time, and how runaway self-regard has led them astray, and it certainly can be interpreted that way- but one has to think that perhaps Bernie was getting a dig in at the singer of the song as well, and perhaps the singer didn't realize it.

It's a charging, surging tune, with chunka-chunka rhythm guitar buried in the mix- musically evoking an out-of-control freight train, punctuated by train-whistle sounds and silent-movie-style piano trills before each verse. Elton spits out each line like he's casting pearls before swine, a far more spirited performance than one would think he had in him at the time for sure.

The first time I heard this cut was via a promotional video, probably aired on the popular US music show Midnight Special, a couple of years pre-MTV. It was purported to be one of the most expensive promo clips to date (they didn't call 'em music videos just yet) and as you can see by viewing the clip, it looked like every penny was well-spent; it looks light years ahead of most music clips of the time as well as many of the subsequent ones. It also was screened before theatrical films in US movie theatres at the time.

Despite all this, the single came and went and was not a hit, stalling at #34 in both the US and UK. It remained a single-only release until its inclusion on the 1990 box set To Be Continued....

Of course, after a break of a few years, John and Taupin got back together and had continued success. But after the failure of this track and the mediocrity of John's next few Bernie-less releases, it certainly seemed like the end of an era for sure...which I'm sure was a dent to Reg's ego, no doubt about it.

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