Friday, August 17, 2007

Medley: Yell Help/Wednesday Night/Ugly

Well, it worked sometimes for the Beatles: when you have unfinished songs lying around, stick 'em together, a la "I've Got a Feeling" and the Abbey Road side 2 medley. Bernie and Elton's achievement is a bit more of a modest one here, but it is an unusual, and ultimately entertaining, way to start off an album.

Part one, "Yell Help", is essentially a collection of malapropisms, strung together and set to a rollicking synth/clavinet/rock guitar dominated melody, accompanied by a somewhat slightly off-key Labelle and Elton pseudonym "Ann Orson" oohing and aahing along.

Part two, "Wednesday", is a pretty ballad type of thing- it's really only four lines long, and sounds like John didn't want to take the time to finish it. Perhaps it was decided at some point that it was too similar to the spotlight ballad on Rock, "I Feel Like a Bullet (in the Gun of Robert Ford)". Hard to say. The singer wishes it wasn't Wednesday night, the 13th of July, and wants to be somewhere else. Your guess is as good as mine as to anything else.

It then segues into "Ugly", perhaps less about the female subject of the song being physically ugly than it is about her being ugly inside, and even then probably in a good way. It's kind of an extension of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road's "Dirty Little Girl" and Caribou's "Stinker". The musical accompaniment for this one is less propulsive than "Yell Help", it's a bit more funky.

Both "Help" and "Ugly" can be said to contain the sexist streak that Bernie was sometimes capable of in his lyrics; lines like

`Cause down the road you find someone else who's looking
Down the road you seen another sweet lady cooking


and

Now hell I don't mind women of her kind
I'll even pay sometimes for a woman that's ugly


can certainly be interpreted that way, but I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt- these tracks, taken all together, come across as the sort of joking banter that mates would share over a pint in the pub, and not meant in a vicious way.

A reprise of "Yell Help", which features a lot of vamping by Labelle, closes the track.

Regardless of what you might think about the lyrical content, it's an unusual and effective kickoff to one of Elton's most interesting overall efforts.

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