Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)

Just when, by 1975, you think Bernie has pretty much exhausted his bag of Old West references...we get this!

Robert Ford was, of course, the man who fatally shot Jesse James in the back- as we will soon be reminded when the Brad Pitt film about same comes out next weekend. Bernie takes this cowardly act and adapts it to an account of a young man who has broken up with his girlfriend and now feels guilty about it, to the point of wanting to try and "patch it up". How much his real-life rocky marriage situation at the time is being inferred I cannot say, but one would assume that there is a fair amount of self-reference going on...and would really come into the fore on the next album.

Elton casts these sentiments in a beautiful melody, using the Westies band electric piano/synth-strings/guitar/bass/drums mix; it has a somewhat lounge-jazzy feel and John sings with a lot of feeling. Davey Johnstone contributes a lovely, howling sustain-boosted guitar solo.

Even though "Island Girl" was the hit from the Westies album, to me it seems that "Bullet" is the album's emotional centerpiece and certainly one of the best (if not THE best) songs on the record. However, when it was released as a double A-side with "Grow Some Funk of Your Own", it was only a moderate hit.

6 comments:

Richard Marcej said...

It's my favorite from Westies as well.
I also like the live version that was on the "To Be Continued" CD set several years ago.

thom de plume said...

Kind of a Brian Wilson vibe on this one, no?

Johnny B said...

Perhaps, in his Adult Child period...of course, there's usually always a strong Beach Boys vibe in many Elton songs, especially from Honky Chateau on...

brendan said...

I know some of the Beach Boys were involved in the making of Caribou - wasn't Westies recorded in the same place? Either way, Thom has a point, there is a bit of a Wilson vibe afoot. Westies isn't a big favourite of mine, but Robert Ford is one of the strongest tracks on it, for sure.

Little Earl said...

I second the shoutout to the live version on "To Be Continued" as well. It's the first version of the song I heard and although the studio version is quite good in itself, the live version is the only version I really listen to anymore. He takes what could be considered a rather jokey set of lyrics and really lays into them - just him and Ray Cooper on vibes. Curiously he sounds double-tracked, although since it was live I don't know how they worked that out. All in all, it makes me think that there's a lot more killer Elton live tapes from the '70s that should probably see the light of day. He's rarely thought of as a "bootleg series" kind of artist in the sense that Bob Dylan and Neil Young are, but I say bring it on.

DeafScribe said...

I read somewhere that Bernie's wife Maxine had a fling with Kenny Passarelli around the time Westies was recorded, so there may indeed by some significant self-reference.