Monday, September 17, 2007

Pinball Wizard

Elton was tabbed to portray the title character's pinball playing arch-nemesis in Ken Russell's overripe film version of the Who's Tommy, and of course got to record a version of the Pete Townshend song for its soundtrack.

His part in the film was memorable, but this is a fairly standard issue EJ Band run-through of this classic song, with keyboard replacing Townshend's guitar riff in the beginning, and suffers without the visuals that accompanied it- Elton was a hoot in those giant boots and toboggan hat with the pinball on top, spitting out the vocals to the oblivious Daltrey as Tommy in the big pinball championship. John's vocal was speeded up in the studio, why I can't say. Tommy may have played a mean pinball, but Elton certainly burned up the ivories throughout this track.

I remember hearing this on FM radio all the time, leading me to believe it was another EJ hit single, but apparently that wasn't the case; according to Wikipedia it was released in the UK only, reaching #7 over there.

John's buddy Rod Stewart did a more unusual cover about three years prior, with the London Symphony Orchestra- a big overblown version complete with massed choir vocals. It was OK, but for my money it's hard to beat the original Who recording. I seem to recall reading somewhere (the liner notes of the Caribou CD reissue, actually, and I know I've read it elsewhere, too) that Rod was considered first for the film but was talked out of taking it by Elton, who then promptly went to Russell and got the part, much to the ire of Mr. Stewart.

Here's a link to the scene in the film.

1 comment:

brendan said...

Yeah, I was never too wild about EJ's version if this tune. Parts of the Tommy soundtrack album sound interesting enough, but overall it isn't a patch on the original album. Always enjoyed the way they break into I Can't Explain at the end, though...