Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tiny Dancer

Its clever appearance in Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous merely served as proof of what we know: that "Tiny Dancer" is certainly one of Elton's most beloved songs, and a highlight of not only his early albums but his career as well.

It's a heartfelt valentine to Maxine Fiebelman, who was a dancer on one of Elton's tours and who Bernie married later that year. The sentiment is warm, except for one troubling line,

Tiny dancer, in my hand

which inspired Christgau to ask, derisively, "Just how small is she, anyway?" but to me suggests that Bernie felt like he wanted her "in hand", i.e., under his thumb, which adds a note of disquiet in an otherwise benign song. Tellingly, five years later they would divorce.

Prominent in the musical arrangement is the usual Madman mix of piano, Buckmaster strings, and massed choir vocals...but one notable addition is the pedal steel guitar of B.J. Cole, whose twangy licks accompany John's vocal on the verses and adds a warm, down-homey touch. I believe that this particular tonal color makes this song as memorable and as affection-inspiring as it is.

Here's another EJ song which was not a hit single, stalling at the lower reaches of the top 40 in the US and not charting at all in the UK, but has gone on to acheive favorited status among Elton aficionados everywhere.

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