Wednesday, October 17, 2007

All the Girls Love Alice

A wave of reverb-enhanced guitar noise ushers in the chicken-scratch, slightly Bo Diddleyesque guitar riff that is the main focal point and driving wheel of "Alice", an account of a young lesbian call girl who meets an untimely end on a subway train.

Taupin relates her story with a reproachful tone:

Raised to be a lady by the golden rule
Alice was the spawn of a public school
With a double barrel name in the back of her brain
And a simple case of Mummy-doesn't-love-me blues

Don't really get the "double barrel name" reference, but here she sounds like an early version of a type we're all familiar with these days, a la Paris Hilton and others. The scolding continues, as he concludes:

And who could you call your friends down in Soho
One or two middle-aged dykes in a Go-Go
And what do you expect from a sixteen year old yo-yo
And hey, hey, hey, oh don't you know

While I'm sure he wanted to sound dispassionate, the undertone of his distaste mars what is otherwise a very good rocking tune, with backing vocals that sound like the Ikettes, but are actually provided by Davey Johnstone's then-girlfriend Kiki Dee and the band.

Sirens and other street noises accompany the riff until the fadeout, and while it's a successful track with interesting sonics, one wishes that Bernie had listened to Otis Redding and "tried a little tenderness".


Steve said...

I've always wondered if maybe Bernie knew before the rest of us that Elton was gay and whether this might been a little secret scolding or warning for Reggie.

Chicken Itza said...

Regarding the 'double-barrelled name': Taupin is drawing a picture of an upper class English girl ('public school' in the UK perversely means 'private school). 'Double-barreled name' is a name like, say, Camilla Parker-Bowles: a hyphenated surname that in England is usually a sign of an upper-class background.