Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crocodile Rock

It's probably a stretch to say that Elton and Bernie were anticipating a trend in 1972, but this was a prescient little track that mined a vein that few, such as Australian revivalist group Daddy Cool, and Woodstock performers Sha Na Na, were working.

As the first wave of postwar baby boomers came into their mid-late 20's in the late 60's and early 70's, many began to look back to their childhood years for reassurance in those troubled times- and nostalgia for the era of sock hops, malt shops, and of course rock and roll on a jukebox was a big part of that. A year later, George Lucas would deliver American Graffiti, a hugely popular film based on a night in the life of a group of teenagers in 1962, and the year after that an American TV show would be launched to capitalize on the success of the film and the wave of 50's and pre-Beatles 60's nostalgia in general- ABC-TV's Happy Days, which ran for many years. But "Crocodile Rock" preceded all this.

Inspired by a Daddy Cool hit called "Eagle Rock", it's pretty simple lyrically- the singer is reminiscing about his long-ago love Suzie ("Dramas", perhaps?), and he's associating her with the music he listened to at the time. Taupin gets in some really nice rhymes here; I'm especially fond of the chorus' "Crocodile rocking is something shocking". Musically, it's dominated by the Farfisa organ and its retro sound, as well as Elton's keening falsetto, Del Shannon-style, in the bridges between chorus and verses. The Classic Band is on hand to give it a solid bass/drum/guitar underpinning, and once more Gus Dudgeon's curiously compressed (mostly exclusive to this album, it seems) production sound is brought to play.

This was Elton's first #1 hit in the US, and reached #5 in the UK. It also was #1 in Canada as well. It was also the first Elton John song that grabbed the ear of young David Jones of Horse Cave, Kentucky USA, and led him to purchase the 8-track of Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player, and set him on the path to Elton fandom in subsequent years.

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