Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Inspired by a real life late Sixties pre-fame incident in which Elton, despondent over his impending marriage to the girl he was living with at the time, and of course the attendant sexual identity issues, tried to kill himself via a gas oven (he was "rescued" by Bernie, who noted with some amusement that John had placed the appliance on its lowest setting, and had placed a pillow inside for comfort) and was later persuaded to call the whole thing off by his mentor Long John Baldry, the chorus' "sugar bear".

Keeping with the Captain Fantastic theme, Bernie writes the lyrics as a reminisce, as the singer thinks back to the time and expresses his gratitude to the person who saved him from what apparently would have been a fate worse than death. He's not particularly even-handed as he does so, either, as the chorus:

And someone saved my life tonight sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me didn't you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar-bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

and several points in the verse:

I'm strangled by your haunted social scene
Just a pawn out-played by a dominating queen

Prima Donna lord you really should have been there
Sitting like a princess perched in her electric chair

And I would have walked head on into the deep end of the river
Clinging to your stocks and bonds
Paying your H.P. demands forever

bear out.

A cursory Google search turns up little for Linda Woodrow except in the context of this song; it's always been my experience that there are two sides to every story and usually the truth is somewhere in between. I don't know if Woodrow deserved such a misogynistic smackdown, but it would have been nice to have known her side.

Musically, it's Elton in big-piano-ballad mode, with the Classic Band and Ray Cooper providing solid accompaniment. The band harmonies are prominent, and are as outstanding as always.

This is another of Elton's biggest hits and one of his signature songs, although looking at the chart numbers (#22 UK, #4 US, #36 US A/C) it wasn't as big a hit as it seemed to be at the time, when it was ubiquitous on the airwaves. For me personally, it's never been a favorite- it's just too big and overblown, the melody sounds received, and the fey "sugar bear" tag in the chorus is grating. Obviously, I am in the minority.


Roger Green said...

I could never take this song seriously. "Sugar bear" reminded me too much of cold cereal, and the attendant theme.

Johnny B said...

Yep- "Can't get enough of super Sugar Crisp..." :)

thom de plume said...

For once, we are in complete agreement.

This one always seemed interminable to my ears.

I still don't hear it as a single.