Monday, March 10, 2008

Social Disease

As the thundering hoofbeats of "Roy Rogers" fade into the aural distance, we're left with a bleary voice, mixed down very low, singing the first few lines of "Social Disease", as if the drunken reprobate we will come to meet is slowly coming out of an alcoholic stupor, perhaps one spent zoning out to old cowboy movies. Eventually, the vocals are joined by a vaudeville-style banjo, but it stays distant and low-volume only until the last line of the second verse:

I get juiced on Mateus and just hang loose

When it suddenly lurches into the chorus, at full strength:

And I get bombed for breakfast in the morning
I get bombed for dinner time and tea
I dress in rags, smell a lot, and have a real good time
I'm a genuine example of a social disease


And that pretty much sums up the gist of the song, in which the singer describes what a neer-do-well and rascal he is, but fortunately he's a likable one who's resigned to living out his life this way:

And the ladies are all getting wrinkles
And they're falling apart at the seams
Well I just get high on tequila
And see visions of vineyards in my dreams


It's a lighthearted, jokey lyric, and Bernie does a real good job getting it across; even the slight misogyny of the description of his landlady is balanced with humor.

The arrangement is livened with the aforementioned banjo throughout, and also with a nifty sax solo that pops up in the middle section, in which Elton and the band provide a funky foundation and make this another enjoyable cut on a side full of them. If Yellow Brick Road was a double album that would have been better served as a single, then it's always been my opinion that side 4 (all cuts beginning with "Your Sister Can't Twist" to the end on CD) should remain intact.

The inner gatefold of the LP, which featured the lyrics along with an illustration for each track, had an amusing hand tinted picture of Elton, in a goofy hat and sunglasses, swigging from a big bottle of wine, perfectly summing this one up.

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