Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hard Luck Story

"Hard Luck Story" is, I believe, a very good example of how far Taupin had come as a lyricist since the late 60's. Ultimately a continuation of a theme that ran through "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Snookeroo" (written for and performed by Ringo Starr on his 1974 album Goodnight Vienna), that of the working class joe and the things he has to do to get by, when you scan the lyrics on their own, you get a vivid portrayal of a fellow who's determined to keep on doing what he has to do and doesn't want to hear any complaining. Taupin eschews clever wordplay and metaphor, and writes directly to the listener.

So curiously, Elton casts the track in the same kid of hopped-up disco-flavored boogie shuffle that comes across as a warm-up for the excesses of next year's Blue Moves finale, "Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance)". Of course it's tuneful, and of course it does rock out, but the "Oo-ee-oo-ee-ooh"s that he begins every line of the chorus with wear out their welcome quickly, and become annoying as he repeats it ad infinitum as the song slowly fades out.

This one is credited to "Ann Orson and Carte Blanche", which are the pseudonyms Elton and Bernie used when writing for others, especially Kiki Dee (who contributes to the BV's on Elton's version)- and sure enough, here's this track, apparently released as a 1974 non-LP single. I don't know how Kiki finessed the gender-specificity, since I haven't heard her version, but it does point out that this track predates Captain Fantastic as well as Westies.

1 comment:

Gallaher said...

"How Kiki finessed the gender specificity"? I'm really rather surprised, given your thoughtful analyses of all these songs, that you didn't realize that this one was obviously written, originally, from the wife's perspective, and it's Elton's rendition that required the rewriting. An awkward rewriting, if you ask me. C'mon, the male character doesn't seem like the type who'd be so self-perceptive as to realize that "I never seem to look at you and see that somewhere underneath a pair of tired eyes are crying out." That's much more authentic when presented from the woman's point of view: "You never seem to look at me and see that somewhere underneath a pair of tired eyes are crying out."
Once you realize this, the original lyrics rewrite themselves and become far more convincing in their portrait of a woman who feels unloved by a hardworking husband who can't see his wife's needs when he comes home from a hard day at work, a husband whose outbursts and lack of tenderness are "putting out the fire" and inspiring her to think she'll "have to leave here for a while."