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.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


According to Wikipedia, Grimsby (or archaically Great Grimsby) is a seaport on the Humber Estuary in Lincolnshire, England. Bernie Taupin, who lived in nearby Humberston and Tealby near Market Rasen, would have of course been familiar with and spent time in this town, and for some reason decided to write this tune as a tribute to the everyday pleasures that the community offered.

It does have a tongue-in-cheek, slightly bemused feel to it, and it's good to see that Taupin could be as nostalgic about his background as he was the American Old West. As we all know by now, Bernie could be very snide lyrically when he chose to be- and really, I don't get that here. As verses like this bear out:

Take me back you rustic town
I miss your magic charm
Just to smell your candy floss
Or drink in the Skinners Arms
No Cordon Bleu can match the beauty
Of your pies and peas
I want to ride your fairground
Take air along the quay

The main reason this travelogue works as well as it does is the bopping musical arrangement that Elton gives it, with a wonderfully dipsy-doodle guitar riff, punctuated by a little whammy-bar action, by Davey Johnstone and those ubiquitous Classic Elton Band harmony vocals echoing several lines in the verses and chorus.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Talking Old Soldiers

Elton on solo piano, singing the imagined conversation of a couple of Civil War (I'm assuming, given the Old West theme of Tumbleweed, but it's not specific) veterans, in his best Ray Charles voice.

It's meant to engender sympathy for the speakers, perhaps even to deliver a subtle anti-war message as well. It certainly is a bleak set of verses:

Yeah that's right, you can see me here most every night
You'll always see me staring at the walls and at the lights
Funny I remember oh it's years ago I'd say
I'd stand at that bar with my friends who've passed away
And drink three times the beer that I can drink today
Yes I know how it feels to grow old

But the decision to perform it in solo piano, I believe, works against it- rendering it static and dull and blunting the impact. It's not a favorite track of mine from this album, sorry to say.

Lyrics and a sample

Whenever You're Ready (We'll Go Steady Again)

This one's a homage to the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, and it certainly follows his pound-the-piano template. There's also room made for the squalling slide guitar of Davey Johnstone, which accompanies throughout. Lyrically, it's a not-bad "you done me wrong, but I love you anyway" type work.

It's a hard-rocking and fun, if not especially memorable, track that was paired with "Jackrabbit" on the B-side of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting".