A cat named Hercules

Sometimes you just need a happy, it really doesn’t have any meaning but to have fun song!  It’s been a long week, fraught with some unexpected health concerns, so I am desperately in need of de-stressing and having some fun.  And this song, Hercules, is nothing if not fun!

Gotta find him in the Hercules glasses!

Ooh I got a busted wing and a hornet sting
Like an out of tune guitar
Ooh she got Hercules on her side
And Diana in her eyes

Very 50’s in its musicality, especially with the doo-wops and the rollicking piano – and is that a touch of country swagger?  The guitar and drums are pretty cool, too (thanks, Davey and Nigel).  Yes, it’s a silly little ditty, but listening to it always brings a smile to my face.  Another song I used to dance around with my kids to in the living room.

I can’t dig it, the way she tease
That old tough man routine up her sleeve
Living and loving, kissing and hugging
Living and loving with a cat named Hercules
A cat named Hercules

If I ever get another cat, I will name it Hercules (of course).  I had 3 cats once upon a time, I can’t believe I didn’t name any of them Hercules!  Tsk, tsk, Kimoreena…

A cat named Hercules

Oh, yes, and Elton had his name legally changed to Elton Hercules John.  He chose the middle name “Hercules” not after the mythology hero, but after the horse named Hercules on the British sitcom “Steptoe and Son.”  Go figure.

Hercules (Honky Château – 1972)

Insomnia attacks

I’ve been suffering from bouts of insomnia lately, so Two Low for Zero is especially meaningful to me right now.  No, I’m not depressed, I’m not in a bad patch, but I just can’t sleep through the night.  This has been a predicament of mine on and off for years now.  Usually it has to do with my mind being too preoccupied or energized to sleep…I used to work during the wee hours of the night as a result; now, not so much.  I just stare off in space with the blur of the TV (and lately Words with Friends) as my companion.

Simply (albeit not very poetically) put, insomnia sucks.

The album of the same name - love the minimalistic artwork

The interesting thing to me about this song is that it’s not a dirge by any means.  Yes, it’s about someone going through a rough spot in life, but the percussion and tempo of the song are somewhat antipathetic to the theme.  (And, lest you’ve forgotten from earlier posts, I do like such dichotomies).

I’m too low for zero
I’m on a losing streak
I got myself in a bad patch lately
I can’t seem to get much sleep
I’m too low for zero
I wind up counting sheep
Nothing seems to make much sense
It’s all just Greek to me

I understand the last line especially – you just can’t figure it out, and it is so frustrating.

Cutting out cups of coffee
Switching off the late night news
Putting the cat out two hours early
It isn’t any use

Been there, done that.  You try anything and everything you can think of to get to sleep – and to stay asleep once you finally do fall asleep – but nothing seems to work.  And the ripple effect of not sleeping well can be devastating in and of itself.

Enough Debbie Downer – let’s switch gears and talk about why I like this song.  I really love the percussion!  I would’ve thought this was Ray Cooper’s showcase, but he’s not listed on the liner notes/credits for this song.  So, Nigel, if it’s you, great job!

And of course I love the piano interlude.  That always makes an EJ song extra special to me.

Funny, my husband hates this song – I’m not sure why – except perhaps that he doesn’t like down in the dumps, feel sorry for yourself themes.  Hey, you know, I’m not saying its one of his best songs, but it hits very close to home for me, especially in the loneliness of 3:00 am hour(s).

A Live Version (Complete with 2L40 hand motions)

The Album Version  (So you can really appreciate the percussion)

Too Low for Zero (Too Low for Zero – 1983)

Romeo resplendent on an orange case

Originally released as a single (somewhere between Blue Moves and A Single Man), Ego is one of those obscure songs to which I tend to gravitate.  It’s about rock stars, fame and, of course, ego – something the boys know a little bit about – and evidence that they have a sense of humor about it all and can laugh at themselves.

Says Elton: “Ego was just something I had lying around, and I wanted to release it for a long time. Unfortunately, the time wasn’t right. It’s been disappointing. I really had hoped it would do well because I really liked it. I wrote the song jointly with Bernie Taupin, and we never thought of it as an autobiography until it came out. It’s about the silliness of rock ‘n’ roll stars, and the video film was supposed to show just how stupid rock ‘n’ roll can be. It’s the grotesque side of rock ‘n’ roll. And it’s turned out to be one of the most sincere songs we’ve ever written.”

The lyrics are actually quite biting, if you ask me:

Take a look at me now and take a look at my billing
I’m not in it as an extra, I’m in it for the killing
Inflate my ego gently, tell them heaven sent me
‘Cause I’m so expressive and I’m so obsessed with my ego
My ego and it’s message
Oh inform the press, invite the guests
I need the press tonight

Though most of us will never be rock stars (not even close), we’ve all experienced an ego moment or two:

Well maybe it was childish, foolish, before schoolish
Immaturish, lose your coolish
But I had to grow and prove my ego

My favorite lines from this tune (thank you, Bernie, for the eloquence of the line I chose for the title of this post):

Do you remember acting out your youth
A Romeo resplendent on an orange case
Do you remember how I would recite
And how I’d blow my lines and hide my face

(Don’t you just love his facial expressions?)

Ego (1978)

There’s a light where the darkness ends

The #1 Eltonite, Miquel Sala, reminded me about this song not too long ago…a highly underrated and very underplayed tune, if you ask me.

The final hit single of the 1980’s for EJ, Healing Hands is off Sleeping with the Past (one of my favorite EJ albums).  The album represents his and Bernie’s homage to 1960’s Motown/R&B, long a favorite and influence for both, and this song truly exemplifies that genre.   I love the gospel feel, his strong vocals and the musicality.  You can’t resist singing along or bopping to the beat.  And the message ain’t bad, either.

Healing Hands

So whose hands are healing?  Could be a lover’s, could be a parent’s, could be a caregiver’s, could be a spiritual guide’s, could even be the solace one might find from the music that comes from a certain piano player’s uncharacteristically stubby but mighty nonetheless piano-playing hands…

But giving into the nighttime
Ain’t no cure for the pain
You gotta wade into the water
You gotta learn to live again

And reach out for her healing hands
Reach out for her healing hands
There’s a light, where the darkness ends
Touch me now and let me see again
Rock me now in your gentle healing hands

C’mon, c’mon and reach out…

Healing Hands (Sleeping with the Past – 1989)


Tomorrow, Saturday, October 8, 2011, marks Elton John’s 3000th concert.  Still showing his friends around after 40+ years as a (very) public persona. WOW.

Still rockin' after all these years

I wish I could say I’ve been to all 3000 of them, but not even close.  Somewhere around 25 (but who’s counting)?  I shall do my best to go to Vegas to see the Million Dollar Piano concert.  Sounds like a can’t miss event!

Yes, the things you wrote back then still sound as good today.  No question.  And so do the things you write today.

Congratulations, Elton!  YOU.STILL.ROCK.