An interview with Charlie Morgan

I feel very honored to be considered one of the “experts” for this virtual interview with Charlie Morgan.  [I am not worthy]

For those of you who don’t know Charlie, he played with Elton John for thirteen years, starting with the Ice on Fire album in 1985.  He played on six albums and toured with Elton quite a few times over those years.

My favorite songs that Charlie played on are Heavy Traffic (from Reg Strikes Back) and Paris (from Leather Jackets), both of which I’ve blogged about.  Very different musically, but that just shows Charlie’s versatility and range.

After all these years and all his success, he still considers himself a “freelance rock drummer” – testament to how down to earth he is.

You should check out his website (manicdrums.com) – his discography is quite impressive and his sense of humor is quite keen.

P.S.  This is meant as no offense to the iconic EJ drummer, Nigel Olssen.  It is just meant to honor another one of the great musicians that Elton has played with over the years.  And to do a little bragging that I was considered one of the “experts.”  (Thank you, Miquel)!

 

The Captain and the Kim is on Spotify!

If you find yourself in an Elton John kind of mood one day (and who doesn’t?) and just don’t know where to start, don’t fret.  I’ve got just the ticket for you – I’ve created a Spotify playlist of all of the songs I’ve blogged about in The Captain and the Kim:

Currently 75 tracks and over 5 hours for your listening pleasure!  I promise to keep it updated as I blog.

Give it a spin – you might be pleasantly surprised.

P.S.  A special THANK YOU to my husband for getting the playlist started for me.

I knew then I had lost what should have been found

I’m not sure why, but I pulled out Rock of the Westies last week.  It’s a solid album, released at the height of Elton’s popularity, but not one of my favorites.  It debuted at #1 on Billboard (only the second album at that time to do that.  The other one was – you guessed it – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – the first album EVER to enter the charts at #1).  You can stick that feather in your caps, boys.

I always liked the title “Rock of the Westies,” a bit of a play on words (“West of the Rockies”) that is credited to Elton himself because the album was recorded in Caribou, Colorado.  (Ok, so he’s no Bernie Taupin).  And I must admit that I liked the album cover – Elton always did the scruffy look quite well.

Anyway, I digress.

Known primarily for “Island Girl,” there are a couple of gems on this album…in particular, the song “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford).”

I remember wondering who Robert Ford was was – hey, I’m not a fan of the Old West. Turns out he was an American outlaw – a member of Jesse James’ gang – and is best known for killing Jesse himself.

And then the song made sense – likening a failed romance to being a traitor:

And I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford
I’m low as a paid assassin is
You know I’m cold as a hired sword
I’m so ashamed can’t we patch it up
You know I can’t think straight no more
You make me feel like a bullet honey in the gun of Robert Ford

If you’ve ever been the one to end a relationship, you know the feeling.

The music is very melancholy, and Elton’s voice captures the poignancy and regret, particularly at the beginning.  He gets a little bolder, more defiant as the song goes on, but still sad nonetheless.  And I like the high notes he hits, especially at the end of the song.  (And did I mention that I love the way he says “Robert”)?

Cut ahead 30 years.  I remember watching the 2007 movie, “The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford” just to see if they used this song.   Nada.  I understand that this song is metaphorical, but still – NADA.  (And it wasn’t a very good movie, either, imho).

I Feel like a Bullet (in the Gun of Robert Ford) – Rock of the Westies – 1975

Who wears these shoes?

I think we know, but I want them!


Which leads me to comment (oh yes I must) on yesterday’s Super Bowl ad, “King’s Court.”

Of course, this was my favorite Super Bowl ad.  Was it the best?  Arguably not, but it was fun.

Elton is cast as King, presiding (Simon Cowell-like) over a medieval musical showdown with Melanie Amaro (X Factor winner).  The moral of this story: It’s not always great to be King.

Pepsi released an extended cut version of the ad.  I like this one better – more humor, the full rendition of RESPECT and (of course) more shots of the King.  Too bad they couldn’t play this one during the Super Bowl.  Enjoy!


P.S. Does anyone remember the Diet Coke commercials with Elton and Paula Abdul?  As good a time as any to reminisce:

Just for the taste of it

To really go forward, you have to go back to the beginning…

…and thus was born The Union.

The back story has been widely reported:  How Leon was Elton’s idol (calling him “the greatest piano player that ever influenced me”), how they hadn’t seen or talked to each other in over 30 years, how Elton was listening to Leon’s music while on safari in Africa, and how much Elton wanted to give back to Leon, one of the people who had helped make him who he is.

Jump ahead to July 2010, The Union was released and it is magnificent!  (Don’t just take my word for it, ask Rolling Stone).  And now I get to see the behind-the-scenes story!  I had the immense pleasure of watching the premiere of The Union (a documentary by Cameron Crowe) on HBO last night.  It brought me to tears, I tell you, it brought me to tears…on more than one occasion as I took it all in.

You know, I’ve heard how Elton and Bernie collaborate, very separately yet with uncanny and remarkable synergy (“two rooms at the end of the world”).  I must say, though, that I’ve never seen Elton’s creative process in action before.  And for a fan like me, that was mesmerizing.

He said he had come in with 5 songs, to kick start his process.  He and Leon started with “Hey Ahab” and completed 9 songs in 3 days.

Elton was very steely eyed at some points, particularly as he was writing the Music for “Gone to Shiloh, calling songwriting a “normally very private process.  I enter a movie made up of Bernie Taupin’s words.  It’s a private world.  Before it belongs to anyone else, it belongs to me.”

At other points, he was like a kid in a candy shop, his eyes full of joy and amazement, watching Leon “come to life” during their studio time together. 

Unquestionably, the most poignant point in the film comes when Leon plays for the first time “The Hands of Angels,” the song that he wrote for Elton and Johnny (Elton’s manager).   This song has special meaning for me, too, so I must admit that I had “clouds in my eyes” as I watched.  Elton was visibly overcome with emotion.  How could you not be?  Elton tells Leon jokingly that it “ruined my mascara.”  And Leon responds, “That’s what happens when you save people’s lives.”  (Cue the tissues).

Since the airing, I read an interview with Leon who said that the whole concept of The Union was ” really, really a surprise.  Elton’s a very generous and spiritually correct person. I’m quite thankful he chose me to do this for him.”

I’m sure I will watch the documentary many times, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it gives me a glimpse into part of Elton’s life – how all that beautiful music is made – that music that has so touched my life – which is something that I never thought I’d get to see.

To Cameron Crowe:  Thank you for this incredible gift.

To T-Bone Burnett:  Thank you for allowing them to be true to their roots and their spirits.

To Reginald Kenneth Dwight and Claude Russell Bridges: Thank you for so many years of amazing music.  You may be “two old farts” (Elton’s words, not mine), but YOU.STILL.ROCK!!!