Sometimes the magic of the past is all we’ve got

From one of my very favorite albums (Songs from the West Coast), Mansfield evokes (to me, anyway) an old Hollywood movie.  In black and white (of course), the starlet glances ever so seductively to the other side of the room as the leading man looks not quite so innocently in her direction. Their eyes meet, and things, as they say, will never be the same.

And it’s the contact of the eye that meets across a crowded room
And how I kind of wound up the lyrics to your tune
You said, ‘Funny but it feels like I’ve known you all my life
And how it might feel to kiss you on the mouth tonight’

I really love the staccato rhythm of the bridge (not to mention the subtly seductive Taupin lyrics).

Two people come together unexpectedly, passionately for a time, but no longer. Ten years back by the hands of the clock.

Great strings arrangement by Paul Buckmaster. I love the fact that this album, the first in a long, long time for EJ to go back to his roots, integrated strings into several of its tracks. If I recall correctly, it was pretty well received by the critics. Really, if you’ve never listened to Songs from the West Coast, you absolutely should. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re fond of his earlier work.

Oh, yes, and there are a couple of Taupin classics in here…the line for which this post is named plus:

Off balance I found love the only place to fall

Another one of those songs through which Bernie’s lyrics paint such a vivid picture. You can almost feel the warmth of those Santa Ana winds. And Elton’s voice is sad, but accepting, if that makes sense.

Reminiscing can be so bittersweet. Indeed, sometimes the magic of the past is all we’ve got.

Mansfield (Songs from the West Coast – 2001)

My elusive drug?

The other morning, my husband and daughter took to psychoanalyzing me for what they call my “obsession” with Elton John.  Apparently, I am psychologically flawed.

Well, that may be true, but I don’t think it’s because I like/follow/blog about Elton John.  Frankly, in the grand scheme of things, this “obsession” of mine is quite innocuous compared to most, wouldn’t you say?  (Personally, I prefer “ardent admiration” instead of “obsession,” but a rose by any other name…)

And yes, I know the statement “I like Elton John” is a gross understatement.  To say the least.

As I said in a previous post, perhaps the biggest reason I am (still such a) big EJ fan is that he and his music grew up as I did.  And I do listen to and appreciate other music, really I do.  It’s just that no one else’s music will ever touch me the way Elton’s has.  Period.

And, as my sister so eloquently put it in her post about the most recent concert we shared, “to watch him perform with commitment and gusto as if no moment should be taken for granted,” well, that’s a great reminder to us all.  And, arguably, another reason that my obsession (I mean, my ardent appreciation) has intensified over the last few years.  Truly, how much longer is he going to be doing this?  Oh, don’t even go there, Kimoreena.

It’s been reassuring to find out (through Facebook, the Rocket Club and other resources) that there are many others out there like me, all around the world – many of whom have seen him in concert way more times or know the lyrics and back stories better than I.  My humble little blog is but a drop in the bucket.

Anyway, psychological flaws or not, being an Elton aficionado is who I am.  Take me or leave me.  Like it or not.

And, quoteth Bernie as I must…this Elton John fan is still standing…and feeling better than I ever did.

My sister can twist (and she can rock ‘n roll)

Guest blog by Lisa Greer

Sept 14th – Tampa USF Sundome-  #7

I’ll admit that for many years my knowledge of Sir Elton’s songs was a lot like that segment in the movie, “27 Dresses,” where I knew the artist, knew his classics and sung along in my car (loudly I might add, too) that ‘Benny and the Jets’ had “electric boobs,” and “solid walrus sounds.” I’ve come long, long way, though, in my appreciation for Elton’s musical talents, as I now have 7 EJ concerts under my belt in just a few years, thanks to my sister Kim. With each road trip, a new story is told, a different album is shared, and usually for me, a new favorite is learned. With a better understanding of the collaboration that has gone behind each song or album and then to watch him perform with commitment and gusto as if no moment should be taken for granted, I look forward to each concert opportunity like the excitement of Christmas morning to every child who knows it. On this last trip our brother Mark was recruited, and the sibling gigglry was constant and good times were had. Sitting beside my Rocket Club Fan sister, Kim, belting out EJ songs and dancing to everything from “Crococile Rock” to “Hey Ahab” keeps our hearts young and our spirits energized. I did miss “Monkey Suit” this go round, but I’m keeping the faith for another day.

I know that I’ll never know every word, every tune, or every meaning of every song as well as my sister, but my own list of favorites is growing as much as my respect for the artist. Thank you, sister, for sharing.

Looking forward to #8.

Breaking hearts (ain’t what it used to be)

Ah, would that I could still break a heart or two. I know that sounds pretty selfish, and I don’t mean to imply that I would overtly choose to break someone’s heart, but the unrequited love theme is a bit romantic (especially when you’re on the one side of it vs. the other). And, I must admit, there’s a bit of an ego-stroking aspect to it, too.

Of course, this song is about the opposite, someone who has broken many a heart and realizes (albeit too late) that it wasn’t worth it.

It’s not the night reaching in and touching me
It’s just that breaking hearts ain’t what it used to be
It seems that time has killed that cruel streak in me
And breaking hearts ain’t what it used to be

Sometimes a bit lyrically melodramatic, this song does contain some classic Taupin.  Take this line, for example:

The darkest part of every day
Is the shadow of another girl as she turns and walks away

Breaking Hearts has a retro feel to it – and I don’t mean because it was written in 1984. I mean really retro, from the 40s or 50s. I could picture Frank Sinatra singing this. Elton, the crooner. It’s very much in line with Blue Eyes (both the song and the legend).

Alas, this is the only video I could find of Breaking Hearts – apologies for the quality.

Now just don’t go breaking my heart.

Breaking Hearts (Ain’t What It Used to Be) – Breaking Hearts – 1984

The Pilgrimage Part Deux – Episode V

Tampa, Florida – Friday, September 14, 2012

(Heavy sigh)

I’ve promised my husband that this will be my last Elton John concert for a while. I guess 5 in 6 months is pretty outrageous (she says with a smug and satisfied grin on her face).

Be that as it may, I had the thrill of seeing Sir Elton in concert – again – this year. This leg of the pilgrimage took us to Tampa, Florida, where he headlined the grand re-opening of the USF Sun Dome arena.

You came to town in headlines…

This time I was accompanied by my sister, Lisa and my brother, Mark. And, if I got the count correct, that makes 7 EJ concerts for Lisa and 2 for Mark.

Pre-Flight

We had pretty good seats for the concert – 12th row, left of center, direct line of sight to EJ (except for the lady 2 rows in front of us who kept holding up a poster). I certainly would like to figure out how other Rocket Club members get 5th row seats.  I’ve never been so lucky. But I digress.

The 2Cellos opened up for Elton again…and were as impressive as ever.  WOW.

And then Sir Elton entered stage left, “looking like a well-fed Wizard of Oz in a green sparkly jacket, flashing a gap-toothed grin, pointing to the sold-out crowd of 9,951 and pounding into Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” [Sean Daly, Tampa Bay Times]

Although the concert was a bit shorter than his 3 previous South Florida visits, it was still very high energy (dare I say electric music, solid walls of sound)?  Of course, much of what he played was from the “jukebox,” but he did throw in a few “gorgeous rarities” for us Eltonites. Love, love, love Mona Lisas and Holiday Inn. And I even enjoyed Nikita (not one of my favorite songs, to be honest), but live and performed solo, it was amazing. Missed Take Me to the Pilot and Burn Down the Mission, though. But then, he’d have to play all night and then some to cover everything I’d like to hear.

Elton played and sang his heart out (as he always does), letting the band take a break from time to time during the two and a half hour set.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (I so wish iPhones took better concert pics)

Other observations from Tampa:

  • I did miss seeing Bob Birch playing behind Elton, but Matt Bissonnette didn’t miss a beat and looked like he’d always been part of The Band.
  • I hope the 2Cellos keep touring with Elton.  They really add depth to the arrangements and harken back to the original recordings of many of his earlier tunes.
  • Elton signs autographs between the main set and the encore.  I guess I take it for granted because I’ve seen him do this for a while now, but several people asked me about this, seeming very surprised. I find it very gracious of him – and he seems very patient with the fans.  (Alas, when I had my front row seats all those many years ago, he didn’t do anything like this. But he did smile at me).
  • Even though I’ve seen him 5 times this year, it most certainly didn’t dampen my excitement nor my enjoyment.  Now I just hope he tours for The Diving Board, which comes out in February.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The set list:

  • Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  • Bennie and the Jets
  • Grey Seal
  • Levon
  • Tiny Dancer
  • Holiday Inn
  • Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
  • Philadelphia Freedom
  • Candle in the Wind
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • Rocket Man
  • Hey Ahab
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues
  • Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
  • Honky Cat
  • Sad Songs
  • Daniel
  • Nikita
  • Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
  • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  • I’m Still Standing
  • Bitch is Back
  • Crocodile Rock
  • Your Song (Encore)

BTW, I asked my sister and brother to guest blog about the concert, so you’re not just hearing how amazing and PHE.NOM.EN.AL. it was from me.  Stay tuned.

It’s all over now, don’t you worry no more

It was just announced that Matt Bissonette is joining the Elton John Band as his new bassist.  And though I sincerely welcome Matt and look forward to seeing Elton and the Band in Tampa on September 14, it is, of course, tragic circumstance that brings this announcement.

I’ve been meaning to do this since I heard the sad news, so this one’s for you, Bob Birch.

One of his favorite songs was Blues for Baby and Me…and it’s one of my favorites, too.  I remember listening to this over and over again when I was in high school. For a teenage girl, it’s certainly a romantic idea, isn’t it, to head out on your own with your (forbidden) love?  Just don’t tell my daughter that!

And it’s all over now
Don’t you worry no more
Gonna go west to the sea
The greyhound is swaying
And the radio is playing
Some blues for baby and me

And the highway looks like it never did
Lord it looks so sweet and so free
And I can’t forget that trip to the west
Singing blues for baby and me

I’ve always loved the way this song makes you sway, just like the Greyhound bus.

I’d also like to share an interview with Bob Birch that was done for eltonjohnallsongslist a few years back, which gave me the idea for this post.  When asked if there were any songs Bob would like to include on the next tour set list, he answered:

A: “Elton picks the songs he wants to play. Every fan has their own idea of what songs they want to hear, but the fans have to remember that 80% of the audience want to hear the hits. I would like to play “Blues For Baby and Me.”

So now we’re playing it for you, Bob.  I know that, from here on out, I will always think of Bob when I hear this song. May you rest in etermal peace.

Blues for Baby and Me (Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player – 1972)