In the heart of every girl, there’s always room for valentines…

Yesterday was Valentines Day, and I found myself trying to figure out what my favorite Elton John love songs are.  It came to me that I don’t think there are as many love songs (in the classic sense of the term) as you might think (especially with a portfolio as long and robust as the boys’).  So many of Bernie’s lyrics are truly story telling, picture painting – a “mini movie,” as Elton has oft described them.

In the spirit of Valentines Day

In the spirit of Valentines Day

What do you think constitutes a love song? There are so many different kinds of love. I am drawn to songs that portray the realities of love, even a love that has not ended well. (I love books and movies that make me cry, too – can you spot a trend)?

Most of us have had several experiences with love, each one providing a different stroke, color or texture to the portrait of who we are.

If I were to rank my top 10 Elton John/Bernie Taupin love songs, today it would be:

  1. Original Sin: Beyond control, passionate love (“I can’t eat, can’t sleep, still I hunger for you when you look at me. That face, those eyes, all the sinful pleasures deep inside“)
  2. Amoreena: Innocent love (“Lately I’ve been thinking how much I miss my lady, Amoreena’s in the cornfield brightening the daybreak, living like a lusty flower, running through the grass for hours, rolling through the hay like a puppy child“)
  3. Pinky: A first real love (“You don’t want to tell me but somehow you’ve guessed that I know, oh when dawn came this morning you discovered a feeling that burned like a flame in your soul“)
  4. Come Down in Time: Unrequited love (“There are women and women and some hold you tight, while some leave you counting the stars in the night“)
  5. The Greatest Discovery: Brotherly love (“And all you ever learned from them, until you grew much older, did not compare with when they said, this is your brand new brother“)
  6. The One: Relieved that I finally found my one love (“In the instant that you love someone, in the second that the hammer hits, Reality runs up your spine and the pieces finally fit”)
  7. Blues for Baby and Me: Rebellious love (“I called you my child, said honey now this is our game, there’s two of us to play it and I’m happy to be home again“)
  8. Tonight: This is how it really is love (“Tonight, just let the curtains close in silence…Tonight, why not approach with less defiance the man who’d love to see you smile, who’d love to see you smile…Tonight“)
  9. The Last Song: Love that sets you free (“I can’t believe you love me, I never thought you’d come, I guess I misjudged love between a father and his son“)
  10. I Must Have Lost it on the WindGrateful for love, in all its shapes and forms (“And from one you learn something, and another you learn nothing, and there’s one who might teach you everything“)

[Side note: I’ve blogged about all of the Top 10 except The One.  Hmmmm…]

Honorable mentions go to:

And probably quite a few more that should’ve made one of these two lists! (Ok, so I guess there are certainly more “love songs” than I originally surmised.  And I’m sure if you asked me tomorrow, my Top 10 list would be different).

And then there is Believe – probably in the Top 10 for a lot of you.  Can I be honest? This is one song that, dare I say (as I brace myself for the arrows), I really don’t like that much. I always felt like the music didn’t fit the words (that it was a bit too much like a funeral dirge and that the lyrics were too simplistic for such lofty thoughts).  With that said, though, it is amazing live, so it has grown on me.

What are YOUR favorite Elton John/Bernie Taupin love songs? I’d really like to know which ones hold a special place in your heart.  And Happy (belated) Valentines Day to you, too!

 

 

Should I stay or should I go now?

Oh, the quandry!

I will be in Las Vegas from October 5-9, and Sir Elton just happens to be playing in Los Angeles on October 4 and 5. I am debating whether or not to take a quick flight from Vegas to LA on Sunday afternoon (the 5th), catch the concert, and then fly back.

EJ-StaplesCenter

I think I could work it out. Although *technically* I am in Vegas for work, I don’t really have to start until Monday morning.  And if I’m the busy little bee that I know I can be, I’ll make sure everything is ready before hand.  I just don’t want to alienate anyone at work by slipping away for a few hours (although to my defense, when I work these events, I give it my all. I barely get 3 hours of sleep a night because of the timing of what I do, and it’s not because of partying)!

I really, really, really want to go! I know there’s a bit of a stir that he will be touring in 2015 with a 40th anniversary tribute to Captain Fantastic (OMG)…but I would kick myself if I was this close (a wee 270 miles) from being able to see him and I missed the chance.

Perhaps my last chance. (I know, I know, that has been my rationalization for why I need to go to any EJ concert these days).  😉

What do you think? Would you go?

Did I mention that I really, really want to go?

You know, it’s been a whole 6 months since I last saw him in Pensacola in March. (Did I mention that I had front row seats and got his autograph at that concert? I’m still swooning).

I would be going to the concert by myself, which would be interesting. (I prefer sharing the experience, of course, but one must do what one must do). And, honestly, I go to movies by myself, eat out by myself, and (frankly) have listened to Elton’s music by myself the majority of the time. (I hear my family protesting that last statement, but it is true). Ah, I will just pretend he’s singing to me and only me. (sigh)

I need to make up my mind soon! With this threat of indecision, hanging in my heart...what’s a girl to do?

 

My gift is my song and…

…well, we all know the rest of that line!

And you know what? Not only that particular song, but each Elton song is a gift, imho – a gift that certainly keeps on giving and giving and giving.

I had the opportunity to take an unexpected road trip last week – at night – so I wanted to make sure I had several Elton CDs on hand as I made the drive. Playing the music loudly (and, of course, singing it loudly, too) keeps me awake better than any caffeine drink, no question.

I picked a stack of CDs randomly, and I ended up with Rock of the Westies, The Diving Board, Songs from the West Coast and Captain Fantastic. An eclectic mix, that’s for sure. (And then a few days later, on a another, albeit shorter road trip, I added Tumbleweed Connection and Breaking Hearts).

Anyway, as I was enjoying the mini EJ concert in my car, it dawned on me that every time I pick up a CD that I haven’t listened to in a while, it’s like opening a gift.

Even though there’s familiarity, I often catch something new that I hadn’t appreciated before. Or, a song that I’ve skipped over in the past rings a little more true or catches my fancy in a new way.  Invariably, I’ll realize what a good album it is (there are so many good Elton album) and that I should put it into the rotation more often.

I’m also amazed at how I know what song is coming next even though I may not have listened to the album in a long time. (This morning, I knew that Slow Down Georgie came after Restless and Did He Shoot Her came after Burning Buildings, and I can’t tell you the last time I listened to Breaking Hearts).

And then there’s the scrapbook to my life that Elton’s music evokes in me.  I have such vivid memories associated with so many songs. Whenever I hear any of these songs, I always, always, always think about:

  • Singing Blessed to my daughter in utero
  • Silly dancing with my son to I Can’t Wait to be King when he was 4 or 5
  • Chloe, Eric and I giggling every time we hear the way he says “squee-werl” in Burn Down the Mission
  • My grandfather and the faux pas I made when I hear Funeral for a Friend (I had just discovered GBYBR and asked my grandfather to listen to FFAF because I had never heard anything like it – and it was much too soon after his son – my uncle – died)
  • How my daughter sings out of the side of her mouth to sound like Elton in Amoreena
  • How some of my college friends started calling me Little Kimmee after Little Jeannie
  • The first time I heard The Captain and the Kid and I got all teary eyed at the intro
  • When a friend of mine remarked that most people wouldn’t know what Sartorial Eloquence is
  • How I have to harmonize to Elton’s voice when I sing Sacrifice, even when I try not to
  • Sharing a wink and a smile with my sister about Johnny and the Governor during In the Hands of Angels
  • The fans at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida doing the Gator chomp to Crocodile Rock
  • Getting all verklempt when I read The Greatest Discovery to my sister

I think that’s the real gift of his songs.  They’re not just a part of his life or legacy, they’re a part of mine, too. As Bernie so eloquently put it, “The gift you give us all is the one I hold inside.” (Yes, I took a little poetic license there). Thank you, Elton (and Bernie!) for such precious gifts.

Do you have any special memories associated with certain Elton songs? I’d love to hear about them.

And, to all my Elton friends out there, though I don’t write songs (I wouldn’t even try), let my gift be my blog and… this one’s for you.

 

It’s never quite the same as the real one

I finally listened to the Revisited & Beyond CD from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe set. Let me preface my comments by noting that I am (unapologetically) a purist…I don’t often like other people covering Sir Elton’s songs.

On a recent road trip, though, I decided to take the CD for a ride with me.  After a few listens, I must say that I actually liked some of the other artists’ versions. Quelle surprise!

GBYBR-Revisited-2

Here are the 9 tracks and my impressions:

  • Candle in the Wind (Ed Sheeran): Love, love, love this one! WOW. Nice one to start off with. If you have 3:20 (and even if you don’t), listen to it here. It’s well worth your time. Definitely a keeper.
  • Bennie and the Jets (Miguel featuring Wale): I don’t mind it, but it’s just not my style. It’s not bad, it’s just not that good, imho. I do like it when he says “Now where do you get a mohair suit?”
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Hunter Hayes): Meh. Nothing special about this version. Frankly, they should’ve included Sarah Bareilles version. She blew me away with her interpretation.
  • Grey Seal (The Band Perry): I really like Kimberly Perry’s voice, and I think this is a pretty good cover of Grey Seal. I wasn’t thrilled with the twangy, banjo-y lead in, but it grows on you (and it fits The Band Perry). I would listen to this again.
  • Sweet Painted Lady (John Grant): I’m not familiar with John Grant, but his voice carries this song well. (At first I mistakingly thought it was Harry Connick Jr – now wouldn’t that have been nice?). Melancholy and dark. I’m ok with that.
  • All the Young Girls Love Alice (Emile Sandé): Beautiful voice, but blah rendition of this tune. Sorry, Emile, but this needs to be a rocker.
  • Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock ‘n Roll (Imelda May): A respectable version. I am not familiar with Imelda, either, but I do like her voice. She did a good job with this song.
  • Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (Fall Out Boy): Not bad, I like it. Needs to be listened to very loud (just like the original version).
  • Harmony (Zac Brown Band): This one gave me goosebumps as they started the second verse. They took the harmony theme literally, and it works.

So there you have it. It seems like the versions I’m drawn to are those that stay pretty true to the original tone/intention but add their own flair and personal style.

Some other thoughts:

Wouldn’t it have been cool to package Elton’s version along side each of the other versions, so you could compare and contrast?  The producers include 2 earlier versions of Grey Seal on the CD, but I think it would have been a better CD to include the originals as well.

I would’ve thought they could’ve gotten a lot more than 9 people/groups to record versions of the songs on GBYBR – there are 17 songs on the original album, for crying out loud.

I was wondering how the artists were chosen, and found this interview with Peter Asher, the producer of Revisited & Beyond, who was asked that very question:

In conversation with Elton and Tony King [Elton’s creative director], we would bounce ideas around and then approach the artist. In most cases Elton or I would have a good idea specifically who could cover the song. I know Ed Sheeran has said in interviews that he wouldn’t have picked “Candle in the Wind” because it’s such an iconic song. Elton just said to Ed, “I think you should do this song”, and luckily Ed said yes.

However, in the case of “Grey Seal”, that was one I was a bit stuck on. That piano lick is such a crucial element of the song and I didn’t want someone just copying Elton. Then I suddenly had an epiphany and decided it could be a banjo lick. I called up a friend of mine who plays banjo and asked, “Am I crazy?” But he agreed it could become a banjo lick, and that’s why I went to the Band Perry, who I love.

So it was a different process in each case, and there was a lot of consulting. We ended up with a list that everyone was extremely happy with.

I’m guessing that this CD will go back in the box and likely not be opened again. Like I said, I am a purist (and, as Bernie so aptly put it in Grey Seal, “it’s never quite the same as the real one”).

 

Like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy.

And why would that be, you might ask?

Well…On Sunday, March 16, 2014, I grabbed myself a place in his-to-reeeee-ee-ee.

(Ok, so it may be my own little personal history, but it’s my history nonetheless).

And what was so historic about this night? Well…I finally, finally, finally, got Elton’s autograph in person!*

EJ-Priceless

And yes, it’s been almost two months since the concert, but it’s been a crazy couple of months for me.  Trust me, the excitement hasn’t waned. In fact, I think I’ve purposefully kept it locked up inside of me, since it may be a while until I see him in concert again.

As my sister Lisa and I headed on our journey, a very rainy, perhaps even dangerously stormy, day was forecast for Pensacola. I was afraid that we might drive all that way and the concert would be cancelled (they were predicting tornadoes just to the west).

EJ-Pensacola-Sign

But have no fear. We arrived at the hotel safe and sound and the trucks arrived at the venue overnight. We could see them unloading from our hotel room (not that I’m a stalker or anything).

And it rained.

We had Sunday all to ourselves, so some pre-concert shopping was in order followed by a late lunch at the Fish House (wonderful!) to carb up for all the dancing that was to ensue around 8:00 pm.

And it rained.

Then came the ritual of trying on various concert ensembles. I ended up going with the tried and true gold sequined cardigan. First, because it sparkles and he might notice me. Second, because it sparkles and he might notice me.

And it rained.

Fast forward to concert time and it was still raining. Doors didn’t open until 7:00 pm (really, Pensacola Bay Center, really)?!!

We decided to have a glass of wine at the hotel (another pre-concert ritual) before we hiked across the street to the PBC. We met up with some very nice fellow concert goers, none of whom had seen Elton in concert before. They hung on our every word as we regaled them of the glories of the Elton John concert experience. [Side note: It was at this point that Lisa discovered that she is into double digits with the number of EJ concerts she’s seen. I think she qualifies as an Eltonite, wouldn’t you say?]

Time to head over and guess what? It was still raining.  We had to stand in line for about 15 minutes before they opened the doors (really, Pensacola Bay Center, really? Did I mention that it was raining)?  The crowd seemed very excited, though – and well they should be!

Once we got inside, we went straight to our seats to check out the view.  Take a look:

Look, Ma - one hand (on the stage)!

Look, Ma – one hand (on the stage)!

And of course we had to take the requisite selfie:

The girls are ready

The girls are ready

I think we sparkle up pretty well, don’t you?!

The anticipation was palpable…we talked to several people around us who had never been to an EJ concert before, as well as a few die hards. And then the lights went down…

Pensacola-FFAF

Yes, that is how close Davey was to us!

It’s always a great concert when it starts with Funeral for a Friend, isn’t it?

I won’t bore you with the set list (oh, well, yes I will, but in just a bit. You’ll see why).

The crowd rushed the stage during Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and I made sure I had my spot.  I was the first one stage left.

And there's the gold sequined cardigan

And there’s the gold sequined cardigan

Somewhere between DLTSGDOM and the end of the main set (I believe it was during The Bitch is Back – how appropriate!), Davey walked over and handed me his guitar pick. Did you get that? Davey. Handed. Me. His. Guitar. Pick. (Swoon).

Pensacola-GuitarPick

And then Elton and The Band left the stage. Everyone knows that Elton signs autographs as he comes out for the encore. I’m not sure what I would’ve done if he skipped over me. Thankfully, though, he did walk all the way over to where I was standing and penned his autograph to my Captain Fantastic Time Magazine cover. Lisa was gracious enough to step back and capture the moment:

I grabbed myself a place in history

And there’s that sparkly gold cardigan again

After the concert, the videographer handed me the set list she was working with, which I thought was very nice of her. Another souvenir from an amazing evening:

Including the tape she used to tape it to the camera

Including the tape she used to tape it to the camera

Needless to say, the concert was magnificent and the experience was EPIC! But don’t take my word for it – here’s what the Pensacola News Journal had to say about it:

Elton John thrills thousands at the Pensacola Bay Center

And guess who made it to their photo archive? We were definitely dancing “like we were at an Elton John concert.”

Rockin' out

Rockin’ out

*See, I have this thing about autographs. I don’t want to buy one, nor do I want to send away for one. I wanted to get one in person. I have been fortunate to get Bernie’s in person, as well as those of Davey Johnston, Nigel Olssen, John Mahon, Kim Bullard, and Matt Bisonnette…along with Matt Still’s and Keith Hayward’s.

And now the Kim has the Captain’s.

And that, my friends, is why I’m happy.

 

My first Elton Expo: Day 2

Saturday, October 5

Matt Still (Producer of The Captain and the Kid and Gnomeo and Juliet, Engineer and other roles on several other albums)

Can you say crush? What a nice, genuine guy! And what amazing experiences he’s had with Elton, Bernie and The Band. I loved it when he described how it feels to be the first person in the world to hear one of Elton’s new songs and that yes, he does sometimes have groupie moments working with Elton.

Matt talked about everyone getting fired by Elton one day, and then being rehired (with apologies) the next day. I don’t remember which album they were working on at the time, but it does sound like classic Elton.

Matt also shared some poignant memories of Bob Birch and Guy Babylon, saying how much he missed them still and how, so many times, it was just Matt, Bob and Guy in the studio in the wee hours of the night.

When it was my chance to meet him, I told Matt that I loved “The Captain and the Kid” album and that when I first heard the “The Captain and the Kid” song, I got all teary eyed hearing the intro music (since it is a re-orchestrated intro to Captain Fantastic).

Me and Matt

I asked Matt if he still lives in Atlanta (yes, he does) and then told him how I love Atlanta and that I went to Georgia Tech. He told me how he went to Tech for a couple years, but knew that engineering was not for him. Alas, I was there many years before him, but it was a great “six degrees” kind of moment. Who knows, maybe I’ll bump into him at the Elton concert in Atlanta next Saturday.

THE Band!!!

Not to offend anyone, but this is what everyone was waiting for – and The Band did not disappoint. I hung on their every word. Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, John Mahon, Kim Bullard and Matt Bissonette. I never, ever, ever thought I would get to meet any of them in person, and now I have!

Q&A with The Band

Q&A with The Band – and me getting a close up view

Nigel & Davey

Nigel & Davey

Although I didn’t get to spend much time actually talking to The Band members nor did I get to have my picture taken with them (time was running out since we were towards the back of the line), I did get to meet every one of them and got all of their signatures on my GBYBR CD booklet.

All their signatures - PRICELESS!

All their signatures – PRICELESS!

Each and every one of them was charming in their own way and very, very gracious. A few tidbits:

  • I made Davy laugh! When I approached the table where Davey was sitting, he spilled his water, and I remarked, “I have that effect on people.” He reared his had back and just laughed.

I (yes, I) made Dave laugh!

  • As I was shaking Nigel’s hand, I told him that he had the most gorgeous smile and he put both of his hands on mine, gave me that gorgeous smile and said, ever so sweetly and with a twinkle in his eyes, “Thank you.” That man’s still got it.
  • Kim Bullard ‘high fived’ me when I told him I was also a Kim. 🙂

[Side note: Nigel is hilarious! And did I mention that he has a gorgeous smile?]

Magic Johnstone

A first-time live performance of the Magic Johnstone Band, which is comprised of Davey and his sons Charlie, Jesse and Tam. OMG, they are amazing! When they got going on Grow Some Funk of Your Own – WOW.  (Now that’s a song I wish Elton would add to his concert repertoire).

Magic Johnstone LIVE! at the Elton Expo

Magic Johnstone LIVE! at the Elton Expo

It was so evident that Davey is very proud of his sons.  When Tam had his first keyboard solo, you should’ve seen the look on his face. If that didn’t say proud, I don’t know what would.

Love, love, love Magic Johnstone! They certainly grew some funk of their own – and you can watch them for yourself!

The Ben Babylon Band

When Ben and his band started with A Song for Guy, I nearly lost it. Although it wasn’t written for his father, what a beautiful tribute to Guy Babylon from his son. My eyes filled with tears.

The amazing Ben Babylon Band with John Mahon and Davey Johnstone

The amazing Ben Babylon Band with John Mahon and Davey Johnstone

Let me tell you, these kids are scary good, each and every one of them. I really enjoyed “Burning Man” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” Check the BBB out!

Silent Auction

I bid on a signed Elton John Aids Foundation watch – and won it! So, that is my first collectible with Sir Elton’s actual signature, although I am still going to try to get one from him in person. Some day. (Atlanta)?

Lisa and did stop by the Expo on Sunday morning before we headed to the airport, hoping to run into Debbie and John again, but alas, no such luck. I so wanted to get a picture taken with them. 😦 But I was able to purchase a few more Elton pins and buttons to add to my collection.

So there you have it – highlights and (hopefully) insights from my very first Elton Expo:

  • Elton John’s music has been the soundtrack to our lives.
  • There is very likely to be a Tin Pan Alley Volume 2 (yea!).
  • Nigel Olsson hates Crocodile Rock (said it was the worst song ever written in the history of the world). Not sure if he was joking or not, but he did say it!
  • Davey really doesn’t like The Diving Board.
  • Speaking of The Diving Board, it is a very divisive album, mostly because it was not recorded with The Band.
  • Davey does try to get more “obscure” songs into the set list, but Elton’s gonna do what Elton’s gonna do.
  • Apparently, Elton thinks the words to Tiny Dancer have always been “But oh how it really feels” rather than “But oh how it feels so real.”
  • B-sides aren’t necessarily inferior songs. They’re just songs that didn’t fit the overall feel/theme of an album.
  • Matt Still was the “spooky” voice in “The House Fell Down.” Nigel was the laugh.
  • Elton John fans are really cool! And it was really heartwarming to see several younger fans (not just us oldies but goodies).

Please share your insights and takeways, too! (I should’ve taken better notes)!

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful event – I had a great time (and I think Lisa did, too). I wish the event coordinators would publish a list of attendees, because there are a few (who aren’t on Facebook) who I’d really to keep up with. And I do regret not being more assertive so that I could get a photo or two with The Band members – next time!

My first Elton Expo: Day 1

Yes, Virginia, there is an Elton Expo.

As they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but I’ll make an exception here. My sister Lisa and I attended the Elton John Expo in Las Vegas, October 4-6, 2013 – the first one for both of us – and what an experience it was!

First of all, I must give a big shout out and thank you to Lisa, who accompanied me on this trip. I can’t imagine what she must have thought, knowing she would be surrounded by a bunch of freaky Elton fans like me. I do think she enjoyed herself (perhaps I can get her to guest blog).

Back to the Expo.

You know, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, and I don’t do schmooozing very well, so to say I had a bit of trepidation would be an understatement. But I am so glad I went for so many reasons. Two days of unapologetic Elton love!

We arrived in Vegas Friday morning (which meant we left South Florida really, really early!), checked into our hotel and headed over to the Expo. After registering, we were just waiting around for the doors to open and struck up a conversation with a few Eltonites.  What’s your favorite song that he doesn’t play in concert? How many Expos have you been to? How many times have you seen him in concert? Have you ever met him? When did you first become a fan?

Debbie and John, a couple from Colorado, were part of these discussions, and Lisa and I ended up sitting next to them through the Expo on Friday and Saturday. What a great couple! Loved every minute of the time we spent together. As someone once said, “Friends are found on every road.” I hope we stay in touch.

I was also able to meet some of my Eltonite Facebook friends, including Richard (one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet), Missy and Carrie, as well as make some new friends like Jerred and Beth.

Here’s a short run down on the Expo, Day 1:

Friday, October 4

Keith Hayward (Author of Tin Pan Alley – The Rise of Elton John)

I was enthralled with Keith’s story telling in the book, and I was even more enthralled with his story telling at the Expo. (Plus he has a really nice accent). It was really cool to hear Elton’s back story, especially how the music business worked back then (in the day, I might add). Through all the questions and interaction with the attendees, it  became quite clear that my knowledge of Elton pales in comparison to Keith’s (of course) and so many of the other Eltonites there. Can’t wait for Volume 2!

Keith Hayward at the Expo

Keith Hayward at the Expo

Note to self: I need to get a copy of the Dick James demos.

The Elton Rohn Band

Funny, when I saw the agenda for the Expo, I actually thought about skipping out on this part, but we decided to stay. What fun! They’re great musicians, and Elton Rohn does look, sound and even make some of those funny facial expressions like our Elton does. And he even wore the Adidas track pants!

Elton Rohn & Me

Elton Rohn & Me

Elton R commented on my bedazzled Elton John iPhone case – he thought it was very cool.

That brings us to the end of the Expo Day 1.  Lisa and I then headed to the Elton store at Caesars Palace (of course) and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Mesa (Bobby Flay’s restaurant).  It was a very long day, but well worth it! Looking forward to Day 2 (The Band!) and wondering if the rumors that you-know-who might stop in were true.

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