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17 Nov 2014

"When I think Elton I think of pure happiness". Nicole Elizabeth Vaughan's Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList


12. Nicole Elizabeth Vaughan

Have you had imagined to be in one of those parties Elton and David does as a benefit event? In Woodside for example? Still dreaming? Well, our next guest made it. She flew from Australia to England to fulfill one of her dreams, among others obviously. At the event, Elton sang "Your Song", "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" and "Tiny Dancer", as Nicole explained later. And the Aussie eltonite was there. Before this, her enthusiasm for Elton is well-known: "I worship at the altar of Elton!" reads one of her sentences. She's unique. So we had to ask her about her own list of favourites. And the response is unique. Let's get there!

Hello my name is Nicole from Sydney, Australia. I was asked to name my top 30 Elton songs... Which I found incredibly hard to do!! How to condense 35 years of my complete love and adoration into 30 songs??!! Instead I thought it easier to think of favourite songs as my moods take me... Here they are in no particular order xxxx

HAPPY MOOD:

Captain And the Kid, Captain Fantastic And Brown Dirt Cowboy, Bitter Fingers, The Greatest Discovery, Funeral for a friend / Love Lies Bleeding, Pinball Wizard, The Bitch Is Back, Durban Deep, Red, Dark Diamond, Wasteland 

SAD MOOD:

2 low 4 zero, Cold as Xmas, Ticking, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Skyline Pigeon, Indian Sunset, This Train Don't Stop There Anymore 

DANCING MOOD:

I'm Still Standing, Heartache All Over The World, Bite Your Lip, Healing hands, Teacher I Need You, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, Wicked Dreams 

LOVING MOOD:

Something About The Way You Look Tonight, Pinky, Princess, Mansfield.

10 Nov 2014

"I felt my heart going out of my chest and my tears running through my cheeks". Patty Perrin's Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

11. Patricia Perrin

Patty Perrin, or the soul of eltonjohnmexico. This very versatile woman is a superlative artist: on TV shows, as reporter in "Para niños y similares" -"For Kids and similars"-, as an actress in "Rencor Apasionado" - "Passionate resentment", as a presenter in "Laberinto de Sorpresas" - "Labyrinth of Surprises"; collaborating in radio shows as epigrammist "La Mujer Actual" - "Modern's Woman"; press (Periodico Novedades and Revista Tele-Guia); cinema and theatre. Actress of stage, screen and television, this multi-talented eltonite is also well-known for her role in "La dama de Negro" - "The Lady In Black" (www.ladamadenegro.com), a 20 years on the road successful piece of theatre, she has been playing since the start. She also taught for several years in theater workshops and Composition at ITESM-CEM. It was my debt to invite her, the one who gave me my first eltonite experience in her website writing about Elton. More than this, her knowledge about the artist made the whole thing. Patty, this is your turn, thanks a buch for being here.

Really difficult to choose only 30 Elton John songs by a fan and even harder to put them in a fair order.  But I suppose this is something close to the idea of my personal experience of the journey between my personal life and his music.  I have to confess a lot of them had been chosen because of my memories.  That doesn't mean the other songs are not great, not at all, but I had to do my best in this hard decision.  So... Here we go (beginning with number 30 and finishing with number one... my own favorite...

# 30 YOUR SONG.  His very best classic must have been in this special list.  Never missing in his concerts and because of that, always in our memories of every show I had been (and surely you had been).  We all feel this is our song..

# 29 A STEP TOO FAR.  As my profesional carreer (actrees and writer) I clearly understand how hard is to write a score.  This "Aida" theme has a lovely melody, great chorus and wonderful lyrics.  Everytime I listen to it, I like it more and more.

#28 BELIEVE.  Elton's voice sounds incredible in this rendition.  Deep lyrics and strong music makes this song one of my favorites.

#27 FRIENDS.  An old song that always sounds new.  Incredible that in so very few minutes you can take that melody in your head all day.  And the message of the lyrics is amazing.  A clear example when the music transcend more than the own film. 

#26  WITHOUT QUESTION.  Yes, without question I really LOVE this song.  I liked the movie very much and I really believe that this soundtrack is much better than most people think.  One of the most beautiful melodies Elton has ever composed in my opinión.

#25 RECOVER YOUR SOUL.  It's so hard when you have so great lyrics to make justice with your music... But Elton did it again!  Unforgettable song when things go bad.  Has the power to make you feel up.  Great companion when you are down.  Love it!

#24 DANIEL.  I have heard this song thousands of times and it always move me.  Original and wonderful lyrics and a perfect melody.  Yes, just PERFECT!

#23 SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT.  Deep, emotional, powerful... All in one.  This is a masterpiece.  Unbelievable!

#22 RELIGION.  I have to confess I'm not a religion person, that is why I feel so agree with these lyrics.  I really think a religion person is the one who helps others, not the ones who live inside churches or temples.  It's a very deep song but with very "light" music.  That combination is why I really love this particular song.

#21 CIRCLE OF LIFE.  In my particular opinion, this must be the Oscar winner song.  The Lion King is superb, and this song the best of the best!  Who didn't cry hearing it and felt chills in the skin with the introduction of this movie?  I surely did... That is why it has to be in my personal list.

#20 THE NORTH.  I'm sure this song is only known for the strong fans.  It's not "a hit" but it's wonderful!  Elton's voice sounds so beautiful, the solo piano in the music bridge is so powerful... Really moves me...

#19  CLUB AT THE END OF THE STREET.  Since the first time I heard to this song I couldn't stop dancing and I turned it on time after time.  So contagious, so high!... Yes, it had to appear in this list!

#18 LEVON.  A wonderful story in his lyrics and Elton's rendition is unbeatable.  Superb!  I never get tired listening to it.  Never!

#17  SOCIAL DISEASE.  Yes I know maybe no one expected this song in my list, but I can't help it!  I like EVERYTHING in this song, even the dog barking!  Funny, great music... How can I say?  It makes me happy!

#16  TONIGHT.  Oh my God!  This song!... When a song can make feel someone (me, in this case) what I feel everytime I hear it, has to be a GREAT song!  So deep lyrics, music and rendition!  Standing Ovation!

#15  I THINK I'M GOING TO KILL MYSELF.  With this title and lyrics, it had to be absolutely a very "serious melody"... Yes, that's in theory...  But this is Elton John, so come on!... He uses so funny music even with a tap session... The result?  AMAZING... I have to accept I LOVE THIS SONG!

#14  CRY TO HEAVEN.  Elton's voice is so strong... But this rendition is "something else"... I mean... There's NO CHANCE to ANYONE to sing this song better than Elton ever!!!!  And have you noticed the lyrics?  What a song!... ANNOYING...

#13  SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD.  This song is completely PERFECT... EVEN the instrumental bridge can make you turn to emotional tears... Only Elton could be able to take us to that musical paradise.  I just couldn't believe that anybody would not love this song...

#12  LITLE JEANNIE.  Elton's music has been by my side a lot of years of my life.  When I went to high- school, this song went out.  That whole year I woke up hearing to it.  I love "Little Jeannie" because it is a LOVELY song in all ways and also has the power to translate me to those happy years.

#11  WE ALL FALL IN LOVE SOMETIMES.  Wise men say... I have to mention this song in this list, LOL... One of my biggest favorites!  It makes you cry and laugh at the same time!  I discovered this song can change our mood and the way to think about love depending of what we are living.  I swear it!   A magical song in all the concept!  Just incredible!

#10  SKYLINE PIGEON.  I just can't believe Bernie and Elton had written this song being so young!  The lyrics and melody are so mature!  So perfect!... Yes, this song proves they are both genious!... This song always moves me, doesn't matter if I was young or not...

#9  TINY DANCER.  I like this song because a lot of aspects.  First of all, is dedicated to the "seamstress of the band" (Maxine, Feibelman, first Bernie's wife) and besides of the love he felt, it's a different way to talk about a relationship.  Besides that, Elton made one of his greatest melodies and sings this song with so much passion that you can bet he was the man in love.  One of the best musical colaborations between them in my opinion, and we, the listeners are the winners! 

#8  LIVE LIKE HORSES.  Sing besides Pavarotti was surely not easy... At least you are Elton John!.  I really prefer his own versión to be honest.  The first time I heard this song I was in shock... And everytime I do it... I'm in shock!... Everytime I think Elton can't do something better, he surprises me.  And this song is the prove!... I fell to tears everytime!...

#7  HARMONY.  Yes, Harmony and me a pretty good company!  This song is a happy company to everybody who listen to it.  Moves you and takes you to a nice mood.  That's the power of music... Of Elton's music!...

#6  BLESSED.  I really feel blessed to be able to hear to this song.  Original and moving lyrics...  Amazing to dedicate a song to an unborn baby and the music, Elton's voice, instrumental part and chorus makes this song a goodess creation (created by two genious mortals)...

#5  LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS.  Yes, wait a minute.  I perfectly know this is a Lennon song... But this song is in my list because, I'm also a Beatles fan and this cover was the song that made me know Elton John as a musician.  The first time I listened to it I was visiting my cousin Javier Zavala and I was shocked.  I remember I asked him who had the courage to record a Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds cover and mostly, who was able to do it SO WELL... Then he answered: That's Elton John, this is the record... Then, I discovered a photo of a lovely man with silver shoes and a white hat... Since that moment, I became his huge fan... Now, is it clear why I have to mention this song in this list at number five?...

#4  DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART.  This duet with Kiki Dee is one of my vitamins when I feel down.  It has the power to make me happy everytime I listen to it.  I would never be tired to dance and sing when it is in the air.  Funny, nice... Just incredible.

#3  GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.  Political lyrics, unforgettable melody.  It just can't be more perfect!  One of the most emotional song ever written.  Not only one of my Elton's favorites, one of my ever listened songs favorites!

#2  DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME.  If someone ever doubt about the singer ability of Elton John has to listen to this song.  I have heard a lot of great covers but ANYBODY can perform it better than him.  Powerful voice and music, desperate lyrics which turn to poetry.  Simply one of the most perfect songs in the world!

#1  THE ONE.  Yes this is the one and number one for me.  Why?  Lots of reasons.  The first one is that is a song which lyrics makes everybody desire to be dedicated by their love one... Second, the music.  This is one of the most beautiful melodies Elton has ever composed!  The instrumental part is so emotional... And if this is not enough, the first time I was able to see Elton live, was exactly with The One tour at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.  One of the most emotional moments in my whole life was when Elton sang that song and his piano was raised in the instrumental part.  I felt my heart going out of my chest and my tears running through my cheeks.  Yes, everytime I listen to this song or remember that moment, I come to tears... Yes...just like now...

Thank you Miquel for the opportunity of sharing this list with all Elton fans all over the world... And, of course, thank you Elton for your music!...

25 Oct 2014

"Indebted to Elton and Bernie for providing with a favorite musical soundtrack of life”. John Kwok’s Top 30 Elton John List. Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of AllSongsList

10. John Kwok

Hello Eltonites, welcome to the last season of AllSongsList, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the list, with new guests. Having studied clarinet and piano in his youth, the opener is someone who has been a fan of Elton's music ever since he heard "Rocket Man" for the first time on the radio and learned the words to "Crocodile Rock" in his junior high school music class back in the fall of 1972. In high school, he remembers hearing "Island Girl" blasting out of the radio of one of his classmates in their drafting class. His name is John Kwok, a former paleobiologist and a member of the National Center for Science Education (http://www.ncse.com). He's currently working on the keyboard as a freelance writer and book doctor. He's written an unpublished near future alternate history post-cyberpunk science fiction novel set in the USA and Ireland; an excerpt was published here:
  http://www.trickhouse.org/vol15/door_09_charlesalexander/charlesalexander.html (A book publicist once told him he was writing William Gibson meets the McCourts.). He intends to write a near future cyberpunk science fiction novel devoted to his life-long love of paleobiology and the music of a certain well known British pop and rock and roll musician. (Think William Gibson meets Gary Shteyngart meets Captain Fantastic.). 

When I was asked by Miquel Sala to produce a Top Thirty list of Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs, I knew this would be a difficult, almost impossible, task given the extensive breadth and depth of their back catalogue; a catalogue which demonstrates why they should be viewed as the finest songwriting team of the latter half of the 20th Century, and perhaps, the early 21st Century too. The songs I have chosen, in the order ranked, tend to emphasize more their relatively recent songwriting, from the late 1980s to the present, simply because of the sophisticated artistry demonstrated by both in their melodies and lyrics. For these reasons I have presented a list of what I view as their forty one best songs, and one which omits some obvious choices and lesser known ones.

Under consideration were these songs from 1969 to 1980; “Skyline Pigeon”, “Border Song”, “Sixty Years On”, “The King Must Die”, “Take Me to the Pilot”, “Friends”, “Come Down in Time”, “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun”, “Where to Now Saint Peter?”,  “Burn Down The Mission”, “Country Comfort”, “Amoreena”,  “Madman Across the Water”, “Holiday Inn”, “Honky Cat”, “Hercules”, “Mellow”, “Salvation”, “Slave”, “Teacher I Need You”,  “Blues for Baby and Me”, “High Flying Bird”, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, “Grey Seal”, “Harmony”, “Roy Rogers”, “Sweet Painted Lady”, “All The Young Girls Love Alice”,  “I’ve Seen That Movie Too”,  “The Ballad of Danny Bailey”, “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘N’ Roll)”, “Social Disease”,  “Step into Christmas”,  “Pinky”, “Grimsby”, “Dixie Lily”, “Ticking”,  “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, “Bitter Fingers”, “Tell Me When The Whistle Blows”, “(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket”, “Better Off Dead”,  “We All Fall In Love Sometimes”, “Island Girl”, “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)”, “Grow Some Funk of Your Own”,  “Crazy Water”, “Cage the Songbird”, “Chameleon”, “Tonight”, “Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance)”,  “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, “Two Rooms At The End Of The World”,  and “White Lady White Powder”.

I also considered these from the 80s and 90s; “Just Like Belgium”,  “The Retreat”, “Spiteful Child”, “All Quiet On The Western Front”, “Cold as Christmas”, “Too Low for Zero”, “Kiss The Bride”, “Saint”, “One Small Arrow”,  “Breaking Hearts”, “Burning Buildings”, “Who Wears These Shoes?”, “Passengers”, “In Neon”,  “Restless”, “Soul Glove”, “Wrap Her Up”, “Cry to Heaven”,  “Candy by the Pound”, “Act of War”, “Paris”,  “Hoop of Fire”,  “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)”,  “ A Word in Spanish”, “Japanese Hands”, “The Camera Never Lies”, “Durban Deep”, “Healing Hands”, “Club at the End of the Street”,  “Amazes Me”, “Blue Avenue”, “You Gotta Love Someone”, “Simple Life”,  “Sweat It Out”, “Runaway Train”, “Whitewash County”, “When A Woman Doesn’t Want You”, “Emily”, “On Dark Street”, “House”, ”Belfast”, “Man”, “Latitude”, “Please”, “Pain”, “Lies”, “Blessed”, “You Can Make History (Young Again)”, “If The River Can Bend”, and  “Recover Your Soul”.

Finally, these from 2001 to the present were also considered; “Dark Diamond”, “Birds”, “Ballad Of The Boy In Red Shoes”, ”Mansfield”, “Answer in the Sky”, “Turn the Lights Out When You Leave”, “All That I’m Allowed”,  “And The House Fell Down”, “The Bridge”, “Blues Never Fade Away”, “I Must Have Lost It On The Wind”,  “Old 67”, “The Captain And The Kid”, “Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream”, “Mandalay Again”, and “My Quicksand”.
If I had included songs Elton wrote with other lyricists, these co-written with lyricist Gary Osborne, “Little Jeannie” and “Blue Eyes”, would rank high on my Top Thirty list, at 15 and 5 respectively. So too would those Elton co-wrote with lyricist Tim Rice, with “Circle of Life” at 10, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” at 5, and “Written in the Stars” at 4, alongside one of Elton’s best from the 1980s.  I haven’t included Elton’s hit cover versions of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” because he didn’t compose their melodies.

Honorable Mentions:

Of the songs I considered, these came close to making the Top Thirty List; “Sixty Years On”, “Burn Down The Mission”, “Madman Across the Water”, “Honky Cat”, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, “Harmony”, “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, “Cage the Songbird”, “Tonight”, “One More Arrow”, “Burning Buildings”, “In Neon”, “Cry to Heaven”, “Paris”, “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters (Part Two)”, “A Word in Spanish”, “Healing Hands”, “Amazes Me”, “Blue Avenue”, “Runaway Train”, “On Dark Street”, “Blessed”, “Ballad Of The Boy In Red Shoes”, “Answer in the Sky”, “All That I’m Allowed”, “The Bridge”, “Old 67”, and “The Captain And The Kid”.

John’s Top Thirty list:

30  Hey Ahab/Home Again/5th Avenue

“Hey Ahab” (“The Union”) reminds us that Elton John and Bernie Taupin are still capable of writing a hard rock song after all these years, this time evoking Captain Ahab,  the psychologically and physically scarred protagonist of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick”, in a spirited, gospel and soul-influenced, tune still popular with audiences. “Home Again” (“The Diving Board”) is another instant Elton John/Bernie Taupin classic that has been described as hymn-like by New York Times critic Jon Pareles in his review of the December 3, 2013 Madison Square Garden concert, in a performance featuring the entire Elton John Band and “The Union” backup singers. However, musically and lyrically, a much better song may be “5th Avenue”, their best New York City-themed song since “Empty Garden”, and one also worthy of comparison with “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, that was inexplicably left off the official album release of “The Diving Board” and included only in some of the special editions. It’s especially memorable for the self-reflective poignancy of Bernie’s lyrics, with a superb chorus that may remind others of the chorus in “Burning Buildings”.

29  American Triangle/The Wasteland/When Love Is Dying

“American Triangle” (“Songs from the West Coast”) is an especially moving tribute to Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming undergraduate who was senselessly murdered simply for his homosexuality; the recorded version includes memorable backup vocals from Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. Also from the same album, “The Wasteland” is Elton and Bernie’s blues and soul-tinged hard-rocking tribute to legendary American Blues pioneer Robert Johnson, whose music would – and still does – influence many noted contemporary musicians in blues, soul, gospel and rock. “When Love is Dying” (“The Union”) may be Elton and Bernie’s best love-lost ballad in years, at least since “Sacrifice”, if not before, with the studio version benefitting greatly from Brian Wilson’s choir-like vocal arrangement.

28  Oscar Wilde Gets Out

With a memorable minor key melody from Elton and especially compelling lyrics from Bernie chronicling the tragic fall of Irish writer Oscar Wilde during the final decades of his life, “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” is the best song of theirs on the latest album, “The Diving Board”. Without a doubt, the most compelling renditions of it are those performed live with Davey Johnstone on banjo, Matt Bissonette on bass, Kim Bullard on keyboards, Nigel Olsson on drums and John Mahon on percussion, accompanied by 2 Cellos who also performed on its original studio recording. I believe this song, as well as “Home Again”, should have been featured on the USA leg of the recent “The Diving Board” tour.

27   Gone to Shiloh

Some of Bernie Taupin’s finest lyrics have dealt with his life-long love affair with Americana and American history, and his lyrics for “Gone to Shiloh” (“The Union”) are no exception, especially since they remain amongst his most thoughtful reflections on the American Civil War itself. It’s a compelling saga about a young Union soldier from the bitterly contested state of Tennessee leaving his younger siblings – or maybe, his children - and the family farm, bound for an epic battle between the Union and Confederate armies at Shiloh, Tennessee. The song ends on a downbeat note, with a dire warning to the South if Union General William Tecumseh Sherman opts to wage total war – which he did – against it.

26  Nikita/Tinderbox

Only Elton could transform this hit song from the “Ice on Fire” album, “Nikita”, about a young male Soviet Russian soldier into an ode of unrequited love about a young female Soviet Russian guard patrolling the Berlin Wall’s “Checkpoint Charlie” that should be viewed as one of the finest ballads ever written by him and Bernie; one which I wish Elton would perform live more often here in the United States. “Tinderbox” (“The Captain And The Kid”) refers to the relatively brief period when Elton and Bernie opted to go their separate ways, with memorable background vocals from Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, Bob Birch and John Mahon quite reminiscent of the almost angelic vocal harmonizing from Davey, Nigel and Dee Murray on the classic 70s and early 80s albums.

25   I’m Still Standing/I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

These are two of Elton and Bernie’s best hard rock anthems of self-affirmation, with Elton singing why he is still on top in “I’m Still Standing” (“Too Low for Zero”), which remains a fan favorite during his concerts. The phenomenally popular – at least here in the United States, but now rarely performed – “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” (“Reg Strikes Back”) was Elton’s highest-charting USA single in the 1980s, with Elton bidding a most fond adieu to his soon-to-be ex-lover.

24   Bitch is Back/Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

These hard rockers, “Bitch is Back” (“Caribou”) and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), are easily still among the most familiar songs from Elton and Bernie for both long-time fans and those barely acquainted with their impressive body of work. Tina Turner has covered frequently “Bitch is Back” in her live performances, providing her own unique gospel and soul-infused hard-rocking spin to this song. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is quite simply, their hardest rocking song, period.

23   Crocodile Rock/Bennie and the Jets

 Others might rank “Crocodile Rock” (“Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player”) and “Bennie and the Jets” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”) much higher on their Elton John Top Thirty Song list and I would have too if I had excluded great songs ranging from “Sacrifice” in the late 1980s to the recently released “Home Again”. Yet these are still sentimental favorites of mine, even while recognizing that musically and lyrically, both Elton and Bernie have made major artistic leaps since writing them back in the early 1970s. “Crocodile Rock” truly takes us back “…when rock was young”, capturing the innocent sweetness of 1950s American rock and roll.  “Bennie and the Jets” remains Elton and Bernie’s great funky glam rock anthem, unexpectedly becoming a hit song on African-American rhythm and blues radio stations before it became a hit played frequently on American AM and FM rock and pop radio stations.

22   Tiny Dancer

One of the greatest love songs written by Elton and Bernie, with Bernie writing poignantly about his first wife, the “seamstress for the band”, still sounds as fresh and as vibrant in concert as it did when it debuted on the “Madman Across the Water” album and was performed live by the original trio consisting of Elton, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson. In recent performances, Kim Bullard on synthesizers and 2 Cellos on electric cellos perform Paul Buckmaster’s superb arrangement for string orchestra that is heard prominently on the original studio recording.        

21   Levon/Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Yet another memorable song from the “Madman Across the Water” album, “Levon” remains a perennial favorite with audiences during Elton John Band concert performances. (On a more personal note, this may be the third Elton John/Bernie Taupin song – after “Rocket Man” and “Crocodile Rock” – that I fell instantly in love with and memorized the lyrics too, still recalling a Brooklyn, NY YMCA day camp counselor who sang an acoustic version of it on his guitar back one summer in the early 1970s.)  Much to his credit, Bernie Taupin has excelled for years in crafting song lyrics that are genuine short stories in miniature, and this is one of the finest early examples of him recounting the saga of that “good man”, and proud war veteran, Levon.  The original studio recording features one of Paul Buckmaster’s great orchestral arrangements, which are being performed now in concert via Kim Bullard’s keyboard programming and 2 Cellos’ memorable playing on their electric cellos. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (“Honky Chateau”) is Elton and Bernie’s finest ode to New York City, and one made memorable by the virtuoso playing by Dee Murray on bass and Davey Johnstone on mandolin in the original studio recording. Much to my surprise, this was replicated again with Matt Bissonette on bass, and especially, Davey Johnstone on mandolin, yielding one of the most memorable musical highlights I heard during the December 4, 2013 Madison Square Garden concert.

20   Someone Saved My Life Tonight

One of the most gut-wrenching rock ballads ever written by Elton and Bernie, this song may be the best from “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, not least because it features prominently, Nigel Olsson’s unique style of melodic drumming, and Bernie’s emotionally compelling lyrics recalling the moment when Elton contemplated suicide before breaking off a relationship with a woman he thought he’d marry.  This great song is still quite compelling to hear performed live in concert by the entire Elton John Band, especially now with Nigel Olsson emphasizing his superb melodic drumming, in performances reminiscent of the original studio recording. Surprisingly, this wasn’t a favorite of mine when I heard it played repeatedly on my local radio stations back in the summer of 1975; I’ve long since grown to love it as one worthy of recognition as among the finest ever written by Elton and Bernie.

19   Philadelphia Freedom

Originally written as a musical tribute to Elton’s friend, the great professional tennis player Billie Jean King and her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms, it is also a magnificent soul and rock tribute to the “Philly Sound” that emerged out of Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the only hit single from Elton John and Bernie Taupin that was released only as a single, not as a track on one of their early to mid 1970s albums. Having heard this recently live in concert and watching videos from other recent concerts, I can say that Elton is singing it better than ever – at least since his mid 1980s vocal surgery – accompanied by exceptional musicianship from Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and the rest of the band.

18   I Want Love / This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore

Elton John is channeling John Lennon in “I Want Love” the smash hit song from the “Songs from the West Coast” album, in a musical style that pays ample homage to Lennon’s post-Beatles songwriting. I think this will be remembered as the first great 21st Century Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, having heard a riveting acoustic version of it during an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute concert at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium several years ago; the concert itself was noteworthy just for Phoebe Snow’s rendition of “Empty Garden”. The final song on the “Songs from the West Coast” album, “This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore”, is his and Bernie’s most poignant post-“Captain Fantastic” autobiographical ballad, with Elton viewing his career as an older train that was once “the main express”; it remains, along with “Original Sin”, as one of my two favorite songs from this album, featuring an exceptional orchestral arrangement from Paul Buckmaster, who composed all of the album’s arrangements.

17   Your Song

There’s an almost timeless quality to Elton’s music and Bernie’s heart-felt, poignant lyrics for this early song of theirs which debuted on the “Elton John” album. It certainly remains one of their great love songs, and one which is sung forcefully with more conviction by Elton now in concert than I have heard on either the original studio recording or in concert performances from the 1970s and early 1980s.

16   Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

One of the most compellingly poignant ballads from Elton and Bernie, “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” (“Blue Moves”) also has a timeless quality to it, not least because it has been covered by singers as diverse as Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker; each having made this song their own, giving their own distinctive musical signatures.

15   Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me

Quite possibly the greatest ballad ever written by Elton and Bernie from their classic 70s period, this quintessential song became a  chart-topping hit for Elton and then, many years later, in the great duo version with him and George Michael. The original studio version (“Caribou”) features great backup vocals from Toni Tennille and several others associated with the Beach Boys.

14   Sad Songs (Say So Much)

“Sad Songs (Say So Much)” remains one of the great Elton John/Bernie Taupin soul-infused rock ballads, and one especially memorable in its original studio version (“Breaking Hearts”) courtesy of great harmonizing from Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson.

13   The Last Song

A hauntingly beautiful ballad from Elton and Bernie (“The One”) that recounts a father’s grief over the imminent loss of his son dying from AIDS; it is their most notable song pertaining to HIV/AIDS. It may be the best song from the 1990s to the present emphasizing Elton’s singing as he plays the piano, virtually unaccompanied, and one that is musically and lyrically much better than almost all of the songs included in the various versions of the new “The Diving Board” album. I am surprised Elton isn’t playing this song much lately, either in concert with the Elton John Band or in his solo performances.

12   Empty Garden

This poignant, heart-felt, tribute to the late John Lennon from the “Jump Up” album, demonstrates not only a genuine return to form of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songwriting partnership by 1981, but also  greater sophistication in their melodies and lyrics than what they wrote during their classic 1970s period. I think this will be another great song of theirs that will be covered by singers for generations; indeed I heard a great, rousing rendition of it from Phoebe Snow at an Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute concert held at Carnegie Hall’s Stern auditorium several years ago.

11   Original Sin

Elton didn’t exaggerate when he said that this was the best song he had written during the “Songs from the West Coast” tour. It may be the best love song that he’s written with Bernie since “The One”. With its exquisitely beautiful melody and sophisticated lyrics referencing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, I am surprised he hasn’t performed this much as part of his typical set list with the Elton John Band.

10   Live Like Horses

This great rock anthem about personal freedom is one best heard in the live performances that Elton did with the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti; it is one of the two great ballads on the sadly underrated “The Big Picture” album. However, it may have been more over-produced by Chris Thomas during its original studio recording. Still, even on that recording, one hears Elton’s impassioned singing, as memorable in its own right as those during the concert performances with Pavarotti. This is a great song which Elton should perform frequently on both his band and solo tours.

9     Something About the Way You Look Tonight

The B-side to the “Candle in the Wind 1997” single, “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” is the other great ballad from “The Big Picture”, a country-western-flavored love song sung by Elton to the beautiful woman he has seen, acknowledging his emotional salvation in finding her, the love of his life.

8      Believe

A rousing anthem in celebration of the power of love, “Believe” remains one of the greatest songs ever written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and one made especially memorable courtesy of a great string orchestral arrangement from  none other than Paul Buckmaster, who resumed a long-overdue musical collaboration with Elton on the “Made in England” album. In recent concert performances, Kim Bullard on synthesizers and 2 Cellos have performed Buckmaster’s superb arrangement.

7      Sacrifice  

From the “Sleeping with the Past” album, Elton and Bernie wrote a late 1980s version of “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” that is musically and lyrically, far more nuanced and elaborate than their earlier love-lost ballad. It may be their most poignant musical portrait of a love affair, and especially, a marriage, in ruins. It is yet another song of theirs that should be viewed as a timeless classic, worthy of being covered by other singers as notable as Frank Sinatra and Joe Cocker.

6      Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The title song from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album has a great chorus for the audience to join in, as Elton has announced during recent concert performances of it. This may be their most memorable, image-laden, “kiss off” song, evoking not only the “Wizard of Oz”, but an idealized, bucolic view of rural America as imagined by the much younger Elton and Bernie. During her latest tour, the young American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles – who has been compared favorably with the likes of Billy Joel, Tori Amos and Regina Spektor and whom I regard as a much better songwriter than Lady Gaga  – has sung “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, offering listeners a truly compelling, original twist to it, which bodes well for its future as yet another timeless classic from the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songwriting team.

5      Candle in the Wind    

This memorable ballad in memory of Marilyn Monroe from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album has the unique distinction of being a major hit three times during the first three decades of its existence. However, the last occasion, in 1997, occurred when Bernie opted to revise the lyrics to pay tribute instead to recently deceased British Princess Diana, which Elton performed at her state funeral held In London, recording it as a single hours later under the supervision of legendary producer George Martin. Without question, “Candle in the Wind” remains a timeless classic from the John/Taupin songwriting and one that is still performed in concert, using the original lyrics paying homage to Marilyn Monroe.

4     I Guess Why They Call It The Blues

Many might regard this as the best song Elton co-wrote with Bernie and Davey Johnstone, and they may be right. Instead I think of it as the best song from the “Too Low for Zero” album. It’s a terrific bluesy rock anthem of a love song in which Elton now plays up its blues inflections in both his singing and piano playing during his live performances. The original studio recording features a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and great vocal harmonizing from Davey, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson.

3       Daniel

Quite possibly their greatest folk rock ballad, “Daniel” (“Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player”) is frequently cited as the best song ever written by the John/Taupin songwriting team. It’s a reasonable assessment, not least because it contains a great Elton John melody and excellent Bernie Taupin lyrics that are yet again, a most memorable short story rendered as poetry. Taupin’s lyrics are hauntingly beautiful and ambiguous, if only because Elton had crossed out the final verse explaining who Daniel really was, since he thought the song might be too long if he had retained it.  The original studio recording features great acoustic bass and guitar playing from Dee Murray and Davey Johnstone and melodic drumming from Nigel Olsson, which is echoed now, in recent live performances, by Matt Bissonette on bass and John Mahon on percussion, as well as by Davey and Nigel.

2       Rocket Man

This is the finest folk rock ballad I’ve ever heard about manned spaceflight and the loneliness of space experienced by an astronaut “burning up his fuse up there alone”. Bernie Taupin’s lyrics are poignantly more realistic than David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” lyrics, coupled to an especially memorable Elton John melody that evokes not only the loneliness, but even boredom, experienced by astronauts during the Apollo lunar landing missions, that is still relevant for those serving today aboard the International Space Station. Having heard the original studio recording from the “Honky Chateau” album played at an Apple Store in New York, NY, I was struck immediately by the song’s excellent production values courtesy of Gus Dudgeon and his sound engineers, yielding a recording that still sounds as fresh and as vibrant today as it was when it was recorded at Strawberry Studios back in the early 1970s; a  recording that sounds vastly superior to any made by T Bone Burnett and his engineers for the recording sessions of both “The Union” and “The Diving Board”. On the “Two Rooms” tribute album, Kate Bush sang a reggae-inflected version that earned in 2007, The Observer readers’ award for best Cover of all time.

1      The One

The finest ballad about finding one’s greatest love ever written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, which was the title song from one of their best recent albums. It is especially memorable for an almost solemn-like piano introduction, a great melody and an incredible metaphor-rich set of lyrics, that describes how a man – any man – might stumble upon “The One”, the love of his life. The studio recording features drumming from sound engineer – and drummer – Olle Romo – that is uncannily Nigel Olsson-like in its melodic drumming. It’s no surprise that I look forward to hearing the song performed live with the entire band, even if “The One” still remains a compelling ballad performed only by Elton himself, which he did most recently during the American leg of “The Diving Board” tour. Along with  “The Last Song”, “Believe”, “Live Like Horses”, and “Something About the Way You Look Tonight”, “The One” was one of the greatest songs written by the John/Taupin songwriting team in the 1990s and, I believe, will be regarded by many as the finest song of theirs for generations to come.

20 Jul 2014

"Two Rooms": a celebration of the radio show and to the man who hosts this talented and impressive programme

Do you imagine a radio show where you could listen songs like “House Of Cards”, “Too Low For Zero” or “Mellow”? Could it be? Yes, like life itself. The clue: WOMR 92.1 fm (Provincetown), 91.3 fm Orleans, a radio show all about Elton. You eltonites know I am talking about “Two Rooms, Celebrating the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin” (Sunday’s at midnight). “Next to Lennon and Mc Cartney, Elton and Bernie are among the most talented, prolific and diverse songwriters in pop music” states, David Singler, a die-hard Eltonite who hosts the programme.  Sigler is an avid fan since 1974, when he heard “Bennie and the Jets” and decided to bring Elton’s songs on the radio with success four years ago. WOMR, a public broadcasting community radio based in Provincetown, Massachussetts, went on air on March 21st 1982, precisely when “Empty Garden”, Elton and Bernie’s tribute to John Lennon, was released as a single. Sigler also hosts a show about the Top 40 charts called Pop life: Hits, Misses and Everything in Between compelling 3 decades of Pop Music (1970-2000).

To the occasion, I decided to ask some of the avid listeners about their feelings of the show. Also, ask them a song he/she would love to listen on the radio show. It’s your turn, eltonites: “I began listening to Two Rooms when the show first began and have been a dedicated listener ever since. Dave Sigler hosts the show and does a fantastic job every week” starts Sarah Johnson, while adding: “Dave does a great job of including an eclectic mix of songs which celebrate the incredible musical partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin over the history of their careers. Dave’s expert knowledge on Elton and Bernie and his enthusiasm and passion for the music is reflected in the show.” “First off, David is a fan with a great deal of knowledge and experience behind him. He brings those traits to his show to give the best possible showcase of Elton’s music” agreed Paul Purcell.  “David’s show has become my weekly addiction, I have listened to and downloaded the show since Nov 2012, in all these shows I don’t believe there is one show where I haven’t discovered something completely new to me” continues Mike O’Reilly.

So “Two Rooms” has unique features such as Taupin spotlight (a song he sings or wrote with other artists), cover spotlight (Elton’s) or Tribute time covers (other artists play tribute to a song written by Elton and Bernie), among the most underrated or successful tracks Elton and  / or Bernie has penned. “He focuses on the lesser known tracks so they are brought to a wider audience” thinks Paul Purcell. Andreas Moland Bendixen says: “Even for big-time fans like me there is always something to learn”. Sarah Johnson? “Dave also include EJBT songs covered by other artists along with songs that Elton or Bernie had covered  or been involved professionally. Dave always manages to pull gems of songs of the EJBT archive, which I have never heard before, which is such a pleasant surprise”.  Thank you Sarah. “All aspects of Elton’s career are catered for, so anyone tuning in for the first or umpteenth time will learn something new” adds Paul Purcell. “I don’t know if other music artist have a dedicated weekly program, but I am very grateful David provide this for us dedicated and new Elton & Bernie fans” completes Mike O’Reilly.

Several shows had been done.  My favourites?  “40th Anniversary of Caribou” (TR424); “Nighttime”, a collection of songs with the word night on the title (TR422); “My Top 10 favourite EJ Albums” (TR221); “Taking flight”, songs about places and destinations (TR220), or “Remixed”, a collection of remixes all over the years (TR108), just to name a few. “Dave picks a theme for each show, some of which of my favourites include the album tribute shows and interview shows where his guest always has a knowledgeable and informative insight into the world of Elton John and Bernie Taupin” continued Sarah Johnson. “B-sides have also been given proper attention, which is of course a thrill for fans. Many of us feel they are as good, or better, as anything on the albums. I have to say that has been my favorite part of “Two Rooms” added Andreas Moland Bendixen. Me, I have the chance to go back to postcasts and realized how much interesting tracks it had been played: for example, I love when he played “Engine 19”, a song rejected by Elton in 2002 (“Engine House 19”) and written by Taupin with Richie Sambora in 2013, a tribute song for the families of the victims and heroes of 09/11 (23rd September 2013). Sarah Johnson concludes: “As I said before, I am an avid listener of Two Rooms, and look forward to listening every week. It is so great that Two Rooms is on the airwaves paying tribute to and celebrating the timeless work of Elton and Bernie”.

David, here's a very important man in your project. He kindly agree to send me some words for you, so, John Braden, Executive Director of WOMR/WFMR, thanks very much for being here, this is your turn: "Our audience has enthusiastically embraced David’s weekly tribute to the legendary Elton John on his “Two Rooms” program according to listener feedback. Elton fans throughout our Cape Cod broadcast area, and worldwide at womr.org, seem to really enjoy David’s meticulously researched program, we are lucky to have David’s involvement with our listener supported community radio station for many years to come...  or as Elton would say “...a long, long time.”"Thanks so much then, I am agree with you 100%.

Finally, people, one song you would love to listen, or listen again, in a next Two Rooms show?

Paul Purcell: Believe
Sarah Johnson: Porch Swing On Tupelo  
Mike O’Reilly: The Retreat  
Andreas Moland Bendixen:  Live Like Horses live 1994 or 1995
Jack Rabbit: Into The Old Man’s Shoes

Thank you very very much to Sarah Johnson, Andreas Moland Bendixen, Paul Purcell and Mike O’Reilly for their appreciated collaboration. There are several eltonites who agreed to do the same, so updating versions of this article will be done.

I would like to conclude this, with a BIG THANK YOU to the man who week by week is doing something value for Elton and Bernie’s music. In these days that their songs are not played as they deserve in the majority of the radio airwaves, doesn’t matter which country, is so relevant that Dave Sigler dedicates his time and efforts to do. And he does it with the ability to make interesting shows to the community, and with what’s so much important: with his passion. Dave, you deserve my recognition on your job, please make this radio show as long as you can. I couldn’t wait to download next podcast of the show. Couldn’t imagine my days without your show. As I said before, THANK YOU.

I asked Andreas Moland Bendixen to send me his feelings about the show, and he sent me this wonderful article. Although I reproduced some of his thoughts in the article I posted before, I thought absolutely necessary to post the article in its enterity, because it’s a well done job. So, this is Andreas’ article about the radio show. Enjoy as much as I did. Thanks so much Andreas.

Songs from the East Coast, by Andreas Moland Bendixen

A standard musical radio program promotes current top 40 hits and does not normally seek to analyze or explain music in detail. A Rhianna song gives way to a One Direction song with unmerciful speed, only to be interrupted by loud and intense commercials. Should you, however, be lucky enough to find yourself on the east coast of the United States, between Provincetown and Orleans in Massachusetts to be exact, you should tune your radio to FM 92.1 or 91.3. Here you will find the exceptional musical radio program “Two Rooms” that does not only play the great music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, but also discusses and analyzes the tracks.

Elton John has one of the vastest back catalogs there are. This radio show gives the songs the attention they need. It is a thrill for fans, and a source for will-become fans. David Sigler’s knowledge of Elton is impressive and it’s a treat to be able to hear songs, but also interviews and facts. True, great books like “Sir Elton” by Philip Norman, or the wonderful East End Light and Hercules Magazines are most informative, but they lack the obvious detail: being able to listen to Elton.

In a recent broadcast, the underrated 1993 “Duets” album was the topic. Sigler let Elton do most of the talking and I was happy to learn things I didn’t know before.  Even for big-time fans like me there is always something to learn. So “Love Letters” was the first song to be recorded during those sessions! “Duets” is a treasure for any music fan, and I’m glad it was given a chance to shine.

B-sides have also been given proper attention, which is of course a thrill for fans. Many of us feel they are as good, or better, as anything on the albums. I have to say that has been my favorite part of “Two Rooms”.

I would like to thank David Sigler and WOMR.org for this fantastic show. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say how much we enjoy listening on the radio or online, and hope you have many musical years to come!