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30 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Just Like Belgium"

"The Fox" was the first album for his new lebel: Geffen Records. Early on, the album consisted of ten tracks left over the 21 At 33 sessions. Geffen rejected six songs of those and Elton return and recorded new songs in studio. Ironically, these songs were turning up "B" side singles of the album. But the album lacked a big hit and got little airplay, thought reviews of industry trade publications proclaimed the album as one of the best since the mid 70s.

"Just Like Belgium" for example, failed to reach the music singles charts. Initially written for Rod Stewart, who turned it down claiming music and lyrics were incompatible. The song related alcohol-soaked vagabonds trying to recapture a trace of glamour of his younger years in Belgium.

Just Like Belgium's lyrics:
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"Remember Belgium and the Brussels Museum
Where we piled on the front steps like stray cavaliers
Our code of living meant little to others
The few francs we saved bought some cheap souvenirs

But the red lights where the catfights make it just like Belgium
See us face down on the floor of another cheap barroom
Streetwalkers sweet talk you out of your spare change
And your sweet madame makes it seem just like Belgium

Just like a hustler when they look attractive
It's nothing more than a slap on the back
The price tag of being just a little bit different
The first rule to learn is to keep your own distance

29 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Nobody Wins"

The song was born in summer 1980. While driving through St. Tropez, Elton heard heard Janic Prevost version of J'Veux D'La Tendress ("I Want Tenderness") on the car radio. He was so overcome that he pulled to the side of the road to listen. "It just send shivers up and down me spine" recalled Elton. "even though it was sung in french". He asked Gary Osborne, then lyricist, to write an English version and he did, writin' about Elton's unloving relationship with his father.

Elton recorded the french version for "The Fox" album release in France, with Jean Paul Dreau lyrics, not Gary Osborne lyrics, and he described the searchfor happiness in life.

Nobody Wins
Written by Jean-Paul Dreau and Gary Osborne

"They must have loved each other once
But that was many years ago
And by the time I came along
Things were already going wrong
I felt the pain in their pretence
The side they tried hard not to show
But through the simple eyes of youth
It wasn't hard to see the truth

And in the end nobody wins
When love begins to fall apart
And it's the innocent who pay
When broken dreams get in the way
The game begins, the game nobody wins

They must have loved each other once
Before the magic slipped away
And as their life became a lie
What love remained began to die
I used to hide beneath the sheets
I prayed that time would find a way
But with the passing of the years
I watched as laughter turned to tears

We used to love each other once
With all the passion we possessed
But people change as time goes by
Some feelings grow while others die
But if we learn from what we see
And face the truth while we still can
Then though the passion may be gone
Some kind of love can still live on

21 Nov 2007

Jim Turano: One Of The Greatest Elton's Fans

I've always admired Jim Turano who, in permission of greats Tom Stanton and Liz Rosenthal, is one of the best reviewers of Elton John albums. His chats with Stanton in "East End Lights" magazine were one of the most incredible things you could ever read.

Jim is really a true Elton John fan. His knowledge of Elton's life and music is unending. Along with Mary Anne Casatta is the author of "Elton John Scrapbook", a must have book for eltonites. Unlike many of the books about Elton John this, as the name implies, is in the format of a scrapbook, in other words, a montage of Elton John's life and career:

If I am not wrong, you could hear Jim every weekday mornings from 8a to 11a on 105.9 WCKG - Chicago Radio Station.

The Story Behind "Dogs In The Kitchen"

The idea about the autobiographical album came after Bernie wrote a poem called "Dogs In The Kitchen". Though the lyrics were included in the scrapbook of the album, it don't seems that any music was set. Bernie's bitterly cynical portrayal of corporate greed in the entertainment industry. It was not, it seems referring to Dick James but to a familiar world, nevertheless.

Both preplanned the running order of the album lyrically before Elton wrote the music to. "Bernie had the idea of writing about how we met" explained Elton at that time. "I had the feeling that it won't be commercial but I never know what is and what isn't". And like a book, the album was played chapter by chapter, song by song, in order to complete their story.

Dogs In The Kichen Lyrics
Lyrics: Bernie Taupin

"All our innocence gave way to lust
As the peacock spreads its fan,
And they taught us how to crack the whip
While the businessmen got tanned.

In the months that passed by the agents cried
And the flunkeys all got paid,
While the fortune seekers pale limp wrists
Showered us with bright bouquets.

Like soldiers on the road to battle
Poor boys fight to stay alive,
Take a roller coaster or the wheel of fortune
Just be sure that you can land it on the other side.

Uncage us where restless, snarled the dogs in the kitchen.
Howling in the heatwave, riding all the bitchin' ladies.
Who got the first bite on the greasy bone, take my advice kid
Tear off the white meat, leave them the fat back at home.

Empty eyed souls with expense accounts
Take a luncheon eating humble pie.
While the vultures belch in their swivel chairs
And the vampires all wear ties.

From the lips of a sweet young starlet
Amber eyes and sex appeal,
Or a swan song sung by some finger snapping kid
In a cumberbund and cuban heels.

Though the team survived the glass house cracked
And the martyrs all got stoned
But a friend outside slipped a file in
While the jailer slpet at home".

20 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Philadelphia Freedom"

The first song wrote consciously as a single, is a tribute to Elton's friend Billy Jean King and her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. Elton had told her he would have Bernie write lyrics for her, capting the idea of winning despite all odds, and she thought "No way!". Elton, who met Billy Jean and Jimmy Connors in 1973, had been allowed to play against her on court and the song should be in return for that.

But he did it and asked to Bernie. "I said to Bernie: could you write a song called Philadelphia Freedom for me? Thank you, Elton". "I can't write a song about tennis" protested Bernie. And he did it. "It's not exactly the easiest title to deal with" added Bernie. Bernie claims that lyrics mean nothing.

Billy Jean explained "Elton was so nervous when he play me the song, but I loved it... it was so thoughtful, it meant a lot".

The friendship reminds over the years. "I beat Billy Jean at tennis once" Elton recalled. "I was standing there in a kind of daze when she came up and said: Shall we play for real now?. And I thought: oh, shut up!"

Philadelphia Freedom's lyrics:

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"I used to be a rolling stone
You know if a cause was right
I'd leave to find the answer on the road
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
The less I say the more my work gets done

`Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born I've waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee-high to a man
Yeah gave me peace of my mind daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom shine on me, I love you
Shine a light through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine a light shine the light
Shine a light won't you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom I love you, yes I do

If you choose to you can live your life alone
Some people choose the city
Some others choose the good old family home
I like living easy without family ties
Till the whippoorwill of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes"

19 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"

Elton is singing about himself. Linda Woodrow was his bride-to-be. The couple met on Christmas Eve 1967 at a cabaret club in Sheffield when Elton was in Long John Baldry's backing band. They found a basement in Islington, North London, where lyricist Bernie Taupin became their flatmate.

In Two Rooms tribute project, Elton explained: “I was going to get married once when I was younger, and I went out and got drunk with Long John Baldry and Bernie and John said I shouldn't get married. I knew he was right but I didn't know how to get out of it so, I just got drunk and went home and said I'm not getting married”.

Asked for this song, Bernie said: “One day I was coming out of my room and coming out of my room and walking down the hall I smelt gas. I thought oh, great, somebody's left the oven on in the kitchen. I walk in the kitchen and there's Elton lying on the floor with the gas oven open. My inmediate thing should have been oh, my God, he's tried to kill himself. But I started laughing because he'd got the gas oven open, he was lying on a pillow and he'd opened all the windows”.

Bernie has stated that “Someone saved my life tonight” was about the suicide attempt and the marriage that never was. While John Baldry is the “sugar bear” of the song, Linda was the “princess perched in her electric chair” and Elton's stepfather “Derf” and mother who “They're coming in the morning with a truck to take me home” (he and Bernie).

In the line, "Paying your H.P. demands forever," the H.P. stands for "hire-purchase" payments, i.e., buying things on an installment plan. Elton is referring to the payments he would have to make if he were to have married a woman and spent his life disguising his identity as a gay man.

16 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Blessed"

Elton John does not have any children, but does have ten godchildren. Besides Sean Ono Lennon, these include Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian Charles, David and Victoria Beckham's son Brooklyn, and the daughter of Seymour Stein.

On the following interview: Paul Flynn meets Elton John and David Furnish, from London Times, Elton was asked about children: "Do you want kids? Elton: No. I’ll take the perks of being gay where I can get them and that’s one of them for me: gay men are the only group of people who aren’t looked down upon if they don’t have kids".

But for David Furnish point of view, this is never likely to happen because Elton's always too busy. He says, "I wanted children. We talked extensively about adopting, but it came down to Elton saying, 'I'm going to continue to do what I do and it will be very difficult to raise a child with you if I'm not going to be there'." Furnish, 45, fears he will always be sad about the decision. He adds, "It will be my one regret when I leave this planet; that I never had children of my own, because I really love children."

But it was Bernie who gave the meaning of the song, with his desire to have children "your eyes open up" declared. "I love getting up and taking kids to school. It's a great feeling". The lyrics gave voice to his desire:

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"Hey you, you're a child in my head
You haven't walked yet
Your first words have yet to be said
But I swear you'll be blessed

I know you're still just a dream
your eyes might be green
Or the bluest that I've ever seen
Anyway you'll be blessed

And you, you'll be blessed
You'll have the best
I promise you that
I'll pick a star from the sky
Pull your name from a hat
I promise you that, promise you that, promise you that
You'll be blessed

I need you before I'm too old
To have and to hold
To walk with you and watch you grow
And know that you're blessed"

14 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Believe"

It's a song about love but it's not a pure love song. "To me this song says strongly and loudly "I believe in love"" explained Elton about the song. "I do believe in something. I believe in faith, I believe in the human spirit and in its generosity". In the other way, he think that "Religion can be so divisive. It can be so depressing to look at situations, like the religious situations all over the world". In contrast, "I believe in all I can as a human being to be positive and in being as loving and generous as I can". Pure philosophy.

The lyrics' provided too cornerstone "Cancer sleeps curled up in my father" as Bernie's father was dying at that time. Also love transcends barriers and institutions "everything crumbles sonner or later but love".

Elton John's main vocal influence remains John Lennon, especially on this album's first single, "Believe," the lyrics to which also echo the tone of several of Lennon's solo ballads.

And the Marcus Nispel's video is probably one of the best of Elton's career. The director intention was to represent a city that was in the sky. "I wanted it to be in black and white" said Elton "like the images I love to see in black and white photography".

Believe's lyrics:

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"I believe in love, it's all we got
Love has no boundaries, costs nothing to touch
War makes money, cancer sleeps
Curled up in my father and that means something to me
Churches and dictators, politics and papers
Everything crumbles sooner or later
But love, I believe in love

I believe in love, it's all we got
Love has no boundaries, no borders to cross
Love is simple, hate breeds
Those who think difference is the child of disease
Father and son make love and guns
Families together kill someone
Without love, I believe in love

Without love I wouldn't believe
In anything that lives and breathes
Without love I'd have no anger
I wouldn't believe in the right to stand here
Without love I wouldn't believe
I couldn't believe in you
And I wouldn't believe in me
Without love

I believe in love"

13 Nov 2007

MIE Hard To Find Lyrics

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"Take a look around, there ain't no angels here
Just a big red moon all bloody and dirty
Coughing like a factory in the atmosphere

Take a happy face, stick it on the Middle East
There's a light switch broken
And a million fingers pointing at each other
For a minute's peace

Sweet talking baby Jane
She's a little golden hum
Looks like Cleopatra, acts like Joan Crawford
Rolling on a carpet with an ice pick in her heart

And it's all or nothing
I feel like jumping
Where are my wings, what's my ETA
And I don't know all that is
Like the place where angels live
All I know is Hell is not below

See Joe Public hanging from a red-tipped noose
Trapped in a bottle, drowning with a genie
Waist deep in wishes you can never use

At the last resort the geishas spread like flies
It's the moody black cloud all bitchy and muddy
Sticking to the ceiling like Gods on the night

Rotting in a (place) since she was only five years old
Only took a second as the windows shatter
Falling precious metal to suck out her soul".

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"There's a chance we may lose it all
All those hollow souls
Can't hope to hold that wall

What I breathe used to be my life
How come a good thing dies
And the evil still survive

Oh I've got to paint it red
Wake up and colour all the pieces
Don't sleep without your faces, and
Oh I've got to paint it red
Put your eyes back in your head
And oh paint it red

Where's the dance they may never dance
All those open hands
Can't hope to have a chance

What I see used to be a smile
How come your lips are sealed
And your spirit never flies

Cash on delivery
That's all they ever said
Grey tones can't be trusted
I say paint it red"

Live Like Horses
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"I can't control this flesh and blood
That's wrapped around my bones
It moves beneath me like a river
Into the great unknown

I stepped onto the moving stairs
Before I could tie my shoes
Pried a harp out the fingers of a renegade
Who lived and died the blues

La promessa non fu chiara
S'erra solo impressa in me
Vidi solo il gelo dentro me
Quella notte dise a me

Vivrem comme cavalli
Liberi dai recinti di ferro
Che piu non voglio
Rinnegare i sensi
Su dai fuggiam
Vivrem comme cavalli

We're the victims of the heartbreak
That kept us short of breath
Trapped above these bloodless streets
Without a safety net

I stood in line to join the trial
One more customer of fate
Claimed a spoke in the wheel of the wagon train
On the road to the golden gate

Nel deserto la nave abbandonai
Per me aveva senso
Son stato troppo tempo nella bestia
Ed ora saro libero

Someday We'll live like horses
Free reign from your old iron fences
There's more ways than one to regain your senses
Break out the stalls and we'll live like horses

Liberi dai ricenti di ferro
Che piu non voglio
Rinnegare i sensi
Su dai fuggiam
Vivrem comme cavalli"

Building A Bird
Written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

"I'm building a bird
From the wreck of a story
Something I once heard
Sifting through this pile of words
I'm building a bird

I'm building a bird
From a crack in the system
Sunshine it's a dirty word
Slippin' out this naked world
And building a bird

Take a broken bird home
Wrap it in barbed wire
Saddest song I ever heard
Was a bird in a house on fire

I'm building a bird
From the wreck of a story
Something I once heard
Sifting through this pile of words
I'm building a bird

All this scattered make-up
From covering his curse
All the scattered building blocks
That never got to build a bird

If you want it you can take it
If you need it you don't know it
If it moves screw in the ground
If it's around it's all over
Tools and nails glue and feathers
All that's left from building a bird

I'm building a bird
From a crack in the system
Sunshine it's a dirty word
Slippin' out this naked world
And building a bird
And building a bird"

Written by elton john
recorded for versace fashion show, paris 1995

"Some people are born royal
Others become queens on their own

Queen, queen
Queen, queen

I dont need to be king
I just wanna be queen

No doubt about it
Im gonna shout it

Queen, queen
Queen, queen

Darling, shes the queen of queens"

Marching In Milan
Written by elton john
recorded for versace fashion show, paris 1995

"And then there were uniforms

Were marching in milan

Were marching in milan"

Into The Jungle
Written by Elton John
recorded for Versace Fashion Show, Paris 1995

"Deep in the jungle
A story's unfolding
Exotic, sexy, classic


Deep in the jungle

Deep in the jungle
Deep in the jungle
Deep in the jungle

6 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Tiny Dancer"

"Tiny Dancer" was Bernie's love song to Maxine, "The ballerina", his wife. They married in 1971 and Elton was the best man.

But the song don't tell only his love for Maxine but her work with the band being "the seamstress",and enjoyed them like any other audience member "she sings the songs, the word she knows, the tune she hums".

For Elton, "Tiny dancer" became his first signifricant use of the falsetto voice, very popular in him.

Though being a minor hit, partly because of its six minute running time, the concert has become a concert standard.

The song became very popular in 2000, because Cameron Crowe added a beatiful scene with the song in his succesful "Almost Famous" film.

The song were covered by many artists like Lani Hall (1972), Benny and the jets (1975), Boko Suzuki (1998), Brian Withycombe (1998), Red Hot Chili Peppers (1998), David Osborne (2001), Ben Folds (2002), Ryan Adams (2002), Tim Mc Graw (2002), Bill Lefler (2003), Erin Alden (2003), Norah Jones (2003), Sharleen Spiteri (2003), Smokey Robinson (2005), Elton John & James Blunt (2007), and Howard Jones (2007).

Tiny Dancer's Lyrics:
Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand

Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad

Piano man he makes his stand
In the auditorium
Looking on she sings the songs
The words she knows, the tune she hums

But oh how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you and you can't hear me
When I say softly, slowly

Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
you had a busy day today

Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand"

About Recording "Madman Across The Water"

“I can't listen to my vocals on that entire album. I hated it” explained Elton over the years. “Honestly, no bullshit, no Marc Bolan hype, it's my biggest catalogue seller... yet I can't listen to it. I can't listen to either “Levon” or “Tiny dancer” because my vocals are so appalling but yet again that album was made under nightmare conditions”. But not only for the vocals, the time they were doing this album was not the best they could expect, there were so many problems.

The atmosphere was tense. The usual stockpile of songs had been exhausted, an intensive touring schedule had not allowed enough time to mantein their previous output of three songs a week: “That album was wrenched out of us because we had to produce an album for our record company, and we'd only had the title track done as far as songs were concerned. Usually when we do an album we've got a stockpile of songs we can choose from. But because we were touring so much we didn't have a stockpile”, commented Elton.

Elton himself stormed out after a furious row with publisher Dick James over some re-recording. Bernie could write about an America he had visited extensively while accompanying Elton on tour. “There were some unbelievable things going wrong through the making of the album... (Arranger) Paul Buckmaster turning up for a session with no arrangements and 60 string players sitting there wondering what the hell was happening. And with all that going on... having just ten days to record the entire album”.

Lyrically, most of the songs were written in the first person, obliging Elton to assume a bewildering array of voices and characters.

“”Madman” is the first album that's a gold before release”. But the album lacked natural singles and none were released in Britain. And It was slated by the critics. It reached number 8 in the US charts but the place where Elton most wanted to prove and justify himself was Britain, and the album showed it no higher than 41. The old problem of penetrating the singles marked seemed as insoluble as ever. “Levon” neither “Tiny dancer” made it into the Top 20.

Dissapointed, Elton experienced another of those momentary compulsions to do utterly the wrong thing: “I thought of quitting. I really thought I'd gone as far as I was going to”.

Most significant about the recording of his next studio album “Honky Chateau” though, was Elton's use of his band on all the songs. One wonder how he managed his victory after fighting, with limited success, to get drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray on previous albums. The signing of guitarrist Davey Johnstone could have been a factor. But it is telling that Elton was finally able to use his band, and achieve a more basic sound, more pop and less orchestral arrangements.

5 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Levon"

According to Gus Dudgeon, who produced Madman Across the Water and wrote an essay containing this information to accompany the remastered version, the name "Levon" was inspired by Levon Helm, drummer, lead singer, and founder of The Band, a group from the 60s and 70s. The Band was apparently Elton John's and Bernie Taupin's favorite group in those days. (Taupin is the guy who writes or co-writes a lot of Elton John's songs and who wrote the lyrics for "Levon.")

Tracing the name "Alvin Tostig" is fairly straightforward, but with a bit of a twist. Taupin has said the name was fictitious. There was a historical "Tostig," who was the Earl of Wessex back in the 1040s, perhaps Taupin pulled the name out of history without realizing it.

Also, some have speculated that Levon contains veiled references to a popular book of the time, "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler, and that "Alvin Tostig" is a messed-up anagram of "Toffler."

Who knows... Taupin was often so cryptic in his writing that even he didn't know what he meant!

"Levon" Lyrics

"Levon bears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus
'Cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town.

Levon, Levon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spends his days countin'
In a garage by the motorway.

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day
When the New York Times said God is dead
And the war's begun
Oh Alvin Tostig has a son today
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon.

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town
His family business thrives
Jesus, blows up balloons all day
Sits on the porch swing watching them fly
And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
Leave Levon far behind
Take a balloon and go sailing
While Levon, Levon slowly dies.

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas Day
When the New York Times said God is dead
And the war's begun
Oh Alvin Tostig has a son today
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan, woo
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon.

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan, woo
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon".

(c) Copyright 1971 by Dick James Music Limited, 71-75 New Oxford Street, London,

2 Nov 2007

The Story Behind "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word"

The title of the song, always the starting point for Bernie, came to his mind after hearing an Elton tune on the piano: "Elton was tinkling on the piano and I just listened for a while" explained then the lyricist. "Finally I thought of the title line and went home and completed the song".

The song expressed he's feelings when he was through an emotional upheaval coping with his marriage separation and the alcoholism.

The Story Behind "Crazy Water"

The up-tempo contemporary jazz number had the Bernie's most inspired lyrics from the whole album, containing some of his most enigmatic references to marital discord. He likens his separation from his wife Maxine, the result of his rock's unsettled life, to the separation between "shoreline widows" and "missing whalers", and the "crazy water" that comes between two who should have been together.

The Californian girl who Bernie met in 1970 and married one year later, divorced in 1975 and begun a relationship with Kenny Passarelli, then Elton's bass player.

Bernie described in "Between seventeen and twenty" the sadness of an ending marriage. The title refers at the age Bernie and Maxine had when they married. And Kenny was the friend who Bernie "knew so well" (as he said in the lyrics). Instead of the trio love affair, Bernie and Kenny remainded good friends, after all.