Feb 082011

I saw a recent cover of Rolling Stone magazine featuring an interview with Elton John. “Elton Remembers,” reads the cover copy, as the formerly flamboyant Glam star soberly stares out at me with his million dollar weave and horn-rimmed glasses as humble as those he wore during his 1970 tour introductory tour of America. I have not yet read this article, but I’m pretty sure I know what it’s going to focus on: the continuing process of John putting his rock ‘n roll house in order.


  17 Responses to “Putting One’s Rock ‘n Roll House in Order”

  1. Great article, Mr Mod. However, the last thing anyone must do to get their house in order is to create their “last will and testament” What will Elton leave to Bernie or Axl or Liz Taylor? Who gets his Donald Duck outfit?

  2. alexmagic

    andy: I bet Ben Folds has been eyeing Elton’s straw boater from the “I’m Still Standing” video for years. Personally, I think John should embrace his eccentric past one final time and forgo a traditional will when his time comes, replacing it with some kind of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World scavenger hunt.

    Also, his house is not yet fully in order. I will not fully sign off on Elton John’s image rehabilitation until he publicly denounces Billy Joel.

  3. The two of you raise some interesting points. You may be onto something. alexmagic, I’m not sure that Elton has it in him to publicly denounce anyone but himself. Perhaps his homage to Russell is part of an effort to claim his rightful title as The Piano Man, a title that Joel snatched from him while Elton was getting fitted for the Donald Duck outfit.

    What will Elton leave Bernie? If Ben Folds gets the straw boater can Bernie get Folds?

  4. I read the interview and there is an air of getting everything in order.

    He does denounce Billy’s acoholism in the interview, but follows it by declaring his love for the man. He even goes so far as to (almost) decry some of his musical sins of the 80s (There’s a funny exchange about the album The Big Picture).

    It’s funny this subject came up because I have been listening to (and digging) the Elton/Leon record. Elton seems to have finally forgone commercial apsirations and just got down to making good music. I know it’s the best thing he’s done in years and it’s got to be a relief for Leon. I think he relizes that he’s in a place where he can make the kind of records he wants to make without having to bend to the will of the record companies. I say, “Good for him.”

    The other artist to have done this would be Clapton. He seems to balance paying homage to his blues mentors (Robert Johnson and B.B. King) and keeping things tidy in his rock house. Hell, he even got back with Cream!


  5. Clapton is an excellent one to add to this list.

  6. I just had a minute to read the opening paragraphs of the Elton John interview. It quickly made me realize another possible step in getting one’s rock ‘n roll house in order: establishing a non-rock ‘n roll collection, preferably of fine art, books, or wine. Elton talks about his enthusiasm for collecting expensive photography.

    The set-up to the interview, which I have not yet reached, also talks about the collaboration with Leon Russell being inspired by John’s appearance on the first episode of Elvis Costello’s Spectacle. I don’t know if that show’s even on any more, but it could have been a good medium for working through this process. John Mellencamp, for instance, seemed to use his appearance as a premature effort at getting his house in order. (He’s like your aunt who checks into a retirement community when she’s 55.)

  7. misterioso

    Does Brian Wilson’s reemergence as reasonably sane and productive citizen qualify him?

    How about Little Richard? (Just kidding.)

  8. sounds like the rock and roll bucket list. Elton has always been a huge music FAN .When he first lived here in Atlanta he would be at Tower Records every tuesday morning to browse through..and buy..the new releases. His beef with Billy is that he has given up on creating new pop/rock music, and does not have any connection to the next generation of musicians.

    I guess John Melencamp is following a version of the Billy Joel model. He only creates new music and refusues to play his hits anymore. The new stuff is so dark and depressing that his old fans are not buying it either (or like me buy themand never play ’em)

    What about Prince? He is back in the spotlight, playing his hits. Is he ‘back” or just out for a final joy-ride”?

  9. Man. I was hoping to catch Mellencamp at JazzFest this year. I’ve never seen him and enjoy the hits well enough. Am I to not expect them at all?


  10. Elton rarely has a bad word for anyone. One highly public mentoring session came when he stood up with Eminem and did “Stan” at the Grammy’s while people were protesting against Eminem’s supposed homophobia.

    When I think of putting the house in order I think of the Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler compilation which focuses only on the long, socially conscious stuff and skips over “Twistin’ By the Pool” and “Heavy Fuel”. Revisionist history.

  11. Oooh, the Revisionist History step is a step I hadn’t thought about. Good one, although I’m not sure if that actually helps get a rocker’s house in order or hurts it. I’m reminded of McCartney’s efforts at swapping songwriting credits and making claims that he did every cool thing Lennon was known for before Lennon actually did it. Maybe Paul just plays that move unwisely.

  12. I am going to see Mellencamp in DC next week. He basically said, if you are coming to see the hits performed like its 1987, don’t come. He’s got a stripped down sound and will play some new arrangements of older songs like “Jackie Brown.” I enjoy a lot of his late period stuff, so I that’s why I’m going.

  13. My biggest complaint with Macca is that he feels the need to validate himself. Stuff like credit swapping and claiming to do alot of stuff first is designed to make him seem like the hip one instead of the fluffy one. Macca’s biggest problem was that he lived. He went through the dreadful 80s and (like most from the 60s) sucked royally. Lennon got to die and become a saint. Had it been the other way around, we’d probably be griping about that jerk Lennon.

    Instead of being happy with his contributions to 20th century pop music, it’s as though he heard his critics and felt like he needed to be more than what he was. I want to slap him and say, “Dude, you’re Paul McCartney. You were in the greatest band ever. You wrote some fantastic songs and you were one-half of one of the most creative songwriting collaborations of all time. Be happy. You don’t need to invent electronica or remind me that you were sole creator of ‘Yesterday’ to be cool in my eyes. I like you for who you are.”

    Have you ever seen his recent concert films? “Dude, just show me the concert. I don’t need Howard Stern to tell me how great you are. I don’t need to see weeping grown men to understand that your music means something to people.”

    I have a love/hate thing with Macca. I love the man and his music, but I often feel like I’m getting ripped off.


  14. alexmagic

    This could be good timing, as I have a potential Mellencamp/speculative fiction topic that I’ve been trying to find to the time to post. Perhaps this will give me the incentive to do so.

  15. I would be interested in the RTH verdict on Mellencamp — I did a full circle on him. He went from a “poor man’s Springsteen” in my book to an artist I listen to more than Springsteen. I find his more obscure 90s stuff like Whenever We Wanted and Human Wheels very well done — although JCM seems to be ambivalent about this 90s work.

  16. funoka, let me know if you want Main Stage privileges, which will allow you to craft new threads. You or alexmagic should launch this discussion. Mellencamp seriously needs to be hashed out once and for all.

  17. alexmagic

    I can say with some confidence that my piece on Mellencamp would be more supplementary in nature than a true discussion leader, so I encourage funoka to lead the way.

    Otherwise – noting my own laziness and other committments – I fear that J.C. Mellencamp may end up in the George Michael zone, where I just know there are Townspeople ready to do some exploring but none prepared to lay the groundwork.

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