All the stuff what I like.

Influential III

Another blast from my musical past. Continuing this series on the most influential albums I listened to growing up (in no particular order), here’s …

Post three of ten: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

It’s always best to start at the beginning – and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road. –Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, The Wizard of Oz

A vivid childhood memory I’ll share with you, and honestly I shiver a little even as I write this–I was terrified of the Wicked Witch of the West. Her and her creepy crooked fingers, green skin, and those flying monkeys! I had nightmares about her after seeing the Wizard of Oz.

If you could only imagine my hesitance when my first girlfriend–I was five, she was six, so … an older woman–invited me into her bedroom to listen to a rock-n-roll album entitled Goodbye Yellow Brick RoadGYBR

I remember looking at the cover. It was a man in a pink jacket–back in a day when men didn’t wear pink jackets. And he was stepping out on to a Yellow Brick Road wearing shoes … I thought my sister had a pair just like those, actually. I’ll admit it, I was confused.

Then we listened. I’ll tell you what, this dude was a crazy piano player! I’d never heard anything like it.

It was a double album. You know that whole thing about little girls not having little boys in their bedrooms? We didn’t get to the end of the first record of the double album before Katherine’s mom protested. I was shown the Yellow Brick Road … home.

But me and Katherine were mischievous. We did wild and crazy things our parents never knew about. Like brushing her family’s Pug dog’s teeth … with Katherine’s little sister Melinda’s toothbrush. And putting masking tape on her cat Marvella’s paws and watching her dance. I’m telling you, you cannot possibly have any more fun at five and six years old!

Of course, every chance we had over the next several days, whenever her mom was otherwise occupied, we were back at it–Elton was spinning on her little record player.

That double album contains some real gems. And story–every tune tells a story! I wasn’t aware of it then, but I’ve since learned about the partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin–it was John’s musicianship and Taupin’s storytelling lyrics that I fell in love with.

I recommend the whole double album, not a bad tune on it really. But for the writing side, the storytelling side, let me give you just one–Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Taupin paints a picture. John’s vocal takes you there–

[Verse 1]
It’s getting late, have you seen my mates?
Ma, tell me when the boys get here
It’s seven o’clock and I want to rock
Want to get a belly full of beer
My old man’s drunker than a barrel full of monkeys
And my old lady, she don’t care
My sister looks cute in her braces and boots
A handful of grease in her hair

Don’t give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
Get a little action in
Get about as oiled as a diesel train
Going to set this dance alight
Saturday night’s the night I like
Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright

[Verse 2]
Well, they’re packed pretty tight in here tonight
I’m looking for a dolly who’ll see me right
I may use a little muscle to get what I need
I may sink a little drink and shout out “she’s with me!”
A couple of the sounds that I really like
Are the sounds of a switchblade and a motorbike
I’m a juvenile product of the working class
Whose best friend floats at the bottom of a glass

Unfortunately, my romance with Katherine ended just a few months later. It was like Elton John shared in another song: “she went and left me for some foreign guy” … or at least that’s how my five-year-old self understood her family’s move to St. Augustine.

But the memories remain. And the influence of these songwriters/musicians is indelibly written on my literary life.

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