Candle In The Wind
On the other hand, he thought it applied perfectly to a star on whom he was a lot keener. Young Bernard Taupin said he had some lyrics he'd written. A dumpy lad called Reg Dwight who lived with his mum and dad in Pinner and played the keyboards also answered: He'd written a few tunes but reckoned words weren't really his bag. The lyrics bloke was introduced to the piano player. We'll have fun for maybe a couple of years, then I'll go back home to Lincolnshire and drive a tractor. It didn't work out quite like that. Reg became "Elton John", and wore the goofy clothes and bad wigs and hammered the joanna, but Bernie provided a lot of the persona: As Elton occasionally puts it, with not entirely convincing self-deprecation, he's merely a vessel for what Bernie wants to say.
And in what Bernie wanted to say was:. Goodbye, Norma Jean Though I never knew you at all You had the grace to hold yourself While those around you crawled They crawled out of the woodwork And they whispered into your brain They set you on the treadmill And they made you change your name Well, actually "Norma Jeane". But Taupin was close enough, and it was an original opening for a song on a theme - the price of fame "and pain was the price you paid" - that four and a half decades ago had not yet been so thoroughly exhausted.
Marilyn Monroe? He was just a nobody watching the silver screen from the one-and-sixpennies at his Lancashire fleapit:.
I would have liked to have known you But I was just a kid Goodbye, Norma Jean From the young man in the 22nd row They wrote the song in their usual way. Bernie Taupin rattled off the lyric from start to finish, and then handed it to Elton John, who put a tune to it. In half-a-century together, they've never written anything round a piano together: It's always been separate rooms in separate towns and often separate countries - a very disciplined working method in an era when everybody does a little bit of everything.
In fact, it's hard to think of many other rock'n'roll songwriting teams where one guy does the tune and one guy does the words and they both have a five-decade consistent answer to which comes first. And, while it's a sad fact that most composers can't set finished lyrics to anything other than tumty-tumty tunes, whatever else one feels about him, old Elt is something of an exception to the rule.
The tune for "Candle In The Wind" is often dismissed as maudlin and lachrymose and whatnot, but it feels sincere, and its harmonic simplicity finds the right weight for the words. I've always liked Elton John as a pianist and his intros to the various iterations of "Candle" over the years all have their appeal.
I rather like the 'tween-both-ends "Candle" - the version from Melbourne built on a two-bar descending riff and suspended chords: it has a very different affect from the first recording. The song itself is in simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus form, but the text is cleverly set by Elton, so the tune ascends and descends in unexpected places:. That's the highest phrase in the melody, and it's striking that Elton gives it not to anything to do with the screen goddess per se, but to the frustrated cry of the young lad in the 22nd row of the cinema - so the emotional peak of the song is Bernie's moment rather than Marilyn's, after which the tune descends to its somewhat lugubrious conclusion:.
In , the single got to Number 11 in the British charts, which doesn't sound like a blockbuster. But, as the years went by, for Elt fans it remained one of their very favorites. And almost a quarter-century later, the sudden freakish news that greeted listeners on a Sunday morning at the end of August prompted disc-jockeys in Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere to reach for the more lugubrious end of the lite-rock repertoire - for " Everything I Do I Do For You", "Tears In Heaven" Elton was apparently profoundly depressed by the death of the Princess.
In one of the more bizarre snapshots in the House of Windsor's photo album, Diana had been photographed comforting a weeping Elt at the funeral of their murdered pal, the designer Gianni Versace, only a few weeks ago.
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And now the princess too was gone. He wasn't sure he could face another downer of a church service. Then again, had Diana been given the traditional send-off of a Royal consort, with governors-general and the like filling up the pews, Elton wouldn't have made the cut: It was never that clear how close their "friendship" was.
But in the days following the Princess' death Buckingham Palace lost control of the narrative and it became obvious that court protocol had been pretty much tossed from the ramparts. So Elton was asked if he'd cook up a tribute. And that's where the business about who writes the tune and who writes the words comes in. I don't suppose any of the Dianaphiles who penciled in Elt as the star turn of nationwide mourning gave any thought to the fact that his lyrics are written by an entirely different bloke thousands of miles away.
As a general rule, Bernie Taupin writes about stuff that's on his mind, and, if it turns out Elton doesn't dig it, he doesn't sing it. Originally Taupin wrote a verse for "Daniel" about a returning Vietnam vet, but the singer wasn't hep to that vibe and left it out. In the songs of the Eighties, apparently, there was an occasional mildly non-disparaging reference to Reagan in the lyrics that never wound up in Elton's vocal rendition.
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So who is Bernie Taupin? He is, in the words of one of his songs for Elt, "The Brown Dirt Cowboy", the boy from the Lincolnshire Wolds who wound up with his own ranch in the California hills, raising cattle, and horses for rounding 'em, and competing in rodeos. He's "the young man in the 22nd row" who sat watching Marilyn up on screen, dreamed of living in America, and got to live his dream. He found his Shangri-La, as he puts it.
I'm an American citizen and I've always had an almost religious experience of traveling around the States. In other words, Bernie and Elton's paths had diverged considerably since that ad in New Musical Express brought them together. It's not just "separate rooms" but on separate continents. Elton had evolved into a camp extreme of the parodically English aristorockcracy.
He lives in Windsor, near the Queen's castle "I've never seen so much porcelain," bemoaned Mick Jagger after one visit. So, left to his own devices, Taupin would never have written a tribute to the Princess of Wales: She was Elt's chum, not his.
Candle in the Wind
And, with the deadline pressures, it was felt the best thing to do was not to write a new song but to tweak "Candle In The Wind", which a lot of the radio stations had been playing anyway. George Martin signed on to do a tasteful strings-and-woodwind orchestration, and all they wanted from Bernie was a re-worked couplet here and there. After all, Marilyn and Di had a lot in common: They were both blondish, they'd both died at the age of 36, they'd both been hounded by the press, they'd both had to change their names to find success, one from "Norma Jeane Mortenson" to "Marilyn Monroe", the other from "Lady Diana Spencer" to "Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales".
Er, well, no. That'll have to go. More to the point, the entire sensibility of the song works for Diana only if you accept that she was, like Marilyn, used and abused by those around her and then stampeded to her death:. They crawled out of the woodwork And they whispered into your brain They set you on the treadmill And they made you change your name If you go down that route, there's an explicit rebuke to the Queen and the Royal Family, the ones who set Di "on the treadmill".
Had they rewritten "Candle In The Wind" along those lines, John and Taupin would certainly have been surfing a huge wave of public antipathy toward Her Majesty that week. If Diana was "the people's princess", then at Westminster Abbey on the morning of the funeral Elton was the people's queen - their guy on the aisle amidst all those duplicitous stuffed-shirts who'd driven Diana to her death. The problem was that's not how Elton felt.
Elton John - Candle In The Wind | Releases | Discogs
He doesn't hate the Queen, he dotes on her, and she's apparently quite fond of him. On another occasion, Her Majesty gamely escorted the chubby old thing onto the floor and whirled Reg daintily around to "Rock Around the Clock," dancing queen to queen, while the Duke of Edinburgh, displaying a marked reluctance to get with the program, was obliged to stand at the side and make polite chit-chat with Mr Furnish, while presumably relieved that Britain's rapidly evolving Palace protocol does not yet require him to take David under the glitter ball and twirl him around to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go".
But the point is: Elton isn't anti-Queen. He loves her. So Bernie Taupin wound up taking a song about an iconic celebrity written from the point of view of the schlub in the 22nd row and rewriting it as a song about an iconic celebrity written from the point of view of her fellow celebrity. It's no wonder it came out somewhat stiffly:. Goodbye, England's rose May you ever grow in our hearts You were the grace that placed itself Where lives were torn apart You called out to our country And you whispered to those in pain Now you belong to heaven And the stars spell out your name If that were true, the Princess of Wales would be alive today.
As I wrote at the time :. She wasn't always being hounded. It's not difficult for anyone to live a relatively undisturbed Royal existence.
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Almost everyone apart from Diana did. But a conventional Royal life wasn't enough for her. She never showed the slightest interest in England's greenest hills - or, anyway, not when compared to Switzerland's whitest alps and the Caribbean's sunniest beaches and the Cote d'Azur's swankiest yachts. When her friend Versace was murdered, it was said that he had fused the worlds of fashion, rock, and movies. The Princess fused the worlds of fashion, rock, movies - and Royalty. Which is fine, if that's your groove. But it's a bit rich to hang out with Versace and George Michael and Tom Cruise and then complain that the press won't leave you alone.
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