Monday, June 8, 2009

Anyway, the Thing Is, What I Really Mean...

It has become kind of a truism that any music released by Elton John after 1976 wasn't worth the wax it was distributed on, as we discussed in the comments section a few weeks ago. And sure enough, Elton's last single released in 1976 was "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," while the first in 1977 was "Bite Your Lip (Get up and dance!)," complete with the wonky Euro-capitalization on the parenthetical, according to Whitburn.

So what happened at the end of the Bicentennial Year? Let's take a look at some possibilities:

* For one thing, Elton turned thirty on March 25, 1977, exactly 23 years to the date before the birth of unofficial OPC adjunct Mark Nawrocki. Lots of rock & roll stars lose a bit of their mojo around this time. Dion never had another hit after he turned thirty.

* After Blue Moves came out in October 1976, Elton didn't release another album until A Single Man a full two years later. ("Bite Your Lip" was Blue Moves' second single.) At a concert shortly after Blue Moves came out, Elton said from the stage, "That's it, this is the last one." In November 1977, he formally announced his retirement. (It didn't take.)

* Bernie Taupin left Elton's side after Blue Moves, and did not return until the duo worked together on some songs for 1980's The Fox. Bernie would go on to write the lyrics for the Starship's "We Built This City," about which the less said the better.

* Disco reared its ugly head starting in 1976, and by the time Elton made his return in 1978, the Bee Gees had taken over the charts. Elton's dalliances with disco, from the single "Ego" to his work with Thom Bell, were rather unfortunate.

So if you look at everything that was going on, it would be remarkable if Elton John were able to carry on with as much proficiency after 1976 as he had before then. He still had a hefty thirty-nine post-'76 Top Forty hits, which is more than you've had.


Innocent Bystander said...


I've heard someone said that most pop artists have a creative peak that lasts at most 7 years...

One note: you write "Disco reared its ugly head starting in 1976". I was thinking that Disco was thriving at least by 1974....?

How about the following -- are they disco? Proto-disco?

- Could It Be I'm Falling in Love, The Spinners, 1972
- Rock the Boat, Hues Corporation, 1973
-Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas, 1974

- What are the defining characteristics of disco, in terms of beat, musical instruments, lyrics, melody and chord structure?
- What are the origins of disco -- how and why did it emerge when it did?
- What years were the heyday of disco?
- Why did disco suffer more of a backlash than any other form of pop music?
- I read once that rap is the descendant of disco. True?

One thing I do know for sure: disco is positively the most danceable music there is!!

Kinky Paprika said...

Wikipedia (insert disclaimer here) suggests John was abusing drugs as early as 1975, which may be all the explanation anyone needs for his artistic decline.

On the disco question, I can remember hearing Casey Kasem AT40s from 1975 that talk about this new "disco" music sweeping the country.
(I may have blogged about the countdown I'm thinking of -- I'll see if I can support this with chapter and verse.)

Kinky Paprika said...

Just in case anyone cares, the AT40 countdown I mentioned earlier was July 12, 1975.
Casey with the prophetic comment: "How popular is disco music becoming? Even the Bee Gees are recording songs in the disco style."

Tom Nawrocki said...

I was just about to post that you guys were right about the Disco Era. The first disco Number One hit, in my opinion, was "The Hustle" - in July 1975.

Anybody want to say anything about Elton John?

Kinky Paprika said...

I did. Had something to do with drugs.

Denver Doug said...

Yah. The druqs were part of the problem, probably along with the expectation that an artist crank out an album and a tour every year. Record companies figured they could always find another goose.

What rock entity's dalliance with disco WASN'T unfortunate?

Tom Nawrocki said...

Elton recorded eleven studio albums between June 1969 and October 1976, two of them double albums. That's a new album every eight months.

Alex said...

Some of Elton John's post-76 songs still stand up, but nothing he's done since then holds a candle (in or out of the wind) to what he did at his creative peak. Also even his best albums had clunkers (although the clunker to gem ratio got much, much worse after 1976.)

Anonymous said...