http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/fe3ebdb27cf2f332d945ead84f2afcb1e5961be0.jpg 11/17/1970

Elton John


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July 8, 1971

Jim Morrison used to toy with this idea of starting an album with the sounds of a guy driving around with the rain pouring down. Finally the guy turns the radio on and lo and behold it's the new Doors album. Naturally Paul Rothchild nixed the idea so it never got done. So we've got to settle for an Elton John radio album instead. I mean who else could ever do it in a million years but the master of preciousness? Like he couldn't have done it on AM, it had to be FM. At least it wasn't a live concert on WNEW-FM, that might have been unbearable unless Zacherle MCed it. No, it was on WABC-FM (now WPLJ) on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution (November 17, 1917?) or something like that. The cover of the album documenting it's in black and white (there's no such thing as color radio) and of course so's his reputation as the new Jagger.

Well some people call him Jagger but not me: he's just Jose Feliciano with a twist of Johnny Mathis. That ain't bad when it's free over the airwaves every once in a while. But if you have to turn back the hands of time and pay for the trip then you might as well just sit there feeling bad that you missed the original show. Well at least the album does one thing, it removes any specialness the event might have had as a forgotten fragment of ephemeral hokum. "Honky Tonk Women" is on it but is there one town in the US of A that doesn't have a band with "Honky Tonk Women" in its repertoire? And "Take Me to the Pilot" but you can hear that elsewhere, too. So even ephemera are filled with little more than the tried and true anyway.

Movie soundtracks are something else again. They're not free but they sure cost less than an album and you get a picture along with it at no extra cost. Most of the sales from albums thereof are reputed to be of the souvenir variety, y'know because the movie was so super. But then rock guys started doing soundtracks for pictures they weren't in and for pictures nobody'd ordinarily bother seeing anyway. So a situation arose where maybe people would catch the movie for just the soundtrack by a big name otherwise irrelevant to the film, take a chance with it, that sort of thing. Like go see The Family Way because McCartney did some of the music, or Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush because of Traffic and Spencer Davis. But once you've been burned a couple times like that you're not even gonna bother with even just the album. Particularly when the stuff packaged on the album is unavailable anywhere else. Which is the case with Friends.

I mean I didn't even wanna listen to this album at first, even though it was free. (I don't know about you but I got it free.) But even a tubercular owl deserves a chance so I put it on. And here's what I discovered: "Variations on Michelle's Song" and "I Meant to Do My Work Today" both contain introductions composed by Paul Buckmaster! That's right, Paul Buckmaster. Yes that's the same Paul Buckmaster who made Sticky Fingers palatable with his nifty string wizardry. Yeah, Paul Buck-master, the one and only. But I don't wanna neglect Elton so here's the word on him: why'd they have to mess up an otherwise innocuous soundtrack with words and singing, huh?

A guess as to what kind of movie Friends is: probably a lot like Melody (music by the Bee Gees and CSNY), which I happened to see on the TWA flight I took to get to this typewriter. In any event, there must be at least 30 people who have already seen Friends two or more times just to listen to Elton backed up by all the plushy visuals. Here's what I have to say to all 30 of you: hi, I hope you're enjoying yourselves!

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