Ask Bernie Taupin about writing “Your Song” and he’ll tell you about eating scrambled eggs and sipping coffee at Elton John’s parents house as he scribbled down the lyrics. Ask him about “Tiny Dancer” and he’ll talk about drawing inspiration from their graphic designer’s wife who served as the literal “seamstress for the band.” Ask him 1982’s “I Am Your Robot,” as we did back in 2013, and you’ll get a very different reaction. “Oh my God!” he said, shrieking with shocked laughter. “How could you bring that up? I don’t even remember the song. I just remember the title. It was on one of those batch-of albums when we were really not real stellar and on the top of our game. I’d rather not think back on some of that stuff.”
“I Am Your Robot” came at a time when Elton John didn’t quite know where to take his career. He was just 35 years old, but he’s already released 15 albums and endured through the rise of punk and disco. This was now a time of MTV, New Wave and lots and lots of cocaine. Throw all of those things into a blender and you have “I Am Your Robot.” As Taupin told us, he has no memory or writing it, but its more of a love song than a science fiction tune when you look at the lyrics. “She’s got a subtle touch on the silver key,” he wrote. “To a clockwork heart … I am your robot, and I’m programmed to love you.”
The song is buried in the middle of 1982’s Jump Up! best remembered for the John Lennon tribute “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” and the radio hit “Blue Eyes.” “I Am Your Robot” has never been played live a single time, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Elton shares his writing partner’s dim recollection that such a song even exists. Taupin points to Jump Up! as a low point in their long career.
“I suppose you could blame it on narcotics,” he says. “Who knows? We’ve all had our demons and all ridden the dragon, as they say, but it’s not real complimentary to our artistic skills. Maybe it works for some people, but I don’t think it served us well. I think we just got tired. We got … It just didn’t work. There are so many things that you could throw into the mix that made it just go south for a while. I really have no idea. It’s really foggy.”
All of that said, there’s something oddly charming about “I Am Your Robot.” Five years ago, Rolling Stone contributing editor Rob Sheffield flagged it as one of Elton’s “Greatest Non Hits.” “Did Elton have a dodgy new wave synth-pop phase?” he wrote. “Of course he did! Combining shameless opportunism with brilliance as only he can, this could pass for a Flock of Seagulls or the Human League, with computer bleeps and lyrics like, ‘I’ve been beaming aboard her for a light year/From a strange craft.’ Ten years after ‘Rocket Man,’ Elton proved that nobody else could rip off Bowie with this much style.”