Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Elton John - “The Bitch Is Back”
In the mid-seventies Elton John was huge and my older brother had the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album spinning in the living room a lot. By osmosis I adopted Elton as a fave and in taking my fandom to the schoolyard things got weird. One kid I palled around with frequently turned on me: “You like Elton John? He’s a freak!” Then a few of the other boys in our third-grade circle picked up on this as well. I lashed back, focusing in on their affinity for John Denver and then whoo boy was it on.
Outnumbered but refusing to back down, I became the outcast, the heel, in this rivalry. Did I mention that my family was living in the Denver suburbs at the time? With John Denver being a home-town hero? Soon Elton unleashed “The Bitch Is Back”, and due to the title one kid’s mom allegedly forbade him from listening to Top 40 KTLK 1280, and this was pinned on me, as it was somehow my fault that Elton had a kinda-naughty song title. (My folks? While they could be a little strict on some pop culture items - I wasn’t allowed to watch Happy Days during its first season due to alleged risqué humor - I could listen to whatever music stations I wanted to. Dad fixed up an old transistor AM radio he had for me just for this purpose and Mom usually had Top 40 on in the car.) The barbs during recess continued and suddenly we were all wannabe experts in lyrics’ double meanings. Elton’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a drug song ... but so was Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”.
I don’t remember how this feud all ended, we were kids and I’m sure other battles and alliances emerged over other issues. I just recall Elton’s last great single stand was with “Philadelphia Freedom” and knowing I had done the right thing in not caving to peer pressure. By the time Elton’s (recess?) credibility was waning with Kiki Dee, my family had moved back to North Dakota.
And all these decades later, I still don’t trust AM saps like John Denver, The Carpenters, and Barry Manilow. While I’ve bored you enough about this boyhood mini-trauma, that doesn’t mean we can’t go watch Charlie Rich burn the card announcing Denver as a winner at the 1975 Country Music Awards.