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guilty pleasure monday: captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy (elton john)
March 28th, 2011 by wrekehavoc

from the end of the world to your town!

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i remember when elton john’s captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy album came out. i was 10 years old, and i was completely enthralled by this pudgy, bespectacled spectacle. BTD had bought this one (apparently, a lot of people did — it debuted at number one on the billboard pop albums chart, the first album ever to do that.), along with a few others, and i somehow glommed onto this one. the album cover seemed to me to be as complex as sgt pepper‘s; and there were not one, but two inserts, one with lyrics and the other with all sorts of photos and pictures and minutae. i must have looked at those things for hours, as if i would somehow find some clues to the missing holy grail.

(lest the pinball fan in me forget that there also was the captain fantastic pinball machine:)

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but the best part for me, of course, was the album itself.  my favorite elton john album, of course, remains tumbleweed connection; but captain fantastic follows, a close second. it’s the last time you hear the original elton john band together (playing at their peak) until the too low for zero album in 1983. the album is a sort of untintentional concept piece: an early history of the struggle of john and taupin to find their way into music business success. they struggle with love, loss, hunger, and the choices they must make to be successful. they even struggle with writing and rejection, something i always have found endearing. someone saved my life tonight, the story of john’s escape from near-marriage in 1969, was the only single and is, unquestionably, the jewel in the crown of the work.

but i have always adored the first track. i’d listen to captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy,  imagining the young john and taupin, like two guys in a western, as they start to forge a path toward fame and fortune. while recognizing that they’re both wet behind the ears, they are excited by the promise of their future.  they are anxious about the troubles ahead.   should they stay where they are? should they pursue their heartfelt destiny? it’s a tough call, and it won’t be easy: from here on, sonny sonny sonny, it’s a long, lonely climb.

knowing the path the john’s career and life have taken makes this song, 35 years later, that much more poignant. and yet now, many years on, with the realization that john made it through so much adversity, this song becomes ever sweeter, as we know all the angst of these two young lads pays off ultimately in a sweet, happy, and creative life.


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