Before I launch into another Elton tirade, I first want to thank everyone who took time out to read the last series of posts on the tours retrospectives. It would be no lie to say it garnered the greatest amount of positive reaction since I started the blog. It certainly struck a chord with a lot of fans, I had great fun doing it.
I want to take a slightly different deviation for this update. I'm not one of those...oops, better stop there...that talks about myself all the time when it comes to Elton. Unless it happens to be relevant to what I'm discussing. Today however I will divulge a little about me.
When I was a kid I was the typical little fella always playing cowboys. Hat, holster and the works. The interest in the West, wild and otherwise, has followed me into what some may call adulthood. Maybe advanced child, others might say. So this interest in all things cowboy has had the perfect soundtrack from Elton. Helped by the evocative and often more than realistic imagery from Bernie. If you 'get' where Bernie is coming from, then the whole experience is incredibly fulfilling. And worthwhile. But the position Bernie first brought these early dusty tales to us in music form is similar to where I am at the moment.
At the time of writing I have yet to have the pleasure of getting the big silver bird over the Atlantic. Don't worry America, I will be there one day. No need to panic, it won't be for a while yet. The reason I mention that is because as we all know Tumbleweed Connection from written form the same perspective I view the land out west. Built upon tales of silver screen and in particular the small screen. Visual imagery that was built from imaginations and expectations. The unique perspective of being outside and looking in. Without actually being to see it, only someone else’s. interpretation of it. Back to the screens again.
The screen over the years has certainly fed our appetite for the tales of western daring do, the diet frequently flowed from low fibre to high octane. Bernie himself has gone on record many times evoking the great cinematic pieces that helped feed his hunger. I've mentioned John Ford here on the blog before, his films certainly took s particular slant that was eventually reconciled near the end of his career with a more balanced view. Howard Hawks being another of the great directors of the genre that deserves mention. John Wayne, the ultimate American cultural icon, whose politics on most levels were as foul as the desperados he frequently rounded up. A truly complex character, more complex off screen than on it for sure. All these elements in part helped shape Bernie’s intense fascination. The indepth cinematic upbringing if you wish seeped into his lyrics.
I'm sure though Bernie would have also treated himself to the weekly small screen tales that the old west was known for. My favourite two are Gunsmoke(1955-75) and Bonanza(1959-73). The time periods in which they were broadcast is important as we'll see later on. It's a fair bet however that during the 60's back in Lincolnshire and even when he moved down to London and the end of the decade he would have still been absorbing them. As he approached adulthood his insatiable appetite for all things west like still brimmed under the surface. When given the time and place to divulge them, he had no shortage of things to say. Colourful characters, desperate places all mixed and swam with each other in death and life.
The reason I mentioned those two series in particular is because I’m a huge fan of both of them. I mentioned the time period they were broadcast in earlier. As the 60's progressed, they used the writers tool (one which Bernie has used many times) of mirroring the social change in the present with tales of the past. Both these series became more edgy than they had been at their birth, only so many times you can kill one dimensional bad guys with equally wooden gals in tow. So a grittier element began to manifest itself. Looking back now it's amazing at how many 'current' issues cropped up. Race, female emancipation, the sex trade, gun restrictions, child abuse, decline of the west, political corruption and the Vietnam war were all examined against a backdrop of 100 years earlier. Incredibly strong writing that left the viewer in no doubt as to what message was been handed over. Quite brave on some levels, given the incredible volatile nature of the social problems that threatened to engulf the country at the end of the 60's and the start of the 70's. The issues they relayed back from the 19th century hadn’t changed much in a 100 years, merely the names and locations. And they related perfectly.
Where does this all take us? It takes me nowhere as I’m still here. I still have the romantic view in some regards though as I've detailed previously the romantic notion has been long since shattered. Bernie had his romantic view in 1970. The lyrics of TC are his sworn testimony to that. Once he crossed the Rubicon and touch down brought him round it was shattered in an instant. From suddenly being outside he was now in the beating heart. And standing where the same heart had died. The dust was real, the heat burned him down with no mercy. So if America was thrown slightly off kilter by Elton and his strange (to their eyes) act then Bernie quickly had a rethink after his harsh introduction. Forced on to him by the influx of real and tangible experiences. Not those created by someone else for the entertainment of others. The next album told that salutary tale from start to finish. The realism was realised.
To finish up, and to possibly sum up, when I watch those shows on DVD and then listen to Tumbleweed Connection you can't help but feel in some small way you're tapping into that innocent period. Innocent as regard not having been there and the myth still lingering. But it's merely a myth. Because that long since went. Like getting old and talking about it...