The cosmic rock ‘n roll unit of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, conceivably one of the wealthiest songwriting duos in known Milky-Way-galaxy history, produced its best material in separate rooms. The astute listener can only imagine the décor of said rooms within the context of the beauty and luxury of the house or mansion or castle or deep, junglish Caribbean cocaine plantation from which those famous chords and lyrics emerged.
Taupin, lyricist extraordinaire, the man who has probably made more money from bullshit than anyone in said galaxy, wrote about it, kind of, in the song “Writing,” from the seminal “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” (bullshit, right?) album. Here we analyze this composition, stanza by stanza, and uncover the truth.
Is there anything left?
Maybe steak and eggs,
Waking up to washing up,
Making up your bed.
Lazy days, my razor blade
Could use a better edge.
Right away, we’ve got problems. If Taupin is going to craft a ditty that emphasizes the difficult, often arduous task of “writing,” wherein troubled, possibly blocked “writers” are so out of it from giving in to their creative whims that they are leaving refrigerators bare and not showering or paying attention to linens, “maybe steak and eggs” doesn’t exactly inspire sympathy from the listener, or, ahem, “reader.” This is “Writing,” after all, which wants to liken the iteration of a few rhymes and pleasant images to a 19-year struggle by a real author through some 19,000-page work like “David Copperfield” or “Infinite Jest.” Guess what, Bernie? Your type of writing ain’t that hard — well, comparatively, at least. And wherever the hell you were while you were penning these lyrics, I’m guessing that your fucking bed was made for you.
It’s enough to make you laugh
Relax in a nice cool bath
Inspiration for navigation
Of our newfound craft
I know you, and you know me.
It’s always half and half.
Blah blah blah. We have to feel for this guy, sitting there on Montserrat or Turks and Caicos or some other dune-overlooking-turquoise venue we can’t afford to even ogle in a fragrant magazine, wondering how the hell he’s going to come up with something as tortured, angst-ridden and brilliant as “But the biggest kick I ever got/Was doin’ a thing called the Crocodile Rock/While the other kids were Rockin’ ‘Round the Clock/We were hoppin’ and boppin’ to the Crocodile Rock” amid all this pressure! All this, while Elton awaits, doing God-knows-what in his room on the other side of the 17,000-square-foot enclave to fart out a few piano riffs to accompany this nonsense. And yeah, relaxing in a nice cool bath might feel pretty good when you’ve been sitting on the beach in 95-degree weather in February while the rest of us are digging our Kias out of snowbanks.
And we were oh, oh, so, you know,
Not the kind to dawdle.
Will the things we wrote today
Sound as good tomorrow?
Will we still be writing
In approaching years?
Stifling yawns on Sundays,
As the weekends disappear?
I don’t know if I’ve ever been “oh, oh, so, you know,” but I do know the festering stink of bullshit when I smell it. And to answer your question, Bernie, of, “Will we still be writing in approaching years?” Fuck yeah, you will. Why wouldn’t you? Who else is going to pay for your ridiculous cattle ranch on a zillion acres (you probably call them hectares) near Santa Barbara where you get to pretend you’re a cowboy now that you have all that dough from writing songs about slamming your ham to Roy Rogers?
We could stretch our legs if we’d half a mind
But don’t disturb us if you hear us trying
To instigate the structure of another line or two.
Cause writing’s lighting up,
And I like life enough to see it through.
This is all well and good, Bernie, but, and I’ll give you the King’s English here: give me a fucking break. What you do is not difficult. You are talented, sure. You write some decent poetry, and then you hand it to a rare genius of a musician, and he makes it into something great. Or, rather, you did this until around “Empty Garden.” After that, pretty much everything has been worthy of nothing more than the county dump.
I’ve forgotten my point at this point. I think what I meant to say is that I know what “writing” is, and it ain’t “Writing.”
Although, I must admit, it’s a pretty good song.
For more from Tom …
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