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Tina and I were on our feet for most of Elton John's fabulous Farewell Yellow Brick Road Concert at the Nassau Coliseum last night. This is the third retiring tour concert we've been to in the past few weeks—Paul Simon and Joan Baez were the previous—and each was superb and special in its own way.
Elton John's music has played a surprisingly significant role throughout my professional life—surprising not because his songs (with lyrics by Bernie Taupin) have been wonderful, numerous, and memorable, but because they've had such diverse impact on my own creative work.
Most recently, my novelette, Marilyn and Monet, maybe in the earliest stages of being made into a movie, begins with Marilyn hearing "Candle in the Wind" as she walks off the set of The Misfits with Montgomery Clift in 1961 (hey, it's a science fantasy story).
Back when I began my life as a published writer, the fourth article I wrote for The Village Voice was inspired by Goodbye Yellow Brick Road—an assessment of how the Wizard of Oz figured in rock music in its first decades. Never read that article? Not surprising. The Village Voice—or rather its then new music editor, dyspeptic critic Robert Christgau, declined to publish it, after his predecessor Diane Fischer had published my first three articles ever published, all about music. (I tell more of that story here.)
And Elton John's "Rocket Man" has had more long range influence on my work. One of the few rock songs that were science fiction, it epitomized my passion as a writer for both rock music and science fiction. And, indeed, I'll soon be recording a brand new album of my songs with science fiction themes for Old Bear Records in Batavia, New York.
Elton John sang all of these and 21 more at his concert last night. He hit most of the notes beautifully, and his back-up band was tight as a drum. I've admired Ray Cooper even since I saw the way he played the tambourine in the George Harrison Memorial Concert. It was a real treat seeing him in person, singing "pow, pow, pow" as he beat the bejesus out of the drums and anything percussive he could hit.
Elton's repartee was clever, but, more important, he comes across as one decent, sincere human being. The graphics on the screen behind him were a tour de force. I'm glad I had a chance to see him in person. I know I'll continue singing his songs in my head, and who knows what big things that may lead to.