Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

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ZFGokuSSJ1
I\'ve seen that movie too...
Joined: 17 Feb 2004, 09:58

17 Feb 2004, 02:58 #1

Hi everyone!

I want this part of the forums to get active again, it's rare to see someone post on it.

Anyway, I want to discuss Elton's best album: Captain Fantastic.

Let's start:

1. Captain Fantastic - Wow! I love this song, It just sounds really good. It sounds a little-country-ish, but that's okay.

2. Tower of Babel - My 3rd favorite on 'Captain..' I really like the intro to it... I love the sound of the 2nd verse (2:00 mark in the song) the sound of 'scalpel' gets me every time, really high!

3. Bitter Fingers - Pretty good, the intro I don't like as much, but when it gets into the chorus, man! I love that.

4. Tell Me When the Whistle Blows - Nah, I don't like this one at all.

5. Someone Saved My Life Tonight - Oh man, my favorite song of all time. This is, no doubt, Elton's best on this album, and best ever! I can't describe why I like it, I just love the sound. This is probably the best teamwork of Elton and Bernie. One of few Elton's songs that makes sense to me.

6. (Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket - I like it! In my opinion, probably #5 more upbeat Elton song. I never even noticed there was a drum beat at the very end of the song.

7. Better off Dead - I love this. The intro rules, it reminds me of medieval times... not like I was born in the medieval times, but it reminds me of it.

8. Writing - Nuh uh, I don't like this. The worst of the album.

9. We All Fall in Love Sometimes - I love this also, the subtleness of it is good.

10. Curtains - #2 on the album. It freaks me out, that's why I love it! Hehe.


Post your opinions!
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dixielily.e
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Joined: 20 Mar 2003, 07:27

18 Feb 2004, 04:32 #2

Thanks for posting this, ZFGokuSSJ1. (May I call you ZF for short? Ha!)

This album has been much on my mind lately. Just the week before last, I put it on in my car and played it for days. Captain Fantastic is my favorite album also. It's funny though. When I first bought it, I put it on and skipped from track to track to see if there was anything that sounded good. Nope! I hated almost every song. I then let it lie around for a while and decided to try it again. Still hated it. After I don't know how long, I tried once again. Bingo! Something clicked and I slowly fell absolutely in love with this album. You know, I often find that higher quality works take longer to appreciate. A certain taste has to be cultivated.

Anyway, to me this album is Elton and Bernie's greatest artistic triumph. I view Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy as an audio book - with 10 musical chapters detailing their early struggles. For this reason, I always play the album in its entirety from start to finish. There's no skipping around as I might do with other albums. To do so would be the equivalent of skipping around from chapter to chapter while reading a regular biography. The story wouldn't make sense, and the dramatic build-up would be lost.

That said, here is my take on the individual chapters of this musical biography:

1. "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" - It shouldn't be a surprise to find out that my favorite song out of all of Elton's songs is on my favorite album. This song is absolutely amazing, both melodically and lyrically. Bernie paints a picture with words in this opening chapter that enables me to see the extraordinarily ordinary young Elton ("Hardly a hero/Just someone his mother might know) and the country kid Bernie who wonders if he should leave the rustic life behind to follow his dream. To accompany Bernie's masterful lyrics, Elton composed a truly sophisticated melody with dramatic emotional shifts. The acoustic guitar adds that something extra that gently pulls the listener in to the beginning of the story. I have to tell you that I actually cried when I listened to Captain Fantastic the week before last and Elton sang, "Hand in hand went music and the rhyme. /The Captain and the Kid/Stepping in the ring./From here on sonny, sonny, sonny/It's a long and lonely climb." I cried because listening now in 2004 I realized how little Elton and Bernie understood what really lay ahead of them!

2. "Tower of Babel" - Great song! Chapter 2 makes me visualize two young innocents being exposed to the seedy side of life in general and the music business in particular. Can disillusionment be far behind?

3. "Bitter Fingers" - Nope. Disillusionment rears its ugly head in chapter 3. Elton's and Bernie's creativity is being stifled. This song is another musical/lyrical masterpiece. When those doing the stifling are "speaking" in the song, the melody is lilting and lighthearted. What do they care? When the frustrated young songwriters respond, the melody and vocals turn angry.

4. "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" - You have to like this one, ZF! You just have to! Okay, okay. To each his own. It so happens though that this song is one of my favorites on the album. It is funky to the extreme. I also see a kindred theme to that in the song "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." In both songs Bernie is looking to recapture his country roots. In "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" the situation is more extreme. Bernie seems to have had it. In this song, he seems to be at the beginning stage of seeing what pursuing his dream in the big city is doing to him. "Has this country kid still got his soul?"

5. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" - Wow! A play within a play. This is a story that all Elton fans know inside out. What can I say? Is there anything more dramatic than the wonderful, thundering bass in Elton's piano playing on this song? Wonderful background vocals too.

6. "Meal Ticket" - Henry David Thoreau said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." That's what the lyrics of this song call to mind. In this chapter, Elton and Bernie are just trying to survive. "When the line's been signed/You're someone else." They've sold their souls to the record company in order to make a living and pay the bills. Another very angry sounding song.

7. "Better Off Dead" - This song seems to be a glimpse into one late-nighter in the lives of Elton and Bernie. The bouncy, galloping tune stands in contrast to the lyrics.

8. "Writing" - This song is yet another favorite. (I can't help it. I told you. I love, love, love this album!) Other than the introductory song, this is the first song with a decidedly positive bent. After songs detailing misery, frustration and anger, Elton and Bernie say that it's all worth it - "Cause writin's lightin' up/ and I like life enough to see it through." In spite of everything, they like what they do. They're going to stick with their dream. Now read these lines and ponder them in light of Elton's and Bernie's longevity: "Will the things we wrote today/Sound as good tomorrow?/Will we still be writing/In approaching years?" Elton and Bernie couldn't have had any idea. This song also sums up their partnership beautifully. "I know you and you know me/It's alway half and half." Beautiful melody, beautiful message.

9. "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" - This song together with "Curtains" constitutes the greatest album closer ever in my estimation. Bernie closes the book on the story of their struggle in the early days by referencing the title of their first album, Empty Sky, in the lyrics. Overall, I find these lyrics beautiful and mysterious. Some people think that the song is a reference to Elton's crush on Bernie at the beginning of their relationship. Who can say for sure? I do know that the melody is aching and haunting.

10. "Curtains" - Nigel once said in an interview that people often told him that it was what was left out in his drumming that was so great. This song is Exhibit A for that opinion. I often hit the repeat button just to listen to the drumming (and what Nigel leaves out). I absolutely get chills. As for the lyrics, in the closing chapter Bernie now appraises his early lyrical efforts as "childish words." He must feel that he's come a long way in maturing as a lyricist. The listener gets the sense that Bernie has now put things into perspective and realizes that the long struggle toward fame and fortune was like a living a fairy tale. He invokes this image by saying to the listener, "And just like us/You must have had/A Once Upon A Time." So now we understand - this album is a musical telling of the Elton John and Bernie Taupin fairy tale. Today, many years after the period that the album covers, we know that the fairy tale has a completely happy ending!

That's my take on this great album. The only thing that puzzles me is why this album seldom, if ever, appears on lists like 100 Greatest Albums. It's not commercial like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It's just outright superior! I hope music critics and other musicians wake up some day and see this album for what it is.
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ZFGokuSSJ1
I\'ve seen that movie too...
Joined: 17 Feb 2004, 09:58

18 Feb 2004, 15:05 #3

Yes, you may!


LOL That also happened to me.

When I first got the CD in '96, I skipped all the songs besides SSMLT.
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uffeolby
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Joined: 18 Feb 2004, 23:06

18 Feb 2004, 16:06 #4

My first contact with Elton's music was hearing Madman trough the walls from my older sisters room in 1972.

My first own Elton record was Greatest Hits in the end of 1974.

Obviously the first new Elton record being released after my transformation into a Reg-head was Captain Fantastic.

And I loved the whole album from day 1 and I still do. It still is in my top 3 Elton albums list.

It is not so direct and commerciial as many of Elton's other albums, but it is a wonderful and timeless piece of work the you never get tired of.

My two favourites from the album is the title track and Tell me when the whistle blows (how can you not adore that song??).

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is released in a glorious SACD multichannel version. The word is that four more Elton albums will get the same treatment this year. I keep my fingers crossed that Captain Fantastic is one of them...
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ZFGokuSSJ1
I\'ve seen that movie too...
Joined: 17 Feb 2004, 09:58

18 Feb 2004, 21:58 #5

I'd love to see 'Captain Fantastic...' to be on one of those Classic Album DVDs, like GBYBR got.
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SeenSaucers
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Joined: 11 Apr 2004, 14:45

11 Apr 2004, 07:45 #6

Fantastic album! In order, I like:

1. Someone Saved My Life Tonight--This is the song that made me an Elton fanatic.
2. Tell Me When the Whistle Blows -- Should've been a single.
3. Better Off Dead -- I've always liked Gilbert & Sullivan.
4. Tower of Babel
5. Curtains
6. Bitter Fingers
7. Captain Fantastic and...
8. We All Fall in Love Sometimes
9. Writing
10. Meal Ticket
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Glitz Pianoman
On a bench, on the beach...
Joined: 09 Dec 2002, 06:23

15 Apr 2004, 04:37 #7

I'll write my review later, but I just wanted to say that it irks me that "House of Cards" was not a bonus track on the Classic Years reissue of this album. The other songs deserve their place on the album, but "House of Cards" deserves its place more than the three from Elton's one-off singles, since it was the B-Side of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and was a legitimate John/Taupin outtake from the sessions (I don't believe "Philadelphia Freedom" was recorded during those sessions... correct me if I'm wrong). I mean, it's not like there wasn't room on the disc. Meh, there's my rant for the night.Glitz Pianoman: Bringing the music of Elton John to people everywhere.

I'm on the stage tonight
And if the price is right
I will amaze before the light
I crave the light, blinding white
I need the lights tonight.
(--EJ\BT 1978)
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SeenSaucers
Hello, baby hello...
Joined: 11 Apr 2004, 14:45

15 Apr 2004, 06:40 #8

I'm in total agreement with you, Glitz Pianoman, House of Cards should've been on the remastered CD. The list of outtakes I have contains House of Cards, Planes, Lucy in the Sky, One Day at a Time and Philadelphia Freedom. All recorded in the summer of 1974 in Colorado.
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drummergirl2
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Joined: 15 Apr 2004, 20:00

15 Apr 2004, 13:20 #9

This album is one of my favorites. Nigel's talent really
shows on this one. 'Curtains' and Better Off Dead gives me chills. Dee's (RIP) bass. right on the money.
And each day I learn just a little bit more.



Drummergirl
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ZFGokuSSJ1
I\'ve seen that movie too...
Joined: 17 Feb 2004, 09:58

16 Apr 2004, 01:38 #10

Judging by your name, Drummer girl. Can you play "Curtains" with drums?

I'd like to hear that.
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