American Triangle – Video 23 – Album “Songs From the West Coast”

3 02 2011

As always, a nearly eternal wait for the next vlog, but here it is.  Today’s post is the fourth track from Songs From the West Coast, American Triangle.  This is the first song I ever heard from the album.  I saw Elton in Tulsa, OK shortly before the album was released and he played this song.  That moment will be forever etched in my mind.  If you don’t know the meaning behind this beautiful piece of music, I will give you a little background. 

Bernie wrote this lyric about Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming.  On the night of October 6th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die by two men.  The two men did this out of plain hatred deeply rooted in their hearts.  Matthew was a bright young man with a bright future, but his life was cut way to short because someone else didn’t approve of his sexuality.  My stomach turns to think that hatred like this still exists in our society. 

Thank you Elton and Bernie for keeping the memory of Matthew alive.  His sacrifice will never be forgotten.  As you listen to this song please remember that no matter what your political, moral or religious beliefs are, hate is wrong. 

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.  What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”  ~Hermann Hesse

Seen him playing in his backyard
Young boy just starting out
So much history in this landscape
So much confusion, so much doubt
Been there drinking on that front porch
Angry kids, mean and dumb
Looks like a painting, that blue skyline
God hates fags where we come from
‘Western skies’ don’t make it right
‘Home of the brave’ don’t make no sense
I’ve seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire
Left to die on a high ridge fence
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold wind blowing, Wyoming
See two coyotes run down a deer
Hate what we don’t understand
You pioneers give us your children
But it’s your blood that stains their hands
Somewhere that road forks up ahead
To ignorance and innocence
Three lives drift on different winds
Two lives ruined, one life spent
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold, cold wind
It’s a cold wind blowing, blowing, Wyoming
© 2001 Happenstance

Look Ma No Hands – Video 22 – Album “Songs From the West Coast”

27 08 2010

Here it is!  Vlog post number 22, the third track from Elton’s 2001 release Songs From the West Coast, Look Ma No Hands.  I’ll start by saying, this song was a pain in my rear to record.  Its a pretty tricky song to play the vocal line, so I apologize for the rough spots in advance. 

This song is the true definition of piano-folk.  The song moves very quickly but still has a nice easy feel to it.  I’ve always loved this song for many reasons.  Most importantly, one year at Christmas, I bought this album for my mother.  Inside the CD I left her a note that said “Be sure to listen to track number 3, Look Ma No Hands, its for you.”  My mother passed away a few years later, as I mentioned in a previous blog, so this song really rang true.  Through the trials and tribulations I’ve experienced in my life to this point my mother in some way has always been there to support me.  And I picture her proud smile everytime I hear the line “Look ma no hands, look ma aint life grand, I’m a super power and I’m a handy man.  Didn’t I turn out to be everything you wanted ma, aint you proud of me?” 

So without further ado, I want to again dedicate this song to my mother.  I hope you all enjoy what I’ve done with it!  Thanks for your support!

I’ll take a rainy day to make a champagne shower
Poach some horn and tusk to build an ivory tower
Been to Philadelphia the day it was closed
I walked to New Orleans down a Louisiana road

The skeletons they hung from the bushes and the trees
But not a skull among them said boo to me
In a time of wine and cheap cigars I’m on top of the world
Top of the world Ma

Look Ma no hands
Look Ma ain’t life grand
I’m a super power, and I’m a handy man
Didn’t I turn out, didn’t I turn out to be
Everything you wanted Ma
Ain’t you proud of me

It takes a silver tongue to have the Midas touch
Not your alchemist making gold from rust
Been down in Roswell when the Martians came
I sailed to Mandeville across Lake Pontchartrain

The skeletons they hung from the bushes and the trees
But not a skull among them said boo to me
In a time of wine and cheap cigars I’m on top of the world
Top of the world Ma

Didn’t I turn out, didn’t I turn out to be
Everything you wanted Ma
Ain’t you proud of me

© 2001 Happenstance

Dark Diamond – Video 21 – Album “Songs From the West Coast”

6 08 2010

On to the second track from Songs From the West Coast, Dark Diamond.  I really love the feel of this song.  Elton teams up with Stevie Wonder on harmonica for this song again, the first time being on I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.  In the video you will see me playing piano, but I also laid in the harmonica track after filming.  I utlized an electric piano sound to model the harmonica part.   Its not perfect, but it does the trick!  I also really love the drums on this song.  Nigel Olsson rejoined the band for the recording of this album and it no doubtedly paid off.  Nigel would also start back touring with the band around this time and thankfully has stayed since.

I hope you all enjoy my rendition of Dark Diamond.  And please feel free to leave comments and suggetions!  Thanks for watching!

Oh, I’m a dark diamond
I’ve turned hard and cold
Once was a jewel with fire in my soul

There’s two sides of a mirror
One I couldn’t break through
Stayed trapped on the inside, wound up losing you

Tell me how does it work?
How do you make things fit?
Spent all my life trying to get it right
I’ve put it together and it falls apart
I thought to myself I might understand
But when the wall’s built, and the heart hardens
You get a dark diamond, dark diamond

Oh, I’m a dark diamond
But you’re something else
You read me more than I read myself

The one star I could count on
Only comet I could trust
You burnt through my life to the true meaning of love

You get a dark diamond, dark diamond
You get a dark diamond, dark diamond

© 2001 Happenstance

The Emperor’s New Clothes – Video 20 – Album “Songs From the West Coast”

2 08 2010

Two blogs, two days…not bad!  So today’s post is The Emperor’s New Clothes, the first track from Elton John’s 2001 release, Songs From the West Coast.  You might be thinking to yourself, “Songs From the West Coast was definitely not released right after the Elton John album.”  And you are right for thinking this.  In fact there were nearly 40 albums in between the two.  Bottom line, I was bored with going in strictly chronological order, and there was some pretty high interest for me to play this album.  So my plan is to go through the entire Songs From the West Coast album and then maybe throw it back to an older album and sort of alternate between new and old to keep things interesting.

After all that explanation, here is why I am so interested in doing this album.  I remember the lead up to this album coming out and hearing all this press about it being Elton’s return to form.  And it truly was a return to form from everything to instrumentation to the way it was recorded.  But to me the most important “return to form” is Elton’s piano work on the album.  It is a fun album to play as a piano player and its chalked full of fantastic piano riffs.  I remember my first listen to the album and thinking, “this is the best thing I’ve ever heard him do.”  And while this may be an over-statement, it’s certainly worthy of a great deal of praise.  The opening track is a totally piano based song that is a very simple striped down ballad, yet it sets the tone for what was undoubtedly Elton’s best effort since the early 80’s if not since his hay-day in the 70’s.

So without further ado, please enjoy my rendition of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  And as always, thank so much for your support and kind words.

We bet on our lives and we bet on the horses
In that upstairs apartment on Orlando and 4th
And the rent was due and the rent man was knocking
Like a Chinese proverb we were always searching

Nightlife’s a no-win but nobody noticed
How we killed off the bottles looking good on the surface
The dog days barked and the house cat got old
We were Bonnie and Clyde in the emperor’s new clothes

And the tears never came
They just stayed in our eyes
We refused to admit that we wore this disguise
Every inch of us growing
Like Pinocchio’s nose
As we walked around in the emperor’s new clothes

We flew by our wits and by the seat of our pants
In the state of illusion in the nation of chance
And the repo was hauling the wreck we’d been driving
As the dashboard Madonna smiled back at us kindly

We cheated the system never batting an eyelid
Seeing only the good through the holes in our shoes
And our halos were rusty but we wore them proudly
We were two little gods in the emperor’s new clothes

We were Bonnie and Clyde in the emperor’s new clothes

© 2001 Happenstance

The Cage and The King Must Die – Videos 18 & 19 – Album “Elton John”

31 07 2010

Alas!  Another Elton John “Daily” Piano Cover Vlog!!!  And a double whammy at that.  Today’s videos are the last two tracks on the Elton John album, The Cage and The King Must Die. 

These two tracks both have some kind of medieval feeling to me.  The King Must Die for obvious reasons and The Cage just creates this medieval imagery for me…not sure why, it just does.  So I suppose it makes sense to combine these two in one vlog!  I also feel they provide an excellent contrast to each other.

So without much further ado, please enjoy my versions of the King Must Die and The Cage.  I’ve decided to start shortening the blogs and making it more about the music.  I’ve had to cut it down because I’m not creating videos at the rate I wanted to.  So I figure if I cut out a little of the busy-work and start cranking out videos, things will run more smoothly.  Also, now that I’ve finished out the Elton John album, I’m tossing around the idea of jumping around to different albums rather than running in straight chronological order.  I think it will spice things up and plus I’ve got an itch to play stuff from Songs From the West Coast, Peachtree Road and The Captain and the Kid.  Any thoughts?!

Thanks as always for your support!

Have you ever lived in a cage
Where you live to be whipped and be tamed
For I’ve never loved in a cage
Or talked to a friend or just waved

Well I walk while they talk about virtue
Just raised on my back legs and snarled
Watched you kiss your old daddy with passion
And tell dirty jokes as he died

But I’m damned when I really care there
For the cellar’s the room in your lives
Where you lace yourself with bad whiskey
And close the cage doors on your life

Well I pray while you bathe in bad water
Sing songs that I learnt as a boy
Then break all the bones in my body
On the bars you can never destroy

© 1969 Dick James Music, Inc.

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

And sooner or later
Everybody’s kingdom must end
And I’m so afraid your courtiers
Cannot be called best friends

Caesar’s had your troubles
Widows had to cry
While mercenaries in cloisters sing
And the king must die

Some men are better staying sailors
Take my word and go
But tell the ostler that his name was
The very first they chose

And if my hands are stained forever
And the altar should refuse me
Would you let me in, would you let me in, would you let me in
Should I cry sanctuary

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

The king is dead, the king is dead
The king is dead, the king is dead
Long live the king

© 1969 Dick James Music, Inc.

The Greatest Discovery – Video 17 – Album “Elton John”

11 03 2010

The 17th vlog posting is the eighth track from Elton’s self-titled album, The Greatest Discovery.  This track is of course filled with a beautiful string arrangement by Paul Buckmaster that I did my best to emulate on the piano.  My rendition is modeled mostly after the way Elton has recently performed the song in his solo concert dates. 

The lyric is about the birth of Bernie’s younger brother Kit.  This is one of those fantastic Bernie Taupin lyrics that is like watching a little four minute movie.  It is just about how nothing compares to the wonderment and excitement of a new sibling coming into your life.  The lyric is very insightful and does a brilliant job of describing the discovery of a new brother with words that one would not expect.

Elton’s melody flows through the words like they were written together.  The song moves through peaks and valleys that are accentuated by the string arrangement.  I really feel that this is one of Elton’s favorite songs to play in a live setting.  He always seems to mention what the song is about, no matter how many times he plays it.  I sense that he may have a certain attachment to this song because he never got to experience the joy of a sibling. 

I hope you enjoy what I have done with the song.  As always, thank you for stopping by and please feel free to leave feedback.

Peering out of tiny eyes
The grubby hands that gripped the rail
Wiped the window clean of frost
As the morning air laid on the latch

A whistle awakened someone there
Next door to the nursery just down the hall
A strange new sound you never heard before
A strange new sound that makes boys explore

Tread neat so small those little feet
Amid the morning his small heart beats
So much excitement yesterday
That must be rewarded must be displayed

Large hands lift him through the air
Excited eyes contain him there
The eyes of those he loves and knows
But what’s this extra bed just here

His puzzled head tipped to one side
Amazement swims in those bright green eyes
Glancing down upon this thing
That make strange sounds, strange sounds that sing

In those silent happy seconds
That surround the sound of this event
A parent smile is made in moments
They have made for you a friend

And all you ever learned from them
Until you grew much older
Did not compare with when they said
This is your brand new brother
This is your brand new brother
This is your brand new brother

© 1969 Dick James Music, Inc.

Border Song – Video 16 – Album “Elton John”

23 02 2010

Ha!  As promised, I am posting another vlog in rapid succession to the previous vlog.  In fact, I am actually living up to the title of “Daily Elton John Piano Cover.”  Today’s cover is Border Song, the seventh song from Elton John’s self-titled album.  Border Song was Elton’s first song to chart in the U.S. getting all the way up to number 92 on the Hot 100.  The song also made it to number 34 on the Canadian charts which marked Elton’s first time on the charts in any country.    

The song is one of Elton’s first use of gospel balladry.  I really enjoy when he writes with a gospel feel because his forceful piano playing really accentuates the gospel groove.  This song contains a Paul Buckmaster string arrangement, though much less significant than the one in Sixty Years On.  And, the album cut also utilizes a choir to enhance the gospel feel.  This song is most often played by Elton onstage without his band.  The solid bass line of the song sells itself brilliantly from Elton’s nine-foot grand piano. 

The lyric fits well into a gospel song, or rather the gospel music fits well to the lyric.  It is about alienation and bigotry.  Though most of the song was penned by Bernie Taupin, Elton actually wrote the last verse which most supports the theme of bigotry.

I hope you enjoy my rendition of Border Song!

Holy Moses I have been removed
I have seen the spectre he has been here too
Distant cousin from down the line
Brand of people who ain’t my kind
Holy Moses I have been removed

Holy Moses I have been deceived
Now the wind has changed direction and I’ll have to leave
Won’t you please excuse my frankness but it’s not my cup of tea
Holy Moses I have been deceived

I’m going back to the border
Where my affairs, my affairs ain’t abused
I can’t take any more bad water
I’ve been poisoned from my head down to my shoes
Holy Moses I have been deceived

Holy Moses let us live in peace
Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease
There’s a man over there what’s his colour I don’t care
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace

© 1969 Dick James Music, Inc.