In the shower this morning with the iPod plugged into the bathroom dock speakers as always, and Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” came on. As a teen I finally got hold of an LP with the lyrics in the liner notes, and the song turned out to be a whole lot less dirty than I’d thought, listening to it on a weak radio or an overworked cassette. Turned out, Bennie had electric boots, which really made a world of difference and also a lot more sense.
Misheard words aside, I’m pretty sure this number was my introduction to Elton back in the mid-’70s, and I spent my shave time trying to figure out the when and the where. The song came out too early in the decade for me to have heard it on my infamous avocado green handheld AM radio, and it’s not on the long list of songs I remember from riding around in various cars. So I figured I must have seen it on TV.
Sure enough, searching for “Bennie And The Jets” on YouTube, and the very first result was this live performance on Soul Train from 1975 — right around the time I started watching the original music television. And there was Elton exactly as I remembered him, dressed outrageously — this time as a sort of leprechaun — with the giant sunglasses, and putting out some damn fine music.
An excessive rock and roll ode to rock and roll’s excesses? Elton was meta before meta was cool, and that’s why this one has stood the test of time.
Even if the fashion hasn’t.