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Bernie Taupin the Voice Behind Elton John

Today in 1973 music lovers fell in love with Elton John and ‘GoodBye Yellow Brick Road’ so it seemed fitting to learn more about the man behind the lyrics of some of music histories most notable songs.

“My favorite thing is coming up with titles. The majority of the songs I’ve ever written. I’ve always thought of the title before I’ve written the song.”

Elton John’s long-time song writing partner Bernie Taupin  was born in 1950 at Flatters Farmhouse in the southern part of Lincolnshire England. He was not a diligent student but showed an early flair for writing. His maternal grandfather a classics teacher and graduate of the University of Cambridge, his mother studied French Literature, his father a farmer.  They taught him an appreciation for nature and for literature and narrative poetry, both of which influenced his early lyrics.  At age 15, he left school and started work as a trainee in the print room of the local newspaper The Lincolnshire Standard with aspirations to be a journalist. He soon left and spent the rest of his teenage years hanging out with friends, hitchhiking the country roads to attend youth club dances in the surrounding villages, playing snooker in the Aston Arms Pub in Market Rasen and drinking. He had worked at several part-time, dead-end jobs when, at age 17, he answered the advertisement that eventually led to his collaboration with Elton John.

In 1967, Taupin answered an advertisement for talent placed in the New Musical Express by Liberty Records man Ray Williams who was searching for new talent. Elton John answered the same advert and although neither Bernie nor Elton passed the audition for Liberty Records, Ray Williams recognised their talents and put them in touch with each other. The pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date. The team took some time off from each other for a while between 1977 and 1979, while Taupin worked with other songwriters, and Rod Stewart, Cher, The Motels, John Waite, Starship and Alice Cooper all recorded Taupin’s songs.

Bernie’s unique blend of influences gave his early lyrics  a nostalgic romanticism that fit perfectly with the hippie sensibilities of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Taupin sometimes wrote about specific places in Lincolnshire. For example, ‘Grimsby’ or ‘Caribou’  was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a nearby port town often visited by Taupin and his friends. More famously,’Saturday’s Alright For Fighting’ was inspired by Taupin’s experiences in the dance halls and pubs of his youth. More often he wrote in more general autobiographical terms, as in his reference to hitching rides home in “Country Comfort.” These autobiographical references to his rural upbringing continued after his departure for London and a life in show business, with songs such as ‘Honky Cat’, ‘Tell Me When The Whistle Blows’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, in which he thinks about “going back to my plough.”

Taupin’s most important influence was his interest in America’s Old West, Tumbleweed Connection found in recent songs such as ‘This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore’. When Taupin and Elton decided to write an autobiographical album in 1975, Taupin dubbed himself “The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, in contrast to Elton’s “Captain Fantastic.”

“Basically it takes me very little time to write a song. If I find myself taking more than an hour to do it I usually forget it, and try something else. I like to work quickly; I never like to waste any time. I never write half a song and come back to it later at all. It all has to be done at once. I lose interest if it doesn’t.”

The 1991 film documentary Two Rooms described the John/Taupin writing style, which involves Taupin writing the lyrics on his own and John then putting them to music, with no further interaction between the two. The process is still fundamentally the same, with John composing to Taupin’s words, but the two interact on songs far more today, with Taupin joining John in the studio as the songs are written and occasionally during recording sessions.

It has been 49 years of music collaboration for Bernie Taupin and Elton John and the world would not be the same with out the beautiful music they have made together.

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REVIEW: NICK CAVE and THE BAD SEEDS Orpheum Theatre VANCOUVER

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Mick Jagger can sit down.

 Sashays drenched in horror, by a consecrated man who has rock and roll on it’s back moved through the Orpheum Theatre last night in Vancouver, the second of two back to back haunts some were lucky to experience.

 Nick Cave, at 56 years old makes his art on the killing floor. Trust is something he has long had in his coat pocket from those that are hooked into his multi-faceted world of compositions, writings and collaborations. Seeing him live draws blood from a stone, an outlaw who may just give you everything.

 His band the Bad Seeds assault you in perfect stride with their leader. Poised and locked they kick your head in with a catalogue dating back to 1984 (From Her to Eternity) to last year’s release Push the Sky Away. The cast has changed over the years but the current lineup takes no prisoners, bad seeds seared in the oils of their offerings.

 The Orpheum, a 1927 vaudeville concert hall played most gracious host to the night. Pale blue and violet lights draped the high golden walls as masses crowded the stage waiting for the man. Cave and Seeds slid out and the onslaught began. They dove into We Real Cool from the latest release and Cave took like a spider around the stage, a slick-black Count curling his fingers and laying his ground. He thanked those who had waited outside his flat earlier at the Georgia Hotel and coyly slipped into Jubilee Street – a dark, brooding, backlit number that threw his shadow 50 feet up the walls. Murderous and crawling it evoked Caligari. 

Drummer Jim Sclavunos is bedrock to the show. His kick makes your gut drop, armed with mallets he’s heavy-handed when needed and plays like he’s driving nails into a coffin. Cue the steel-hammer to Red Right Hand. The crowd hung on every word as Cave moved through the shadows, cloak and dagger only to drop the gavel on a crowd surely convicted.

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Nick Cave is a master of light and darkness. As is his bandmate (NC&TBS, Grinderman), collaborator and integral Bad Seed, Warren Ellis. He will steal your gaze if you’re not careful, a suited ascetic dangling from his violin, manically wrestling it to the ground dancing on knife’s edge. Mermaids featured a blistering backend from Ellis as he coaxed his low-slung tenor guitar into a guttural-fuzz solo that prompted a “Beautiful” from Cave as they plucked the song from detonation. 

The show was throbbing on the new Higgs Boson Blues where Cave proved he commands a crowd like no other. In his feverish dream all were at attention, reaching out unto a girl he’d take her hand to his chest and whisper “Can you feel my heartbeat?” His answer: “No, no, no.” He was driving his car down to Geneva.

Murder Ballads showstopper Stagger Lee is one of his finest performances. Cave revels in the sleaze of Billy Lyons and when losing his top the band attacks in spitfire, it was like he was throwing flash bangs on a raid into the darkest room on Granville Street. Everyone in the band took up insanity on their instrument, the crowd felt the same way. This was offset by the beautifully sullen Push the Sky Away title track. “Because it’s Canada Day…” he started out “well I forgot what I was going to say…” Cinematic and ethereal, Cave sang through gritted teeth “Keep on pushing, keep on pushing, push the sky away” so heavy it could cut, only to thank us and drop the microphone. Band files out. 

We were treated to a four song encore that included Deanna, Nobody’s Baby Now, Papa Won’t Leave You Henry and The Lyre of Orpheus. Cave had the balcony up and his finger was on the trigger, he was ready to shoot the apple off of your head and you did not question. They had us shackled, banging the locks as we fell victim to the heaviest show we could have hoped for.

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