; Tangled Up In Blue: You Always Remember the First

Sunday, October 02, 2005

You Always Remember the First

I picked up the 30th anniversary deluxe edition of Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy today. As I noticed the sticker on the CD that said "30th anniversary" I commented to the clerk that it made me feel old, remembering that I bought the album (on vinyl -- got a confused look from him there) when it was released in 1975.

Elton was my teenybopper idol. In that regard, I'm fortunate because I can still listen to his music (unlike a lot of people who threw away their Donny Osmond or DeFranco Family records) after all these years. I got into Elton when I was 14, right about the time his first Greatest Hits album came out. I don't know what it was, but I left my country music upbringing to listen to Elton.

I still remember when I first heard Captain Fantastic. We lived in Daytona Beach, Florida. I was searching the AM dial (ah, those were the days) and I stopped on 1510, WLAC out of Nashville. They were playing the album in its entirety. There was no mistaking Elton's voice. (Love him or hate him, you must admit that no one sounds like him!) I lay in the dark, listening to the new music as the station faded in and out surprisingly very little during the album's run.

As I listened to the live version of the songs (Elton performed the album -- in order and in its entirety -- during a June 1975 concert at Wembley Stadium) today, I didn't feel "old" because it had been 30 years since the album was released. Instead, I felt great, that joy that hearing a masterful album can give you.

In many ways, Captain Fantastic was a bold move on Elton's part. He was at the apex of his career, riding the crest of two back-to-back number one songs ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Philadelphia Freedom") as well as singing back-up on friend John Lennon's #1 song "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". Every album since 1972's Honky Chateau made it to number one. Amid all this commercial success, Elton put out a very uncommercial and personal album. It wasn't an album about honky cats and yellow brick roads and crocodile rockin' and tiny dancers. Rather, Elton and Bernie Taupin gave us ten songs that chronicled their beginnings as songwriting partners and dreams of success in the music business. It was introspective ("has this country kid still got his soul?" Bernie asked in "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows"), it was personal (Elton recounts how he nearly committed suicide over a girl [yeah, I know, insert joke here] in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight"), it was bitter ("Tower of Babel" may be one of the most scathing exposes about the record industry ever written) -- and it was, as the title says, fantastic.

This autobiographical album that was released with no apparent concerns of commercial success (only one single was released from the album -- "Someone Saved My Life Tonight") became the first album in the history of the Billboard album charts to debut on the chart at #1. And, unlike the second album to debut at #1 (Elton's follow-up, Rock of the Westies), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy still holds up well over time.

Happy 30th anniversary to Captain Fantastic -- the first album to debut at #1. No other album of that era was more deserving of that honor.

We've thrown in the towel too many times
Out for the count when we're down
Captain Fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy
From the end of the world to your town

5 Comments:

Blogger Glen Dean said...

Elton is truly a legend, or should I say "Sir" Elton.

2:37 PM  
Blogger melusina said...

I'm on board with ya on this one. I was 5 years old when the album came out, and my older brother bought it on vinyl. I spent hours engrossed in the album cover, and listening to the music. It is still in my top 10 favorite albums.

12:13 PM  
Blogger John H said...

When I was in my first (and only) year of law school, I wore the vinyl off of Captain Fantastic. I was mostly playing tennis and listening to music by the time this album came out, and thanks to Sir Elton, I even listened to more music. Needless to say, I'm not an attorney, but I do have a great appreciation for the early works of E. John.

Elton had just played U.T. in the old basketball arena, right before Captain Fantastic came out. The show was, as usual, amazing, and this album pretty much kept that vibe flowing.

Thanks for writing this, because you've convinced me to purchase the newly released anniversary version..still good music and great nostalgia all wrapped together.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Joe Powell said...

Always enjoyed this album immensely. It was *choke* HOW long ago??

1:20 PM  
Blogger Gock said...

Thanks for confirming my recollection about the debut of both of those at the top of the charts. I was googling for confirmation of that fact in reaction to another album that did so this week (I can't even mention what it is, yech.)

I was a fully fanatical 12-year-old who insisted on buying it the day it released. What a rare thing to have that kind of anticipation more than fullfilled!

12:57 AM  

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