Tag Archives: Too Low For Zero

Rocks In The Attic #675: Elton John – ‘Too Low For Zero’ (1983)

RITA#675‘You can never know what it’s like,’ he thought, as he drove into Cannes. The French town was cold at this time of year, and the rental company had really shafted him with a convertible. Although the sun was shining, his blood, like winter, was freezing just like ice.

He was here to defend his title in the world human dominoes championships. As a measure of his popularity, a helicopter from the local news station was following his car, to document his arrival. While the duties of fatherhood had taken him away from the sport for the past 7 years, he was back with a vengeance. The prospect of some time away from his son was an added bonus he was looking forward to.

Driving along the tree-lined Boulevard de la Croisette, it wasn’t immediately obvious where to park. A protest group, made up of dancers upset over the championships had blockaded the promenade. Thankfully, an overly helpful group of hotel bellhops pointed out a nearby parking space.

He approached the Hotel Carlton, dressed in his red three-piece suit and white pith helmet. He looked fantastic. He felt fucking fantastic. He wasn’t going to let these dancing idiots spoil his time here. Finding the concierge, he tipped him with a handful of glitter – a loaded gesture to symbolise the terrible service he had endured during his last stay there.

A few hours later, dressed in his trademark human dominoes kit of a tailcoat and straw boater, he stood on the beach, ready to break his world record. Nobody had ever attempted 22 human dominoes before. As a younger man, he’d managed 21 at 33, but he was older now. It just wasn’t possible.

With a single point of his finger, he did it! The record was broken! It wasn’t a coincidence that Hercules was his middle name. During a half-hearted celebratory dance, he looked across to his convertible and spotted his son sat in the driver’s seat, quickly trying to hide from view. He had stowed away. The little bastard!

The rest of the day was spent in negotiations with the protestors, who surrounded the newly crowned champion on the beach. In an attempt to pacify the angry mob, he changed into something more comfortable – a white tuxedo, and a cane – and spent time listening to their concerns.

Hit: I’m Still Standing

Hidden Gem: Too Low For Zero

Rocks In The Attic #634: Elton John – ’21 At 33’ (1980)

RITA#634I have a newfound love for Elton John. He’s always been one of those artists I’m militantly apathetic towards. I like the melancholy of Rocket Man. I like the wistfulness of Tiny Dancer from Madman Across The Water, and Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters from Honky Château. I like most – if not all – of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, a double record that gets by on its energy as much as its songwriting. But I wouldn’t call myself a big fan.

I’ve written before about how his great 70’s output is overshadowed by his schlocky ‘80s output, and the fact that he’s become bigger than his music. Recently, I’ve started to re-evaluate him, and it’s come from an unlikely source – my five year old.

Olivia has been singing I’m Still Standing, as it features in a prominent scene in Garth Jennings’ animated film, Sing (2016). If you asked me what I considered to be bad Elton, I’d offer this song. To be honest, I’ve probably never considered the song on its own merits; I just have a deep dislike for the music video that always seemed to be consistently on TV when I was growing up.

The French Riviera portrayed in that film has put me off visiting France for life – it’s a camp wonderland where all the hotel bellboys are bare-chested studs, or body-painted extroverts. Elton, in his red suit and pith helmet, tips one of them with glitter – the forgotten French currency between the Franc and the Euro. After a quick costume change where he dons a straw boater, he then moves down to the beach where he takes a little too much satisfaction from pushing over some human dominoes before attempting to click his fingers, something he can’t do due to his piano-playing sausage fingers.

But when you hear your five year old singing the song by herself, it’s as cute as hell. It’s grown on me to such an extent that I regret giving away the studio album, Too Low For Zero, that it’s taken from.

21 At 33 is Elton’s twenty-first release (counting studio records, live albums, compilations, a soundtrack and an EP), and was released when he was thirty-three years old. It’s actually his fourteenth studio record, released in a commercial trough between 1979’s Victim Of Love and 1981’s The Fox. These were fallow years for Elton, eventually making a big comeback in 1983 with, you guessed it, I’m Still Standing.

Hit: Little Jeannie

Hidden Gem: Chasing The Crown

Rocks In The Attic #498: Elton John – ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy’ (1975)

RITA#498I’d always assumed that the cover art for this record was done by the same guy who did the cover to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but apparently not. For that same reason, I’d always compared it to that earlier, more successful record and been quite disappointed with it as a result. It’s still leagues ahead of his ‘80s output though, primarily because it’s a band effort – his last recorded with the band until 1983’s Too Low For Zero.

It’s arguable – but probably very true – that Elton peaked with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it’s been downhill ever since. I saw him the other week singing on the Graham Norton with Welsh popster Bright Light Bright Light. Without his piano in front of him, he looked very strange – like an Elton John lookalike in fact. It could only have looked weirder if he was a lookalike, and he was then joined by a Queen Elizabeth lookalike, dancing along to the song with her corgis.

As a record, Captain Fantastic seems to get overlooked, mainly because there are no hits on it. Elton has praised this aspect of it in interviews, regarding it as one of his finest because of its lack commerciality. It’s true that the concept of the album – an autobiographical tale of Elton and Bernie Taupin’s early years in the music business – isn’t disturbed by a big stupid hit single. We’re only twelve months before Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee, which I love, but would have been so out of place here.

Hit: Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Hidden Gem: Tell Me When The Whistle Blows