Performer: Elton John
Songwriters: Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Original Release: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Definitive Version: Here and There, 1976
You pretty much had to be living in on another planet to have not noticed that Elton John was kind of big in the mid-Seventies. His music was everywhere, and, unlike Barry Manilow—whose music also was everywhere at that time—Elton John’s music actually was tolerable.
I was first exposed to this song at Marty’s house. His family also had a formal living room in the front of their house, also hued in pea green (what was up with that?), also more or less off limits to the kids—the young ones anyway—and also containing a giant piece of cabinetry that housed the stereo.
Marty’s older brother, Phil, had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and I remember it was one of the first double albums—if not the first—that I had seen. By the time we were 11—again after Marty’s Dad had moved out—the kids got to be in the front room, and when Phil wasn’t around to kick our butts, we’d put on some records, and Yellow Brick Road got a few spins during this time.
But the thing that really sticks out when I hear this song is the first house Dad and Laura had after they married in 1978, on Southway Drive in old Arlington.
As I noted earlier, the kids got the largest bedroom, and Dad, at first, had three single beds in there, dorm style, for each of us. It was an attempt at being normal for us kids, but as a sullen teen, I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t like spending the night there, and I suppose I didn’t hide that fact, although I never said so in so many words. None of my friends were there; none of my stuff was there.
And it wasn’t as though I could’ve brought either along with me. Dad made it clear to me that he didn’t like Marty, and because I still was at pre-driving age, I couldn’t have any other friends over. I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, and because I had learned the valuable lesson of not being noticed to avoid abuse in junior high, I wasn’t in any condition to be outgoing and meet anyone.
Dad also made it clear that he didn’t like that I still played with baseball cards at my age. They were kids stuff. I guess I was supposed to go out and get a job and a girlfriend at that age—not that I wouldn’t have minded the latter, of course—and anything short of that was some sort of failure.
So that was a lot of fun. (Whose life doesn’t suck when they’re 13?) But if Dad didn’t like what I was into at the time, the feeling was mutual. Mom had told me enough things about the divorce and the why it happened that I wasn’t exactly feeling affectionate to Dad. Due to typical teenage male friction, I was presupposed to take Mom’s side of the argument, but in retrospect, it wasn’t necessarily the right decision.
Anyway, I spent only a couple of nights in the bedroom, because I didn’t like the bed or the room. It was too bright, so it was nigh impossible—even when you closed the drapes—to not be awake by 7, which, of course, is the last thing that a 13-year-old wants on a weekend. Dad, of course, was up at the crack of dawn, and if you weren’t, too, you were a lazy ass.
However, the den was nice and dark. They had a large leather sofa that I could fit on, and if I slept on that, I could listen to their stereo with the headphones on. There even was a half-bathroom: a bonus.
So the den was where I spent the night when I actually would spend the night, and when I found that they had Here and There, that album became a regular play on those nights. I’d lie on the sofa in the dark with this song blasting at full volume, and I’d watch the mix lights flicker across the front of the stereo from green to red like I was a stoner caught in a brainloop.
It wasn’t as though I had anything else to do.