(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket

I can hound you if I need to
Sip your brandy from a crystal shoe
In the corner, in the corner
While the others climb reaching dizzy heights
The world’s in front of me in black and white
I’m on the bottom line, I’m on the bottom line

I’d have a cardiac if I had such luck
Lucky losers, lucky losers landing on skid row
Landing on skid row
While the Diamond Jims
And the Kings road pimps
Breath heavy in their brand new clothes
I’m on the bottom line, I’m on the bottom line

And I gotta get a meal ticket
To survive you need a meal ticket
To stay alive you need a meal ticket
Feel no pain, no pain
No regret, no regret
When the line’s been signed
You’re someone else
Do yourself a favor, the meal ticket does the rest

Shake a hand if you have to
Trust in us and we will love you anyway, anyway
Don’t leave us stranded in the jungle
With fifty percent that’s hard to handle
Ain’t that so, ain’t that so

Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy was released in 1975, at a time when Elton John was considered one of the first “superstars”. He was putting out albums and touring almost non-stop since around 1970 or so. I was 13 years old when this came out, and one of my best friends in Junior High School, a kid named Mark Smith, was totally into Elton John.

I used to ask Mark to transcribe lyrics for Elton John songs for me, because a lot of the radio hits were hard to understand when you’re 13. For example, in Someone Saved My Life Tonight, there’s a “dingy tear”. And in Better Off Dead, the “horse and the trunks are filing in from the street.” What are whores and drunks? When you’re 13, you’re not sure.

I didn’t know (and certainly didn’t care) a thing about ol’ Elton’s sexshul orientation, and to this day, I still don’t care. He and Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to my childhood memories. And those were good memories, in the old days before all hell broke loose.

When I was a kid, I knew the names of all of Elton’s band members – Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars, Nigel Olsson played the drums, Ray Cooper on percussion. These guys were probably one of the best bands ever put together. Listen carefully to the iPod (or any other digital remastered) version of Captain Fantastic.

Side note: I feel sorry for people who can’t listen to a piece of music and pull out all the different parts. I learned to do this because I played in orchestras and bands all my life, and while the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, sometimes the “parts” are just so freakin’ tasty that you want to hear that “part” over and over again.

So back to Meal Ticket:

It opens with the signature ascending riff, then jumps right into the boogie: Piano, guitar, really good bass line, strong steady drums and a few keyboard tricks thrown in for good measure.

It’s in the the first chorus that you realize there are at least 2, if not 3 guitar lines going on here. There’s the distorted guitar playing the chords and that riff, then there’s the cool rhythm riff on another clean guitar. You can hear this same rhythm on lots of other Elton songs, like The Bitch is Back, and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. That’s signature Davey Johnstone guitar work – and when you hear this digital remastering, you get a sense of what fun this must have been to record.

The vocals are spot on – good harmonies and Elton obviously having a good time singing these songs. That the songs themselves are completely autobiographical probably lends a hand to the energy. Since it’s all about trying not to be a loser, I can totally relate to this album. How could a dweeby looking guy who wears glasses be a ROCK STAR?

Then the guitar solo kicks in, after the second chorus, note for note perfect and clean. Then the ascending chord riff leading into the intro riff.

The Diamond Jims and Kings Road pimps indeed.

I kinda like to think of it as the Diamond Jims on the Road Kings. And the dweeby little guy who wears glasses can now sling a little guitar and ride a Harley. OK, Elton John I am not, nor ever will be anything close. But hey, Elton and Bernie – I hope you will still be writing in approaching years, stifling yawns on Sundays as the weekends disappear.

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