No other song (or album for that matter) has had as much of a profound influence on my life as Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I was not yet a decade on this earth when the album came out. My aunt knew I was a fan and working with a radio station at the time. She gave me the album to explore. I remember my mother’s frustration at me the summer of the album’s release because all I did was listen to the album over and over again. I learned the name Bernie Taupin. He was the lyricist. He had written the words that infested my dreams. Over forty years later, Bernie Taupin and Elton John are still spinning tunes and rhymes together. I wonder if there has ever been such a prolific songwriting team.
I already loved Elton John by the summer of 1975 because an older cousin introduced me to him when I was six. Rocket Man and Yellow Brick Road filled so many dreams and inspired so many of the tales I wrote in notebooks, on sketch pads, in diaries and at my dad’s typewriter at night.
I read that Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, as an album, was meant to be semi-autobiographical. It detailed the early music careers of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. I learned all I could about them at the time, and this way before the internet. It seemed fate to me that a small advert in a magazine brought the duo together. Their music then held sway over so many lives. How could such a thing be?
It was one of those tales I took as proof that words and music can change the world. It was the spark that ignited the creation of Aerda and its lost land of Alleysiande. Really, one line from the title track brought into existence two characters that have lived inside me since before my tenth birthday, a pirate captain and a pretend prince joined together by happenstance. How different than what the songwriters meant, but is that not the power of good writing in whatever form it takes? Are there not songs, poems, films, or other works of art that have influenced you in ways the artist could not imagine?
And all this talk of Jesus coming back to see us
Couldn’t fool us
For we were spinning out our lines walking on the wire
Hand in hand went music and the rhyme
The Captain and the Kid stepping in the ring
From here on sonny sonny sonny, it’s a long and lonely climb