True He Who.
"Prescott. Weston. Kleiler. That's the Volcano Suns." -- Tom, reminding people that the Farced lineup is the Real Deal
"I didn't know that it was magic, pure magic. That it was the ultimate form of communication. I had no idea. Didn't know that." -- Tom, discovering the joys of that thing called Twitter
"You have to pay for those shows. And they're better, sure, but still. Think of what ALF would've been if it was on cable." -- Julie from Cincinnati, imagining the sitcom freed from the shackles of network restrictions like Deadwood and The Sopranos
[More quotes to come.]
"What? I'm very tempted to tell you to spank yourself." - Bernie Taupin, pondering the proper punishment for not knowing about his solo career
"It's basically me reciting poetry over sitars and tablas. Yeah, it's awesome." -- Bernie Taupin, requesting the entire "Child" side from his cutout classic debut
"Ehhhhk. What a hunk of dog fudge that is." - Bernie Taupin, dismissing "Little Jeannie," the c-wrap hit single from Elton John's 21 at 33
"Hey! Bernie! Those songs saved my life! Too bad the music's so awful!" - An excited construction worker, thanking Taupin for preventing his suicide despite Elton John's grating melodies and insipid chord changes
"I don't wanna promote him anymore right now, okay? Okay? Like the old rap song goes, it's Bernie Time!" -- Bernie Taupin, invoking the timeless "U Can't Touch This" to shift the conversation away from Eleanor
"It's funny, the last words I remember saying before I fell onto the notary's children were, 'It's a marathon, honey, not a sprint.'" -- Bernie Taupin, embarking on an epic, 33-year battle to outsell his wildly popular musical partner
"No, Matsuflex is a gifted female banjo player. We might be talkin' about different Matsuflexes!" -- Bernie Taupin, informing Tom that the BTMT member is NOT the guy enrolled in Tool Academy
"I don't know, maybe there was like a crumb on that period, I don't know, when I saw it." -- Bernie Taupin, trying to explain his reference to the dearly departed singer-songwriter "G. Gallin"
"I mean, he's turning me onto a whole world of filth that I never knew existed. Yeah. He truly is my Captain Fantastic. And now I can truly be the Brown [cut off]" -- Bernie Taupin, morphing into full-blown debauchery with the aid of Dr. Dino Sex's mentorship
"I'll be the first to admit I don't have what's called a traditionally great singing voice. And I'm also not a great instrumentalist." -- Bernie Taupin, issuing some disclaimers prior to performing bizarre renditions of Elton classics
"Well, your versions are singular. I will say that for you." --Tom, noting Taupin's unique original vision compared to the beloved extant recordings
"It was pretty big, I thought. He acquitted himself nicely." --Bernie Taupin, praising Kyle Gass for his starring role in Elf
"Pull me closer, Tiny Dancer, because I'm gonna murder you." --Bernie Taupin, threatening Tom with his wretched voice, a drum, and an air horn
G. Gallin - "Automatic"
( Click here to get the rest of the I Hate You EP)
The Jetsons - "Killing"
( Click here to get the rest of The Jetsons EP)
Vanilla Trainwreck - "The Jugular"
( Click here to buy Sofa Livin' Dreamazine)
Kitchens of Distinction - "The 3rd Time We Opened The Capsule"
( Click here to buy Capsule: The Best of KOD 1988-94)
The Bird and The Bee - "Diamond Dave"
( Click here to buy Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future)
Throwing Muses - "Bea"
( Click here to buy Hunkpapa)
The Get Up Kids - "Shorty"
( Click here to buy Live @ the Granada Theater)
Superchunk - "Tie A Rope To The Back Of The Bus"
( Click here to buy Clambakes Vol. 4: Sur La Bouche - Live in Montreal 1993)
- A caller discovers a flaw in the punky plan to stick it to the supermarket man. While he admires it in theory, he points out that the employees would just put the rotting packages back in the freezer cases, leaving the little guy with crappy food. Tom immediately withdraws his plan because he wouldn't want to buy some unfrozen/refrozen ice cream. He's far from the little guy, but he understands and looks out for them because he used to be one of them. Tom compares his policy of only attacking big people to the MO of legendary comedian Don Rickles. He GOMPs the caller for stepping on his riff about Rickels's attempt to justify 90 minutes of racism by saying he served in the Navy with fellow Americans of different creeds and races.
That's right. It is time. To STAND UP and CHEER for another Tuuuuuuuesday night installment of The Best Show on WFMU. What's that? Speak up. HOST TOM SCHARPLING (aka "KID JERSEY") CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!!!! Tom yell-coughs his way into another three-course dinner of M/M/M because he shant punish the audience for the creeps who called at the end of last week's show. He's back, he's on fiyah, and he refuses to chill out. However, an alarming power shift inside the studio has given Associate Producer Mike control of the good headphones. Tom strongly disapproves of what appears to be the emergence of a star chamber that is trumping existing laws. (Let's hope this covert tribunal shows proper respect to Ernie Anastos and doesn't cart up any Thomas Waits recordings.) He manages to pry the old cans from the wheel and escapes relatively unscathed from what Mike would call rigmarole. Tom salutes the buzzing FOT Chat for containing 36 of the coolest people you'd ever wanted to meet talking about anything except the program that has united all of them into this sliver of cyberspace.
Tom dished out two dedications in his music set, closing with Duran Duran's "The Chauffeur" (from their Bob Grant concept album, Reo) as a birthday wish for Sparkiepop, the L.A.-based graphic design magnate. He opened by subjecting Mike to Elton John's "Amoreena" (from Tumbleweed Connection) as a nod to their recent Twitbattle about the merits of his catalog. (Mike hates Reginald's music). Tom declares @APMike the Spike of Twitter for using A&E's Intervention as his Chucky-like muse and touting the equally depressing sounds of The Band. He wants to get right into it with a topic to avoid the loosey-goosey atmosphere that allowed for last week's contentious coda. In a nutshell, Tom was wrongly accused of ripping off a friend/upstanding woman, and two trolls told him to cool it. He takes full responsibility for taking his eye off the road while driving the bus.
- QC Mike from Summit asks Tom if he's heard of idozers -- half-hour tracks of noise that regulate the frequency of your brain waves to create different sensations. Tom is not familiar with this odd musical genre. Mike says the user lies down and listens to an entire track on headphones with results that vary according to the chosen composition: stress relief, feeling bad, minor heart stoppage, and the simulated effects of illegal substances. Oh, Maurice Kern, you've done it again! Tom doesn't know anything about these digital drugs, but he suspects that Mike may be psychic because he almost hit tonight's topic right on the head. He does a quick "Pigskin Picks" segment, sadly without input from resident gridiron guru John Hodgman, to get Mike's Super Bowl prediction. Mike doesn't know who is playing, so Tom gives him the Pittsburgh vs. Arizona matchup to see which team pops into his mind. Mike sees a Cardinals logo. Tom wants a final score. Mike sees a 14 and a 23. Tom gives him the Heave Ho for making stuff up instead of truly "seeing" it. While the young man was outed as a bit of a charlatan, his pre-topic call was right in line with the real topic Tom is about to drop right on the table: Now What's That Thing?
Tom recalls a time when he didn't know or care about Twitter, the popular micro-blogging and social networking service. He then discovered that these 140-character text messages (known as "tweets") were pure magic and the ultimate form of communication. Tom eventually selected Twitter as the publisher of his debut novel, Fuel Dump, a hardboiled yarn populated by a medley of miscreants like shock comic Michael Richards, a blood-soaked Sen. Joe Lieberman and cigar-chomping fusion-rocker Kid Rock. Tom says he also doesn't really know what Ron Jon is all about beyond the seemingly surf-related logo he sees every few days on a bumper sticker. He asks listeners to call with additional examples of the things they vaguely accept, tune out, or keep at arm's length in a fast-moving world. Tom reports that @APMike (8,151) has humiliated @omar4life (42) in their Twitter follower race.
- Spike trots out his W.C. Fields -inspired "Ah, yes ... Scharpling" greeting for the first time in 2009. Tom thinks Spike's hatred of animals and children, as well as his preference for 110-year-old jokes, has made him the modern-day answer to the misanthropic buffoon. Spike says he loves some animals, but he certainly agrees with WCF's disgust about dealing with children. Little-known movie trivia: Spike turned down the lead role in School of Rock.
Spike reveals that he tried Facebook and Myspace, but he canceled his accounts after a 24-hour test run. Tom reminds him that he is amongst buddies and can safely admit to getting expelled from both sites for untoward activities. Spike insists that he voluntarily departed because it just wasn't for him. He considers giving Twitter a shot one of these days. Tom suspects that he will join the revolution as soon as he's done transferring his doo-wop CASSettes to CDs. Spike says he's actually in the middle of this preservation project. He starts his usual demented cackling, but Tom is more unsettled about correctly predicting the weird particulars of Spike's daily life. Spike believes that Tom can't live without him. Tom's swift Heave Ho proves that he can, at least for now.
- Julie from Cincinnati hops on the first-hour continuum with what she bills as a good one for the topic. She works at a government job where everything has some mysterious acronym (e.g., OQP) that stands for a department, division, or star chamber. JfC says that if she calls someone to ask about the meaning of the acronyms, they will direct her to do a PDQ or an SYZ. She has found that nobody knows what any of these letters represent.
JfC wonders if Tom is willing to give her some love advice because she's looking to patch things up with her husband. Tom agrees to help her out. JfC describes an in-progress ruse where she headed over to her house during a snowstorm to retrieve more of her stuff. She packed her clothes as part of the plan to trick her husband into letting her spend the night due to the icy road conditions. While he banished her to the couch, JfC considers pretending to be drunk and passing out next to him in her former bed. She asks Tom if he thinks this stunt will save her marriage. In all seriousness, Tom thinks it sounds like a bad move. JfC says she's kidding about this, but then she's not. She's gonna do it. Tom urges her to give some more thought to her strategy for mending the fractured relationship. JfC says she will just return to her own place, but she does think she came up with a good idea. Tom concludes that it's actually the opposite of a good idea. Julie hoped it might put the wheels in motion for a triumphant return to the Happily Ever After. Tom recommends talking to her husband instead of pretending to be a drunken night prowler. JfC says she agreed to the boundaries, but she really wants to cross them. Tom advises her to respect this arrangement.
JfC channels the voice of the extraterrestrial title character from ALF to express her desire to disobey the new rules. She laments that nobody makes great shows like ALF and Small Wonder anymore. Tom points out that the television landscape has moved significantly forward over the last 20 years, replacing these limp laffers with prestige dramas like The Sopranos and Deadwood. JfC acknowledges that there is higher-caliber programming out there, but she asks Tom to imagine what ALF could have achieved if it was on premium cable. Tom realizes that he will now be forever haunted by the thought of a Home Box Office version of ALF. (My guess: a cross between Lucky Louie and Crank.) JfC says ALF is one acronym she can figure out: Alien Life Form. Tom gets JfC to reprise her Gordon Shumway impression by addressing Willie Tanner, the Melmacian's suburban Earth father. JfC thinks Tom hung up on her without saying anything, but he's still there. She wonders if he will revert back to his old ways and GOMP her. JfC bolts before he has the chance to dismiss her with any of his catchphrases. Tom is insulted by this rude one-upping.
[More to come.]
- A caller informs Tom that he forgot to cite Fugazi and the post-Minor Threat, pre-Fugazi Embrace during his earlier discussion about seeing Ian Mackaye speak in Metuchen. He also mentions a little-known Mackaye side-project with Dischord co-founder and MT bandmate Jeff Nelson that only recorded one single. Tom goes with Egg Hunt, the post-Embrace, pre-Fugazi melodic post-hardcore one-off , but the caller is thinking of something even more obscure. Tom quickly names Skewbald, who recorded three songs during a 1981 MT hiatus. The caller is very impressed by Tom's mastery of Mackaye's discography. Tom thanks him for the props.
The caller also commends Tom for tonight's fun and nostalgic show. He says the earlier spin of Elton John's "Amoreena" from the great Tumbleweed Connection really brought back some fond memories. Tom is also a fan of this solid album. The caller mentions that the lead-off track, "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun," was rarely performed live after the 1970-1971 tour. He asks Tom if he knows who sang backup vocals on the recording. Tom thinks he remembers that British pop chanteuse Dusty Springfield was one of the guests. The caller seems quite pleased to receive another dose of Tom's expert musical science. He says that he recently saw a cool documentary about Springfield, who died in 1999. Tom agrees she's a great singer who will be missed.
The caller says that even though Tumbleweed doesn't have any huge hits (there were no official singles), it definitely stacks up as one of their best. Tom chuckles and asks him if he's Elton John. The caller tells Tom to shut up for suggesting that and identifies himself as Bernie Taupin, Elton's longtime lyricist. Taupin runs down some of his most famous songs, such as the aforementioned "Amoreena," "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Rocket Man," and "Candle in the Wind." Tom is amazed to be talking to someone with these kinds of top-notch credits. Taupin says he's been blessed to be a vital part of rock history. He decided to keep listening to The Best Show after catching "Amoreena" while flipping around the dial. Taupin requests something from Taupin, but Tom is not familiar with the work. Taupin calls Tom a geniusdummy for not recognizing the title of his 1971 solo debut. Tom descends deeper into dumminess by admitting that he didn't even know that Taupin released any solo material. A baffled Taupin considers ordering Tom to spank himself for this egregious oversight. Tom explains that he always thought of Taupin as just the co-writer of all those hit Elton John songs. Taupin says he's that and also much more. Tom apologizes for the gap in his knowledge.
Taupin asks Tom if he's heading over to the WFMU record rack to retrieve his record. He recommends playing the first side titled "Child," a song cycle that is basically him reciting poetry about his childhood over a light groove of sitars and tablas. Taupin believes the material is considerably better than almost all of the work he did with Elton. Tom is skeptical about this bold claim, plus he's not sure if he has enough time to play this supposedly awesome side. Since that one is hard to track down, Taupin settles for "Blitz Babies." Tom informs him that he doesn't have a copy of Taupin in the studio. Taupin says this track is actually from his 1980 follow-up, He Who Rode the Tiger. Tom doesn't have this one, either . Taupin incorrectly assumes that Tom has at least heard of it. He calls him a cut-outdummy because this record is one of the biggest-selling cut-outs in retail history.
Tom confirms that Taupin is referring to remaindered records with a cut corner, notch, or punched hole in the packaging for sale in drug stores and other discount outlets. Taupin says He Who Rode the Tiger easily topped the combined sales of three key cut-outs of the period: Love Beach, Along the Red Ledge, and Out of Control. Tom asks him which artist released that last cut-out. Taupin suspects that WFMU is a high school radio station if one of its DJs doesn't know about the second solo album by Kiss drummer Peter Criss. Tom does recall seeing OoC in the cut-out bins of his youth. Taupin says it's a good album, but not as strong as He Who, his preferred shorthand lingo for his cut-out classic. Tom can't immediately place Love Beach, but once Taupin reveals that it's Emerson, Lake and Palmer, he can see the beachside trio on the album cover. Taupin says the contractually-obligated prog-rockers made an aesthetic departure by donning disco-y clothing. He thought it was a good look for the band. Tom recalls the sales of Love Beach falling way short of the initial press run, leading to an ubiquitous cut-out bin presence. If Mayor-elect Roydon Ziegler wasn't still hospitalized for flagrant incoherence, he probably would have called to identify Along the Red Ledge as the underrated seventh studio album by Philly favorites Hall & Oates. It features guest guitar work from George Harrison, Todd Rundgren, Rick Nielson, Robert Fripp, and, most notably, an incendiary solo by a 15-year-old Jeff Labar.
Taupin argues that cut-outs have gotten a bad rap over the years due to rampant misinformation. His manager explained that the music industry often slashes the prices of these important albums to make them more affordable for a wider audience. Tom always thought that cut-outs were already rejected by a wide audience, causing the label to unload them at wholesale just to free up space at their distribution warehouses. Taupin makes it clear that Tom is sorely mistaken about this retail scenario. He says that He Who didn't begin its life as a cut-out, but it earned very modest returns after Asylum pulled a total chokejob on the promotion. Taupin claims that the public couldn't relate to the record because the label used the wrong paper stock for the posters. Tom seems reluctant to buy this as a legitimate reason for disappointing sales.
Taupin says He Who was also overshadowed by the release of Elton's 21 at 33 that same year. He returned after a four-year sabbatical to co-write a few songs for that record, but not the piece of c-wrap ballad, "Little Jeannie," which Elton penned with Gary Osborne. Tom remembers that song being the lone hit from the album. Taupin rejects it as a "hunk of dog fudge." He says he wrote a great song called "Chasing the Crown" and the more well-known "White Lady, White Powder." Taupin believes that everyone can identify with this one, but Tom questions the broad appeal of an obvious ode to cocaine. Taupin says that there has not been a day since 21's release where someone didn't approach him to say that his material prevented suicide. Tom has difficulty believing that these songs have saved thousands of lives over the past 29 years. Taupin says even construction workers yell at him to express their appreciation for his 21 at 33 work. Tom wants to know the content of these reverse catcalls. Taupin says they tell him that the lyrics were a life-saving balm despite Elton's atrocious arrangements.
Tom finds it surprising that construction workers even recognize Taupin when he strolls past their jobsite. Taupin starts to take offense to where Tom is going with this. Tom thinks it's fair to say that Elton John is the far more famous figure in their musical partnership. Taupin says that is very debatable. In fact, they flipped a coin to see who would become the public face of the songwriting duo. Taupin says he's fine with the outcome because he's still making major mint from the publishing royalties. However, there was no mint to be made when all three things went badly for the release of his third solo effort, 1987's Tribe. Taupin was helpless to avoid another flop due to the convergence of managerial ball dropping, label chokejob, and more competition from Elton. Tom wants to know how Elton messed up Tribe seven years after derailing He Who.
Taupin says that Tribe came out the year after Elton released the half-hearted Leather Jackets, his worst-selling album to this day. He blames the lack of any Top-40 singles on Elton ruining his words with awful melodies and chord changes. Taupin says the lingering stench of Leather Jackets ultimately sent Tribe into the tank. He thinks it's a shame because "She Sends Shivers" was primed to become his first massive hit. Tom tries to make some sense out of Taupin's skewed sense of his collaboration. He mentions that Taupin has co-written some of the biggest and greatest songs in rock history. Taupin says he knows this. Tom thought he might thank him for the compliment. Taupin thanks him and points out that he was just acknowledging an obviously true statement. Tom says it doesn't mean as much since it was prompted. Taupin mocks Tom with an exaggerated, cartoonish rendition of a proper thank you. Tom apologizes for any suggestion that he was trying to elicit that kind of response.
He repeats his previous accolade, which was actually just a lead-in to a larger comment on Taupin's harsh criticisms of Elton's oft-celebrated contributions to their music. Taupin acknowledges it again, but he does add a thank you after a brief pause. Tom points out that singing and performing the songs is different than writing the lyrics. Taupin says that Elton would have nothing to sing if he didn't have his words. He does an unflattering impression of Elton, who can apparently barely speak, trying to warble his way through a song without the guidance of his lyric sheet. Tom says these degraded verbal skills are news to him. Taupin gets tired of talking about "Eleanor," his pet name for Elton, and wants to stop. He references an old rap song to indicate that it's time to abandon Elton promotion and transition into full-on "Bernie Time." Tom wants to know which rap song contains that lyric. Taupin says he was adapting the line "It is Hammer Time" from "U Can't Touch This" by Master of Ceremonies Hammer. Tom questions using a 20-year-old song as a pop culture reference point in 2009, but Taupin believes the tune's priority-arranging call to arms is timeless.
Tom agrees to stop talking about Eleanor and spend some time discussing the explosive new Taupin projects. Taupin is concerned that they may actually be too exciting for public consumption. He says the greatest of his current endeavors is being able to finally collect on the bet he made with Elton back in 1976. Taupin was so confident that he would outsell Elton as a solo artist that he put up his share of their songwriting royalties. Tom is shocked by the lucrative terms, but Taupin says that he always knew that he was destined for bigger things than his partner. He then takes Tom back to a Dallas hotel room on the night the bet was born. While Taupin was working with his two favorite muses, "The White Lady" and "Sister Brandy," he blurted out that he was going to be huger than Elton some day. Elton was understandably taken aback by the boast, and Taupin kept repeating it as things got rowdier. The next thing he remembers is standing in the living room of a Dallas notary public at 3 a.m. to sign the napkin that Elton used to document the bet. Taupin says that he addressed the notary as "honey" and told her that it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. He then fell on her sleeping children. Tom thinks Taupin has his work cut out (!!) for him if he's going to win.
Taupin thinks Tom will change his mind when he finds out what he's working on. He actually considers it more of a labor of love to be involved with the fabulous supergroup MickNick PickMickNick. Tom has heard of them, but he has trouble repeating their bouncy name. Taupin thinks it sounded like Tom just dropped the phone. Tom finally gets it and names all five members of this wonderful collective: Mick Mars from Mötley Crüe, Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran, Pick Withers from Dire Straits, Mick Box from Uriah Heep, and the one that really threw him -- Nick Hogan, the non-musical drifter spawned by wrestler Hulk Hogan. Taupin says that Hogan was kicked out because his inclusion was clearly stupid and nonsensical. The new "Nick" is Nick Lachey, the former 98 Degrees vocalist and ex-husband of the morbidly obese Jessica Simpson. Taupin thinks it's exciting, but Tom fears that the weird, incoherent lineup will lack any musical chemistry. Taupin says that is not true at all. He assumes that Tom is particularly puzzled by Nick Lachey. Tom says he was previously perplexed by the presence of Hulk Hogan's son, and Lachey doesn't seem like a much better fit.
Taupin says that Lachey primarily works on the infotainment tip to monitor the political side of the MNPMN machine. He's convinced that Lachey, who is super into politics, will eventually become a U.S. Senator. Tom asks Taupin about Lachey's party affiliation. Taupin lets Tom in on a little secret: Lachey doesn't know what he is because he knows nothing about politics. He says that Lachey actually thought Barack Obama was running against his V.P. nominee, Sen. Joe Biden, because both men were listed on the same yard sign. Lachey envisioned some kind of Final Four tournament where the Obama/Biden winner would square off against the McLame/Palin winner. Tom thinks this proves that Lachey is woefully misinformed about the electoral process. Taupin thinks the band will be able to work around his shortcomings.
In the super off chance that the reconfigured MNPMN doesn't pan out as expected, Taupin says he's beyond golden with his new solo project: Bernie Taupin's Music Tarp. Tom wants to hear more about the supergroup that exudes even more star power. Taupin runs down another eclectic lineup: Kyle Gass, Dean and Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots, Matsuflex, and Dr. Donald Sachs. He's surprised to hear that Tom knows Matsuflex. Tom says that Matsuflex is one of the contestants on the current VH1 reality skein, Tool Academy. Taupin had no idea that she was on the show. Tom says that Matsuflex is the nickname of a man named Ryan Matsunaga. Taupin suspects they are talking about different Matsuflexes because BTMT's is a 5' 2", 28-year-old gifted female banjo player. Tom can't believe that there is another Matsuflex floating around. Taupin agrees that it's a very unusual and possibly Hindi name. Tom starts laughing about the weird notion of a music tarp. Taupin explains that the band projects the music out over the audience where it forms into a protective tarp.
Tom knows Gass as the lead guitarist for the folk-metal duo Tenacious D (Taupin correction: he is The D), but he's not sure about Dr. Donald Sachs, who also uses the stage name "Dr. Dino Sex". Taupin says that Sex performed ably back in the 1980s and 1990s with a group called The MJs. Tom is impressed, even though it wasn't during the band's prime run. Taupin thinks it was their prime, but Tom recalls the hits coming from an earlier period. He asks Taupin if Sex was the touring drummer. Taupin says he was a full-time member who manned the throne on studio recordings. Tom wonders if he was part of a legitimate incarnation of the instrumental soulsters Booker T. and The MGs or some knockoff version. Taupin doesn't know who or what that is. He clarifies that Sex was in The MJs, which is short for The Murder Junkies, a band fronted by a young singer-songwriter named G. Gallin. Taupin reports some sad news: Mr. Gallin passed on unexpectedly in his sleep in 1993. He has a bit of an outburst over this tragedy and has to take a break before returning to the phone. Tom recalls the musician's untimely passing after performing at The Gas Station in NYC. He informs Taupin that his name is actually G.G. Allin. Taupin says he may have missed the second period when he read the name because it was covered by an errant crumb.
The clean, road-facing side of Dino Sex's literary rest stop
Taupin mentions that the music industry has been totally sinking into the toity in recent years due to the rise of illegal downloading. He thinks Tom will still find it hard to believe that he was having trouble landing a new record deal. However, Dr. Sex hooked him up with Effin' A/Stomach Ache Records, the label he and Mr. Allin recorded for before he passed on. Taupin says Sex assured him that FA/SA released one of the better MJs records, 1991's "Watch Me Kill." Tom want to know which slot Sex filled in The MJs' lineup. Taupin says he was the drummer with a skin condition that prevented him from wearing clothes while playing. Tom now remembers the naked skinsman. Taupin says he met Sex at his highway bookstore called The Filth Vat. Tom declines to allot any additional time to promoting the business. Taupin says that the more Sex tells him about his time with Mr. Allin, the more he sees the striking parallels to his wild days with Elton. For example, he remembers one tour where they splurged on a huge private jet and even hired Stevie Wonder to play Elton's airborne birthday bash. As it turned out, Elton was in such a bad mood on his big day that he refused to attend the show. Taupin says it was especially sad because it was the first time Wonder played "Sir Duke," his tribute to then-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Tom previously heard this confused take on the song from Barry the hot dog vendor. Taupin sings the unforgettable and incorrect chorus: "... and the king of all whites, Sir Duke!" Tom says the correct lyrics are a tribute to Duke Ellington, who passed on two years prior to the recording. Taupin jokingly inquires about the identity of that woman. Tom wants to know how these rock excesses relate to Sex's experiences with the decidedly low-rent MJs.
Taupin says that after Mr. Allin blew the Freaks, Fs, Ds, and Junkies recording budget on a bag of dope and tickets to a Rolling Stones concert the band was forced to record on a boombox. Tom assumes that the FFDJ budget was much less than the Elton John records. Taupin thinks the label allocated $500, which was his cigarette per diem for one day back in the 1970s. He's glad that he and Sex are able to bond over their time in the rock trenches. Taupin credits Sex, who has truly become his Captain Fantastic, for turning him onto a whole world of filth he never knew existed. He starts to mention something about finally becoming the Brown Dirt Cowboy, but Tom cuts him off. Taupin says that the BTMT album features a lot of the Elton songs done the way he originally heard them in his head. He wants to give Tom a taste, but not before providing a couple of disclaimers. Taupin says that like the nasally Bob Dylan, he'll be the first to admit that he doesn't have what's called a "traditionally great singing voice." He's also not a great instrumentalist. However, Taupin makes up for this by dredging up emotions that Elton could never ever locate. Tom thinks he can at least admit that Elton has a great voice, but Taupin is still debating that issue. He parts with the melodic piano and guitars of the originals in favor of a single tom drum. Tom wonders if Taupin considers his version to be re-imaginings. Taupin describes them as the way they always should have sounded. He's sure that Tom will recognize the first tune.
Taupin unleashes an angry, tribal "song" that recalls a meeting of The Dead Poet's Society with a dash of Roots-era Sepultura. Tom asks him to identify the song. Taupin tells him not to be a jerk, but Tom honestly has no idea what it was. After a second take Tom manages to discern the remnants of what he knows as "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Taupin says that Tom is hurting his feelings. Tom apologizes for not recognizing this extreme departure. He praises Taupin as an amazing lyricist, but his voice fell way short. Taupin acknowledges that it's not as melodic as many other singers. Tom didn't detect any melodic components. Taupin is certain that Tom will get the next one the first listen.
Tom identifies "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" based solely on some familiar phrases. Taupin says this is what it sounded like before Elton ruined it. Elton also nixed his original, superior lyrics focused on Sugar Bear, the longtime mascot for Post's Super Sugar Crisp cereal. Elton didn't approve of the narrative because the cereal was too sugary for his liking. Taupin thinks Tom might be more receptive to his version of Starship's "We Built This City," which he co-wrote. Tom didn't know he helped craft that #1 smash. Taupin says it's probably the proudest moment of his illustrious songwriting career. He's pleased that the kids on American Idol are all nailing it. Taupin says he also co-wrote the chart-topping "These Dreams," which was ruined by the terrible singing of Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson. Taupin doesn't think anyone nails the song like he can. Tom does admit that his versions are certainly singular.
Taupin takes a look at his 2009 wall calendar and has one of those moments ("Oh jeez") where reality finally sets in. He remembers that the bet expires at the start of 2010. Taupin asks Tom to honestly assess his chances of selling 700 million units -- his current deficit -- by the end of the year. Tom thinks he has his work cut out (!!) for the next 11 months. Taupin says he does still have a lot of backstock of his previous three solo records, but almost all it is on CASSette. He wants Tom to honestly assess whether that will impact sales. Tom says it will be hard to move the nearly-exctinct format in the current marketplace. Taupin doesn't even think Stomach Ache's forthcoming release of the Taupin/Tarpley albums will give him a significant sales nudge. He informs Tom that T/T is his late-1980s punk tango project with former NBA player Roy Tarpley. Taupin says they met one night at party and hit it off. Tom is even more flabbergasted by this incongruent duo when Taupin reveals that Tarpley is "not really" a musician. He lists the catalog Taupin must start moving to defeat Elton:
- He Who Rides the Tiger
- MickNick PickMickNick recordings
- Bernie Taupin's Music Tarp recordings
- Taupin/Tarpley recordings
Taupin thinks Tom is nuts for referring to BTMT's members as "second bananas." Tom points out that he's working with two STP members who are not flamboyant frontman Scott Weiland and the guy from Tenacious D who is not movie star Jack Black. Taupin reminds Tom that Mr. Gass acquitted himself nicely in the Ferrell/Favreau Christmas comedy, Elf. Tom remembers it being a very small part, but Taupin thought it was pretty big. He's willing to debate which member of The D is the movie star all night long. Tom says that former bandmate Roy Tarpley was banned from the NBA in 1990s for repeated violations of the league's substance-abuse policies. Taupin believes this is also debatable. Tom says it's fact.
Taupin is prepared to make a final push by engaging Plan C, an exciting new form of music he's working on with a NJ-based composer named Sean. He gives Tom a sample of an all-too-familiar sound: a series of air horn blasts. Tom begs him to stop. Taupin argues that everything about an air horn is cool, but Tom does not accept it as a viable musical instrument. Taupin says he was playing "your song," which Tom assumes is "Your Song" from Elton's self-titled second album. Taupin clarifies that it was Tom's murder song. He returns to the air horn for a three-toot salute to Tom's impending death. Tom predicts that he won't sell enough of his catalog in time to win the bet. He recommends that Taupin just try to hold on to what he's got. Taupin says Tom needs to hold onto his life. Tom doesn't understand why his anger about the sales shortfall is manifesting itself in air-horn-feuled death threats. Taupin responds with a parting shot: "Pull me closer, Tiny Dancer, because I'm gonna murder you." Horn. Drum. Click. Tom always wanted to chat with Taupin, but he never imagined it would play out like that.
[More to come, including Matt Fraction's game-changing Twitter endorsement and the harrowing ascent of Snack Mountain!]
Hollywood may flub mall cops, but they will always nail exactly what it's like to be a teen reporter covering a touring rock band!