Reg vs Elton and Other Contradictions

Matthew Restall, author of Elton John’s Blue Moves, on the many contradictions of Elton John. Contradictions are at the heart of rock and pop music. Its genres and its culture are laced with paradoxes. The personality, career, and music of Elton John are no exception. Here are a trio of such contradictions that particularly fascinate me and are reflected in my Blue Moves book. 1. Name changing is an experiment in alchemy. The intention is for the new persona to replace, even erase, the old. For Reginald Kenneth Dwight, it…

It Isn’t Yellow (and That’s Ok)

Matthew Restall, author of Elton John’s Blue Moves, on why he didn’t write a 33 1/3 on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Early in my Blue Moves book I ask the question that Elton fans almost always ask me when they discover that there is a 33 1/3 book on a John album: why did I write about Blue Moves and not Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Yellow has sold ten times as many copies as Blue. It is the only John album consistently ranked in listings such as Rolling Stone’s Greatest…

Four Corners of an Elton John Square

Matthew Restall, author of Elton John’s Blue Moves, on the nuances of a beloved pop icon.  “I’ve probably had the greatest year of my career, at 72 years of age. I’m thrilled!” So declared Sir Elton John as 2019 drew to a close. He may have been right. At that moment, his 3-year, 330-gig sold-out farewell tour (since suspended by the pandemic but sure to return and grow) racked up its two millionth attendee. His autobiography, Me, sat comfortably atop best-seller lists. The biopic Rocketman proved to be a global…

A Discussion on Tom Petty’s Southern Accents

Tom Petty’s Southern Accents Album cover

Check out the latest episode on the 33 1/3 podcast: Michael Washburn (@WhaleLines), author of Tom Petty’s Southern Accents, discusses Tom Petty’s attempt at a single-concept album on the American South. The 1985 album led to a fall from grace and a subsequent reinvention. Washburn’s book, and the case of Tom Petty, is an appealing study in celebrity, identity, and misrepresentation.   With the exception of the album’s opener “Rebels,” nothing about the album strikes as particularly southern. For reference, “Rebels” hits the listener over the head with a trite description of what it is to be a Rebel…

New 33 1/3 books out today! An Elton and Judy double feature?

During this time of quarantine and isolation, we’re all trying to figure out how to stay connected and engaged with the world around us. Of course, one of the biggest ways we are doing that is by constantly consuming and sharing content. Where would we be if we didn’t have music, books, and television to provide a steady stream of entertainment and comfort? It sometimes seems like a lot of what we have to look forward to on a day-to-day basis can revolve around these exact things, so to coincide…

How we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Let It Be

The Beatles Let It Be album cover

Our first podcast episode on one of our 33 1/3 titles is now available!  Are you a Beatles fan? Do you know what this week is? No? May 8th, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Let It Be album—the recording sessions for which might be the most creative and chaotic of their career. And we’re having the ultimate celebration with author and journalist Steve Matteo as he gives us a behind-the-scenes look at its formation. Steve is a well-known music writer whose work has appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times and Rolling Stone. And after his many interviews with people close to the band, he’s here to give a full account of this dramatic music-making period, from…

Video Vault: Prince, “Raspberry Beret”

ANOTHER POST FOR OUR “THROWBACK THURSDAY” SEGMENT, VIDEO VAULT! ON SELECT THURSDAYS, WE DISCUSS OUR FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEOS THROUGH THE AGES.  For this Throwback Thursday, I thought we’d celebrate the 35th anniversary of Prince’s  Around the World in a Day by revisiting the album’s hit single “Raspberry Beret.” A strangely innocent song for the otherwise scandalous and seductive musician, it came right after the implementation of parental advisory warnings, for which Prince’s song “Darling Nikki” was the cause. The lyrics feature a hat-wearing hipster and her lazy teenage love interest, with…

Women Crush Wednesday: Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark

Who better to celebrate on #womancrushwednesday than Joni Mitchell? An emblem of female empowerment, Mitchell has always retained publishing rights to her music and has produced, often solely, her own albums. Though primarily considered a pop artist, the songs she wrote carried a signature folk rock sound with a jazz influence. Mitchell’s success as a solo songwriter and singer in the 1970s music scene certainly gets us going. Sean Nelson’s Court and Spark (2006) looks at the 1974 album, Mitchell’s sixth, as a concentrated effort for a hit record. This…

For your at-home Pearl Jam session – stream Gigaton now!

Gigaton Album Cover

It’s been seven years, but they’re finally back in business. Pearl Jam officially released Gigaton last Friday, and we couldn’t be more excited. This self-recorded and self-produced album features twelve new songs, including “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” “Superblood Wolfmoon,” and “Quick Escape” which were all released as singles earlier this year. It’s experimental and creative, providing critical commentary during a crucial political moment. And though their tour has been postponed until further notice, there’s still plenty of Pearl Jam content you can access from home while you wait.  Of course, you can…