Pride and Pop’s Queen Mom

Matthew Restall, on the story of Elton’s coming out. Elton John has famously described himself as “the most famous poof in the world.” In Pride Month, as millions celebrate being out, who better to read about and listen to than the Queen Mom of Pop (as the British press have dubbed Sir Elton)? Actually, this year, as some Pride parades merge with BLM marches, many of us will be reflecting on the significance of present-day pioneers like Frank Ocean and Lil Nas X; or on the experiences of gay black…

Here’s to Judy’s Female Fans

Manuel Betancourt, on what Judy Garland meant to the women that listened to her. As soon as I sat down to write about Judy Garland I knew I’d be entering into a conversation that’s been going on for decades. The avid fandom Garland inspires is almost as legendary as the star herself. Years before the world caught Beatlemania—and decades before self-anointed “stans” would dub themselves Swifties, Lambies, Little Monsters and the like—Judy fans epitomized a kind of devotion that was hard to put into words without sounding hyperbolic.  Writing about…

Falling in Love With Judy Garland

Manuel Betancourt on how he came to know and love Judy at Carnegie Hall Judy Garland lights up the screen. To watch The Wizard of Oz or A Star is Born is to understand why she remains one of the most beloved screen icons of the twentieth century. But to read about her live performances is to realize that the camera could only ever capture a fraction of what “the world’s greatest entertainer” could accomplish on the stage. Her musical numbers in the Rooney-Garland films, her dancing alongside Fred Astaire…

Talking Sides

Matthew Restall on the four glorious sides of Blue Moves. You may be unlikely to listen to a double album today as exactly that—a set of four sides of vinyl. And there is nothing wrong with streaming it as a single sequence of eighteen tracks (re-sequencing or editing the album is a trickier issue, as I discuss in my Blue Moves book). But it is worth considering why an album from the vinyl era was assembled the way it was—in the case of Blue Moves, by its brilliant producer, Gus…

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…

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 to Be Unapologetically Creative

Liz Phair on “Rebel Rebel” After finishing my 33 1/3 volume on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, I’d had enough ruminating about the album on my own. Now I wanted to hear what other people had to say. So I wrote to some of the smartest and most interesting people I know to ask them for their thoughts and feelings about Bowie and Diamond Dogs. The amazing and wonderful Liz Phair—who needs no introduction for readers of this blog—generously took a moment from her current tour to send me this anecdote and appreciation. It was a…

Camp and Excess on Diamond Dogs: A Conversation Between Glenn Hendler and Rick Moody

After finishing my 33 1/3 volume on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, I’d had enough ruminating about the album on my own. Now I wanted to hear what other people had to say. So I wrote to some of the smartest and most interesting people I know to ask them for their thoughts and feelings about Bowie and Diamond Dogs. One result was a long and engaging (at least to me) email exchange with the writer, Rick Moody, author of many moving works, from 1994’s The Ice Storm to last year’s…