Hey Johnny, won't you come out and play in your empty garden?

  • 2006-08-09
  • By Paul Morton

THE YOUNGER ELVIS: In the '70s Elton John's flamboyant style was the epitome of campy, fun good bad taste.

VILNIUS - The newshound Robert Downey, Jr. plays in "Natural Born Killers" says, at the moment of getting a golden interview, "This is Elton John confessing his bi-sexuality to Rolling Stone." It's interesting that that interview, which came out in 1976, is considered a shorthand reference for a major pop culture revelation. In reality, anyone who didn't think John was at least a little gay - by the late '80s he denied the whole bi-sexuality thing and fully embraced his homosexuality - must not have been paying attention.

The shock over John's revelations probably has a lot to do with his simple mainstream 's and by mainstream we're talking the absolute definition of middlebrow rock entertainment 's appeal. Anyone that popular, anyone who defined the cheesy soundtrack of the '70s and '80s, would have to be straight.

Lithuania, whatever its issues with the subject, has always been a fan of Sir Elton.
Apparently, the Lithuanians like their music emotional, epic and, at least in the case of Sir Elton, completely unironic.
"All bad poetry is sincere," Oscar Wilde once said. There's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" from "The Lion King" (way to indoctrinate the kids, Elton). Then there's "Empty Garden," a funeral dirge for John Lennon that includes lines like "Johnny, won't you come out and play in your empty garden?" I can't imagine Lennon actually writing a song like "Empty Garden," but I'm sure he'd appreciate it the whole thing anyway.

And there's the two versions of "Candle in the Wind." There's he wrote thinking of Marilyn Monroe (called Norma Jean in the song) and one he rewrote for Princess Di on the occassion of her death almost 20 years later. Keith Richards criticized Elton for spending his later career rewriting songs for dead blondes. But we give Elton points for sincerity. I mean that in a good way. No, really, I do.

There's a lot to love with Elton John. His music is cheesy, but it's a deeply, grandly, overwrought cheesiness that you can't get enough of. I can't say his tribute to Matthew Shephard, "American Triangle," which came out a few years ago, made me cry. But I can say there was something pretty chilling about hearing lines like "God hates fags out here" set against a rising piano and choir and Elton's soulful tenor.

So Vilnius, say hello to Elton John. The Czechs worship Lou Reed. You get the sweet pudgy Englishman with a taste for loud clothes and an over-the-top wealthy lifestyle that makes you feel so good. The man has hung out with Billy Joel, Princess Di, Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon. On Sept. 1, he'll be hanging out with all of you. o

Elton John
Sept. 1 's Vingis Park, Vilnius
Tickets 120 's 500 litas
(35 's 145 euros)