October 5th 1973.
I was driving my uncle’s Lincoln Mk III to deliver a case of scotch (Chivas Regal, the good stuff) to the rented house of my boss, the producer/director Charles Pierce. He had rented a eyesore at the very top of Laurel Canyon. Charle’s thirst was even greater than my own, although he was a third my size.
The Lincoln was part compensation for some music my uncle had provided from his music library for Charlie’s big hit, The Legend of Boggy Creek. I had flown to New Orleans to pick it up and drive it back to Hollywood a few months previously.
The big engine was capable to speeds up to 120 for the mad dash across the wastelands of Texas. It drove great in a straight line but handled like a pig. Had I had to swerve to miss flatting an Armadillo, the official state critter and potentially next governor of the Lone Star Republic, the Lincoln would have ended as a demolition derby, flying end over end through the sagebrush.
For a tank half the length of the Queen Mary, the passenger compartment was cramped and unconformable, at least for my 6’6” frame.
But it had a great sound system. On that day the radio was tuned to, as was usual, radio station KMET, 94.7, The Might Met. With DJ B. Mitchell Reed at the mike, playing entire albums, not just tracks like other rock stations.
BMR announced he was about to play the new Elton John release, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a double album, in its entirety.
I had just made the top of Laurel Canyon Blvd and made a hard right onto Mulholland Dr. and another right onto the long driveway leading to the house. I pulled over on the narrow roadway, killed the engine and cranked up the sound.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Track One Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
You hear a light, mournful wind accented by church bells.
An organ rises out of this darkness to be enhanced by strings.
Then, an orchestra joins in joined by a discreet piano. The music swells . . .
Davy Johnston’s guitar joins in up-tempo and Elton John’s piano dominates as a chorus tops it off.
Elton John sings Bernie Taupin’s lyrics:
The roses in the window box have tilted to one side
Everything about this house is gonna grow and die
Oh, it doesn’t seem a year ago to this very day
You said I’m sorry honey, if I don’t change the pace
I can’t face another day
And love lies bleeding in my hand
Oh, it kills me to think of you with another man
I was playing rock and roll and you were just a fan
But my guitar couldn’t hold you, so, I split the band
Love lies bleeding in my hands…
(my own air guitar joins in to accompany Johnston’s lead)
and on and on till the last chords echo to the darkness.
So ended the best rock music this side of the Rolling Stones. There was a lot more music left on the album.
I don’t recall just what BMR exactly said about what we had just heard, but I know his words expressed by feelings. Far fucking out . . .
I started the car and shortly arrived in the presence of Charlie Pierce, standing in the driveway , hands on his hips, looking like Napoleon surveying the battlefield after his victory at Austerlitz.
”Where the fuck you been, Big John?”
”Had a flat tire, Charlie,”
”OK, bring that Scotch in and we’ll have us a drink.”
Indeed, we did. I sat and listened to him tell me what would become his next movie. Winterhawk. That shoot would take me to Montana, Colorado, Arkansas and Texas over the course of the next year.
All in all that day was the beginning of a good time of life. Lots of good music followed in the next couple of decades. I could not think of a better beginning than Elton John’s music.