Saturday, September 21, 2019

"Heartache All Over the World" by Elton John

Song#:  2898
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  80
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  John's album Ice on Fire would be the lowest peaking studio album of his career to-date stopping at a minor #48. However, the LP's second single, "Nikita," turned into a surprise #7 hit and it helped the album sell well enough to go gold. Negative critical reaction didn't slow down John's pace and he got right back into the studio to record a follow-up, which would be his last contractual effort on the Geffen label. He used some tracks leftover from the Ice on Fire sessions and combined them with a few new ones for Leather Jackets, on which he was teamed once again with lyricist Bernie Taupin and producer Gus Dudgeon. This first single got issued out and despite John's popularity and track record, the song tanked. It couldn't even make it into the top half of the Pop chart. It failed to reach any other chart as well. The album was greeted with negative reviews and that along with the poor performing single made Geffen throw in the towel and no further singles were released in the US. The LP would peak at a career worst #91 and it would be John's first since 1970 to not produce a Top 40 hit. His career and personal life (his addiction to cocaine and alcohol was at its worst around this time) had pretty much hit rock bottom. He'd spend the balance of the decade cleaning himself up and trying to get back on track.

ReduxReview:  I have not listened to all of John's studio albums, but I have heard the majority of them and I can say that Leather Jackets is thus far the worst one. The songs were bad and the production was full of clunky 80s synths and effects, as heard on this single. I bought it when it was first released and I think maybe listened to it twice and put it away. What a disappointment. Decades later in interviews even John concurs. He has mentioned that this was the worst song he recorded and that the album is his least favorite in his catalog. While I wouldn't say this was his worst song, it certainly wasn't good. There are actually some chord progressions and melodies that I like in the tune, but overall it didn't come together. And the janky 80s product just makes it even worse. From the 80s forward, John's recording career was going to be up and down, but I'd have to say that this album was certainly his lowest point.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  For one of the songs on the album, John had a different collaborator than Bernie Taupin. The track "Don't Trust That Woman" was co-written by John and the equally legendary Cher. Although Cher was known mostly as a singer and entertainer, she did dabble in lyric writing a few times in her career. One of those times was when she formed her own rock band called Black Rose with her boyfriend at the time Les Dudek. Black Rose tried to make it without using Cher's celebrity status to help them along. In other words, they wanted to be just Black Rose, not Cher's Black Rose or Cher's new project. They recorded an album that was released in 1980. Despite a small tour and high-profile TV appearances (The Tonight Show, The Midnight Special), no singles from the album reached the charts and the album failed to chart as well. Even though the results were not good, the band made plans for a second album. Cher and Dudek collaborated on a song titled "Don't Trust That Woman" that was intended for the LP. Unfortunately, Black Rose folded and it seemed like nothing would happen with the tune. However, outside of Black Rose, Dudek still had a contract with Columbia for whom he had already recorded three albums. He set out to record a fourth one in 1981 titled Gypsy Ride and he went ahead and recorded "Don't Trust That Woman."  Not much came from the album and the song basically disappeared. Yet somehow, the tune later ended up in the hands of John who then wrote new music to Cher's lyrics. There are some lyrical differences between the two versions, so it's not exactly known if Cher updated her lyrics or if John added to them. Unfortunately, the tune ended up on one of John's worst performing albums. (Note: Dudek's original bluesy rock take on the song was far superior to John's poppy, (synth) steel drum backed take.)


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