Sit back, kids, and I’ll tell you about the baddest punk of them all. No, I’m not talking about Johnny Rotten or Richard Hell or Sid Vicious even. No, I’m talking about Captain Fantastic, The Big E—that’s right, Elton John his tough mofo self. Sure, he’s better known for such anthemic softballs as “Your Song,” “Somebody Saved My Life Tonight,” and that awful piece of treacle “Candle in the Wind.” But John is the same rock’n’roll badass who gave us “The Bitch Is Back,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock’n’Roll),” “Midnight Creeper,” and “Street Kids,” the last of which is off Sir Surly’s punkest LP of them all, 1975’s Rock of the Westies.
In a deliberate effort to be misunderstood, because every good punk wants to be misunderstood, John larded his earlier LPs with love songs, broken heart songs and the like. He threw in lots of oddball tunes as well; the great “Solar Prestige a Gammon” is made up of nonsense words, “Social Disease” is a hillbilly ode to living life as a form of human syphilis, and “Teacher I Need You” is “Hot for Teacher” years in advance. As for the great “Bennie and the Jets,” who else could have conceived of such a thing? And who but Elton John would have thought to write a song called “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself” and fit it up with a bona fide tap dance solo? That right there is a real punk move for sure.
But on Rock of the Westies Elton John is feeling scurvy and ready to put the boot in. “No more Mr. Tender Genitals,” I can hear him thinking. “I’m the bitch who gets high every evening sniffing pots of glue.” And so he went and he co-wrote a bunch of evil-ass tunes and he went and he set Davey Johnstone’s guitar on stun and then he went to business, kicking out the motherfucking jams.