Today is something of a milestone — this is my 200th article, on Medium and elsewhere, about a song I’ve loved and…with apologies for the cheesy link…I’m still standing.
Elton John felt glad to be alive and making music in 1983 when he released “I’m Still Standing”. Punks and the New Romantics had turned the recording industry of the 1970s on its head. People had started asking whether Elton John was still relevant to record-buyers in the early 1980s…at least until “I’m Still Standing” hit the top of the charts around the world and put that question firmly to bed.
I had to deal with a similar painful adjustment 200 articles ago. I needed to find something to take my mind off a dreadful work experience. My old friend Cathy Sullivan had been telling me for years I should write a book about music…I think largely so I’d stop talking to her about it. The two ideas came together in my mind one day and I fired up my laptop.
200 articles later my writing reaches a solidly sophomoric standard most days…not all the early articles were quite that good…and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve also discovered along the way that this writing lark is a lot harder than it looks…
But enough of the self-indulgent memories. “What about Elton?” I hear you ask…
It’s fitting that my 200th article is about a song written by my childhood songwriting heroes, Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The first record I ever bought was one of theirs — “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”.
The first tune I could play passably well on the piano was another one of theirs — “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
The first song that showed me how emotionally moving a song could be was one of theirs — the original version of the heartbreaking “Candle In The Wind” was the first song to make me cry…although the re-recorded version for Princess Diana’s funeral was even more tragic, something I’d previously thought impossible.
The first person to teach me the importance of a well-written lyric was Elton John’s long-term lyric-writing partner, Bernie Taupin who, you’ll be glad to know, also wrote the lyrics for “I’m Still Standing”.
The great thing about music is that it means different things to different people. Bernie Taupin’s words for “I’m Still Standing” were originally about a romantic break-up. I think we can all identify with this opening verse…
You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold and lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use
What makes Bernie Taupin such a great lyric writer is the way he sees situations in multiple dimensions, not just from one perspective. Even as he’s giving an ex the brush-off, he recognises that, although she has hurt him badly, she has actually been even more damaged by life than he was. She just hides it a lot better…usually…
Although Bernie Taupin was writing about a relationship break-up, the words also perfectly fitted Elton John’s experiences when, after his success in the 1970s, he had to re-establish himself in the very different music industry of the 1980s.
Thankfully, despite a few albums which didn’t scale the charts in quite the same way as their predecessors, it was far too early to write Elton John’s musical obituary.
In 1983 he was back with a big hit album on his hands.
Tracks on “Too Low For Zero” included “I’m Still Standing”, “Kiss The Bride” and one of my long-term favourite Elton John songs, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. Once again, Elton John went multi-platinum around the world.
The master-stroke, though, was putting great music and brilliant lyrics together with one of the best music videos of all time. This guaranteed “I’m Still Standing” heavy rotation on the new-fangled MTV channel and opened up a whole new audience for Elton John.
Despite the naysayers, by the mid-1980s Elton John was, if anything, an even bigger worldwide star than he’d been during his early 70s heyday.
“I’m Still Standing” reached Number Four in the UK and Number 12 on the Billboard charts. The defiant tone hit a chord with the record-buying public. Its words echoed round the head of anyone who’d been on the receiving end of a painful break-up, endured a challenging work situation or made it to the top of a mountain they thought they’d never be able to climb.
“I’m Still Standing” was about being bloodied and bruised, but proud and unbowed…
And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I’m a-coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know, while I’m still standing, you just fade away
No matter what you’re going through, there’s always a song that perfectly encapsulates everything you could ever want to say in about three minutes…or actually about two-and-a-half minutes after allowing 30 seconds or so for a blistering guitar solo…
Don’t you know that I’m still standing better than I ever did
Feeling like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
It’s very fitting that my songwriting heroes, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, wrote the perfect song to describe how I feel as my 200th article about a song I love makes its way into the world. I hope you enjoy this great song and its classic music video as much as I do…
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading about another of my favourite songs. I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to spend a few moments in the company of a song that I love.
The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to your music on Spotify, you can find this track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5fwP61Nmo5xXYIjO9XEWqb