“The Bitch Is Back” shows up on John’s 1974 album Caribou, the follow-up to his finest (and also bestselling) album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Unchoose Goodbye, Caribou created only 2 hits: “Bitch” and also “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” The last song is an epic, elegiac, emotional farewell. “Bitch” announces John’s rerevolve by kicking down the door.
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The boot behind that kick belongs to Davey Johnrock. John’s stalwart guitarist and key weapon, he opens up “Bitch” with a bee-sting riff that sounds as sharp and also striking this day as it must have actually then. Couple of guitarists at the time, specifically in the pop world, played via that type of surgical savagery, and the majority of of them played funk. Johnstone seems to be illustration catalyst from Phil Manzanera’s sculpted strumming in Roxy Music and also, especially, on Brian Eno’s early on solo occupational. Only right here, that arty angularity is boiled dvery own to a fist-pumping, pub-friendly hook. Aget, Bowie is being invoked; in addition to the similarity in names, Johnstone’s jittery guitar of “Bitch” recalls Mick Ronson’s knifechoose strike in Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”—not to cite Ronson’s broken-glass job-related on Lou Reed’s “Vicious,” an additional song from which “Bitch” unapologetically cribs.
As a vocalist and performer, John has actually never before shied from meandering dynamics or outbest histrionics. On “Bitch,” though, he locks his jaws and doesn’t let go. “I’m a bitch, I’m a bitch, oh, the bitch is back / Stone-cold sober, as a issue of fact,” he sneers in the chorus, his voice dripping honey and also venom in equal measure. Then he contradicts himself by confessing, “I gain high in the evening sniffing pots of glue”—which provides him the only singer besides Joey Ramone who was extolling the virtues of that particular pastime in 1974.
Punk hadn’t fairly congealed in ’74, not that anyone can ever accusage John of being an affect on it. Still, “Bitch” oozes the exact same snotty, bratty swagger that Johnny Rotten was mere months away from distilling. “I was justified as soon as I was 5 / Raising Cain, I spit in your eye,” John sings with a mad laugh in his voice. Buoyed by a brash horn section—courtesy of R&B legfinish Tower Of Power—that might have actually made Van Morrikid envious, he then goes on to boast, “I entertain by picking brains / Sell my soul by dropping names.” And for your information, he’s earned the best to be a bitch because, to put it as nicely as possible, he’s “much better than you.” In a deliciously perverse twist, England’s queen of heart, Dusty Springfield, sings backup, lending her grace and also eminence to John’s schoolyard taunts.
Elton John didn’t compose the lyrics to “Bitch.” Like the vast majority of the words he sings, they were penned by his inseparable songcomposing partner, Bernie Taupin. Many kind of such partnerships have actually existed in famous music, yet John and also Taupin’s is unique. One bounces and pounds the piano while wearing giant sunglasses and/or a chicken costume; the other toils amethod quietly in the shadows, meticulously balancing the dictates of his own heart against the demands of his star-spangled surrogate. There’s a reason that John’s album immediately after Caribou, the autobiographical Captain Fantastic And The Brvery own Dirt Cowboy, casts John as Captain Fantastic and Taupin as that various other guy.
Understandably, some bitterness can have seeped with. There are varying accounts around the origin of “The Bitch Is Back”—a lot of of them concentrated on who, exactly, is the titular bitch. Some resources case the song is around Taupin’s wife at the time, Maxine Feibelguy, whom he divorced in 1976. In His Song, Rosenthal has actually a different take: “
Rosenthal, though, doesn’t believe tright here was any type of animosity. More likely, it was a basic instance of an inside joke analyzed right into song. “‘The Bitch Is Back’ is a testament to Elton’s ability to poke fun at himself,” she writes. “He taken that he was the ‘bitch’ and reveled in this role throughout live performances.” The empirical evidence supports this. In a recording of a 1974 concert, he preencounters a gleeful romp through “Bitch” via the grinning disclaimer, “This is a song not referring to anyone in the audience, yet mainly to me.”
There’s another underpresent to “Bitch,” however, that has nopoint to do via John’s anxiety (or absence thereof) through Taupin. Two years after the song’s release, music journalist Adam Block asserted in Ten Percent that “‘The Bitch Is Back’ <…> functioned in the time of the 1970s as a wink in the direction of gay listeners.” Rosenthal agrees: “Some segments of the gay neighborhood have actually taken the song as a signal of
Was it that basic, though? Is “Bitch” similar to, say, Judas Priest’s unmistakably homoerotic “Hell Bent For Leather,” composed as soon as singer Rob Halford was still in the closet? Was “Bitch” John’s initially step toward publically revealing he was gay? History makes it muddy. Many type of in the music sector at the time—Fong-Torres included—appeared to assume that John was indeed rock’s Liberace, a massively effective entertainer who, maybe unconsciously, capitalized on his ambiguous sexuality. The means John preens and also struts in “Bitch,” it’s tough to think he didn’t at least know exactly how to act the component.
But John was never before sexy in the standard sense. Pudgy and also balding at 27—his age when “Bitch” was released—he never before exuded even a Liberace level of alentice. The concept that he was somehow trying to telegraph his orientation to the gay people appears favor another journalistic overreach. In any type of instance, divining whatever before impact it might have originally had actually is harder in hindsight. “Bitch” has actually been repurposed relentlessly over the years. Tina Turner—John’s costar in the 1975 film adaption of The Who’s Tommy—shortly embraced the song and also made it her very own. In 2008, right-wing pundit Jim Quinn presented a segment about Hillary Clinton by playing a clip of the chorus. And John himself has sung “Bitch” with artists as dispaprice as Rihanna, Billy Joel, and the unmost likely choir of Cher and also Joan Rivers. And many thanks in part to the song’s title becoming component of the pop-society lexicon—not to point out some added mileage from Alien 3, whose trailer supplied “The bitch is back” as its tag line—the word “bitch” doesn’t have actually fairly the shock worth that it once did.
John himself is no longer shocking. “Some radio stations in America are more puritanical than others. I used to gain bleeped fairly a lot,” he as soon as quipped, looking back on the time when a handful of DJs censored or banned “Bitch”—a minor dispute that quickly faded. Anyway, he had a bigger bomb to drop: He came out, completely and also publicly, in 1976. In doing so, he aided transform the landscape for gay entertainers, and also for the better. His hits never before diminimelted, and also he eventually ended up being a Knight Commander Of The Many Excellent Order Of The British Empire. Ironically, John revealed his bisexuality within the pages of Rolling Stone (although not to Fong-Torres). The article’s predictably lurid title: “Elton’s Frank Talk… The Lonely Love Life Of A Superstar.”
On his blog 2 years ago, Fong-Torres reprinted an e-mail he’d gotten from his former RS colleague, journalist-turned-director Cameron Crowe. Crowe had actually recently met through John concerning a film project. During the course of the conversation, John told Crowe, “I favor Rolling Stone <…> however it’s just not the same. When I review Rolling Stone, I want to read Ben Fong-Torres!”
“Wow,” Fong-Torres responded on his blog:
Who woulda thunk? Without a doubt not me. I last spoke via Sir Elton as soon as we sat, stood, and also ran around for a cover write-up in 1974. That’s ages back, and also I didn’t think he much favored the piece, which, for starters, was headlined “The Four-Eyed Bitch Is Back.” In 1974, John was still in the closet. He would shortly dance out, but once we met, he was still being discreet, in his own fashion. I observed and heard enough that my profile was studded through insinuations.
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Barring the fact that Fong-Torres couldn’t resist one last saucy insinuation (“studded,” ha-ha), he appears rather regretful around his old short article. Not sufficient to keep it from showing up in his 1999 book Not Fade Away, but still. Apparently he invested 36 years reasoning John hated him. But also if John had hated him all that time—and even if he still hosted a grudge—it would certainly have been more than justified.