Elton John: Leather Jackets

11733028_800_800“Leather Jackets,” released in 1986, was Elton’s 20th album and what is believed to be his worst. It is the poorest charting album of his career, and only his second album to not have any top 40 singles. For that reason, I’m not even going to list the tracks. I’ll point out a few that I feel are noteworthy.

Reading his autobiography, you’ll learn that cocaine takes a lot of the blame according to Elton. He was doing a ton of it then, even during recordings in the studio.

I also learned from his book that Cher cowrote the 3rd song on Side 1, “Don’t Trust That Woman.” Cher collaborated with “Lady Choc Ice” on the song, which is one of Elton’s drag alter-egos. The liner notes give thanks to Lady Choc Ice for being a continued source of inspiration.

Don’t forget that Elton is usually the music man and has not written lyrics for very many songs during his career, but that doesn’t give this song any reason to stand out. It’s not very good. Elton sounds great, but the synthesizer music is atrocious even for 80’s pop. In fact, music on quite a few of the songs is over-synthesized with heavy and loud rock guitar, which probably sounds great when you are on coke.

“Gypsy Heart” is a pretty good ballad and John sounds more like the 80’s Elton we love. The same goes for “Hoop of Fire.” The piano and music on both of these songs is much more tolerable. I also like “Heartache All Over The World” for some reason. It’s a good dance song if anything and the one song on the album that Elton did not play piano or keyboard for.

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The album’s back cover photo. So butch!

Members of Queen play bass and drums on “Angeline,” which is surprisingly a very smooth track and reminds me of a sexy girl song like “Roxanne” by The Police. Cliff Richard sings the duet “Slow Rivers” which is indeed slow and forgettable. The liner notes also list Kiki Dee as backing vocals on this song. She and Elton were good friends and sang “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” together which was a huge hit for both of them.

“Paris” is a decent song and I bet it probably would have done well on the charts had it been released or at least included on a better album. It sounds like a great background song for a scene in a movie where someone is either going to or walking through Paris.

“I Fall Apart,” the last song on the second side, is my favorite song on the album and the most noteworthy. Its lyrics are very memorable, and again, sound much more like the traditional 80’s Elton we still love and sing along to today. If anything, the verses stand as an eerie symbol to the climax of Elton’s drug addiction that would soon lead to rehab. Here are the first two verses:

Without you I no longer swim upstream
Where are you when I try to fill the spaces in between
The red letter days and all the pain
And while I remain shipwrecked everything has changed
And I fall apart
With this threat of indecision hanging in my heart
This house can get so lonely when the day grows dark
And it seems to be the night time when I fall apart.

 

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