The inside cover of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is decorated with illustrations–a phoenix, Marilyn’s bust, an open Bible with a solitary rose. I’d lay on my belly and study them, every now and again looking up to see my mom dancing around the house in her bell-bottoms, lip-biting smile on her face.
The picture of Bennie and the Jets transfixed me the most– Bennie with her wild eye-shadow and unwavering stare, the spiky fringe on her crown and her band of booted men. She looked so much like my mom (had my mom been brunette), and I’d imagine my mom’s life before she had me–wearing a mohair suit in a smokey night club, turning down all the men who approached her. I wanted to be just like her.
The soundtrack changed as I grew up. Patsy Cline’s songs of heartache and heartbreak filled my pre-teen years. My shower rendition of “Crazy” upset my mom because I had “[woken] up the whole house.” (Though I think she was secretly pleased that Cline stuck with me, the way I thrill to hear my girl singing “Bennie and the Jets”). As a teen when I wanted to sleep the day away, my mom would wake me up blasting Aerosmith and jumping on my bed.
But of all the music over the years, the album that stays with me the most is Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I don’t know that Elton John was my mom’s favorite but the image of her dancing around the house, bell-bottoms swinging around her bare feet with that smile, stays with me. I play that album to this day whenever I’m feeling sad, nostalgic or simply in need of a touch of home.
The fourth of July is my mom’s birthday which always struck me as a great irony as she’s never been much for fireworks, or fighting, or even America really; but that’s a post for another day.
Happy birthday Mom. Thanks for the music…and all the weird and wonderful.