Not Your Average Hit List

© Pete Bellotte/Sylvester Levay/Jerry Rix/Rocket for for the music (excerpt).

© Per A.J. Andersson for the text. Written August 2003, updated November 2011.

Victim of Love
by Elton John

Elton John has put out more memorable pop songs than most people. What the Beatles did in the '60s, this spectacle-adorned piano player produced in the next decade. Where he quickly made himself a name with his versatility, spanning various musical genres. His theatrical stage persona quickly made his tours sell-out acts. Elton's musicality shone through even when going disco, which he did in 1979 - to less than appreciative reviews.

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I may be biased in writing this, as I hardly listened to anything but Elton John's music for large parts of my childhood. But what still strikes me most with those early records are their genuine quality throughout. The ambitious (some say pretentious) lyrics of Bernie Taupin also helped to create and enhance the coherence of many a concept album. Like on "Tumbleweed Connection" (western nostalgia abounding), "Don't Shoot Me..." (reflections on stardom) and "Captain Fantastic..." (relating to Elton's and Bernie's early years).

The second half of the decade was a less glamourous one. Elton fought with both the record company and his lyricist. Still he survived both punk and disco, retaining his popularity with the record buying public. From 1970 to 1996 he was able to chart a Top 40 single every single year.

But during the latter half of that period, it became obvious that stardom had turned into boredom as the music often was no more than bland and uninspired adult-oriented pop fare. This starkly contrasted to the rather experimental singer-songwriter material from the beginning of his career, with albums mixing Beatlesque pop and pounding rockers, delicate pop ballads and fully orchestrated prog-rock tunes. In those days there were hardly a filler song in sight.

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Personally I can't stand Elton John post-1983. I think it's bland, utterly uninteresting and devoid of good song-writing. Maybe Elton in the mid-'80s got more interested in football (presiding over his beloved Watford FC). Or taking care of his drug problems. Or adapting himself to living publicly as a gay musician. Or something else.

To this day many feels Elton John hit a creative low already in 1979. I disagree. True, Elton was trying to find himself in a vastly different music surrounding. And siding with Euro-disco producer Pete Bellotte for the making of "Victim of Love", was one way of exploring new territory for this artist never shy on testing different styles.

This time Elton wasn't involved as a composer. Besides a version of Chuck Berry's rock classic "Johnny B. Goode" it was all new material by a team of German songwriters. What takes this further than a standard disco hit collection of the era, is Elton's nasal and modulated voice, which oddly enough makes those rather superficial lyrics seem important and credible. Plus his usual fine piano playing, finding its way through the heavily synthesised harmonies.

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Then there are two or three memorable melodies in there. "Thunder in the Night" has a pounding rock feel. The title tune is my favourite, with its dramatic nerve, as it provides good opportunity for both Elton's voice and some beautiful keyboard loops.

When the 33 year old artist the following year brought this robotical soundscape onto his next, more pop-oriented album, it sounded out of sync. But on "Victim of Love" it fit. As a disco production, in the vein of Donna Summer or Chic, it can compete with the best. And it did prove at least one point - Elton John could do no wrong in the 1970s, even when he tried. //


(Rocket, 1979)

• Johnny B. Goode
• Warm Love in a Cold World
• Born Bad

• Thunder in the Night
• Spotlight
• Street Boogie
• Victim of Love (EXCERPT)

Compositions: C Berry, P Bellotte, S Wisnet, G Moll, G Bastow, M Hofmann, S Levay, J Rix
Production: Pete Bellotte

• Empty Sky (1969)
• Elton John (1970)
• Tumbleweed Connection (1971)
• Madman Across the Water (1971)
• Honky Chateau (1972)
• Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973)
• Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
• Caribou (1974)
• Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)
• Rock of the Westies (1975)
• Blue Moves (1976)
• A Single Man (1978)
• Victim of Love (1979)
• 21 at 33 (1980)
• The Fox (1981)
• Jump Up! (1982)

• Too Low for Zero (1983)
• Breaking Hearts (1984)
• Ice on Fire (1985)
• Leather Jackets (1986)
• Reg Strikes Back (1988)
• Sleeping With the Past (1989)
• The One (1992)
• Duets (1993)
• Made in England (1995)
• Big Picture (1997)
• Aida (1999)
• The Muse (1999)
• Songs from the West Coast (2001)
• Peachtree Road (2004)
• The Captain & The Kid (2006)

• The Union (with Leon Russell) (2010)

All Music Guide
Elton John Interview
Wilson & Allroy's Record Reviews

• Donna Summer (more listenable euro-disco)
• The Bee-Gees (another pop group gone disco)
• John Lennon (early influence)
Notis Sfakianakis (versatile singer-songwriter)

Not Your Average Hit List 43 minutes... Alla är Ambition Consequences Door to Door The Dreaming Dzien i noc État d'urgence In the Spirit of Things Kaze no tani no Naushika Lights in the Night Martwa woda Nuit d'amour Once in a Million Open Door People Are Strange The Royal Scam Stationary Traveller Victim of Love Whore Music Up North Music Out West Music Far East Music Down South Films I Like a Lot Comic or Not On and Off TV About Me There's so much more out there ...