Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pheaturing Bernie Taupin

Hey there! Good afternoon, everybody, how are you? Welcome to the Phile for a Saturday. Did you miss me? Well, me exactly but the Phile. Do you know who Mayor Rudy Giuliani is? If you don't I'll tell you... he is a bombastic New York Republican who mobilized forces against people of color, spread conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, and was married to one of his relatives. It's hard to imagine why he and Trump are friends. He also loves being on television, and recently, he let his mouth run and his eyes bulge while accidentally saying incriminating things about the president, trying to explain Trump's payoff to a porn star. Giuliani worked the Sunday show circuit last Sunday, with law Professor Kathleen Clark said in The Washington Post "reminded her of a garden hose that was whipping around wildly because nobody had a handle on it yet... 'Just erratic, unpredictable, aimless.'" He continued to assert that Trump funneling six-figures through a law firm to squash a negative story the month before the election without declaring it on any of his bank statements is not a campaign finance violation, all the while making things worse by saying that Trump might plead the fifth and that he doesn't have to comply with a possible subpoena from Robert Mueller. Rudy's media blitz is doing a fantastic job keeping Stormy Daniels in the news, which even resulted in the real Stormy appearing live from New York on Saturday night. It's not fair to expect Giuliani to know what the laws are. He's only a former mayor and prosecutor.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is calling on the public to help identify a man who was spotted chillin' with a moose on the side of the road in the town of Frisco, because the moose looked really pissed. "A passing driver saw a man chase the moose onto the median in the middle of a busy stretch of Colorado 9 south of Dillon Dam Road. The driver slowed down and his passenger snapped a photo of the man next to the agitated moose," The Denver Post reports. Citing the moose's "pinned back ears and raised hackles" in the photo, Summit County’s District Wildlife Manager Elissa Slezak said in the a statement that the man could have been "attacked and injured or killed." If identified, the man would probably be cited for harassment of wildlife. But Slezak said the biggest concern is to make sure the individual does not repeat his behavior," the Post reports. Cool! Let's be as concerned with men who bother women as we are with men who bother moose!
A student at Cornell University named Letitia Chai stripped down to her bra and underwear while presenting a Facebook livestream of her thesis last weekend. The decision to present her senior thesis in her underwear was in direct response professor Rebeka Maggor's comments during Chai's practice run. According to a report from the Daily Sun student newspaper, Maggor critiqued Chai's outfit comprised of a blue button-down and shorts with the pressing question, "Is that really what you want to wear?" Chai told the paper that Maggor indicated the shorts were "too short" and would thusly draw "men's attention." As a complete kick-back to Maggor's unsolicited advice, Chai stripped down during her presentation and encouraged others to do the same. "I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being. And I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step, or rather this next strip, in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and to seeing each other for who we truly are... members of the human race," she said while undressing. In response to Chai's call to arms, 28 of the 44 people at the presentation joined her in their underwear. However, not everyone was on board. According to a statement written by 11 of the 13 other students present in class that day, the ordeal didn't go down exactly as Chai dictated. “Our intention in writing this letter is in no way to invalidate any of Letitia’s experience. We strongly support and identify with Letitia’s fight for equality. The majority of us are students of color, from multi-ethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia’s frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country. We do not want to discredit her narrative. However, we feel it is important and our obligation to share our impression of Wednesday’s events to provide a fair representation of the situation," the statement reads. The statement then goes on to say that Maggor merely made an "error in phrasing" and that this incident didn't "adequately represent [Maggor’s] past and continued advocacy for women and minorities."
One of Trump's staffers is in hot water after making a distasteful joke about Senator John McCain's health. The drama started when McCain urged his Senate colleagues to reject Gina Haspel as CIA director due to her views on torture. In her past, Haspel had overseen the torture of detainees. John McCain was tortured when he was a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, so this one hits particularly close to home for him. Kelly Sadler, who serves as special assistant to President Trump, tried to dismiss McCain's opinion by saying it "doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway." YIKES, girl. McCain, 81, is suffering from incurable brain cancer. He was also hospitalized for an intestinal infection last month. John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, hopped on Twitter and shamed Sadler for her insensitive words. She didn't need to be crass or rude to get her point across. She simply said...

A fellow White House official later explained that Sadler, who is in charge of surrogate communications, meant it as a joke, "but it fell flat." Haha? You know how people get mad when comedians make political statements? Maybe we should display that same outrage when politicians try to make unfunny jokes.
Michelle Obama had "Let's Move!" Nancy Reagan had "Just Say No." And now, Melania Trump has..........."Be Best." A year and a bit into her term as First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump has officially set her agenda. In a speech in the Rose Garden, Melania announced the grammatically dubious "Be Best" initiative, which seeks to help children by focusing on "well being, social media use and opioid abuse." Melania, who be a birther like her husband, who be world's most notorious cyberbully (who very recently be endorser child molester for Senate and is trying to be defunder of Children's Health Insurance Program), is ready to inspire children to "Be Best," whatever it may mean. "Be Best"? I understand that English isn't the First Lady's first language, but is that the case with every single one of her staff? If she had another year, she could have added a definite article. Be Best is already being the best and borrowing from the Obama administration. This be ridiculous.
If I had a TARDIS I would go back in time to see the Beatles cross Abbey Road for the "Abbey Road" album, but knowing my luck I'd get there just when they're walking back across the street.

If that photoshoot was taken today it might look something like this...

Hahahaha. I mentioned Melania Trump’s "Be Best" slogan just now, but she just updated it...

Hahahaha. You know, some people are just assholes...

That was sad in the movie. So, I was thinking of getting a new tattoo but someone else took my idea I had...

Damn them. Wait... that's a woman... never mind. Moving on... Do you have bad luck? If so I bet it's not as bad as this guy's...

I'm sure he can just drive out of there. Maybe? Some people thunk aliens don't exist, but I do, and I think they are on Earth as we speak. Here's proof...

Oh. Man. I apologize. Haha. You know what I love to see that I don't too much nowadays? Team work... people working together. That's why when I saw this I was happy...

Good job, kids. I was told at Walmart I'll see some signs... I don't believe it until I saw this...

There are no words. So, did you see Avengers: Infinity War? It seems that Thanos affected more than you thought...

Not Spongebob! Hahaha. You know the Infinity Stones were hiding in plain sight all along, right?

That's so stupid. That's as stupid as...

That's so dumb. Hey, do you know what's the best?

While most cultures feel that farts should be suppressed in polite company, there are some cultures that not only don't mind letting them fly in public, but they actually enjoy it. An Indian tribe in South America called the Yanomami fart as a greeting, and in China you can actually get a job as a professional fart-smeller! In ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius, fearing that holding farts in was bad for the health, passed a law stating that it was acceptable to break wind at banquets.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, I mentioned the McCain diss story a few minutes ago, well, a "friend" of the Phile wants to say something about it. So, please welcome once again to the Phile...

Sarah: Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling Clementine... hello, Jason.

Me: Hello, Sarah. So, let me guess... the White House is sorry, not sorry.

Sarah: Why do you say that?

Me: What is the White House saying about the news that a White House staffer mocked Senator John McCain for dying of brain cancer?

Sarah: "No comment."

Me: Exactly. In case people don't know can you tell them what happened with this whole thing?

Sarah: The staffers were discussing the ongoing confirmation battle over current acting director of the CIA and former head of a Thai prison "black site" Gina Haspel. Current senator and former prisoner of war John McCain said that he will not vote in favor of the agent who beat a pregnant woman until she delivered a four pound baby. West Wing aide Kelly Sadler dismissed the torture survivor's opinion on torture, saying that it "doesn't matter" because he's "dying anyway."

Me: Well said. So, are you gonna apologize on behalf of the White House?

Sarah: No. I'm not going to validate a leak one way or the other out of an internal staff meeting.

Me: Okay. Refusing to address problems head-on so they continue to dominate the news is kind of the White House's thing. Remember Portergate?

Sarah: Jason, it should come as no surprise that the White House isn't firing or even disciplining someone who would say something so disrespectful to McCain.

Me: You're right, Sarah. It was the president himself who once proudly said of McCain's POW experience, "[he] is not a war hero. I like people who weren't captured." Does Trump regret his comments during campaign about John McCain being captured?

Sarah: I believe the president has spoken about that; I haven't talked with him specifically about that.  Wait... Trump has apologized for this...

Me: No, he hasn't.

Sarah: Jason, if anyone knows what it means to be a war hero, it's President Trump. While he so tragically had to get five draft deferments because of his bad feet, he endured his own "personal Vietnam" avoiding STDs in the eighties.

Me: If not dismissing Sadler for her comment, you'd think Trump would at least dismiss her for getting caught. He likes the people who weren't captured. Thanks, Sarah. Sarah Huckleberry Hound, everyone. Now for something less annoying...

In the last entry of the Phile I told you this riddle... Mario is on a business trip in an exotic country. At the hotel, he asks the receptionist to send a telegram that should arrive exactly on February 23rd. But the receptionist tells him that he can only use these words to write: fiasco, nephew, carrot, rabbit, sonata, spring, tailor, bureau, corona, legacy, soften, travel, object, happen, bikini. Then Mario sends the following telegram: Carrot Fiasco Nephew Spring Rabbit Sonata Tailor Bureau Legacy Corona Travel Bikini Object Happen Soften. What does the message say? Hint: The message is for Mario's son. Some of you got the answer, but those that didn't the answer is... The message is formed by taking the first letter of the first word and the last of the second word, continuing the same way with the remaining words. The hidden message is Congratulations. Mario wants to greet his son on his birthday, so the message must arrive on the mentioned date.

I don't understand. Hahaha. So, you know I live in Florida, right? Well, some of the craziest stuff happens in this sate that happens no where else. It's time again for a story from...

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth a million. A weeks ago, Republican politician Rep. Matt Gaetz stopped by Shoal River Middle School in Florida to talk to students. At the end of his "quick civics lesson," he grabbed a selfie with the middle schoolers. Only one problem. Yeah, he probably should have checked the background of the photo before uploading it to Facebook. The kids dabbed, smiled, etc,... but one person decided to get a little more creative with her pose...

Right in the front row, a girl can be seen giving the finger. Not everyone was amused. A woman claiming to be the girl's mother chimed in to apologize in the comments section of Gaetz's Facebook post...

But the Florida rep was actually pretty chill about it...

It is not clear if the girl in the photo is flipping the bird as some sort of political statement or if it's just because she is a sixth grader. I am willing to bet that is it the latter.

The 80th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Phile Alum and author Shelly Ambrose, who put this together will be on the Phile next Monday. And now for some...

Phact 1. The Trevor Project, an LGTBQ youth charity, was started when HBO wanted to air a helpline number during a short film about a suicidal gay teen. Upon realizing that no such hotline existed, the filmmakers decided to create one themselves.

Phact 2. Ancient Mexicans were the only New World civilization who invented the wheel, and it is the only known instance of the wheel having been invented independently of the Sumerian version.

Phact 3. It took Ryan Reynolds 11 years to get his vision of Deadpool made. The project overcame the failing of X-Men: Origins and persevered to become the highest grossing R-rated film of all time.

Phact 4. The creator of “Jaws” dedicated the last decade of his life to preserving sharks after witnessing horrific abuse (and to make up for the anti-shark hysteria the movie caused).

Phact 5. One of the Soviet space dogs’ puppy, Pushinka, was given by Khrushchev to Kennedy as a gift. One of Kennedy’s dog, Charlie, took a liking to Pushinka, resulting in the birth of four pups referred jokingly by Kennedy as “pupniks."

George Deukmejian 
June 6th, 1928 — May 8th, 2018
The Duke. Another politician with no scandals section, so I can't write anything funny or insulting about him. Good news: in a few years, THAT will not be a problem.

This is so bloody cool... today's guest is an English lyricist, poet, and singer, best known for his long-term collaboration with Elton John, writing the lyrics for the majority of the star's songs. His two latest CDs "Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin" and "Revamp: The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin" are available on iTunes and Amazon. Please welcome to the Phile... Bernie Taupin!

Me: Holy shit! Bernie, welcome to the Phile, sir, it's such HUGE honor to have you here. How are you?

Bernie: I'm doing good.

Me: So, you have wrote sooooooooooo many cool hits with Elton John, sir. I can't imagine who your influences were when you were young. Who is someone you listened to and liked?

Bernie: The Louvin Brothers, Jason. They were the first act that I ever heard that were country based, although they had a little bluegrass going to. But the first things I listened to in county radio were things that were on the radio in the late 50s, early 60s in England. Although I really liked that material and perked my ears up it was until I got to know some of these American servicemen that lived on the Royal Air Force bases in the north of England, they would bring with them box loads of records from the United States. Things that weren't played on the radio in England and even released in England. The first of those people I listened to were Hank Snow and Lefty Frizzell, these were the ones that really stuck out to me that knocked my socks off were the Louvin Brothers.

Me: What about the Louvin Brothers drew you to them, sir?

Bernie: I think it's because they told stories and that's the thing that really got inside my head and sparked my imagination. That moved me on to people that really told stories also but were more hard core country like Johnny Horton and Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins. Those people were really the blue touch paper for me when it came to me I could tell stories cinematically and put a melodic rope around it.

Me: When did you start to think you could write songs yourself?

Bernie: It's not a secret when I said Marty Robbins' "El Paso" was the song made me imagine that it might be possible to write songs. Not that I went into that direction initially, to certainly came back like a boomerang later on when I got the muscle to feel that I could say the things I wanted. Obviously the first songs that I wrote we were contract writers we were in a trap to write the middle of the road commercial material for acts that didn't write for themselves. It was sort of the Brill Building situation in London. This was way before Elton ever thought of becoming an artist in his own right. We weren't really writing the things that were inspired by the music that inspired us if that makes any sense.

Me: I love the two new albums that are out. It's like how you started, right, other people singing your songs?

Bernie: Yes, but they're singing songs that we wanted them to sing which makes a big difference. Those songs that we were writing back in '67 to '68, it wasn't really an inspiration to us to have the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Vince Hill and all these sort of people, they were all sort of cabaret singers. Not disparagement to them, they filled a space that was necessary. It wasn't what we wanted to do and a guy called Steve Brown came along and in '68 or early '69, he was a sort of radical hippy kind of character who infiltrated a very, very conservative straight laced publishing company and he kind of shook it all up and saw the potential in us and the frustration. He said, "Don't listen to these suits, do what you want to do and I'll take the heat." He actually did and from that moment on we started writing songs that were really indicative and channeled the genres of music that we were listening to. From then on it was a much brighter world for us.

Me: You have two albums, a country album which is yours and the pop album which is Elton's. There's only one song that is on both albums, which is one of my favorite songs of yours... "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." I love the Maren Morris version of that song on the "Restoration" album. even though you and Elton are both British a lot of the songs have an American feeling, don't you think? Why is that?

Bernie: It's extraordinary. There's a certain irony to a lot of these songs because you might obviously realise most of these songs have an American influence and are about America in general... geographically, literally, sonically, everything. We were writing about America even before we came here. We were only imagining it. The wonderful thing about having all these young artists, and some older artists like Morris Day, artists that've been around the block a little longer, these people actually lived that and come from these backgrounds these songs are about.

Me: What does "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" represent?

Bernie: What the song represents is me realising what America actually was. I had this dream of Spanish Harlem and I go and see what it actually is. Our first impressions of New York City in 1970, and if anybody was around in that period of time, they'll know New York wasn't quite as magical as it was probably presented to the rest of the world. It was a tough place to get along in, and we didn't have a lot of money back then obviously when we first visited. We were staying in really cheap hotels and eating with very little money in our pockets, and playing gigs and getting out. It was a tough place and all the magical things we heard about it were contradicted by the things that were happening on the street.

Me: I love the Willie Nelson version of "Border Song." I think he's the only one on these records that were around before you guys started writing songs. Am I right?

Bernie: Yeah, he's the only one that probably was born before all these songs were written. What I love about that track if you listen real close you can hear him take a breath at the beginning of the song and that goes right to my heart, man. He IS the Mount Rushmore of country music.

Me: Was that song written before or after you came to America?

Bernie: Before, in 1970, and that makes it even more profound. Coming from Willie Nelson that is really, really kind of says it all about that song. It was great when Aretha did it back in the early 70s, but outside of that version this just really knocks it out of the park. This is truly means the world to us to have Willie on this.

Me: I have to ask you about "I Want Love," which is a more recent song by you and Elton. I love this song. Chris Stapleton did a great job with that. How did you think of him doing that song?

Bernie: It's great, isn't it? When we got Chris to come on board I said to Elton there's only one song the guy can sing. I couldn't think of any other song. Outside of that this is the only song I want him to sing. I'm glad you like this song because it's one of my favourites.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask, what are your favorite songs ever you two have written and are those songs on these two albums?

Bernie: Well, I was blessed in the fact that I got three of my favourites, not quite in the everybody talks about the hits, the hits, the hits, the 70s hits. Me to get "Sacrifice," "I Want Love" and get the double whammy of getting Emmylou Harris and Roseanne Cash doing "This Train..." Those are three of my favourite songs that we've ever written, so to get those three on there was an absolute blessing. 

Me: Cool. "I Want Love" sounds to me like it was written in the 70s, with "Rocket Man" and "Good-Bye Yellow Brick Road." What do you think the fans think of Elton's later work opposed to the stuff that came out first? Does that question make sense?

Bernie: We're certainly not the template for it. That's happened with everybody. When you look at McCartney, the Stones, we're all in the same boat. People are nostalgia hounds. I don't know, Jason, you can't argue with people's opinion. If they got the opinion that our best work was in the past that's fine, so be it.

Me: Do you think a lot of people that are fans of Elton listen to his new music?

Bernie: Perhaps they're not. It's not worth going out there arguing with it, we just solider on. Artists of they are credible they have it in their blood, they are not going to stop creating simply because some kid in his mother's basement is saying on the Internet their new stuff sucks... blah, blah, blah, what happened to all the great 70s music? Am I going to spend the rest of my life reading that stuff, or listening to it? It's just not worth it. There's too much else to do, there's too much time to create and keep going. Some of the stuff is never going to be great, we have to balance between the two. Some of it's going to be great, some of it is not going to be great. A lot of it wasn't great in the early days either. People forget that.

Me: In the song "I Want Love" there's a great line that says "a man like me is dead in places other men feel liberated." I think that's one of the best lines ever... I want that on a t-shirt. Anyway, sir, what does that line mean?

Bernie: Well, I think it's all part in parcel of the emotional aftermath of relationships which the song is about. It's a moment in time, doesn't mean you're going to stay that way forever, but that's how you feel at that particular point in time. I think the whole song represents that. I'll be honest, I think that's one of the first lyrics I've ever written. It has such an amazing cadence to it which is added by Elton's simple melody, the way that it just builds, dives and come back, it's a really good song.

Me: That's so cool. Do you think it's weird that a lot of young people are singing your songs now? 

Bernie: Not at all, because they're taking a totally new look at it. They haven't grown up being bombarded by our music. A lot of the artists on both of these records are songwriters themselves. I don't think there's a better interpreter of someone else's song than a songwriter, because they know the ins and outs of it. That's why I think, especially on "Restoration," which I'm much more familiar with, I think these kids... I shouldn't say all kids, but these artists, especially the younger ones, they went through their collections, they probably didn't have them but they probably got a hold of them. I know Kacey Musgrave said how she stayed up all night listening to all our records, trying to find the right song, and how she came up with "Roy Rogers." So she obviously wasn't familiar with it in the first place. She discovered it. That's the beauty of it I think.

Me: Okay, so, you write the lyrics, Elton writes the music. Ever think what the hell, that's not what I want the song to sound like? Ever tell him that to his face? Hahahaha.

Bernie: Ummm, a little bit of both actually. He says I never said that to his face. You have to remember to, not so much in the early days, I was a little intimated by the musical muscle and talent around me and I was kind of a green kid, it was all new to me, so I just did what I did and leave it to him. But over the years obviously I became much more musically proficient and obviously came out of my shell. In the same way as now for the last few decades I will give him ideas, I will sort of give him a blue print idea and point him in a musical direction. Whether or not he endears to that is neither here or there sometimes. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. There are times when obviously I write something I have a preconceived idea of where I think it should go because I have a melodic idea in my head. I write and record on a guitar so it gives me a sense of melody, rhythmic feel, so I sort of go with what I've got when I'm writing it but once it gets in his hands it could totally go a 360 and go somewhere else. For the most part it's better than what I imagined, and obviously certainly more melodically intricate than I ever imagined because I'm not musically proficient like that. So, for the most part it usually turns out better than what I imagined. Maybe on a couple of occasions it doesn't but that particular song is never going to fly always. We cover it on both bases but that's the way it goes.

Me: What is one song that you had in mind and Elton perfectly delivered what you had in mind? 

Bernie: I don't know if I could necessarily pinpoint a song like that on the top of my head. Maybe I'm escaping the question by saying they're certainly songs tha are very much how I imagine they would be when I started working on them. He just took it a step farther. There are songs that are perfect or I think are a perfect marriage of lyric and melody.

Me: Like which song?

Bernie: Probably a song you'll never want to hear again as you heard it so much but "Candle in the Wind" could be the closest we came to a perfect song. Maybe people will say "Your Song" because it's treated as a standard now. Although I think if someone is going to take something like "Your Song" which is written from the point of view from a very, very naive kid, which probably was because it was written when I was 17-years-old. I was pretty virginal in every area and aspect of life. You take that idea and you take it their years later and you get a song like "Sacrifice" which is beautifully done by Don Henley and Vince Gill on the "Restoration" album probably could be one of my favourite songs, if not the best song ever we've ever written. Again it's a very good lyric with an exquisite melody and it has a tremendous impact too.

Me: Cool. Bernie, I know you need to go. Thanks so much for being on the Phile. I hope you'll come back again soon and maybe tell Elton he needs to do an interview here. Continued success and keep writing.

Bernie: Thanks very much, Jason.

Man alive, I don't know what to say. Thanks to Bernie Taupin for a great interview. I had written down about ten more questions to ask him so maybe I'll get him back on the Phile one day. The Phile will be back tomorrow for the Mother's Day entry with singer and actress Rita Wilson. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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