From The Eggman to The Birdman
My sister soon enough forgot about The Beatles and moved on to Elton John. Now to me, Elton was lumped in with The Scary Music, mainly because I didn't like the look of him. All feathers and monstrous glasses, he reminded me vaguely of a giant bird, and birds frightened the crap out of me.
I could pin point it all to one night when Mom and Dad were out at a party. Sue had been left in charge of babysitting me, and had spent most of evening on the phone arguing with her boyfriend. She'd hang up on him and ring her friend Lori to commiserate, then hang-up and wait for David to call her back so they could have another round. Engrossed in battle with the beleaguered David, she completely forgot to check on little sister, who was supposed to be safely tucked into bed. Unbeknownst to Sue, however, I had crept past the kitchen where she sat yelling down the phone, and hid behind Dad’s green leather easy chair. It was the perfect place to hide and listen to her phone conversations.
It was not, however, the ideal location to hide from the television, however, and I ended up viewing Hitchcock's The Birds in its entirety. By the time one of the actors got his eyes pecked out, Sue's phone conversation was long forgotten and all I could do was hold both hands over my mouth so I wouldn't scream and be discovered out of bed.
Thereafter, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything remotely birdlike.
That said, the first time I ever heard “Crocodile Rock” on WSAI-AM, I was hooked. It was simply unfathomable that Elton John could be said singer. So deeply did I feel that he was not the person responsible for such a wonderfully fun and catchy song, that I argued with both Mom and Sue over it one afternoon in the car on the way to the bowling alley.
"That horrible birdman Elton John does NOT sing Crocodile Rock!"
"Does too" Sue fired back.
"Does not! He's too ugly and weird."
"You're uglier and weirder than he is, creep" Sue wasn't persuaded by my argument.
"Hey now," Mom cautioned, "don't call your sister names."
"But she's wrong Mom, and you know it" Sue looked across the front seat to Mom and continued, "Elton John does sing that song, whether spaz wants to believe it or not. Gosh!" "I am NOT a spaz! Elton is! He's a big, ugly bird and he's got a squirrel head!" I piped from the back seat.
"Shut up twerp! You don't know what you're talking about coz if you did you'd know that Elton John DOES sing it and he wrote it too!" Sue thought she was soooo smart, and stuck her chin up in the air like an authority on the subject.
Tugging on the seat-belt latch, I squealed "You think you're so smart but you're not! You're as dumb as Elton John looks!"
Once free, I perched on the edge of the backseat and leaned over the front to bellow into her ear, "He looks like a bird but you're a bird-brain!" and I fell backwards, howling with laughter.
"Mom!" Sue attempted an alarmed look, "did you hear what that little nimrod called me!? Aren't you going to do anything to her?"
Mom shot her a cautionary look across the seat, but Sue wasn't sharp enough to leave it alone. She turned in her seat to confront me.
"You are so stupid, you ignoramus little creep!" she spat at me, and I howled even louder, because I had never heard the word "ignoramus" and it struck me as just the sort of word to file away for later use back at her.
"Elton John is not some weird birdman just coz he wears feather boas," she continued, "Only an idiot would think that!" She then reached over the seat and gave me a sucker punch to the leg, "And he DOES TOO sing 'Crocodile Rock'!"
"That's enough from both of you!" Mom said, one hand on the steering wheel and the other hauling Sue back into the front seat by the shirttail.
"Both of you sit down and shut up! One more word and I'll turn the car around and we won't go bowling." Mom's word was always final. I crossed my arms and pulled a face at the back of Sue's head, then turned my attention to the passing trees and buildings of Franklin.
"He does not," I mumbled under my breath.
Mom bowled in a league on Thursday nights, but every now and then she would bring us on a Saturday afternoon and let us have a go. On that particular occasion the lanes were full and we were resigned to the bar until a lane became available. Still muttering under my breath as we entered the dimly lit, medieval-themed barroom, what should I spy but a jukebox in the corner. The Elton argument was momentarily forgotten as I pestered Mom for a dime, and such was my persuasion that she gave me three, and told Sue to go with me while she got Cokes for everyone.
Sue was never the brightest crayon in the box, and as she read through the listings for me, she emphasized that “Crocodile Rock” by ELTON JOHN was among the choices. It was red rag to a bull, and I hopped up and down excitedly and told her to play it. She obligingly punched the corresponding numbers into the machine,
"E-5, and the E stands for Elton, spaz" and with that she dragged me away from the glowing music box and back to our table. “I remember when rock was young...me and Suzie had so much fun...”
I knew every word and sang along in an off-key pipsqueak voice as the record spun its musical web. Sue hid her face in her hands as Mom joined in, and for the next three quarters of an hour Mom and I played the song repeatedly, with intermittent bursts of "This is NOT Elton John" issuing forth huffily from my little know-it-all self.
Other patrons came into the bar, had a drink and left, all to the tune of our warbled rendition of "Crocodile Rock." I made a mental note of how many other people were putting their heads in their hands, just like Sue.
Over and over we sang, until one of the seven, a drunken and disheveled man on a barstool, warned us that if we played it again he'd use our heads as bowling balls. He then turned to me and said,
"And for Christ sakes, it IS Elton John, so shut up already."
Sue shot me a look of superiority and said "Go eat a big 'I-told-you-so sandwich,' you little twerp!" and flashed a smile at the drunken man, who simply shook his head in thinly veiled disgust and turned back to his beer.
Pouting, I stuck my tongue out at his back and decided that if Elton John really did sing “Crocodile Rock,” he would HAVE to be okay in my book, birdman or not.