by Dana Starr
It was dark. I couldn’t see much but I could hear. Elton John was singing “Bennie and the Jets.” I’d never heard anything like it. It was electric music--solid walls of sound and it was thrilling to my 14-year-old ears.
My school band uniform was itchy as hell, and I really really needed to use the bathroom, but I didn’t care on that long-ago Friday night. That was back in the day when I could hold it for forever. Unfortunately, I can no longer hold it for long at all which is why I missed the end of Rocketman. Note to self: lay off the soda if you ever want to see the end of a movie.
I didn’t see the end of Rocketman, but I saw the beginning and it was fantastic. I won’t spoil it for you. Let me just say it’s a great way to begin a great and true story. According to my husband, the movie ends much the same way it begins. I wouldn’t know and you know why.
I do know that I’ve been an Elton John fan for 45 years. Damn. That doesn’t even seem possible, but it’s true. I was a freshman flute player in the mighty Seminole High School band, riding home on a school bus, way after my bedtime, from some little Texas town much like the little Texas town I lived in. The Seminole Indian football team was victorious; I hadn’t screwed up the half-time routine; shenanigans were well underway in the back of the bus; my seatmate in the front of the bus was sharing her Pringles with me and that’s when I heard it.
Someone in the middle of the bus had a transistor radio, and someone on that radio was singing about Candy and Ronnie. It was Elton John, a man I’d never heard of. I was raised on Hank Thompson, Ray Price, Connie Stevens, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty. I didn’t know from Elton John or Candy or Ronnie or Bennie or the Jets.
I also didn’t know what was going on in the back of the bus. Freshmen weren’t allowed to sit beyond the sixth row of highly uncomfortable seats. It was an unwritten rule which my goody two-shoes self was more than happy to comply with. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t curious. I was very curious, but I was also scared of my own shadow in those days. I wasn’t ready for the weird and the wonderful that was most assuredly going down passed the sixth row.
Speaking of weird and wonderful, that’s an excellent description of Rocketman. If you enjoy story telling that isn’t this happened and then this other thing happened and then more things happened, then you’ll enjoy the movie. Yes, there’s a strong narrative but the way it’s presented is most definitely weird and wonderful just like Elton John.
Over four decades have passed since I sat in the dark on a Friday listening to Elton John. That’s exactly what I did today, and it was just as thrilling as it was then.