Sleeping with the Past (1989)

Through vocal-chord surgery, addictions to alcohol and drugs, friends dying of an as yet undiagnosed rare disease, a World Tour, and his marriage breaking up, Singer Elton John was still standing strong, like a great prize fighter, still selling out stadium upon stadium. His record sales hadn’t begun to diminish, CD’s were rising in preference, where as, vinyl records were now decreasing in demand. Music Videos were still at the center of the game in the business of selling pop singles. But in the Live Arena, few could argue the success’s of Elton John, breaking Records left years before by Elvis Presley, The Grateful Dead and even the Beatles. He was even now in to TV commercial Ads with the likes Of Paula Abdul singing slogans for Diet Coke and Cadbury Chocolates. He was riding a wave of success, brought on by the energized, top ten hit “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” from the 1988, “Reg Strikes Back” album. The brash piano player was back alright, and if ticket sales were any indication, few in the World of Pop Music, had missed any of it.

In contrast, 1989, seemed almost a repeat performance, if it weren’t for the clever inclusion of a handful of new glittering batch of solid pop songs. The Hats, changed from frilly ones to 1930’s modernistic, the suit’s, from dark navy blues to bright lime greens. The hair from normal brown to a sudden pure bleached white. He was looking older, perhaps wiser at the keyboard, but road weary as well. Performances would be hit and miss during this tour, some nights cancelled due to “Bad Sushi”, some still showing a weary vocal, some showcasing a very pale singer, but others blitzing and blazing like a man on his A Game. The new material, premiered in New Haven Conn., would be accepted almost instantly as “Classic” John/Taupin. I was in that first premiere audience, and I will never forget hearing “Sacrifice”, “Healing Hands”, “Sleeping With The Past”, “Stones Throw From Hurting” and even a special return of 1971’s, “Come Down In Time.” Throw in a bit of the Stones “Brown Sugar” and a fancy extended jazz piano solo during “Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatter’s Part 2”, and I for one was elated at this effort. That premiere, set me on the edge of my seat awaiting the release of “Sleeping With The Past.” It sounded like a great studio album to me, and I would soon enough discover, I was not wrong in this. 1989, for me, Claude W. Bernardin, was the year, I made a decision, personally that I would begin authoring a book on Elton John, with a working title of “Rocket Man: Just Words and a Tune”. That book would take five years of my life to complete. I had just become the father of a beautiful son, Andrew, who later mature in to a fine singer songwriter. I was still exhibiting my watercolors, averaging 50 exhibits a year, teaching High School Art, doing set designs with students for school plays, and traveling to the likes of New York, Ma., Rhode Island, and Conn. To see Elton wherever and whenever I could. I was also still very much involved in creating fanzines such as The Fox with David Sigler, Harmony, Tumbleweed Connection and a few others. Life was good, but extremely busy.

I had been a fan now, for 19 years, and I was now meeting the Band on Tour before shows. My best friend Keith was driving Band members such as Sugarfoot Moffett home from Venues. I was at Hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, and meeting the biggest fans in the World. New York was more my home than Philadelphia. It was an amazing time, and even though the odd show was cancelled as in The Meadowlands in N.J., and rumors were abounding Elton was not well physically….the shows must go on…and so they did!

Claude W. Bernardin