Monday, April 26, 2010

One Night Stand: 'Sacrifice'

This past weekend I was making my way up the stairs of an Upper East Side walk-up in New York. From the minute one entered the front door of the building, sound flooded the hall. At the top of the second flight, it became clear that someone was listening, at top volume on a very good sound system, to "Sacrifice" by Elton John.

And they were getting STONED doing it. In the middle of the day.

I don't know whether it was the secondhand weed or the quality of the stereo, but the song stuck with me for the rest of the weekend. I went from mocking the person behind that apartment door to wanting to shake his or her hand. What an amazing song to get stoned to. I've never been stoned, but I imagine the experience was awesome.

I tried to Blip "Sacrifice," because that site is where I've been satisfying my musical Tourette's lately, but all the versions there seemed to be live ones and it's essential that you hear the fully produced, 1989 recording in order to appreciate the song.

When I couldn't Blip it, I turned to my karaoke system. I was delighted to find that it was there, but the plinkity version of the song didn't really satisfy because it was missing the guitar accents that you get in the bridge and last chorus. Plus, I am no Elton. I tried to do my best Eltonesque pronunciation of the words in the song ("sack-a-ri-FAHce," "some thangs lookM bettAH"), but the Magic Sing only scored me at an 88 out of 100. Respectable, but lackluster.

And who knew that this song was about heterosexual infidelity? The last time I was captivated by a gay man singing about that topic was "Careless Whisper" by George Michael, and while Elton hardly beats that chestnut, this song has its own charm in how weirdly Zen and unemotional it is, and how the lyrics are slightly confusing ("No tears to damn you when jealousy burns"?).

Maybe the only way to experience "Sacrifice" is with good speakers and a blunt. But in that moment, I lived vicariously and tasted that freedom. And it was no sacrifice at all.

Music: "Sacrifice"

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