I’m not sure why, but I pulled out Rock of the Westies last week. It’s a solid album, released at the height of Elton’s popularity, but not one of my favorites. It debuted at #1 on Billboard (only the second album at that time to do that. The other one was – you guessed it – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – the first album EVER to enter the charts at #1). You can stick that feather in your caps, boys.
I always liked the title “Rock of the Westies,” a bit of a play on words (“West of the Rockies”) that is credited to Elton himself because the album was recorded in Caribou, Colorado. (Ok, so he’s no Bernie Taupin). And I must admit that I liked the album cover – Elton always did the scruffy look quite well.
Anyway, I digress.
Known primarily for “Island Girl,” there are a couple of gems on this album…in particular, the song “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford).”
I remember wondering who Robert Ford was was – hey, I’m not a fan of the Old West. Turns out he was an American outlaw – a member of Jesse James’ gang – and is best known for killing Jesse himself.
And then the song made sense – likening a failed romance to being a traitor:
And I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford
I’m low as a paid assassin is
You know I’m cold as a hired sword
I’m so ashamed can’t we patch it up
You know I can’t think straight no more
You make me feel like a bullet honey in the gun of Robert Ford
If you’ve ever been the one to end a relationship, you know the feeling.
The music is very melancholy, and Elton’s voice captures the poignancy and regret, particularly at the beginning. He gets a little bolder, more defiant as the song goes on, but still sad nonetheless. And I like the high notes he hits, especially at the end of the song. (And did I mention that I love the way he says “Robert”)?
Cut ahead 30 years. I remember watching the 2007 movie, “The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford” just to see if they used this song. Nada. I understand that this song is metaphorical, but still – NADA. (And it wasn’t a very good movie, either, imho).
I Feel like a Bullet (in the Gun of Robert Ford) – Rock of the Westies – 1975