Elton John’s longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin says that he wrote “Bennie and the Jets” facetiously, looking to poke fun at teen audiences’ zeal for glamorous figures on stage. But that doesn’t stop the song from registering as an ode to fandom. Elton makes the swoon too palpable. He smothers the intended irony. And a new version, performed by Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, makes “Bennie & the Jets” sound even more like an earnest paean.
The group—Australians who’ve spent a lot of time in New York, led by Craig Dermody and including Dion Nania, singer in the underrated outfit Free Time—could’ve done a pisstake. Only Nick Lowe’s “Roller Show”—which tells of Bay City Rollers idolatry—is better poised to be reclaimed and wielded against poptimism’s proximity to sycophancy. But instead, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding supplants Elton’s staccato swagger with the rude joy of slop and reverb. The bass sounds like a burp. Hear the guitar’s ragged clang. And Dermody’s vocals, at first a decayed echo of Elton, evoke the sort of frenzied, even senseless, devotion to pop music that “Bennie & the Jets” was supposed to decry but still redeems. Fortunately, there’s enough delay on this recording that the song almost happens twice.
“Bennie & the Jets” is taken from Delivered, an EP due early next year on Fire Records.