Stinker

Songfacts®:

  • In 1973, Loudon Wainwright III had a hit with "Dead Skunk," a jovial song about a critter who meets his doom on the road. The following year, Elton John released "Stinker," a song about a metaphorical skunk. It finds Elton playing the part of a guy who is proudly rotten, getting high as a heat wave while staying down in the dirt.

    As usual, the music is by Elton John with the lyric written by Bernie Taupin. It was released on the Caribou album, which covers a lot of ground lyrically, with songs about UFOs ("I've Seen The Saucers"), a mass-murderer ("Ticking"), and several other topics.
  • A clue that the song is not about a real skunk can be found in the line, "I hibernate in English turf." Skunks don't hibernate, and they're not found in England.
  • This bluesy song features the Tower of Power horn section which also played on the Caribou track "The Bitch Is Back." Tower of Power leader Emilio Castillo told Songfacts the story: "By this time Greg Adams had come into his own as the Tower of Power horn arranger and 'Stinker' showed off his talents spectacularly. The opening horn riff totally stands out in the mix but does NOT get in the way of Elton and his band. That became a signature for ToP horns: The arrangements never got in the way. We had perfected the 'less is more' concept and that allowed the artists to mix us high up in the mix without taking over the song.

    There's a horn riff just before the second guitar solo where we do unison falls on all four beats going up the chord and then a big fall on the first beat of that solo. That became a sort of Tower horns signature. We've used that riff many times over the years with lots of famous artists and people always know that it's Tower of Power horns.

    We had been playing the Roxy at night during these sessions and Elton's producer, Gus Dudgeon, came to see us and wound up asking our fabulous organist, Chester Thompson, to play on 'Stinker' as well. After that Elton came to see us in London and we wound up using his quote from a Creem magazine article he had done where he stated, 'Tower of Power horns not only play great but they look great as well!' We put that quote in a nice glossy booklet and mailed them out to everyone in the music industry and got a lot of sessions because of that."

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