The Bitch Is Back

Album: Caribou (1974)
Charted: 15 4

Songfacts®:

  • Elton is the "Bitch." One day when he was in a foul mood, complaining about anything and everything, Bernie Taupin's wife, Maxine, saw him and said "Uh-Oh, the bitch is back." Bernie Taupin, who was Elton's lyricist, thought it was a great phrase. He wrote lyrics around it and Elton put it to music.
  • This was the first hit song with the word "bitch" in the title, which was rather risqué in 1974. Many radio stations refused to play it when it was released, but when it became a hit, most relented and added it to their playlists. A few stations tried editing out the word "bitch," but it appears 42 times in the song and the censured versions sounded ludicrous.

    The Rolling Stones did release a song called "Bitch" on their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, but didn't issue it as a single. Rod Stewart had a minor hit in 1979 with "Ain't Love A Bitch," but the '80s were mostly bitch-free. In the '90s though, the word showed up in a number of song titles, most notably "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks. Hip-hop acts used it liberally, with Insane Clown Posse, Too Short and Missy Elliott all charting with songs with "bitch" in the title.
  • Elton is fully aware of his temperament and embraced this song, calling it "kind of my theme song." In the 2019 film Rocketman, which is based on his life, "The Bitch Is Back" is the first song, sung by Taron Egerton as Elton.
  • Tower of Power supplied the horns. They are a popular R&B group who did very well in the early '70s with hits like "You're Still A Young Man" and "So Very Hard To Go." Their horn section has played on albums by Santana, Little Feat, Rod Stewart, America, Huey Lewis and the News, and many others. Founding member Emilio Castillo told Songfacts: "This is what we do, it's like sweat. It's what we do naturally and the thing that makes us so special. There aren't a lot of horn sections in the world, certainly not a lot of horn sections that have been together doing it as long as we have, that play a signature style like we do. We have a definite style to the way we approach section work, we clip our notes, we get very tight, we've got to have this ESP going between the guys as far as how to interpret certain horn licks."

    Castillo, though, prefers another track on the album his horn section played on: "Stinker."
  • Elton recorded the album in the mountains of Colorado at the Caribou studios owned by Jim Guercio, who was famous for his work with the bands Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. The album was named after the studio after Elton nixed his idea of a Frank Sinatra parody called "Ol' Pink Eyes Is Back."
  • The Caribou album was written and recorded in January 1974 in a very tight window because Elton and his band had to leave for a tour. They had just 10 days to work on it before the shipping off to Japan for their first show on February 1. While the band toured, the album was mixed in Los Angeles. It was released in May and went to #1 in America in July, the fourth in a run of six chart-toppers.

    "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" was the first single from the album, climbing to #2 in the US in July; "The Bitch Is Back" was issued next; it went to #4 in November.
  • There are some famous guests on this song: Dusty Springfield sings backing vocals on the studio version, and a live version from Elton's 1974 concert at Madison Square Garden features John Lennon on tambourine.
  • When Hillary Clinton went to bookstores to promote her autobiography in 2003, a conservative group called The Free Republic staged "audio protests" by playing this and other unflattering songs at her signings.
  • Elton John performed this with Rihanna at the third annual Fashion Rocks Concert in 2006. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Lita Ford covered this and incorporated it into the title of her 2013 live album The Bitch is Back... Live. Turning the song into a guitar-rocker with help from her producer Gary Hoey, Lita felt the song was appropriate to her, as she had returned to the music industry after taking time off to raise her two children.
  • Two nights after performing "Tiny Dancer" with Elton at the Grammy Awards in 2018, Miley Cyrus sang this at the Madison Square Garden concert Elton John: I'm Still Standing, which featured several other performers doing Elton's songs as well as performances by the man himself. It aired on CBS April 10.

Comments: 16

  • John from Van Buren, ArI must say that this has to be one of the best websites on the www. Jake
  • Dean from Birmingham, AlI remember Joan Rivers and Elton doing this on her new show in 1986. It's always been one of my favorites - especially when played very loud in the car!
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThe line "Eat Meat on Fridays" referrs to the then-recent Papal decree ending "meatless Fridays" for the world's Roman Catholics. It was Bernie's comment on how the world was changing.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaThe best song on "Caribou" and perhaps the only one worth remembering. Even Elton's producer, Gus Dudgeon, commented that he thought this was the first album on which Elton wasn't giving his all. One of the many awful album tracks on "Caribou" is called "Stinker," and that pretty much sums up the album.
  • May from Marion Center, PaThis is the song my mom chose for my brother. We like to play it when he comes home.
  • Mark from Mchenry, IlElton John was huge in the 70's and then seemed to fall off the face of the earth for quite a few years. I always thought this album was the beginning of that fall. "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player" and "Goodbye, Yellowbrick Road" had been such excellent albums that I rushed right out to buy "Caribou" when it came out. I thought it was about the worst album I had ever heard. I kept listening to it, hoping it would grow on me, but it never did. I was never a big fan of this song, either. It would be interesting to listen to the album today and see if it sounds any better now than it did then.
  • Bryan from New York, NyThe song says the word 'bitch' forty-two times.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScSong has a great beat too!
  • Leya Qwest from Anchorage, AkIn 1986, comedianne Joan Rivers hosted her own evening talk show, The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, on the then-fledgling Fox Television Network, one of the launch shows for the new network. The show's premier included Joan, Elton himself and a couple of other celebrities all singing TBIB together as a welcome for the new television undertaking.
  • Bill from Southeastern Part Of, FlI like how this song starts with a few seconds of scratchy sound. And because it is the first song on the Caribou album, I wonder if people who bought it on vinyl thought they had a defective record.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaI sing this whenever my sister comes home.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyDusty Springfield sang backing vocals on this song. 25 years later, Elton John sang at her funeral.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI think the song is a great song, and it does seem to describe elton John's personality sometimes. I mea, you know how he can have hissy fits over the stupidest things. I think it's a great and funny song, and it's another one of those songs that you can rock out to.
  • Mike from Seattle, WaTina Turner covered this one on the Two Rooms album, which is absolutely perfect. She did change the lyrics, however - not singing "high in the evening sniffing pots of glue", but "high just thinkin' bout the things I do".
  • Christina from Ramstein, GermanyThis is one of my favorite songs, if only for the fact that it cracks me up every time I hear it!
  • Scott Baddwin from Edmonton, Englandthis sounded great when he played this on the Sharon Osbourne show.
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