Indianapolis, Indiana

Club At The End Of The Street by Elton John

Play Video
In this smoky room
There's a jukebox plays all night
And we can dance real close
Beneath the pulse of a neon light Read full Lyrics
It was the 1970s, and guitar-based groups cowered in each other's shadows, afraid to get too far from the Beatles. And lo, in a ray of light, one brave soul emerged brandishing... a piano!

Well, okay, technically speaking, one can't exactly brandish a piano. It's too heavy. But anyway, the stranger proceeded to stand the rock 'n' roll world on its head by playing rock music on a piano. Also, the crown for piano rock has to be shared equally with Billy Joel; since they got started so close to each other, it's impossible to tell who influenced whom. But anyway, Elton John's brand of pop-rock stood out in a world of copycat bands.

Now some would argue, by the time "Club At The End Of The Street" came out in 1989, that Elton had been grinding out material for two decades and was thus running out of steam. And it is true that this song sounds more like it should have been released a few years earlier, say, about 1983. But Elton had a lot more ground left to cover. He had just come out to the public as being gay, right at a time when, in the United States, it was one of the worst times to be gay. Huge religious pressure from "moral groups" were gearing up for a groundswell to carry them from Reagan, Bush to Bush, Jr.

Elton's club, where the EJs are playing, in the video for "Club At The End Of The StreetElton's club, where the EJs are playing, in the video for "Club At The End Of The Street
Elton John became their scapegoat and he had to deal with that. So this song is deliberately ambiguous. The sex of both the singer and the person the singer is addressing are never related or referred to. Plenty of detail about the cool club and what fun we'll have there; no mention of whether we're boys or girls. And, of course, since the GLBT scene is underground, the location of the fictional club is undisclosed, which would seem to leave no place for our song.

Ah, but there was a video! Fine then, let's use our old fall-back: where was the video filmed? Well, it wasn't. Filmed, that is. It was animated. The club of the title was simply called "Club E.J.," obviously named after the performer.

The song did well, by the way. In spite of the anti-gay lobbying from pressure groups, it charted #28 in the US Hot 100 and #47 on the UK singles chart. It also charted high in France, Germany, Australia, and Ireland, being a very rare feat for a single to do so well internationally. But where is the place of the song?

The answer leads from that video we talked about. The reason that it was animated is because Elton was busy at the time. You can sense this in the video - it is beautiful, but basic, without much thought going into it. Like it was rushed together on last-minute notice.

That is because Elton John was in Indianapolis, Indiana, attending a funeral for one Ryan Wayne White, a noted media figure whose claim to fame was being a hemophiliac who had AIDS and then becoming a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States, after he was expelled from school because of his diagnosis. Elton refused to leave the side of his family after he passed away.

Elton has since been an activist for the cause of AIDS victims, as well as being something of a celebrated figure in the LGBT community for his bravery under fire. So Indianapolis, Indiana, becomes our place for this song, because the events around it mark this as an important turning point in Elton John's life. Far from running out of steam, "Club At The End Of The Street" was the point where he had just begun a new lap.

Pete Trbovich
October 6, 2010
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Comments: 1

  • Rabbitbunny from Outside Baltimore, MarylandThanks Elton for being the tireless activist and dynamite performer you are! You and your Piano Rock! Thanks for cherishing Ryan's memory! He still deserves to be treated with Dignity and Respect even though he\\\'s gone! I know you still miss your Friend! AIDS is a horrible disease! Thank you for playing Club at the End of the Street in his memory and honor!
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