Talking Old Soldiers
Tumbleweed Connection
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Studio Solo Piano Version
Key: Cm Structure: A-A-B-A

Elton John doesn’t write much in the minor keys but when he does, the results are often excellent. This one is an all around treat, most notably for the evocative lyrics and Elton's heart wrenching vocal. It has definitely achieved cult status among hardcore fans and the occasional live performances of it are eagerly anticipated. That makes it a perfect item on the Café menu.

The simple solo piano accompaniment is a very welcome change of pace even within the more stripped down approach to arrangements in Tumbleweed. Rather than arpeggiating this song like he does so many of his (particularly early) ballads, he plays chords on the beat. With the more subdued accompaniment, Elton has room to throw in lots of improvised blues riffs (keyboardists just love C blues riffs).

Talking is all about expression and feel. A variety of means are used to accomplish this within the confines of the simple Cm-G-Ab harmonic structure. The tempo is rubato, slowing and speeding up throughout the song. Some bars are extended by an extra couple of beats to draw out a passage. The chord voicings vary from soft 3-note chords in the middle register to fortissimo 7-note chords across a 4-octave register span. Elton’s singing also ranges from soft to ferocious with lots of vocal ornamentals thrown in to the basic melody.

As with many of Bernie's great lyrics, he seems to be describing a scene or a picture that exists in his mind. Frequently his pictures are filled with interesting characters and some kind of story that unfolds before you. Talking is another one of these vignettes. Combined with Elton's melody, it's a beautiful and melancholy view of the world from one tired old soldier.