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This week on the music beat

Elton John and George Clinton made news the week of April 10, 1998

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Dwight Good ‘un

Elton John fans will get a chance to peek into his closet on April 28 when Purple Pyramid Records releases Chart Busters Go Pop: 16 Legendary Covers From 1969-70 as Sung by Elton John. The album (which includes versions of late-’60s smashes like Badfinger’s ”Come and Get It”) collects material that a then-unknown John recorded for a series of low-budget British LPs featuring no-name studio musicians cranking out Xeroxes of the day’s hits. Although the L.A.-based Purple Pyramid specializes in reissuing classic- and prog-rock, general manager Brian McNelis says the chance to put out a ”new” John album was irresistible, especially since it came about through serendipity: ”My boss told me to track down some Deep Purple records that we could release in the States. In the course of my search, I uncovered this English album called Reg Dwight’s Piano Goes Pop [Dwight is John’s given name], and I learned it was available for licensing. I told my boss about it, and he said, ‘That’s nice, but what about the Purple [albums]?”’ The label received permission to release the album under the star’s name and, as per an agreement with John’s management, will donate a portion of the album’s proceeds to charity.

Mother ship connection

Unless we blinked, we didn’t notice any black people in James Cameron’s mega-Oscar-winning film Titanic, but that didn’t stop funk-meister George Clinton from injecting a bit of soul — and an African-American presence — into the mythology surrounding the big ship’s tragedy. Clinton’s new single, ”Get Yo’ Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me,” tells the tale of Shine, a black coal stoker who swims away from the sinking Titanic as he scoffs at the rich whites who plead with him to save their lives (”Your money ain’t nothin’/Down here in the sea/Get yo’ ass in the water and swim like me”). The song will no doubt draw smiles from blacks who know the story of Shine from a profane folk rhyme that’s circulated in the African-American community for decades. ”We had to clean it up, because it’s pretty salacious,” says coproducer Bill Laswell. As to the historical authenticity of Shine: ”I have no idea if there really was a black coal shoveler on board the Titanic. Maybe this [song] will trigger a recall of the movie.” Now, that would be a titanic feat.