Album Profile: Reg Strikes Back (1988)


December 5, 2015 by tworoomsejbt

Chart Position:

US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart Peak Position: #16
UK Album Charts Peak Position: #18

US & UK Singles:

I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (US #2/UK #30)
A Word In Spanish (US #18, UK – Did Not Chart)
Town Of Plenty (UK Only #74)

About Reg Strikes Back:

Reg Strikes Back, released in 1988, is the twenty-first official album release for Elton John. It was his self-proclaimed comeback album, and his own way of fighting back against bad press. The “Reg” in Reg Strikes Back refers to John’s birth name, Reginald Kenneth Dwight.

In the US the album was certified gold in August 1988 by the RIAA.

This was the last album that bassist Dee Murray (albeit without bass) appeared on prior to his death in 1992. The tracks “I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That” and “A Word in Spanish” peaked at No. 2 and No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. John brought back record producer Chris Thomas for the album. This is the first studio album to be recorded and released after John’s throat surgery the previous year. The album cover featured costumes and props from John’s collection that he decided to put up for auction.

Track Listing On Original 1988 Release:

All music composed by Elton John and lyrics by Bernie Taupin. Click on the song title to read the lyrics.

Side One
Town of Plenty – 3:40
A Word in Spanish– 4:39
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Part Two – 4:12
I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That – 4:35
Japanese Hands – 4:40

Side Two
Goodbye Marlon Brando– 3:30
The Camera Never Lies – 4:36
Heavy Traffic (John/Taupin/Davey Johnstone) – 3:30
Poor Cow– 3:50
Since God Invented Girls– 4:54

Recording Personnel and Musicians:

Chris Thomas – Producer

Recorded and Engineered by Bill Price, Michael Mason and Paul Wertheimer
Assistant Engineer: Karl Lever
Mixed at AIR Studios (Montserrat)
Mastered by Tim Young

Elton John: keyboards, lead & harmony vocals
Fred Mandel: synthesizers
Davey Johnstone: guitars
Pete Townshend: acoustic guitar on “Town of Plenty”
David Paton: bass guitar
Charlie Morgan: drums
Ray Cooper: tambourine, maracas and timbales on tracks 6-9
Freddie Hubbard: trumpet, flugelhorn on “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Part Two”
Backing vocals (tracks 1-9): Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone & Elton John
Backing vocals on “Since God Invented Girls”: Adrian Baker, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson & Elton John

Recorded at AIR Studios (Montserrat), Westside Studios (London, England), Circle Seven Recording and The Record Plant (Los Angeles, CA)

Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For discography of related album issues, singles, reissues and more, visit David Bodoh’s site: Eltonography

Promotional Items:

Reg Strikes Back ‘Book of Matches’

Reg Strikes Back ‘Cassette Holder’ Stand

Elton John, Reg Strikes Back, US, Promo, Deleted, memorabilia, , PROMO PEN, 276654

Reg Strikes Back ‘Baseball Bat Shaped Pen’

Sheet Music:

Promotional Ads:

Publicity Photos:

RSB Photo

Official Press Kit From MCA Records:
(click on the page to read)

Page 1:


Page 2:


Page 3:


Music Videos and TV Performances To Support The Album

Official Music Videos:

I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

A Word In Spanish

TV Appearances:

US ‘Chicago News Channel WBBM’ 1988: Interview

France (Show Unknown) 1988: Town Of Plenty

UK ‘Royal Albert Hall’ June 6, 1988: I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

US ‘MTV Music Awards’ September 7, 1988: I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

Tokyo ‘Live With Eric Clapton’ 1988: I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That

France (Show Unknown) 1988: A Word In Spanish

Unknown Source: A Word In Spanish

Japan (Show Unknown) 1989: A Word In Spanish

UK ‘Wired’ 1988: Interview and Japanese Hands

UK ‘The Last Resort’ 1988: Interview

Album Reviews:

People (August 15, 1988)

John has always produced enough hooks to keep the Atlantic fishing fleet oversupplied. There are plenty of them on this record— I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That would be an album full of infectiousness for most people—but the commercial tracks are mixed in with some often trenchant social commentary that suggests a love-hate relationship with pop culture. Goodbye Marlon Brando, for instance, reflects about as much disenchantment as anyone could muster: “Say goodbye to gridlock/ Goodbye to Dolly’s chest/ Goodbye to the ozone layer/ If there’s any of it left.” And: “Say goodbye to hair styles/ Goodbye to Heaven’s Gate/ Goodbye to Rocky Five/ Six, seven and eight.”

Town of Plenty includes this line of wishful thinking: “There were many archives/ We had no media/ Only art survived there.” Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two) is an ambivalent pop treatise on New York City, decrying its harder qualities and extolling its art: “Just focus on the brush strokes/ And the bouquets the dancers hold.” Heavy Traffic lambastes drug use; Poor Cow sympathizes with (and takes some digs at) working-class wives and mothers.

It’s not that John has avoided this kind of thing before—you don’t have to go back any further than Candle in the Wind—but this is a particularly intense batch of songs, even when they have sugar coatings. They’re generally inventive variations on pop music, written mostly by John and his longtime collaborator, who now goes by the name of just plain Taupin. (This bit of pomposity makes the former Bernie sound like a discontinued model of a Chrysler Corporation automobile.)

The album title suggests that Reg Dwight has gotten more than a little tired of being Elton John, creating a rare moment of pop-music dialectics: Instead of being concerned with taking Elton too seriously, it may be time to worry about not taking him seriously enough.

Contributors to Review Section of this issue of People record reviews: Ralph Novak, Scott Harrah, Michael Small, David Hiltbrand.

Source: People

‘Reg Strikes Back’ *** Stars (out of 5) (October 6, 1988)
By Harold Goldberg

Okay, folks, here’s the real comeback. After a successful throat operation, Elton John is back with urgent shouting and playful crooning. The forty-one-year-old songster has also discarded his flamboyant image, including the dandy outfits.

A throwback to his inspired pop rock of the Seventies, Reg Strikes Back is cathartic for Elton John. On the melodic “Town of Plenty,” which sports lightly thrashy guitar chords by Pete Townshend, Elton lashes out at the taunting, cynical media as if he were the giant and they were the flies. The housecleaning continues on “Goodbye Marlon Brando,” as Elton sings of ridding himself of everything from New Age music to glasnost. Chris Thomas’s production shines with loud and snotty arrangements that perfectly balance Elton’s hatchet-sharp invectives against pop culture and society.

The transformed Elton can still rock like a kid with something to prove. “Heavy Traffic” is a furtive, purgative rocker full of drugs and sex, with an Uzi-quick honky-tonk piano. Indeed, throughout Reg Strikes Back, Elton John grips gritty rock reality by the throat and never releases that hold.

Source: Rolling Stone

All Music Review
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine

As Elton John’s first album for MCA Records, Reg Strikes Back received a considerable amount of hype upon its release, but the results were considerably less inspired than his early-’80s records for Geffen. It’s always a bad sign when an artist re-records or reinterprets one of his classics, as John does here with “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Pt. 2,” but what really sinks Reg Strikes Back are the colorless tunes.

Apart from the clenched dance-pop of “I Don’t Wanna Go on With You Like That” and the simpy “A Word in Spanish,” none of the melodies on the record are memorable, and even those aren’t particularly strong. Instead of recharging his career, Reg Strikes Back began a dry spell that ran for nearly five years.

Source: All Music Review

Tour Reviews (3):

Miami Arena – Miami, Florida – September 9, 1988

‘New’ Elton John Has His Music On His Mind
By Deborah Wilker

The rhinestone-studded eyeglasses sold for $5,948. His 4-foot-high platform boots commanded a cool $20,000.

But while the sequined artifacts of Elton John`s 20 years in rock `n` roll were auctioned at Sotheby`s this week, a re-imaged Reginald Dwight was 4,500 miles away — quietly tuning up for the big day.

The multi-million-dollar auction would be enough to gnarl the attention span of even the most well-focused artist, but Elton John would have none of that. This week, the paramount event in his life is not the selling of it, but is the launch of an 18-month worldwide tour that begins tonight at the Miami Arena.

Rehearsing at the arena Wednesday, the superstar was fully absorbed in his music — old and new songs from a career that spans 28 albums and almost twice as many hit singles. He swiftly ran through his complete two-hour show between 1 and 3:30 p.m., then retired to his North Miami Beach condominium.

Before the rehearsal came to an end, his five-piece band dug into Saturday Night`s Alright for Fighting along with three other numbers. There were no outbursts or egotistical tantrums. This pre-show day was as smooth as it gets.

Ironically though, this is a tour that might not have happened at all, if not for a last change of heart.

“Elton called me up one day in May,” said Davey Jonhstone, the guitarist and musical director who has been working with John for 17 years. “He just said, ‘Look Davey, we’ll always make albums together, but I’m depressed and I’ve had it, so we’re not touring ever again.`

“You know, Elton can be like that — very unpredictable,” Johnstone said. “You can never guess what he`s thinking or why. You just never know. He changed his mind about the whole thing, and now here we are in Miami getting ready and we’re all quite happy with it.

“It’s sort of the same way he decided about the auction. He just looked around his house one day and he said, ‘You know, this place looks like the British Museum. Let`s clean it out.”

And thus, a new Elton John was born. He gathered all of his costumes and memorabilia, placed the lot in a giant heap, and then had it photographed for posterity. The result is the album cover of Reg Strikes Back, John`s current release, which is titled after his given name, Reginald Dwight.

“You get to a point after 20 years where you become a parody of yourself,” John has said of the auction. “I just didn’t want to go onstage looking ridiculous anymore. My last tour is the last glittery one I’ll do.”

Also missing from the new-look Elton: his enormous grand piano. From now on he’s playing a mid-sized Roland synthesizer.

John has implied that this new, less-gaudy approach is a return to basics, but Johnstone says you never know in which direction the 41-year-old superstar might turn.

“I can’t tell you that from now on he’s always going to go out onstage and perform in a suit and tie,” Johnstone said Wednesday during an interview at the arena. “He might surprise us all again. I have no way of knowing what he’ll wear or how he’ll look.”

However, most every other aspect of the tour is certain. It begins in Miami this weekend, then will stop in Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Chicago next week. The show is expected to last about two hours and 20 minutes. There are 22 songs on the playlist, but Johnstone said if they’re in the mood, the band could play on.

“It`s not a scripted show,” Johnstone said. “We always leave headroom for changes — to maybe play the songs a little bit differently. Elton has even come out for encores and gone into numbers the band hasn’t yet rehearsed.”

Fans probably will be surprised by the million-dollar light show, which has been designed by Paul Dexter, who is usually more closely associated with metal bands such as Motley Crue.

The set also is a bit more high-tech than John has had in the past. Most noteworthy are the immense silver shutters that circle the arena stage. Each will open and close in varying positions throughout the concert. On Wednesday, stagehands were placing the finishing touches on those set pieces, along with several multicolored borders that line each of the many platforms on which John and his musicians will stand.

But more important is the new music, which has returned Elton John to the airwaves with such intensity that tickets for his upcoming concerts have been purchased in record time. The three-hour sellouts of both Miami dates were among the fastest ever for Cellar Door Concerts, presenter of the shows.

Source: Sun Sentinel, September 9, 1988

Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, Maryland – September 13, 1988

Elton John, Cooling Off
By Gregory Himes

Having sold off his old stage costumes last week at an $8.5 million auction, Elton John appeared at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night in a sedate, double-breasted blue suit and normally shaped sunglasses. Unfortunately, the 41-year-old singer’s quest for respectability carried over to his arrangements, in which his old, unpredictable clownishness was replaced by the overblown self-seriousness of art-rock bands such as the Moody Blues or Yes.

John had forsaken his grand piano for a slim electric keyboard that triggered grand piano samples, but the same sampling technology allowed the other two keyboardists to clutter up every song with synthesized string sections and church organs. To make matters worse, this quintessential singles artist devoted far too much of the show to obscure album tracks, lingering over sluggish melodies as if Bernie Taupin’s lyrics had something important to say.

The irrepressible John couldn’t be kept under wraps for long, however. When he rose off his piano bench to pound out the chords and shout out the words to hits like “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting” and “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” the band rocked out with joyful, contagious abandon. Only Davey Johnstone and Fred Mandel remain from John’s old bands; newcomers included Michael Jackson drummer Johnathan Phillip Moffett, Maryland keyboardist Guy Babylon and Washington singer Natalie Jackson.

Opening the show was Wet Wet Wet, a young British octet sporting three horns and a George Michael clone as a lead singer. They expertly replicated the surfaces of American soul without ever penetrating its core.

Source: Washington Post, September 14, 1988

Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York – October 17, 1988

A Subdued Elton John Give Songs Center Stage
By Jon Pareles

Elton John the flashy showman was replaced by Elton John the seasoned singer, tunesmith and keyboardist when he opened five sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

He didn’t wear eye-popping clothes or spectacles and he didn’t jump on a piano; Mr. John played an electronic keyboard. Wearing a blue double-breasted suit, horn-rimmed sunglasses and a black hat (albeit with rhinestones and a feather), Mr. John calmly introduced his songs, sang them with conviction, then strolled the stage enjoying the applause. Now and then, he would doff his hat to reveal white hair. Near the end of his two-and-a-half-hour set, he briefly discarded the piano bench and played on his knees and then from beneath the keyboard. But the show depended on songs, not theatrics.

With a career as long and full of hits as Mr. John’s – he has been on the charts since 1970 – every concert is a retrospective. Monday’s had its share of up-tempo songs, including ”Philadelphia Freedom” and ”The Bitch Is Back.” But it opened with a series of elegiac ballads delivered with pomp and synthesizers, and it revolved around some of Mr. John’s most morose and death-haunted songs: ”60 Years On,” ”The King Must Die,” ”Burn Down the Mission,” ”Candle in the Wind,” ”Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” ”Empty Garden,” ”The Ballad of Danny Bailey,” ”Have Mercy on the Criminal,” ”Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.”

One of the specialties of Mr. John’s main lyricist, Bernie Taupin, is a kind of mournful sentimentality that millions of listeners have taken to heart. Even when he sported more flamboyant show-business trappings, Mr. John would perform those songs with unforced sincerity, and the tone of wounded understanding in his voice saves Mr. Taupin’s most pretentious imagery. Long before the mope-rockers of the 1980’s, Mr. John found that self-pity was bankable. As he sang Monday in ”Sad Songs (Say So Much),” ”Guess there are times when we all need to share a little pain.”

Mr. John was in fine voice on Monday, and he easily tossed off the barrel house and gospel piano chords and hymn like chord progressions that have been a trademark of his songs from the beginning. Whether he is drawing on American gospel and soul or European classical music, everything he plays turns into a well-made pop songs. It was a calm, dignified show, as if the 41-year-old Mr. John has decided to turn himself into a latter-day Hoagy Carmichael. A crowd that sang along on every ballad ratified his choice.

Source: New York Times, October 19, 1988


2 thoughts on “Album Profile: Reg Strikes Back (1988)

  1. mariomarinato says:

    Man, I love those videos! Did Elton, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins tour together by that time? I have already seen some videos of them together on different venues. I think it’s funny when he messes up the lyrics on the June 6 video.

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