Bad Blood by Neil Sedaka (Rocket, 1975)

One of the things that I like about Elton John is that he is a true lover of music. He grew up as a collector of 45s & LPs and is as big a music fan as any other musician out there. So when he had the opportunity to start his own record label in the early 70s, rather than search for new artists to make from, he used it to boost the careers of two singers from his childhood: Cliff Richard & Neil Sedaka.

Neil had been recording albums in England at Strawberry Studios with a pre-10cc as his back up band. In fact, his 1973 original recording of Love Will Keep Us Together was as if Neil was fronting 10cc. When Elton heard that Neil was having trouble getting a record company deal to release new material in the States, he signed him to his new label, Rocket Records and released Sedaka’s Back, a compilation of his last 3 albums, Solitaire, The Tra-La Days Are Over and Laughter In The Rain. After the title track of the latter’s album became #1 in early 1975 along with the Captain & Tenille’s version of Love Will Keep Us Together, Neil had the new challenge of producing a follow-up. That’s when things got nasty.

Neil was very appreciative for his new career revival thanks in part to Elton John. But after 2 decades of singing sweet love songs, Neil decided to mix it up. After years of writing with Howard Greenfield, he found a new songwriting partner, Phil Cody and wrote a song about helping a friend get over the break-up of a girlfriend over a Bo-Diddley shuffle, telling his pal she’s an evil child and quite frankly, a bitch. This, from the guy who loved his calendar girl and told us that breaking up was hard to do. Now it seemed Neil had no trouble cutting the cord. Coulda been me, but it was you.

Elton, who sang back-up on the chorus, already told us the bitch is back and took it up to #4. But Neil took his bitch song up to #1 for 3 weeks. The next time we heard someone get called a bitch that high up on the pop charts, Meredith Brooks was calling herself one almost 22 years later. I don’t mean to dwell on this, but Top 40 radio has always had such a Puritanical view when it came to lyrics and I love how this one kinda snuck by them. Maybe it was the goofy doo-ron doo-ron bridge and flute solo that made this kiss-off easy to swallow.

The main thing is that there isn’t a song in his Neil’s catalog that comes close to this and it’s one of my favorites. Of course, I didn’t know what bitch meant when I was 5 but I knew I shouldn’t say that word. So I listened to that song just to hear Neil sing it so I could giggle. When my aunt explained that a female dog was a bitch that just made me laugh harder.

One more thing: Is the only good thing about bad blood – letting it slide? What the hell does that even mean?

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  1. Ric Dube

     /  January 5, 2012

    Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” was a #1 in ’77 and calls the girl a bitch, though to your point, I guess not as prominently as in these other songs. Only in the last verse is the word directed at her, per se. In 1975, Neil sang it in acrimony, Hall and Oates sang it in 1977 with ironic detachment, and in 1997, Meredith Brooks sang it in self-righteous indignation. The songs get progressively worse.

  2. “Elton, I really appreciate all the help you’ve given me this past year, and I thought you might like to sing backup on this new song I wrote.”

    “Uh, gee, Neil, singing backup really isn’t my thing, so…”

    “But I think it’s a #1 hit! I’m sure you’d do a great job on it.”

    “Yeah, still, no, I don’t think so.”

    “It’s a song about I girl who’s a real bitch–

    “I’M ON MY WAY!!!”

  3. W.B.

     /  March 15, 2021

    I’ll take this “Bad Blood” over the one done decades later by Taylor Swift, thank you very much . . . but yeah, compared to the rest of his oeuvre, this was the closest Neil ever got to being “edgy.”

    But it’s worth noting that in spite of Elton backing Sedaka up here, this “Bad Blood” never made the UK charts, though his British label Polydor did release it as a single . . .

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