Elton John & Millie Jackson – Act of war
We're living on the front line you and me
Fighting on this battleground of misery
Oh go ahead bring on your artillery
And we'll make this an act of war
#ActOfWar #EltonJohn #MillieJackson
In June 1985 a song was released that was quite out of the ordinary. Not a bad song, even if it was certainly not one of the most memorable of the decade, but a song in which everything was a bit strange. Its title recalled the war, but in reality it spoke of the conflicts within a turbulent love story. However, there were several references to the politics of that time, which in recent times is unfortunately becoming topical again.
The phone next to the red button to launch the missiles, the president eating jellies, adored by Ronald Reagan, while introducing the singers, the countdown, the many word-related lyrics: in a sense it could also be considered an anti-militaristic song, like 99 Luftballons by Nena or State of the Nation by Industry, but basically the war we were talking about was a war of feelings.
The strangest thing was perhaps the couple singing this song. Elton John certainly needed no introduction, but he was in a phase of his career in which he was trying to approach and enter the world of pop, even at the edge of rock, given the energy of this song written by his musical alter ego Bernie Taupin. Perhaps he was trying to enter the hearts of a new generation, a bit like David Bowie did with Let’s Dance and China Girl, but he will not succeed so much with this song, as with the beautiful Nikita that will be released about a month later.
Together with Elton we find another character quite new to the world of pop music. Millie Jackson is a well-known American singer, already in those days, in the landscape of soul and blues, but absolutely foreign to the world of pop. Actually, the producers’ first choice to interpret this song with Elton John was Tina Turner, who, however, was not convinced by the project and declined the invitation.
In fact, we get the feeling that Millie Jackson is inspired a little by Tina Turner, in her character’s determination, even in her haircut, in her vocal setting. From the video we see that Millie is a beautiful woman who has just turned forty, full of energy and with a glamorous image that you could only see in the 80s. Around Millie and Elton, dancers play sensual, fast and complex choreographies like the universe of couples’ feelings. There is also a famous name of the 80s playing guitars in this song: Nik Kershaw, the author of Wouldn’t it be good and many other great hits.
Perhaps there were too many attempts all together, perhaps the song was not excellent, but it is a fact that in England it reached an intermediate position in the charts, and outside England it was practically not considered. In the United States, where Millie Jackson was considering a transition to the world of pop, it went more or less ignored.
Millie, however, took it with style. In an interview she commented that to make your way into the world of pop you need a powerful production company, while she had always done everything by herself without agents, which in any case was enough in the world of soul. From this experience she deduced that it was evidently not the time for her to switch to pop, and she put aside the idea and went back to her world of blues and soul. It must be said she is also known for her sometimes downright trashy covers of her albums, and maybe even that didn’t work in her favor, paired with a character like Elton John.
In fact, the experiment did not bring the desired results, and with this song Millie Jackson’s experience in the world of pop started and ended. Elton John instead had other opportunities, as mentioned, to face this world, but always from a very detached and iconic point of view like his character.