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Arts and Entertainment

Elton John's New 'Tiny Dancer' Video Brings Us Through The Streets Of L.A.

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What's L.A. like to out-of-towners? I imagine the perception is shaped by reality shows, which largely hold court on Melrose Avenue and inside the caverns of polished and weirdly empty restaurants.

There was a time, though, when L.A. was popularized as a kind of urban frontier town where people were short on social graces, but high on dialogue and personality. Think: Repo Man or A Woman Under the Influence. This version of Los Angeles—the rough and tumble one—is brought to the forefront in a new music video for "Tiny Dancer," the Elton John classic that shamelessly tugs at our heartstrings with its sweeping chorus.

The video was shot by filmmaker Max Weiland, and is presented through "Elton John - The Cut," a YouTube venture in which filmmakers re-imagine (visually) some of the Rocket Man's most popular tracks.

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The first impression we get from "Tiny Dancer" is how gorgeously shot it is—seriously, with the right lighting, an L.A. liquor store can be a thing of beauty. The second impression is that the video avoids all the predictable landmarks, passing over Angels Flight and the Griffith Observatory (we're looking at you, La La Land). Instead, we get a more ground-level view of Los Angeles as we drift from the coast, to Hollywood Boulevard, to Boyle Heights. Circus Liquor's iconic sign in North Hollywood makes an appearance. And a keen eye will spot the Family Arcade by Los Angeles Community College, and the Jim's Burgers in Boyle Heights. It's perhaps the cameo of Mariachi Plaza, however, that serves as the most climactic shot in the video.

As expected, the whole affair is quite maudlin. There's a current of slice-of-life running through the video, showing a collage of random people going about their lives. The characters range from the almost-a-trope (like a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, a street preacher, a valet attendant who goes on a joy ride) to the inexplicable (like a guy with a pet snake in his RV, and a young girl who drives out to the hills L.A. River with an urn in tow). Some might find it melodramatic, but the resulting atmosphere is a perfect avatar for the song.

As for what "tiny dancer" actually refers to, songwriter Bernie Taupin (who wrote the lyrics while John did the music) said it was about, uh, women. “We came to California in the fall of 1970 and it seemed like sunshine just radiated from the populace,” Taupin told American Songwriter. “I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met, especially at the clothes stores and restaurants and bars all up and down the Sunset Strip. They were these free spirits, sexy, all hip-huggers and lacy blouses, very ethereal the way they moved.”

[Update: 5:30 p.m.]

As one commenter has noted, it's none other than Marilyn Manson who plays Mr. Snake Guy. We're still trying to substantiate a claim that Jerry Hall is in here too (we think she shows up at 04:28).

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