The Darren Bader video at the booth of his London gallery Sadie Coles HQ starts innocently enough: a computer-animated helicopter flies out of a giant computer-animated mouth, with some string trailing it in a way that makes it look like it could be dental floss. Eventually the helicopter does some sweet spin moves, before meeting up with another helicopter, attached by string. They’re flying in tandem over the ocean, and there’s narration—spoken by a man and a woman, or a robot-man and a robot-woman—about companionship, and duality, and the importance of being partners.
You’d think this was just a platitude about friendship in general, but no, it’s talking about one friendship in particular, one that’s had its ups and downs—the friendship of Elton John and Billy Joel. About a minute into the three-minute video, it cuts to footage of Sir Elton banging away at the piano, but with the sound off, just the image of him dressed in elaborate white bejeweled frocks, doing his thing.
“There’s a man who unlike his father likes making magic,” the dual narrators say dryly, like a prayer. “His closest companion his piano, on which he writes his legend.”
And then, after that, there’s some video footage of the Piano Man himself, also banging away at the ivories, also mute.
“There’s a man who unlike his father likes making magic,” the dual narrators say again. “His closest companion his piano, on which he writes his legend.”
Following this is footage of the two of them together, on one of their Face to Face tours. The last of these outings was cut short because of feuding between the two titans of piano rock.
“At the end of the day, he’s coasting,” John told Rolling Stone in 2011.”I always say, ‘Billy, can’t you write another song?’ It’s either fear or laziness. It upsets me. Billy’s a conundrum. We’ve had so many cancelled tours because of illnesses and various other things, alcoholism.”
“He’s going to hate me for this, but every time he goes to rehab they’ve been light,” John added. “When I went to rehab, I had to clean the floors. He goes to rehab where they have TVs.”
(Joel, for his part, claims that they made up, but he’s not above getting a little jab in to Elton every now and then. “We’d have these friendly go-rounds where he’d say, ‘Why don’t you put out more albums?’ And I’d say, ‘Why don’t you put out less?'” he told Entertainment Weekly.)
Anyway, in Bader’s version of the events, the end of the story is quite different: Elton John and Billy Joel had disappeared in the ocean somewhere, only to be discovered on two floating platforms a few feet from each other, each at their pianos singing their songs. When the video gets to this kind of incredible computer-animated scene, there’s also Sting floating in a glass bubble in between them. Sting is, appropriately, a message in a bottle.
Let’s hope that Bader puts this video on Facebook in August, like he did with his video from Art Basel last year.