ELTON JOHN "NIKITA" (1985)
by Mark Nobes, chief editor
Penned by Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin, and featuring George Michael and Nik Kershaw on backing vocals (Kershaw also played electric guitar), "Nikita" is a melodic love song in which Elton expresses his love for an inaccessible border guard in East Germany. Nikita is a actually a male name in Russian, but for the video a female plays the role.
The song was released as the lead single from Elton John's nineteenth studio album Ice On Fire on 29th October 1985 in the UK and in Feb 1986 in the U.S. The album was released just a week later on 4th Nov.
"Nikita" entered the UK singles chart as a new entry at #41 on 6th October 1985, while Jennifer Rush was enjoying her first week at No.1 with "The Power Of Love". The single climbed relatively quickly up the charts, reaching its peak position of #3 for one week on 3rd November, and, unbelievably, Jennifer Rush was still at No.1 with her power ballad.
The single also reached #3 in Australia and topped the charts in Belgium, Germany, Irelands, Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland. It also reached #7 in the U.S. and #2 in Canada and Norway.
Musicians that played on the single were Elton himself on GS1 piano and synths, Canadian musician Fred Mandel on synths, Scottish bassist and guitarist David Paton on fretless bass and the English drummer Dave Mattacks on drums, who in the same year was the drummer for the British folk rock band Fairport Convention. There were also additional vocals by Davey Johnstone.
The non-album track "The Man Who Never Died" featured on the B-side the UK 7 inch and as track 2 on the 12 inch vinyl single, and was written by Elton himself. In the U.S., the live non-album track "Restless" was included instead. On the 12", the full album version of "Nikita" featured as the A-side, along with a live version of "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" as track 3, and a live version of "I'm Still Standing" as track 4.
The single was released on Elton's own record label The Rocket Record Company which he co-founded in 1972.
The video is directed by Ken Russell, and starts with Elton (wearing a boater hat) sat in the back seat of a stationary, open-top, red-coloured Bentley convertible (with his chauffeur in the driving seat) which Elton had purchased in February 1985. Although Elton later bought personalised number plates for the car, at the time the original plates were still on the car which we see in the video.
Next, he is taking photos of the beautiful Nikita (played by the English actress and model Anya Major) who is watching her group of marching guards. He appears in the same spot again the next day, but dressed in a very different outfit. We then see Elton with Nikita in his dreams, and they appear as a couple on a disco dancefloor, and then as fans at a Watford football match and also playing chess and then in a bowling alley.
At the start, he is taking photos of the beautiful Nikita (played by the English actress and model Anya Major) who is watching her group of marching guards. He appears in the same spot again the next day, but dressed in a very different outfit. We then see Elton with Nikita in his dreams, and they appear as a couple on a disco dancefloor, and then as fans at a Watford football match and also playing chess and then in a bowling alley.
Overall, the video lacks conviction and the acting is rather cheesy. It's blatantly obvious that Elton really wanted to feature a man in the video. Although we all now know that Elton is gay, he didn't fully come out until 1988, only declaring that he was bi-sexual in 1976. In the 80s, with AIDS dominating the headlines and the media stereotyping gay people, coming out was certainly not as straightforward as it is these days, and I suspect he feared alienating his fans and causing a media backlash by featuring a man in the video, so he just hinted at the idea.