Elton John – Daniel

This is one of the first Elton John songs I remember hearing. It’s a great song that I wore out when I got his first greatest hits. The song was written by Bernie Taupin and Elton John.

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100 in 1973. The song was off of the album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player which peaked at #1.

When Elton wrote the music for this song, he chopped off the last verse because he thought the song was already too long. The deleted verse explained that “Daniel” was a Vietnam vet who returned home to the farm after the war, couldn’t find peace, and decided to leave America and go to Spain. With the last verse chopped off, it became a fairly vague story of two brothers who part ways, although Bernie Taupin says that losing the verse wasn’t a big deal.

Bernie Taupin: “We had that whole thing about the missing verse that everybody seems to believe explained the true meaning of the song. I think that’s just an urban legend. It didn’t really explain anything. Sure, it was cut out. But that used to happen all the time with our songs. I would often overwrite, and Elton felt it necessary to edit somewhat. But believe me, it didn’t say anything that the rest of the song didn’t say.”

 

From Songfacts

The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, Elton’s writing partner. He explained the inspiration on his web site: “I’d seen this article in Time magazine on the Tet Offensive. And there was a sidebar next to it with a story about how many of the soldiers that were coming back from ‘Nam were these simple sort of down home country guys who were generally embarrassed by both the adulation and, depending on what part of the country you came from, the animosity that they were greeted by. For the most part, they just wanted to get back to a normal life, but found it hard, what with all the looky loos and the monkeys of war that they carried on their backs.

I just took it from there and wrote it from a younger brother’s perspective; made him disabled and wanting to get away. I made it Spain, basically, because it rhymes with plane.”

This was written and recorded the same day at the the Chateau d’Herouville in France (the “Honky Chateau”), where Elton and his team retreated to make the album. Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics one morning at the recording studio and brought them downstairs to Elton, who put music to it and recorded it with the band that day, doing just three takes.

Stowing away to France was Elton’s way of entering a creative environment free from distractions – there was no entourage and no phones. The Chateau could even keep the Black Knight at bay, as it was surrounded by a moat.

The result was part a very productive songwriting period for Taupin and John, who composed 12 songs over a four-day period, including “Daniel.”

Elton called this song “a calypso-type number with Everley Brothers-type harmonies.”

The record company didn’t want to release this as a single because they thought it was too long and somber to be a hit. Elton had other ideas, and insisted they release it as a single before the album came out. The record company did, but with very little promotion. It became a hit anyway.

According to Elton John: The Definitive Biography, here’s how the album got its title: While in Los Angeles, Elton was introduced to the legendary comedian Groucho Marx. They hit it off, but Groucho was always giving Elton a hard time about his name, insisting that he must have it backwards and really be John Elton. After Groucho refused to lay off the name thing at a party, Elton threw up his hands and said jokingly: “Don’t shoot me, I’m just the piano player.”

Bernie Taupin has told a different story, claiming that he found the phrase on a plaque at an American junk shop.

The engineer on the album, Ken Scott, played an ARP synthesizer on this track.

Bernie Taupin called this “the most misinterpreted song we’ve ever written,” saying he’s heard it called a gay anthem and a song about a family dispute.

Daniel

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

They say Spain is pretty, though I’ve never been
Well Daniel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
Oh and he should know, he’s been there enough
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much

Oh oh, Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?
Your eyes have died, but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

Oh oh, Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?
Your eyes have died, but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
Oh God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Elton John – Daniel”

  1. A great song & representative of how talented he was…quite different than ‘Crocodile Rock’ from same album or ‘Honky Cat’ before or ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ right after, but all great in their own ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Not sure what I was singing when I was singing along to this song but it had nothing to do with Spain. lol. This song is a tough one to dance to (note the people trying to dance in the video.) I actually love this song even though I’m cracking on it. I bet Groucho could be a mean drunk. The flute is a nice accompaniment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was always one of my favorite songs by Elton…never knew what the heck it was about…

      Oh Groucho was awesome. I just read a story about Groucho’s round bed. He gave it to Alice Cooper and Alice ended up giving it to Paul McCartney in the 70s…He still has it in his Geo dome in London.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We almost bought two…they had been there since the 70s and they were connected by a long hall…really cool and around 2000 sq ft all together…but someone had put in a bid in for them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really like either of the Don’t Shoot Me Singles compared to most of Elton John’s peak stuff – Crocodile Rock is kind of a novelty and this one’s too soft for my liking. Plus I know a man who was named after this song, and he cheated on his partner something chronic.

    Liked by 1 person

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