Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Tiny Dancer is a nice way to start your Sunday morning. Cameron Crowe did a great job of using this song in the movie Almost Famous…which I recommend highly.

The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, Elton’s writing partner, and were inspired by Taupin’s first trip to America. John and Taupin are from England, and Madman Across The Water was the first album they wrote after spending time in the US. Taupin and John spent a lot of time together in the ’70s; Bernie traveled with the band and would usually stand by the soundboard during shows.

The “blue jean baby, LA Lady, seamstress for the band” could have been Maxine Feibelmann, who was Bernie Taupin’s girlfriend when he wrote the song and who became his first wife in 1971. She traveled with the band on their early tours, often sewing together the costumes and fixing their clothes. Plus, on the Madman Across The Water album, it says, “With love to Maxine” under the credits for this song. Elton John even said at one point that Bernie wrote it about his girlfriend.

The song peaked at #41 in the Billboard 100, #19 in Canada, and #70  in the UK in 1972. I’m surprised it didn’t reach higher in the charts.

 

From Songfact

This song ripened into one of Elton John’s classics, but it didn’t even crack the Top 40 when it was released, peaking at #41 in America in 1972. In the UK and most other territories, it wasn’t released as a single.

Its chart failure has a lot to do with its 6:12 running time, making it too long for many radio stations. Also, Elton was only on the precipice of stardom at the time, his biggest hit being “Your Song” at #8. Part of the song’s enduring popularity owes to how it was never overplayed – when it comes on the radio, it seems special.

The Madman Across The Water album was much more heavily produced than Elton’s first three. It was one of his first songs with a lush string section arranged by Paul Buckmaster, who arranged the stings on many of Elton’s albums as well as songs by The Rolling Stones, Train, and Leonard Cohen. Ron Cornelius, who played guitar on Cohen’s album Songs Of Love And Hate, told us: “Buckmaster is a wonderful string arranger, he’s just one of these guys who can make an orchestra talk. In other words, if the strings aren’t saying something, it ain’t on the record.”

This is featured in the 2000 movie Almost Famous in a scene where a rock band is on tour, at each other’s throats. When “Tiny Dancer” come on in the tour bus, they all start singing along and remember how they’re connected through their love of music.

In 2011, Budweiser used the same “Tiny Dancer changes the mood” theme in a commercial that debuted on the Super Bowl. In the spot, a gruff cowboy starts a sing-a-long to the song when he gets his beer. Peter Stormare, whose film credits include Fargo and The Big Lebowski, played the cowboy.

Elton was pleasantly surprised to learn about this song’s use in Almost Famous, as it didn’t always get a great reaction when he performed it live. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2011, Elton recalled: “Jeffrey Katzenberg called me and said, ‘There’s a scene in this film which is going to make ‘Tiny Dancer’ a hit all over again.’ When I saw it, I said, ‘Oh my God!’ I used to play ‘Tiny Dancer’ in England and it would go down like a lead zeppelin. Cameron resurrected that song.”

After it was used in Almost Famous in 2000, Elton made this a regular part of his setlists. Over the next few years, digital downloading became possible and “Tiny Dancer” was a top seller. In 2005, it earned its first Gold certification for selling 500,000 copies; in 2018, it was certified at 3 million.

Ten different backup vocalists are credited on this track, including bass player Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, both of whom became played on many of Elton’s later recordings, but not on this one: session man David Glover played bass and Roger Pope was on drums. Other backup vocalists include songwriter Roger Cook (“Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” by The Hollies) and the duo Sue & Sunny (Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie).

Additional personnel are:

Davey Johnstone – acoustic guitar
Caleb Quaye – electric guitar
B. J. Cole – steel guitar

Madman Across The Water contains another late bloomer in Elton’s catalog: “Levon,” which with a 5:08 running time, didn’t get much airplay when it was first released, but went on to become one of his standards. Released as a US single ahead of “Tiny Dancer,” it stalled at #24.

Elton performed this as a duet with Tim McGraw to open the 2002 American Music Awards. McGraw was named Favorite Male Country Artist, but left before he could accept the award.

In 2008, DJ Ironik interpolated this for his album No Point In Wasting Tears, in a version featuring the rapper Chipmunk. This reworking, which was titled “Tiny Dancer (Hold Me Closer),” hit #3 in the UK. Elton John is featured in the video. >>

On October 28, 2010, Elton played the BBC Radio show Electric Proms, where during his performance of “Tiny Dancer,” a guy in the audience asked his girlfriend to marry him. The following evening, Elton appeared on the BBC magazine program The One Show, and the now-engaged couple were in the audience. When Elton learned of this, he insisted on them coming up to meet him. >>

When Tony Danza hosted the ESPY Awards on ESPN, Chris Berman gave him the nickname Tony “Tiny” Danza. He hated it. On the show, he claimed he wanted the nickname Tony “Extrava” Danza.

Elton John performed this with Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards in 2018. Four days earlier, Elton announced his farewell tour.

In February 2019, this featured in a trailer for the movie Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as Elton John. Egerton did his own singing in the film, and the trailer proved that he could pull it off. A few days after the trailer was released, Egerton sang it with the real Elton John at Elton’s annual Oscars party. The film was released on May 31, 2019.

Tiny Dancer

Blue jean baby, L.A. Lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand

Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad
Piano man he makes his stand
In the auditorium
Looking on she sings the songs
The words she knows, the tune she hums

But oh how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you and you can hear me
When I say softly, slowly

Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today

Blue jean baby, L.A. Lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she’s in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand

Oh how it feels so real
Lying here with no one near
Only you and you can hear me
When I say softly, slowly

Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

41 thoughts on “Elton John – Tiny Dancer”

  1. I loved this song from the start because of the ‘seamstress for the band’ line. I never realized it wasn’t a big hit at first. It got plenty of FM airplay in my town. I guess it needed to find its place with listeners. I finally watched ‘Almost Famous’ for the first time in March. Can’t believe it took me that long to sit down and watch it. I’d known for years that my friends all liked it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the things I like about that movie is Crowe tried to make it realistic…they filmed in the Riot House before it was remodeled so I’m glad it is on film before it was changed into a modern place.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved that he had Peter Frampton playing a roadie for Humble Pie. The bus scene was the scene that sealed the movie for me with this song…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A great song…I always liked it a lot. I remember hearing both it and “Levon” on radio at times in ’70s, but neither were big hits then. He makes reference to it somewhere in his book, I think in reference to playing it at one time with little reaction and he notes it didn’t become a real standard “hit” until after ‘Almost Famous.” I’m glad it did.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic song that has aged so well. At least it has now got it’s just deserts in terms of the recognition it deserved since it had such a modest reception upon its release. I suppose that is due to it being used in various films since then to familiarize modern audiences with this gem. Kudos to Cameron Crowe in particular who has been instrumental in injecting life into fantastic older music and also headlining rather obscure groups who otherwise deserved greater attention ala Sigur Ros.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, we have discussed that movie at length. I couldn’t agree more about Crowe’s excellent taste in music. It’s still one I have on my list to see again.

        How are you guys doing over there? I’ve heard they have relaxed restictions considerably since we last spoke.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sorry Matt! I lost this one in my comments.
        Yes Georgia opened completely up and that governor is getting blasted…
        Tennessee is opening but leaving it up to counties on what they want to open up. The more rural places like I live…it’s not too bad. I’m not going out yet to sit down in a restaurant.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No worries Max. Is Georgia inundated with COVID19? I’m glad things are still ok where you are.
        I don’t know why they don’t let businesses open up here, but just enforce that people and businesses respect social distancing. Unfortunately our strict quarantine measures isn’t flattening the curve here, bit it also isn’t hit scary numbers.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes Georgia is and the numbers are spiking…It’s so confusing but the spike could be…well it is because of more testing which makes sense.
        My co-worker tested positive for it. I havne’t seen him since March…but he went through 3 days of hell…temp at 103 and he said it was like breathing through cotton.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That’s scary about your co-worker. Wow! He got lucky.
        Yeh, I don’t throw much weight behind the numbers of infections/cases since that real total number is sure to be well above the reported (tested) numbers. The numbers I am more concerned is the fluctuation of daily deaths from the virus. It is sure to remain high and uneven until a vaccine is made available.
        Stay safe friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Well it came back yesterday…he has a fever again but…not as bad this time. So far in Tennessee there are 210 deaths…which is a drop in the bucket compared to others.
        You also Matt.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I was reading about symptoms of the virus yesterday first hand from survivors (or it could have been the day before since I’m losing track) and it seems the virus affects each individual in very different ways. Perhaps the only common denominator is the fever.

        That’s a concern your friend has a fever again. I’ve read many cases where the virus seems to go away only to come back after a week or so but in the second run – wreaks havoc.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I’m losing track also…
        He said now he will be sweaty and hot and the next minute he is under the covers again cold…not the chills anymore but just cold…and his eyes are blurry. It’s so odd.

        Like

      9. No…not that I know of… The problem is most people have some kind of health condition once they hit 40…even if it’s mild.
        Yes he was positive.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I couldn’t agree more at the age of 46 lol You made a good point buddy. That’s for certain.
        I hope he pulls through ok Max. I think looking back as societies, I wish we had taken a more cost-benefit approach to the whole pandemic and not been so hard-ball on the quarantine and just enforced social distancing.

        But this comes from a country with much harsher quarantine conditions than in the US. People here will have no immunity when things open up, if at all. They are already considering closing school for the year. The socialists in abundance here must love this bs.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. We were looser here. We could be out and just use our own judgement. It worked well in most states.
        New York and California had their problems. New York at one time was averaging 800 deaths a day…they are down now. To put it in perspective…in Tennessee they have 237 total since it began. Of course…big difference. We are not as dense and populated.

        We are opening up next week.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Of course for urban centers stricken with cases and deaths they have to be extra vigilant, but that shouldn’t extend ‘for everywhere’ especially for countries whose economies are beyond fragile. Glad to read you opening next week.

        Hey on another topic, I thought you might be interested in this interview I heard last night. I found it captivating. If you find a quiet moment check it out:

        Like

    1. Yes I agree…up until around 76 or so…I like some of his later stuff but not remotely close to his early stuff.

      Like

      1. That is a good starting/ending point. It seemed when he “came out” his music changed. I don’t know if it was self conscious or if the well was running dry.

        Like

  4. Love me some Elton. I agree with John. Early Elton is best, though, some of his 80s stuff is good. As he has aged, he has turned into Michael Buble’. *yawn*

    “Can you feel the love tonight…” 🤮

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL… yes he did. Yea some of his later stuff is alright but nothing beats his early music.

      I miss the outladish costumes…well I do because of the music that went with them.

      Like

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