Elton John – Levon

Great song by Elton that I heard early on in my life.

This was the first US single from Madman Across The Water, Levon runs 5:22 minutes and Elton would not let his record company cut it down for radio play. As a result many radio stations ignored it. The song didn’t chart high but proved to be an enduring song, earning airplay on classic rock and adult contemporary radio for decades to come.

The song peaked at #24 in the Billboard 100 and #6 in Canada in 1971.

The next single from the album was Tiny Dancer, which is even longer, at 6:12. Like Levon, that one fared poorly on the chart (#41) but… also became a classic. Neither song was issued as a single in the UK.

I always wondered if the song had anything to do with Levon Helm, but Bernie Taupin says that he simply made the name up because he likes it, and the song has nothing to do with Helm.

From Songfacts

In Susan Black’s book Elton John in His Own Words, Elton says of “Levon”: “It”s about a guy who just gets bored doing the same thing. It’s just somebody who gets bored with blowing up balloons and he just wants to get away from it but he can’t because it’s the family ritual.”

When Rolling Stone asked Taupin about the song in 2013, he insisted that he has no idea what he intended as the meaning. “It was a free-form writing,” he said. “It was just lines that came out that were interesting.

This is a great example of Taupin’s intricate, nuanced writing style that leads to many different interpretations. For instance, the “cartoon balloons” that Levon blows up all day could be balloons with cartoon characters printed on them, or perhaps something more figurative, like thought bubbles that appear in comic strips, indicating the thoughts that are constantly rising out of his consciousness.

Taupin and John made a great team because Elton could interpret his lyrics very well, giving life to the characters in the songs with a curious ambiguity that encouraged further listens. In many cases, Elton didn’t know what Taupin had in mind when he wrote the lyrics – when asked he would often reply, “you’ll have to ask Bernie.”

The actual New York Times page 1 headline that included the phrase “God Is Dead” is dated March 24, 1968; the full headline read, “‘God Is Dead’ Doctrine Losing Ground to ‘Theology of Hope’.”

The phrase also appeared in a major (page 3) article on January 7, 1970. Smaller pieces dated January and April 1966 that feature the phrase in their headings can also be found. None were on Christmas Day, but the January ones are close! 

Jon Bon Jovi covered this for the tribute album Two Rooms. Elton played piano on some of Bon Jovi’s recordings. 

Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish became parents to a son born on Christmas Day 2010 to a surrogate mother in California. They named him Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, which is how the baby boy ended up in this Songfact. It is assumed the name “Levon” was chosen because of the song’s line, “He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day.”

Levon

Levon wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus ’cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town

Levon, Levon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spends his days counting
In a garage by the motorway

He was born a pauper
To a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times
Said God is dead and the war’s begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon

Levon’s sells cartoon balloons in town
His family business thrives
Jesus blows up balloons all day
Sits on the porch swing watching them fly
And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
Leave Levon far behind
Take a balloon and go sailing,
While Levon, Levon slowly dies

He was born a pauper
To a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times
Said God is dead and the war’s begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan, woo
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan, woo
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
He shall be Levon

Elton John – Rocket Man

Great single by Elton John released in 1972. It was off of his album Honky Château. Like Bennie and the Jets there are some words that I had no clue in what he was singing. The most commonly misheard lyric in this song is “Rocket Man, burning out his fuse up here alone.” I would mumble words through that until I caught a word somewhere down the line.

The inspiration for Bernie Taupin’s lyrics was the short story The Rocket Man, written by Ray Bradbury. The sci-fi author’s tale is told from the perspective of a child, whose astronaut father has mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. It was published as part of the anthology The Illustrated Man in 1951.

This was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who worked with David Bowie on his 1969 song “Space Oddity.” Both songs have similar subject matter. Elton practically owned the early seventies.  Elton had 9 No. 1 Hits, 7 Top 10 Hits, and 67 Songs in the Billboard 100 so far.

The song peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100, #8 in Canada, and #2 in the UK in 1972. 

From Songfacts

Space exploration was big in 1972; the song came out around the time of the Apollo 16 mission, which sent men to the moon for the fifth time.

Bradbury’s story was the basis for another song called “Rocket Man,” which was released by the folk group Pearls Before Swine (fronted by Tom Rapp) in 1970. Taupin says that song gave him the idea for his own “Rocket Man” (“It’s common knowledge that songwriters are great thieves, and this is a perfect example,” he said). In the Pearls Before Swine song, a child can no longer look at the stars after his astronaut father perishes in space.

The opening lyrics came to Bernie Taupin while he was driving near his parents’ house in Lincolnshire, England. Taupin has said that he has to write his ideas down as soon as they show up in his head, or they could disappear, so he drove though some back roads as fast as he could to get to the house where he could write down his thought: “She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour, 9 a.m., and I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.”

From there he came up with the song about a man who is sent to live in space as part of a scientific experiment.

The song can be interpreted as a symbol of how rock stars are isolated from their friends, family and from the real world by those with power in the music industry. Some lyric analysis as part of the rock star isolation theory:

“I’m burning out his fuse up here alone” – Rocketing through space on stage.

“Higher than a kite” – Feeling outside the box called normal.

“Mars” – “The place he is when he’s high; don’t need to be raising children when you’re an addict. It’s a “cold” place, being an addict and larger than life when you want to be “Normal” and a “Rocketman” at the same time.

Around the 2:20 mark, some synthesizer comes into the mix, accentuating the space motif. Elton didn’t dabble in synths, so a studio engineer named Dave Hentschel played it. Hentschel operated an ARP 2500 synthesizer at Trident Studios in London, where producer Gus Dudgeon did overdubs and mixing for the album. When Dudgeon found out they had the synth, which was introduced in 1971, he had Hentschel play it and ended up using it in the final mix.

Hentschel got the call again on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album when Dudgeon had him create the opening section to “Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding” on the ARP. In the 1977 movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, an ARP 2500 plays the notes that summon the aliens.

When Elton played the Soviet Union in 1979, this was listed on the program as “Cosmonaut.”

This was Elton’s biggest hit to that point, outcharting his first Top 10 entry, “Your Song.” It had a huge impact on his psyche, as it gave him the confidence to know that he could sustain his career in music.

Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens’ nickname was “The Rocket,” which led to lots of highlight videos of him pitching in slow motion with this song playing in the background. He earned the nickname because of his outstanding fastball, but later came under scrutiny when the league learned that his rocket fuel may have been steroids. Clemens denied the allegations and was never convicted of steroid use.

Kate Bush covered this in 1991 for an Elton John tribute album called Two Rooms (a reference to John and Taupin writing separately). Her version hit #12 in the UK.

Bush told NME that this is one of her favourite songs of all time. “I remember buying this when it came out as a single by Elton John,” she said. “I couldn’t stop playing it – I loved it so much. Most artists in the mid seventies played guitar but Elton played piano and I dreamed of being able to play like him.”

When years Elton and Bernie Taupin asked Bush to record one of their songs for Two Rooms, she chose “Rocket Man.” They gave her complete creative control which was both exciting and a bit daunting for the singer. “I wanted to make it different from the original and thought it could be fun to turn it into a reggae version,” she said. “It meant a great deal to me that they chose it to be the first single release from the album.”

William Shatner performed a spoken-word version of this song at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards, for which he was the host. Bernie Taupin did the introduction. 

At a show in Anaheim, California on August 22, 1998, Jim Carrey joined Elton for a duet of this song. Carey gave a real performance before sitting at the piano and bashing his head into the keys. 

On an episode of the television show Family Guy, Stewie does a spoken version of this song. 

This was used in a 2017 commercial for Samsung’s Gear VR where an ostrich learns to fly after using the flight simulator on the device.

Speaking at the United Nations on September 19, 2017, American president Donald Trump excoriated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referring to him as “Rocket Man” because of his missile program. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself,” Trump declared. This song immediately began trending.

This wasn’t the first time the phrase was used in this context: The Economist put Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, on the cover of their July 8, 2006 issue with the headline “Rocket Man.”

American country group Little Big Town covered the song for the 2018 Elton John tribute album Restoration. Their version features sounds from NASA’s Mission Juno. The Juno project explored the planet Jupiter unlocking some of the secrets of the planet and the sounds from Juno’s Waves radio instrument were weaved throughout Little Big Town’s harmonies.

“One of the main reasons why we chose ‘Rocket Man’ was because we were so intrigued by not just, of course, Elton John, but by using the sounds from the Juno project so we had all these Jupiter noises,” said Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild.

Rocket Man

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time

John Lennon – Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

Heard this before I knew who John Lennon was and it is a good song…just not one of his best songs to me. It was his first solo number-one single. Many times the charts are about timing and it was the right time for this one to hit. In the video, you can see John walking around New York interacting with different people

Elton John sang backing vocals and also played piano on this track. He had a bet with Lennon that “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” song would become a #1 hit. If it did Lennon would have to appear in concert with Elton. Lennon never thought it would be a #1 hit.

When it did reach number 1, Lennon made good on the wager by making a guest appearance at an Elton John concert on Thanksgiving night 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It turned out to be Lennon’s last live concert performance.

This very upbeat John Lennon song has a simple message…do whatever works for you. It was his first US #1 hit as a solo artist… he had another with “(Just Like) Starting Over,” which topped the chart in 1980 after his death.

John got the phrase by watching late-night TV. He was watching Reverend Ike, a famous black evangelist, who was saying, “Let me tell you guys, it doesn’t matter, it’s whatever gets you through the night.” Lennon loved it, wrote it down, and wrote a song about it.

This song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #2 in Canada, and #36 in the UK. in 1974

 

From Songfacts

In December 2005, John and Yoko’s personal assistant May Pang told Radio Times: “At night he (John Lennon) loved to channel-surf, and he would pick up phrases from all the shows. One time, he was watching John loved it and said, “I’ve got to write it down or I’ll forget it.” He always kept a pad and pen by the bed. That was the beginning of Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.”

With this song, Lennon became the last of the Beatles to hit #1 US in their respective post-Beatles careers. By this time Paul McCartney had hit #1 three times, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr twice each.

Structurally, this is a rather unusual song: it’s really all chorus, separated by blasts of saxophone. Lennon alters the lines a bit in the various sections though:

Whatever gets you through the night
Whatever gets you through your life
Whatever gets you to the light

Don’t need a sword to cut through flowers
Don’t need a watch to waste your time
Don’t need a gun to blow you mind

These little lyrical alterations keep the song from sounding repetitive, even without verses.

In 1975 Lennon helped out on Elton’s John’s #1 cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” Lennon played guitar on that track and was credited as “Dr. Winston O’Boogie.”

In 1975 Lennon helped out on Elton’s John’s #1 cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” Lennon played guitar on that track and was credited as “Dr. Winston O’Boogie.”

What was it like recording the Walls And Bridges album? When we asked David Thoener, who was an engineer at the sessions, he told us: “It was amazing. Despite all of the personal pain John Lennon was in, (it was during his lost weekend) he was a consummate professional in the studio. Almost as if working kept him sane, through those difficult times. Working with him was quite an experience and something I am very glad to have been part of.”

This hit the top of the US charts, but it fell fast. It spent just three weeks in the Top 10 before dropping from 2-16 in November 1974. In 2004 Fantasia broke this record when after two weeks in the Top 10, “I Believe” dropped from #6-18.

Bobby Keys, who appears on many Rolling Stones recordings, played the tenor saxophone on this track. Ken Ascher played the Clavinet.

Whatever Gets You Thru The Night

Whatever gets you through the night
It’s all right, it’s all right
It’s your money or your life
It’s all right, it’s all right
Don’t need a sword to cut through’ flowers
Oh no, oh no

Whatever gets you through your life
It’s all right, it’s all right
Do it wrong, or do it right
It’s all right, it’s all right

Don’t need a watch to waste your time
Oh no, oh no

Hold me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
I won’t do you no harm
Trust me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
Come on, listen to me; come on, listen, listen

Whatever gets you to the light
It’s all right, it’s all right
Out of the blue, or out of sight
It’s all right, it’s all right
Don’t need a gun to blow you mind
Oh no, oh no

Hold me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
I won’t do you no harm
Trust me, darlin’, come on, listen to me
Come on, listen to me, come on, listen, listen

Elton John – Benny and the Jets

Trying to figure out Elton’s lyrics has always been interesting…not what they mean…I won’t even try that. No, it’s,,, what is he singing?  “he’s got electric boots a mohair suit You know I read it in a magazine, oh” I wasn’t even close. I thought “masseuse” was in there. I don’t think I can even spell what I’ve been singing along with for years. Mick Jagger does this well also.

Regardless of the hard to decipher words…I love the song.

Elton wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style  that was popular in the early ’70s, especially in the UK…and of course Bernie Taupin co-wrote it with Elton.

This wasn’t released as a single in the UK, where it was released as the B-side of “Candle In The Wind.” In the US, “Candle In The Wind” was not released as a single because MCA records thought this was better. Elton protested but came around when black radio stations started playing it and it became a hit.

This was also a hit on the R&B charts as it peaked at #15. Elton was surprised at that and wasn’t considering it for a single. He did not think this would be a hit. He was shocked when it went peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, and #13 in New Zealand in 1974. It charted at #37 in the UK in 1976.

Elton’s producer Gus Dudgeon wanted a live feel on this recording, so he mixed in crowd noise from a show Elton played in 1972 at Royal Festival Hall. He also included a series of whistles from a live concert in Vancouver B.C., and added handclaps and various shouts.

I do remember seeing  Elton perform this song when he appeared on The Muppet Show in 1977, with a group of Muppets singing along with him at the piano.

 

From Songfacts

“Bennie” is a female character who Elton has described as a “sci-fi rock goddess.” Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics, told Esquire, “‘Bennie And The Jets’ was almost Orwellian – it was supposed to be futuristic. They were supposed to be a prototypical female rock ‘n’ roll band out of science fiction. Automatons.”

It was Elton’s idea to stutter the vocal: “B-B-B-Bennie…” Bernie Taupin thought this worked very well with the futuristic, robotic theme of his lyrics. Said Taupin: “That’s a little quirk of the song which I’m sad to say I had nothing to do with. That and that wonderful big chord at the beginning. I think those two things are what probably made that song so popular. Neither of which I had anything to do with.”

Comic books, movies, and the German photographer Helmut Newton were some of the influences Bernie Taupin threw into the pot when writing the lyrics to this song. Said Taupin: “I’d always had this wacky science fiction idea about a futuristic rock and roll band of androids fronted by some androgynous kind of Helmut Newton style beauty, which was depicted to little great effect on the Yellow Brick Road album cover. I’m not sure if it came to me in a dream or was some way the subconscious of effect of watching Kubrick on drugs. Either way, it was definitely something that was totally formed as a concept, and something that could have morphed into any number of populist items. Could have been comic books or movies. In fact, I can’t help but believe that that Robert Palmer video with all the identical models somehow paid a little lip service to The Jets.”

The falsetto vocal is Elton trying to sound like Frankie Valli. He was a fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons growing up, and went to at least one of their concerts when he was young.

Elton tried to record the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in Jamaica, since The Rolling Stones had just recorded their Goats Head Soup album in a studio there and encouraged him to try it. Instead of the relaxing tropical paradise they expected, Elton and his crew encountered hostile locals and faulty equipment. They ended up recording the album at the studio in France (The Chateau) where they recorded their two previous albums.

Bernie Taupin says that when he saw the Robert Palmer video for “Addicted To Love,” it portrayed when he envisioned Bennie And The Jets looking like: a dapper frontman backed by robotic models.

Elton performed this on Soul Train, becoming the first white superstar to appear on the show (he was the third white performer overall, following Dennis Coffey and Gino Vannelli). His episode aired May 17, 1975, beating David Bowie by six months. Elton asked to appear on the show, as he was a big fan. He explained on the program that he and his band would often watch it while they were on tour.

Miguel covered this as part of the 40th edition expanded reissue of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 2014, with Wale contributing vocals. Elton John had Peter Asher produce the nine cover versions, which also included Ed Sheeran’s take on “Candle In The Wind” and Fall Out Boy’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).” Asher, who produced the most successful albums by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, put the track together based on the sound of Miguel’s album Kaleidoscope Dream. Getting Miguel in the studio to record it proved challenging though.

In a Songfacts interview with Asher, he explained: “There was a period when I was hardly in touch with Miguel. I ended up meeting with him backstage at an Alicia Keys concert he was opening, and I said, ‘Did you ever get a chance to listen to the demo I sent you?’ He said, ‘No, I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened to it.’

So, we sat backstage and listened to it for the first time. He plugged in his in-ear monitors into my laptop and I played it to him and he said, ‘I love it. That’s great. Go ahead.’ And he just arranged time to come into the studio and sing it.

And then, he made some suggestions and changed some stuff and added some brilliant background parts and so on. So, it ended up being a combination of the ideas I’d started with, with some ideas he had on top.”

Benny and the Jets

She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Uh but they’re so spaced out, B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who’s right and who’s wrong

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet?
Oh, but they’re so spaced out
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie, she’s really keen

She’s got electric boots
A mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine oh yeah
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, and the Jets, yeah, oh

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

Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom

I was riding with my uncle in the summer of 1975 going to Florida to see relatives. I remember this song was big that summer and I heard it quite a few times all the way down there.

Elton owned the early to mid-seventies. this song peaked at # in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #2 in New Zealand, #12 in the UK in 1975.

Elton had an interesting B-side on this single. The B-side was a live duet of The Beatles hit “I Saw Her Standing There” that Elton recorded with his friend John Lennon. Elton had previously sung on Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” and also released a version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which was written by Lennon.

Elton John: “In America, I’ve got ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ going up the charts again. I wish the bloody thing would piss off. I can see why people get sick and tired of me. In America, I get sick and tired of hearing myself on AM radio. It’s embarrassing.”

From Songfacts

Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to most of Elton John’s songs, but Elton would occasionally suggest titles. Elton requested a song with the title “Philadelphia Freedom” in honor of his friend, the tennis player Billie Jean King. At the time, there was a professional tennis league in America called World Team Tennis, and in 1974 King coached a team called the Philadelphia Freedoms, becoming one of the first women ever to coach men. Taupin had no obligation to write lyrics about King, and he didn’t – the song was inspired by the Philadelphia Soul sound of groups like The O’Jays and Melvin & The Blue Notes, and also the American bicentennial; in 1976 the US celebrated 200 years of independence.

Elton John and Billie Jean King became good friends after meeting at a party. Elton tried to attend as many of her matches as he could, and he promised King a song after she gave him a customized track suit. Elton and Billie Jean King would become icons of the gay and lesbian community, but at the time, they were both still in the closet, since athletes and entertainers faced a backlash if they revealed their homosexuality. Elton was often answering questions about why he hadn’t settled down with a girl, and King avoided the subject as best she could, but was forced to come out in 1981 when a former lover sued her for palimony. King was married to a man up until her outing, and Elton was married to a woman from 1984-1988.

On the single, it said this song was dedicated to “B.J.K.” (Billie Jean King) and “The Soulful Sounds Of Philadelphia.”

This song was a huge hit in America, following up another #1 single from Elton John, his cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” Elton dominated the charts at this time, but it didn’t always make him happy, as he felt he was being overexposed. 

Running 5:21, this was one of the longest dance hits of the ’70s. A few months earlier, a national radio programer declared that he would no longer play any Elton John song over 4 minutes long because they were screwing up his playlists (Program directors liked short songs because they could play more of them. Elton’s opuses like “Daniel” and “Funeral For A Friend” had a way of screwing up the “14 Hits In A Row” format). Elton knew this would be a hit, and was happy to screw the programmer by making it long, knowing he would have to play it anyway.

Elton said this was “one of the only times I tried to deliberately write a hit single.”

On May 17, 1975, Elton become one of the first white performers to appear on the TV show Soul Train, which was an honor for him. He performed this song and “Bennie And The Jets.”

Depending on where he was performing, Elton would sometimes alter the lyrics of the song, swapping “Philadelphia” for his present location. He would only do it if he could make it fit, so “Cincinnati Freedom” was a go, but Cleveland didn’t get customized.

Philadelphia Freedom

I used to be a rolling stone you know
If a cause was right
I’d leave to find the answer on the road
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
The less I say the more my work gets done

‘Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee high to a man, yeah
Gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve you, yes I do

If you choose to you can live your life alone
Some people choose the city (some people the city)
Some others choose the good old family home (some others choose a good old)
I like living easy without family ties (living easy)
Till the whippoorwill of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes

‘Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee high to a man
Mm mm, gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve you, yes I do

Oh, Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve,
You know I love-ve-ve , you know I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
You know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
Don’t you know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
Don’t you know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom

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

Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

I always liked this song as it was in the second phase of the Hollies recording career. A young Elton John – who was still called Reg – played piano on it and got paid 12 pounds. The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100 in 1970… #3 in the UK in 1969…also #1 in the UK in 1988 after it was in a beer commercial.

The song was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, their only collaboration as songwriters. Russell was dying of cancer at the time and his lyrics for this song would be the last he ever wrote. The origin of the phrase is unknown, but it did appear as the title of an article in Kiwanismagazine in 1924 and then later became the motto for Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Town in the 1940s.

In 1941, Father Flanagan was looking at a magazine called The Messenger when he came across a drawing of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, with the caption, “He ain’t heavy Mr., he’s my brother.” Father Flanagan thought the image and phrase captured the spirit of Boys Town, so he got permission and commissioned a statue of the drawing with the inscription, “He ain’t heavy Father, he’s my brother.” The statue and phrase became the logo for Boys Town. In 1979, girls were allowed and the name was eventually changed to Girls And Boys Town. The logo was updated with a drawing of a girl carrying a younger girl added.

Tony Hicks (The Hollies Guitarist): “In the 1960s when we were short of songs I used to root around publishers in Denmark Street. One afternoon, I’d been there ages and wanted to get going but this bloke said: ‘Well there’s one more song. It’s probably not for you.’ He played me the demo by the writers [Bobby Scott and Bob Russell]. It sounded like a 45rpm record played at 33rpm, the singer was slurring, like he was drunk. But it had something about it. There were frowns when I took it to the band but we speeded it up and added an orchestra. The only things left recognizable were the lyrics. There’d been this old film called Boys Town about a children’s home in America, and the statue outside showed a child being carried aloft and the motto He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Bob Russell had been dying of cancer while writing. We never got, or asked for, royalties. 

From Songfacts

The Two Brothers concept precedes the magazine illustration that Father Flanagan saw. In 1921, there was a resident at Boys Town who had difficulty walking. He wore leg braces and the other boys would often take turns giving him a ride on their backs. There is a famous photograph of this boy and one of the other youth giving him a ride. Now there are several statues of the Two Brothers on the Home Campus in Omaha; one is the sandstone of the two brothers from the illustration, another is a bronze version by an Italian artist that was commissioned in 1977. There is also a version done directly from the 1921 photograph in the Hall of History. 

In 1938, Spencer Tracey portrayed Father Flanagan in the movie Boys Town, which also starred Mickey Rooney. In 1941, they made a sequel called Men Of Boys Town, where they used the phrase “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother” for the first time in a movie.

This was originally released by Kelly Gordon, a producer who has worked with Glen Campbell, Aretha Franklin, and David Lee Roth.

This was the only songwriting collaboration between veteran songwriters Bobby Scott (“A Taste of Honey”) and Bob Russell (“Ballerina”). Russell, who wrote the lyrics, made his mark writing for films and contributing words to songs by Duke Ellington and Carl Sigman. Scott was a piano player, singer, and producer. He did a lot of work with Mercury Records on sessions for artists like Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Bobby Darin. In 1990, he died of cancer.

Joe Cocker was offered this song before The Hollies after it had been played first to his producer Denny Cordell. The General Professional Manager for Cyril Shane Music Ltd & Pedro Music Ltd in England at the time explains: “Tony Hicks was in our office looking for songs for the Hollies (our office was not on Denmark Street, it was in Baker Street). Denny called from New York to say ‘Joe didn’t see the song.’ As Tony said in The Guardian, he liked the song and asked for an exclusive the following day. The version he heard was Kelly Gordon, who apart from being a successful producer, also wrote a little song entitled ‘That’s Life.’ His version was slow and soulful which is why I had thought of Joe Cocker to record it. Bobby Russell wrote this song while dying of cancer in Los Angeles.

We picked up the British rights to ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ from an American publisher Larry Shayne. The song was on a Kelly Gordon album called Defunked. The version was slow and soulful and had Joe Cocker written all over it. Joe turned it down, to his producer’s surprise. We had a hit with The Hollies previously called ‘I’m Alive,’ so we had a relationship with them. Also, we had a great working relationship with the Air London production team, of which their producer Ron Richards was a partner. We never considered playing the song for The Hollies when Tony Hicks was in the office. We were playing songs like ‘Sorry Suzanne.’ It was only at the end of the meeting I suggested playing Tony this wonderful song, not because it was for them, but just to share the song. We were surprised when he said ‘That’s the one.'”

This was the second single The Hollies released after Graham Nash left the group to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash; the first was “Sorry Suzanne.” Nash was replaced by Terry Sylvester. >>

In 1988, this was re-released in the UK after it was used in a Miller Beer commercial. This time, it hit #1.

This has been covered by many artists. It was a hit for Neil Diamond later in 1970, and also for Olivia Newton-John in 1976. Newton-John’s version was the B-side to the Linda Hargrove cover “Let It Shine” and went to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

A version by Bill Medley (one of The Righteous Brothers) was used in the 1988 Sylvester Stallone movie Rambo 3.

The Osmonds recorded this and used it as the B-side of their first hit, “One Bad Apple.” 

This was used in an anti-drug commercial in Canada during ’90s. The basis was two old friends meeting again in the hospital. There are some old home movie type flash backs, then they hug and the one in hospital garb cries. >>

A various artists charity version recorded under the name of The Justice Collective topped the UK singles charts during Christmas 2012.

Casey Affleck made reference to this song when he accepted the Oscar for Best Actor in 2017 for his role in “Manchester by the Sea.” Thanking his brother, Ben Affleck, he said, “you ain’t heavy.”

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go 
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother 

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with a gladness
Of love for one another 

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother 

He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Elton John – Crocodile Rock

Some songs make you think about social issues, some make you feel good, some make you sad, some make you think of certain people…and some take you back to a place in time when you first remember it. This one does the later for me. It’s not Elton’s best single whatsoever but I heard it a lot later on when I was 13 and I’m 13 again when I hear it and it’s 1980. I must have heard it before many times but it took hold for some reason then.

This came along in the fifties revival that happened in the 1970s. This is not a type of song I would normally like but it transports me back and I like it.

Crocodile Rock was a fifties sounding single that was a massive hit. It peaked in 1972 at #1 in the Billboard 100, #5 in the UK, #1 in Canada, #1 in New Zealand.

Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote the song.

Bernie Taupin “a strange dichotomy because I don’t mind having created it, but it’s not something I would listen to.”

From Songfacts

This tells the story of a guy in the ’50s and ’60s who frequented a restaurant where the patrons loved an obscure dance called the Crocodile Rock. Because of all the events that happened in the ’60s, however, this unknown little dance forever vanished into history and no one cared anymore. Even his girlfriend, who also enjoyed “burning up to the Crocodile Rock,” left him. It’s a catchy little song with really sad lyrics.

There is a distinct ’50s musical theme in this song. Elton said that it contains flavors of a lot of his favorite early rock songs, including “Little Darlin’,” “At The Hop” and “Oh Carol,” as well as songs by The Beach Boys and Eddie Cochran. The title is a play on the Bill Haley song “See You Later Alligator” – Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” even gets a mention, as that’s what the other kids were listening to while our hero was doing the Crocodile Rock.

This was the first of many #1 singles by Elton John in the US. His first in the UK came in 1976 with Kiki Dee (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”). His first solo #1 in the UK was “Sacrifice” in 1990.

The falsetto hook from Pat Boone’s 1962 hit, “Speedy Gonzales” has some similar “La La”s, and that song’s writers spoke out, accusing Elton of plagiarism. There was no legal action taken, and Elton has copped to the influence, saying “Crocodile Rock” was “a really blatant homage to ‘Speedy Gonzales’ and all the great ’50s and ’60s records that we used to love.”

A precursor to this song is Elton’s 1970 single “Rock And Roll Madonna,” which pays tribute to the musical form. “This time I wanted to do something that was a send-up of the early ’60s rather than an out-and-out rocker,” he told Beat Instrumental. I wanted it to be a tribute to all those people I used to go and see as a kid. That’s why I used the Del Shannon-type vocals and that bit from Pat Boone’s ‘Speedy Gonzales.'”

Elton added: “We also tried to get the worst organ sound possible… something like Johnny and The Hurricanes used to manage to produce. This type of song is actually a very hard thing to write because the temptation is to try too hard and go berserk.”

Don McLean has mentioned that this is similar to his hit “American Pie,” which came out the previous year. Both songs are about young people in the ’50s obsessed with rock n’ roll, but disappointed when the music “dies.” Both songs also feature a Chevy. Elton admits the song is highly derivative because it’s about the things he grew up with. In Elton John: The Definitive Biography, Elton is quoted as saying: “I wanted it to be a record about all the things I grew up with. Of course, it’s a rip-off.”

Elton performed this on The Muppet Show when he appeared on a Season Two episode in 1977. A very popular song with kids, it made for a great opening number, with Elton performing in a swamp with a crocodile chorus.

This song helped send the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album to #1 on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Elton’s first #1 in the UK, but Honky Chateau went to #1 in the US earlier that year.

A few “firsts” are attributed to both the song and album. It was the first song released as a single on the MCA label (catalog #40000) after MCA dissolved its Uni (Elton John’s previous label), Decca, Kapp and Coral labels. It was also MCA’s first #1 song as well as Elton John’s first #1. >>

There is a Crocodile Rock in The Philippines, which from the right angle, looks like an enormous croc.

Partial inspiration for this song is the Australian band Daddy Cool and their hit single “Eagle Rock,” which Elton discovered on his 1972 tour to Australia. In the artwork for the Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player packaging, there is a shot of Bernie Taupin wearing a badge that says “Daddy Who?” 

The sheer popularity of this song caused a backlash against it in some circles – notably disc jockeys who had to play it over and over. Stations used to determine what songs they would play by using “auditorium testing,” where listeners were gathered into a big room and played hooks from different songs, which they would then rate. This song always got very high marks, which embedded it onto playlists and drove some DJs to hate it.

The odd thing is that Elton has a very deep catalog filled not just with meaningful hits, but with more obscure songs that many listeners enjoy. “It was just a one-off thing,” Elton said of “Crocodile Rock,” adding, “It became a huge hit record, and in the long run, it became a negative for me.”

Elton has described this song as “disposable pop.” Bernie Taupin gave his thoughts in a 1989 interview with Music Connection. Said Taupin: “I don’t want people to remember me for ‘Crocodile Rock.’ I’d much rather they remember me for songs like ‘Candle In The Wind’ and ‘Empty Garden,’ songs that convey a message. Well, they don’t really need to convey a message, as long as they can convey a feeling. But there are things like ‘Crocodile Rock,’ which was fun at the time, but it was pop fluff. It was like, ‘Okay, that was fun for now, throw it away, and here’s the next one. So there’s a certain element of our music that is disposable, but I think you’ll find that in anybody’s catalog.”

One of Elton’s more memorable performances of this song took place on September 7, 1973 at the Hollywood Bowl. As Elton played from his piano, a few feet behind him, sound engineer Clive Franks played the electric piano while wearing an enormous crocodile head.

The Baha Men recorded a new version of this for the film The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course with new lyrics that described the life of Steve Irwin. Ironically, “Suzie” (the girl described in this song) is the name of Steve Irwin’s dog, who appears frequently on the series.

Elton John – Crocodile Rock

I remember when rock was young
Me and Suzie had so much fun
Holding hands and skimming stones
Had an old gold Chevy and a place of my own
But the biggest kick I ever got
Was doing a thing called the Crocodile Rock
While the other kids were Rocking Round the Clock
We were hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Well Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Suzie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

But the years went by and the rock just died
Suzie went and left us for some foreign guy
Long nights crying by the record machine
Dreaming of my Chevy and my old blue jeans
But they’ll never kill the thrills we’ve got
Burning up to the Crocodile Rock
Learning fast as the weeks went past
We really thought the Crocodile Rock would last

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Well Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Suzie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

Laaaaaaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaa lalalala laaaaa

Elton John – Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)

This song was one of my favorite Lennon tribute songs.

This song is a tribute to John Lennon, who was murdered in 1980. Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics, but Elton certainly felt a connection to the song, as he was good friends with Lennon and is the Godfather of Lennon’s second son, Sean. Elton appeared onstage with John at his final concert in 1974.

Empty Garden peaked at #13 in the Billboard 100, #8 in Canada, #14 in New Zealand, and #51 in the UK in1982

Some of the other songs that are tributes to John are Queen – Life Is Real, George Harrison – All Those Years Ago, Paul McCartney – Here Today, Bob Dylan – Roll On John, and Paul Simon – The Late Great Johnny Ace.

From Songfacts

In the John/Taupin songwriting partnership, Bernie writes the lyrics first and Elton then puts them to music. When writing for the Jump Up album, Elton had some melodies handy and asked Taupin to write words to those, which he did. Taupin has described those songs as “awful” and said, “it’s a very messy album.” “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny),” however, was written their traditional way with the lyrics first, and Taupin has said that it’s the only good song on the album.

When he performed this at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show in August 1982, Elton was joined onstage by Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.

 

Empty Garden

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain

And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed, we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most of the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play

And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger, if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most of the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out, can you come out to play, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny

 

Thoughts on Elton John in the 70s

Some people tend to forget how big Elton was back in the early to mid-seventies. The songs just kept coming one after another. I’ve been watching some seventies sitcoms and shows recently and there was Valerie Bertinelli on “One Day at a Time” dressed like Elton John. He was everywhere back then. Some today remember him only by Candle in the Wind…the 1997 version for Lady Diana.

It seemed that everything he touched turned to gold. He covered Pinball Wizard and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and turned them into hits…some people like those versions better than the originals.

Elton John was pop/rock but he had some Liberace elements in showmanship. The sparkling pianos and even a Donald Duck suit. Elton is a very good piano player, songwriter and performer…but I think it’s his voice that sets him apart. It was a combination of all but he had a style all his own.

Bernie Taupin and Elton wrote those great singles that kept coming year after year. He has had 9 number 1 hits, 27 top ten hits, and 67 songs in the top 100. 1971 – 1975 was my favorite period… some of the singles were Your Song, Levon, Tiny Dancer, Honey Cat, Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, The Bitch is Back and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me… this much success could fill up 5 different careers… hard to believe it happened in a four year period.

Bernie Taupin was just as important as Elton. They stopped writing together around 1977 and Elton’s output was not as successful. They started to work together again a little later and still had hits but that stretch in the early seventies would be impossible to match.

I did like some Elton John songs after the mid-seventies but in the eighties, many of his songs just didn’t have the quality of his earlier ones to me. One standout was a song about John Lennon called Empty Garden. It is one of my favorite songs about John Lennon.

I knew Elton by his singles but he released some huge albums. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Honky Château, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Caribou and the list goes on and on. This is a good piece on some of Elton’s top albums. 

 

 

 

Little Richard

A voice that won’t quit. Richard Wayne Penniman… better known as Little Richard would be great in any era. Of all of his peers, he could belt a song out better than any other.

In the 50’s he was public enemy number one to many parents. Pat Boone would cover his songs and those are the recordings the parents would buy their kids…while the kids would sneak and buy the real Richard records and keep them hidden while their parents were around…

Others tried to imitate it but no one came close. Paul McCartney would try but didn’t have the rawness that Richard had/has… He was flamboyant, to say the least, and commanded a stage.

In 1957 at the peak of his career he retired to the ministry and gospel music only… that lasted a while but in 1962 he came back to Rock and Roll and toured Europe. The Beatles were really big fans of Richard and they opened some shows for him in 1962. His keyboard player was a young Billy Preston.

Little Richard songs just jump off of the recording right at you.

You can hear his influence on The Stones, The Beatles, James Brown, Elvis and his androgynous influence with Freddy Mercury, Elton John, and David Bowie.

I’ve always seen Little Richard as the hard rock of the fifties. The songs are raw as you can get and in your face.

Black people lived right by the railroad tracks, and the train would shake their houses at night. I would hear it as a boy, and I thought: I’m gonna make a song that sounds like that.  Little Richard

Little Richard and the James Gang in 1970