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