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