Elton John Sings “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)”

Elton John Rocket ManListen to this track by million-selling piano man and singular ’70s rock clothes horse Elton John. It’s “Rocket Man (I think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)”, a hit single in the spring of 1972, and a key track as taken from his Honky Chateau album that year.

In line with the times when space missions were more common perhaps than they are today, or simply more celebrated, this song stormed the charts with top ten showings all over the world. It also marked a change in approach for Elton John who used his road band on the entirety of the recording instead of sessioners; Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars and other assorted stringed instruments, and Nigel Olssen behind the kit.

Addtionally on this track, he worked with studio whiz, composer, and keyboardist David Hentschel who added the distinctive ARP synthesizer lines to this track, which gave it an appropriately futurist feel. This is not to minimize John’s own contribution, in particular his singing which is some of the finest of his career, completely selling this tale of space travel and emotional disconnectedness.

The result of all these elements would be one of Elton John’s best known and best loved songs. But, how does it perhaps apply to the touring rock star as much as it does to the story of the Rocket Man? Read more

Elton John and John Lennon Perform “I Saw Her Standing There”

elton john and john lennon 1974Listen to this track, recorded live by two friends who’d made a friendly bet; Elton John and John Lennon. It’s the lead track off of the Beatles first album, “I Saw Her Standing There”. The two pop stars performed it together at Madison Square Garden in 1974, over ten years after John’s old band, the Beatles, had first laid it down as young men, and subsequently performed it on their historic Ed Sullivan Show performance on February 9, 1964 in front of 73 million TV viewers.

This particular performance is notable for at least two different reasons. First, it was the initial signs that Lennon and his erstwhile partner, and primary writer of this song Paul McCartney, were not so estranged by 1974 as audiences had been led to believe by a song like “How Do You Sleep?” three years earlier. Second, it was performed during a concert which would mark the last time John Lennon performed in front of a live audience. And it almost never happened at all, but for a bet between Elton and his reluctant friend John Lennon. Read more

Elton John Performs ‘Burn Down The Mission’

Here’s a clip of a very green, not yet larger than life, Elton John in 1970 performing his early gem of a track “Burn Down the Mission” as taken from his Tumbleweed Connection album, which came out the following year.

When starting out, and at the moment of musical history in which he found himself, Elton John was awash with admiration for his contemporaries.  And even if by the time he recorded  Madman Across the Water and Tumbleweed Connection, he’d cemented his style and was putting consistent great albums anchored by his partnership with Bernie Taupin, Elton was still very much under the spell of his heroes.  Gospel music clearly fed into his early work.  But so did Leon Russell, and The Band.

After having seen Elton on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle TV show, apparently this song “Burn Down the Mission” was Elton’s attempt to do a song like something that Laura Nyro might have written, particularly all of the tempo changes for which Nyro was famous.

But, what he said on the program was that, much like Bob Dylan Laura Nyro opened up the possibilities for songwriting, in her case particularly for piano players like Elton John.  No longer was he restrained to the verse chorus verse treadmill.  He could throw in a middle section with a quick tempo, and then take it back to where it was.  And like Nyro, he could put in a gospel feel, while making it a bit theatrical at the same time.

One thing which really came out of the interview with Elton John, and in how his music comes off too, is that he was always a music fan.  And its clear that he was an intent listener, pulling in the influences of his contemporaries, and in older styles like gospel music too, and making it a platform for his own songwriting.

He would later begin to employ some more overt theatricality of course , with larger scale shows and outrageous costumes.  But, many consider this early, more Americana-based songwriting, to be his most interesting period as a songwriter.