Honky Château: Rolling Stone's #251 of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

Honky Château
Album: Elton John
Released: May 19, 1972
Producer: Gus Dudgeon

Elton John's fifth album, Honky Château, titled after the 18th century French Château d'Hérouville, where it was recorded, was the first of John's seven consecutive Billboard 200 Number Ones. Rock of the Westies in 1975 was the last.

It's also the first album to feature what would become his backup band: Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Davey Johnstone on guitar. Two singles, "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat," were released from the record. The album ranks Number 251 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums.

"From the surprisingly cynical and nasty, "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" to the moving ballad "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," John is at the top of his form."  Allmusic Review

Rocket Man
Single: Elton John
Album: Honky Château
B-side: Susie (Dramas)
Released: April 17, 1972
Genre: Rock
Songwriters: Elton John, Bernie Taupin

"Rocket Man" was the lead single from Honky Château and became John's biggest hit. In the UK, it charted at Number 2 on the singles chart and peaked at Number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Rolling Stone ranks it Number 149 out of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Apollo 16, the fifth manned mission to the moon, launched on April 16, 1972. "Rocket Man" dropped as a single the next day in the US. The song echoes David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity." Gus Dudgeon produced both tracks, and the Bowie tune was released to coincide with the launch of the first manned mission to the moon. Elton and Bernie Taupin deny ripping off Bowie. 


According to Taupin, the short story The Rocket Man by Ray Bradbury inspired the lyrics in his book The Illustrated Man. It's a tale about an astronaut, split between staying with his family or going back into space for a few years, told through the perspective of his son, Doug.

The setting is earth in the future. Space travel is expected, and Doug's dad is a Rocket Man. His job takes him into space for long periods. The Rocket Man wants to stay with his family but is torn between going back into play. He makes the fatal mistake of going on another mission and doesn't come back.


Honky Cat
Single: Elton John
Album: Honky Château
B-side: Slave
Released: July 31, 1972
Genre: Pop, rock, boogie-woogie,
Songwriters: Elton John, Bernie Taupin

"Honky Cat" is a New Orleans funk track reminiscent of Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. The second single released from this LP reached Number 10 on Billboard. In a stroke of good timing, Elton was preparing for a US tour. 

Elton John 1972
Elton John 1972

In 2018, Dave Simpson of The Guardian ranked "Honky Cat" Number 48 on his list of the 50 Greatest Elton John songs. Justin Kirkland of Esquire ranked the song Number 27 on his list of the 30 Best Elton John songs.


 "Rocket Man" provided the title for a 2019 biopic musical film about Elton John. Taron Egerton stars as Elton. The timeline follows John's childhood and breakthrough in the 1970s to his struggles with addiction in the 1980s. Using his own music, Elton tells the story from his perspective at an AA meeting, with many flashbacks.
 
"Rocketman" movie poster

It was the first movie by a major studio to incorporate a gay sex scene. Egerton provided the vocals for his character, Elton.    He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his performance.  

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