Elton John: Rolling Stones #49 Greatest Artist of All Time

Elton John
Born: Reginald Kenneth Dwight
25 March 1947
Pinner, Middlesex, England
Occupation:
Singer-songwriter-pianist
Years active: 1962–present

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Elton John in 1994. He's listed as number 3 on 'Billboard’s 125 Greatest Artists of All Time."

In Rolling Stones "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," he's number 49. He has two songs out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll;" "Your Song" and "Bennie and the Jets."

Your Song

"Your Song" peaked at number 8 in the U.S and number 7 in the U.K.  The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted "Your Song" in 1998. In 2004, 
 Rolling Stone ranked the song number 137 on it's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." It's sold more than 2 million copies in the States. 


"Your Song" is one of the first songs Elton John wrote with Bernie Taupin. They both answered a record company's ad. Elton John was given some of Taupin's lyrics to set to music, Soon afterwards, the pair started working together. They both moved into John's parents' house. Taupin was only 17 when he penned the lyrics to "Your Song." According to Taupin:  

I remember writing it as I was having breakfast – the original lyric had tea stains on it. Elton wrote the music the same day. We went into the room where the piano was and hammered it out.

Taupin won't say who inspired this song. In a 1989 interview with Music Connection, he said:  

"It's like the perennial ballad, 'Your Song,' which has got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music, but I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve."

Three Dog Night  included "Your Song" in March 1970 on their third studio album, It Ain't Easy. John was an opening act for the band at the time and allowed them to record it. They did not release it as a single to let John, then an upcoming artist, have a go with it.

Your Song
Three Dog Night


On April 10, 1970, three weeks after Three Dog Night released It Ain’t Easy, John’s self-titled second album came out. Even though “Your Song” wouldn’t become an official single until October, it was clearly the LP’s standout track, so much so that John made it the opening song during his legendary first performance in the States at the Troubadour. Rolling Stone called that show one of the 50 greatest concerts of the rock era. 

Elton John at the Troubadour 1970

Elton John made his U.S. debut at the Troubadour on Aug. 25, 1970. The set began with “Your Song.” From there, he rolled into the groove of “Bad Side of the Moon.” “Border Song,” “Take Me to the Pilot” and “Sixty Years On.” John kicked his piano bench over, fell to his knees, and attacked these tunes with wild abandon. It was the night Elton John became a rock star:
"Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He's going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.”   The Los Angeles Times August 27, 1970

 

Top Of The Pops 1971
Elton John


Bennie and the Jets

"Bennie and the Jets" is the closing track on side one of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. The song peaked at number 1 on the US singles chart in 1974. It's John's second song listed among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album cover

"Bennie and the Jets" are a fictional band, led by female character who Elton describes as a "sci-fi rock goddess." Lead singer Bennie has electric boots and a mohair suit. The Jets are herweird and wonderful group. The narrator is a crazed fan talking to her friends, Candy and Ronnie, about the band. 

Comic books, movies, and the German photographer Helmut Newton influenced Bernie Taupin's lyrics. Elton wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style defined by outrageous costumes, popular in the early '70s. Taupin told Esquire in 2011.

"'Bennie and the Jets' was almost Orwellian. It was supposed to be futuristicThey were a prototypical female rock 'n' roll band out of science fiction. Automatons."

Taupin says the Robert Palmer video for "Addicted To Love" is what he envisioned Bennie And The Jets looking like: a dapper front-man backed by robotic models.

Addicted To Love
Robert Palmer


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 hand claps and various shouts. 

It was Elton's idea to stutter the vocal: "B-B-B-Bennie..." The falsetto vocal is Elton trying to sound like Frankie Valli. He was a fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons growing up.

Elton didn’t see it as a single and fought with MCA about releasing it. In 1974, two Detroit radio stations, one of them the historically black WJLB, put the tune in heavy rotation. Other stations soon followed. It was issued as a single February 1974 and hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also made it to number 15 on the Hot Soul Singles chart.  As John tells it,

The only reason I caved was because the song was the number one black record in Detroit. And I went, ‘Oh, my God’ I mean, I’m a white boy from England. And I said, ‘Okay, you’ve got it.’

Official Music Video

In May 2017, an official music video for "Bennie and the Jets" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as a winner of the competition "Elton John: The Cut." 

Organized in partnership with AKQA, Pulse Films, and YouTube, the competition called upon independent filmmakers to submit treatments for music videos for one of three Elton John songs from the 1970s. 

"Bennie and the Jets" was designated for the choreography category. The video portrays characters as participants on a talent show auditioning for Bennie.

Bennie And The Jets

Elton John


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