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, was titled after the 18th century French Château d'Hérouville where it was recorded. The  LP became 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 of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

"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. It became John's biggest hit to that point. In the UK, it charted at Number 2 on the singles chart and it peaked at Number 6 on Billboard's Hot 100. Rolling Stone ranks it Number 149 out of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The Apollo 16 launched April 16, 1972. It was the fifth manned mission to the moon. The "Rocket Man" single dropped the next day in the US.  The song echoes of David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity." Gus Dudgeon produced both tracks.  And Bowie's song was released to coincide with the Apollo 1 launch, 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 in his book The Illustrated Man was the inspiration for his lyric.  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 common and Doug's dad is a Rocket Man. His job takes him into space for long periods of time. The Rocket Man wants to stay with his family, but is torn between to going back into space. He make 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, it reached Number 10 on the Billboard Chart. In a stroke of good timing, Elton was preparing for a US tour. 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.

Elton John 1972
Elton John 1972

 "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 his 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 lots of flashbacks.
"Rocketman" movie poster

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


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