Category: elton john

Albums Released In 1974

On this day in music history: November 28, 1974 – John Lennon makes his final live concert appearance at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He performs on stage with his friend Elton John, agreeing to appear with him if “What Ever Gets You Thru The Night”, the Lennon single that John sings background on hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100. When the single tops the chart on November 16, 1974, Lennon follows through and honors the bet. The two perform three songs including “Night”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. The latter of which is released as the B-side to “Philadelphia Freedom” in early 1975. In 1981, shortly after John Lennon’s death Elton John’s UK label DJM Records releases a 12" EP featuring the three songs the pair performed that night (“Whatever Gets You Through The Night”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”).

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On this day in music history: November 5, 1971 – “Madman Across The Water”, the fourth album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at Trident Studios in London from February 27, August 9 – 14, 1971. With three albums (“Elton John”, “Tumbleweed Connection” and “Friends – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”) on the charts simultaneously, then joined by a fourth (“11-17-70” aka “17-11-70”), Elton John and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin keep up their exhaustive creative pace. Much of “Madman Across The Water” is recorded in only six days during the late Summer of 1971. The album takes its title from a newspaper headline publishing a review of Elton’s legendary breakthrough live performance at The Troubadour night club in West Hollywood, CA. The albums title track is originally recorded during sessions for the previous album “Tumbleweed Connection”, but is held back and re-recorded. The original version (featuring guitarist Mick Ronson) is issued as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Madman. The album is also the first to introduce guitarist Davey Johnstone to John’s band (who is still working with Elton today). Another critical and commercial success for the prolific singer, songwriter and musician, it spins off the classics “Tiny Dancer” (#41 Pop), “Levon” (#24 Pop) and “Indian Sunset”. The album cover artwork is an embroidery stitched on the back of a Levi’s jean jacket by Janis Larkham, the wife of the albums’ art director David Larkham. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1995, including a twenty page booklet with photos and liner notes. It is also reissued in 2004 as a hybrid SACD disc, featuring a new 5.1 surround mix. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2017. The reissue replicates the original packaging, coming in a gatefold sleeve with the eleven page booklet found on the initial release. “Madman Across The Water” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 22, 1976 – “Blue Moves”, the eleventh album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at Eastern Sound Studios in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in March 1976. Coming on the heels of the chart topping “Rock Of The Westies” and the live album “Here And There”, “Blue Moves” marks the end of an era of unprecedented artistic acclaim and commercial success for the British megastar musician. The eighteen song double LP set is released just as Elton John announces his “retirement” from live performance and recording, also having given the now famous Rolling Stone interview declaring that he is bisexual. Many of the songs have a darker and more serious tone than on previous albums, and receives somewhat mixed reviews from critics, feeling that the album is overly long and contains “too much filler”. Though in time it is reassessed and today is regarded as one of Elton John’s finest works. It spins off two singles including “Bite Your Lip (Get Up And Dance)” (#28 Pop) and “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” (#6 Pop). When the album is first released on CD in 1988, its nearly eighty five minute running time is too long for the then seventy four minute time limit allotted for CD’s at the time. MCA Records omits the tracks “Cage the Songbird”, “Shoulder Holster”, “The Wide-Eyed and Laughing” and “Where’s the Shoorah?” in order for it to fit on a single CD. When “Blue Moves” is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997, it is restored to its original LP length on two CD’s, also reinstating all of the original cover artwork missing from the first CD pressing. Out of print on vinyl for more than two and a half decades, the album is remastered and reissued in September of 2017. “Blue Moves” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 11, 1997 – “Candle In The Wind 1997” / “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. Written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, it is the biggest hit for the British singer, songwriter, and musician. First written and recorded in 1973 for John’s landmark album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, the song is originally intended as a elegy for the late screen legend and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe. Almost twenty five years later, it is re-written and recorded as a tribute to a princess and humanitarian. Comforted by his close friend Princess Diana at the funeral of fashion designer (and mutual friend) Gianni Versace in July of 1997, barely a month and half later on August 31, 1997, Diana dies from injuries she sustains in a car accident in Paris (while being chased by photo paparazzi), also killing her boyfriend businessman and Harrod’s department store heir Dodi Al-Fayed, and driver Henri Paul. Devastated at the loss of Diana, he becomes very depressed and searches for a way to pay tribute to her, and to cope with his grief. Elton contacts his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, asking him to revise the lyrics to “Candle In The Wind” to pay homage to Diana. John performs this revised version of the song at Princess Diana’s funeral, held at Westminster Abbey in London on September 6, 1997. Over two billion people view the funeral services, which is broadcast on live television worldwide. Immediately after the funeral, John records the new version of “Candle In The Wind” with producer George Martin at Townhouse Studios in London. In further tribute to Diana, money generated from sales of the single are donated to numerous charities championed by her. Released three weeks after being recorded on September 22, 1997, the single is an enormous success, debuting at number one on both the UK and US pop singles charts. In the UK it sells over 358,000 copies in its first week, eventually moving over 4.9 million copies, breaking the sales record set by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in December of 1984. In the US, it sells an unprecedented three and a half million copies in its first week, selling over eleven million copies in the US, making it the only single thus far to receive a Diamond Certification from the RIAA (for physical non-digital sales). In all, “Candle In The Wind 1997” sells over thirty three million copies worldwide, making it the second largest selling single of all time behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”. Elton John also wins a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the single in 1998. “Candle In The Wind 1997” / “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” is certified 11x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Elton John and Bernie Taupin pose for a portraits for the album sleeve of Elton’s album Caribou in 1974.

Photos by Ed Caraeff

On this day in music history: June 28, 1974 – “Caribou”, the eighth studio album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO and Brother Studios in Santa Monica, CA in January 1974. Completed in just nine days prior to starting a tour of Japan, it features some of John’s best known and most performed material. Producer Gus Dudgeon completes Elton’s background vocals on several songs, when the artist isn’t available to sing them himself. The album features additional musical support from guest musicians such as The Tower Of Power Horns, Dusty Springfield, Toni Tennille, and Billy Hinsche. The album spins off the top five hits “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (#2 Pop) (featuring Beach Boys Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston on background vocals) and “The Bitch Is Back” (#4 Pop). In 1995, an expanded CD reissue is released including four tracks recorded during the sessions including his cover of “Pinball Wizard” (from the film version of The Who’s “Tommy”), “Sick City” (the non-LP B-side of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”), and the holiday single “Step Into Christmas”. Elton scores a number pop single with “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” in 1992, re-recording it as a live duet with George Michael. The profits raised from the sales of the second version are donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2017. “Caribou” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Elton John at Windsor Great Park for the album cover of A Single Man (1978)

Photos by Terry O’Neill

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Elton John with his mother Shelia and stepfather Fred Farebrother in their apartment, 1971.

Photos by John Olson

On this day in music history: May 31, 1994 – “The Lion King – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Hans Zimmer, Chris Thomas, Mark Mancina and Jay Rifkin, it is recorded at Media Ventures Studios, Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, CA, The Snake Ranch, Angel Recording Studios in London and BOP Studios in Mmabatho, South Africa from Late 1993 – May 1994. With Walt Disney Pictures having experienced a major revival of their legendary animation studio, with “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty And The Beast” and “Aladdin”, it has high hopes for its next full length theatrical release. In development since 1988, “The Lion King” goes through numerous incarnations before the final concept and story lines are written. Drawing upon elements from multiple sources including The Bible and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, like many Disney animated classics, music plays a vital role in supporting and driving the plot. Famed lyricist Sir Tim Rice is also hired. Initially, Rice is to work with composer Alan Menken, but is unable as he is busy elsewhere. Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA are also approached. They also decline when Andersson has a scheduling conflict. Finally in 1993, Rice suggests pop superstar Elton John, who Disney are initially unsure of, being that he has never worked on a production like this. During their phone conversation, Tim tells Elton, “Disney said you’d never do this. And you’re a friend of mine and I told them you will”. John responds with “Tim, I’ve worked with you before. I love you. Of course I’ll do it”. With that Elton John signs on to the project, and the pair work very quickly. Rice and John end up writing six songs, five of which make the final cut. “Circle Of Life”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, “Be Prepared” and “Hakuna Matata” are performed by the film’s voice cast including Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, and vocalists Lebo M., Camille Twille and Jason Weaver. Elton himself records versions of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (#4 Pop, #1 AC) and “Circle Of Life” (#18 Pop, #2 AC) with his long time producer Chris Thomas. The soundtrack also includes an instrumental score composed by Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack of “The Lion King” becomes the biggest selling album in Disney’s history. “King” is their first to top the pop chart since “Mary Poppins” in 1965. The music wins two Golden Globes, three Grammy Awards and two Academy Awards, including Best Original Song for “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (John and Rice) and for Best Original Score (Zimmer). “The Lion King – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” spends ten weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.

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