Album Anniversary: Elton John
On August 25, 1970, English singer and songwriter Elton John released his self-titled first album...well, technically, it was not his first album. John released an album titled Empty Sky in 1969 in England, but it wasn’t released in the United States until 1975. The 1970 release of Elton John in the U.S. contributed to John’s rise in international fame. John and lyricist Bernie Taupin collaborated to create an album full of beautiful melodies and lyrics that sound great, but might not make a whole lot of sense.
The first song on the album is “Your Song”: a true icon in the Elton John collection. Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to the song after breakfast one morning in John’s mother’s apartment. The sounds of piano, a soft acoustic guitar, and an orchestra of strings accompany Elton singing innocent lyrics of love, such as: “I don't have much money, but boy, if I did / I'd buy a big house where we both could live." Critics have described the song as “sweet”, “glowing and strangely haunting”, and even “a near-perfect song”.
“Take Me To the Pilot” has always been one of the most underrated Elton John songs out there, in my opinion. The song begins with bold piano chords, with strings eventually joining in, and percussion coming in during the chorus. As much as I love the song, the lyrics do not make a lot of sense. Even Elton and Bernie themselves have admitted that they do not know what the song is actually about! Bernie Taupin has said in past interviews that sometimes, he would just take random lyrics, and even if they did not make a lot of sense, he would put them together if it sounded good. John claims that lyrics to this song-and others- were inspired by the sci-fi novels that Taupin was reading at the time. The song went on to be covered a few different times, especially by contestants on shows like American Idol and The Voice.
While nobody is quite sure what the lyrics of “Take Me to the Pilot” are supposed to mean, many people have speculated that there are lyrics involving betrayal (“And I’m spent without treason”), danger (“through a glass eye”), and diving head first into the unknown (“Take me to the pilot of your soul”).
The Elton John album not only contains elements of classic rock n’ roll, but classical music as well. The second track on the original album, “I Need You to Turn To”, contains a harp, and harpsichord played by John himself. Choir elements are used in other tracks including “Border Song”. The sixth song on the album, “Sixty Years On”, starts with a string orchestra led by a strong cello solo. “The Greatest Discovery” also starts out with an orchestral introduction before Elton John comes in with vocals and piano.
Elton John later admitted that the fourth track of the album, “No Shoe Strings on Louise”, was meant to sound like a Rolling Stones song, and he sure did a great job intimidating the band. The blues-ey rock elements immediately remind me of the Stones’ early days. If you enjoy the Rolling Stones, you will enjoy “No Shoe Strings on Louise”.
Fifty years after the U.S. release of Elton John, John has found international success with the production of 33 studio albums, selling more than 300 million records worldwide, a wide variety of awards including Grammy, Tony, Academy, and Golden Globes. One of his most recent projects includes the 2019 biopic Rocketman, with Taron Egerton starring as John in a film about the rise of his career, and the struggles that came with it. John and Taupin went on to win several different Best Original Song awards “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”, which plays at the end of the film. John just recently celebrated thirty years of sobriety after a long battle with drugs and alcohol, and is living in the UK with husband, David Furnish, and their two sons.
John’s self titled album is still adored by fans today, and we sure hope Elton doesn’t mind that we put down in words how wonderful life is with his music in the world.