Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Elton John Part 1: The Pre-Rocket Years

Some years ago, I seem to recall hearing one of my wifes’ friends’ (now-ex) husband talking about how he had “discovered” Elton John. This was not in 1974, but thirty plus years later. And I did feel like saying to him, “have you been living on Mars since 1969?”

I suppose it is easy to “not get” Elton. With one or two notable exceptions, the general consensus is that he has not made a genuinely great record since the 70s, and he seems to be more well known nowadays for the hairpiece, that Diana song, David Furnish, and “Tantrums And Tiaras“, rather than the music. Which is a shame, because go back and listen to some of those albums - especially those 70s ones - and you realise just how good some of that stuff really is.

Before he started his own label, Rocket, in 1976, all his albums had been on the DJM label. In the mid 1990s, most of these records were reissued by Mercury under the banner of “The Classic Years” - some later reissues were not emblazoned with such a legend, which did seem to suggest they thought that stuff was therefore from the “Un-Classic Years”. However, unlike the Bowie reissues from 1999, these reissues not only - usually - included extra tracks, but in many instances, are the copies still on sale today. Some have been given deluxe reissues, with even extra tracks added, and Elton has not yet reissued an album, and removed the rarities from it. As such, the Elton albums from this period that remain on sale today, can be seen as the definitive articles at present.

This is the first in a series of articles looking at Elton’s UK releases on LP and 45, and in this first part, we look at the albums he released between 1969 and 1976, and the singles that were issued at the same time. Studio, Live, Compilations and Soundtracks are all detailed, and for the Studio and Live ones, the catalogue number shown relates to the most recent release. For the others, these have either never been reissued, or feature nothing rare on any later pressings, so the original vinyl edition is listed instead.

Whilst researching for this article, I stumbled across a discussion site which went into ludicrous depth about the differing sounds of the different reissues from over the years, with the suggestion that some CD editions of one album, sound different in parts to another CD edition of the same LP, due to the remastering process carried out each time. I am no expert, so for the most part, we shall not go into this much detail. However, it is worth pointing out that - correct me if I’m wrong - most/all of the studio and live albums listed below were first issued in the mid 80s by DJM, at a time when the use of barcodes on the packaging to record sales at the tills was NOT mandatory, and so the earliest pressings with “DJM CD” catalogue numbers and no barcode are possibly worth a small fortune. Later repressings were made in Europe, with slightly more anonymous looking “numeric” catalogue numbers, in the “800” series, before the bonus track editions surfaced in 1995/1996. These are the editions we shall be looking at in this article, for the most part. As for the singles, unless stated, all from this period were issued in standard company bags. Side projects, and duets with other acts (as opposed to duets BY another act, WITH Elton, trust me - there is a difference) are excluded, but I would suggest you check the excellent “Eltonography” site for more info about those.

Empty Sky (Mercury 528 157-2)

Like seemingly every other rock megastar, Elton had spent some years in the wilderness, before getting his big break. He had played in a band called Bluesology since the mid 60s, before signing to Philips in 1968. Even after this, he continued to work (usually with lyrics partner Bernie Taupin) on side projects, including writing songs for Eurovision contestants, as well as famously recording, anonymously, cover versions of hits of the day for those “Top of The Pops” albums you see in charity shops. More of that in a later article.

Elton released two singles on Philips, both of which flopped, although the second, “Lady Samantha”, is quite well known, having been shoved onto a few compilation records in it’s time. He then moved to DJM, which stood for “Dick James Music” - this was the company to whom Elton’s material was already being published by as well.

“Empty Sky” appeared in 1969 on DJM, although the US release of the album did not occur until 1975. Although Elton has since described the album as “naïve”, I have always had a soft spot for it, helped I suppose in part by it’s prog-style tendencies, the fact that it starts and ends with two lengthy numbers suggests a level of ambition not indulged in on the likes of “Honky Chateau”. The last song on “Empty Sky“ even features during it’s end part, briefs snatches of all the songs that precede it on the album, something you don’t hear too often. Suffice to say, most of the stuff on this record has rarely, if ever, been played live, although Elton rescued “Skyline Pigeon”, by re-recording it some years later as a b-side, as well as playing it live now and then throughout the years.

The album had been preceded by a single, “It’s Me That You Need”, which followed it’s predecessors by failing to chart. Not one of the six songs spread across those first three 45’s appeared on “Empty Sky”, although the A and B sides of both “Lady Samantha” and “It’s Me That You Need” were included as bonus tracks on the “Classic Years” reissue of the album. These four songs, and both sides of the debut 45 also appear on the 1992 rarities set, “Rare Masters” - indeed, many of the bonus tracks that appeared on the CD reissues from the mid 90s were actually sourced from this double-CD set. More details as we continue.


I’ve Been Loving You/Here’s To The Next Time (1968, 7”, Philips BF 1643)
Lady Samantha/All Across The Havens (1969, 7”, Philips BF 1739)
It’s Me That You Need/Just Like Strange Rain (1969, 7”, DJM DJS 205, p/s)

Elton John (Mercury 530 5559)

Possibly because it was the first LP to be issued in America, or possibly because he thought “Empty Sky” to be lacking, Elton’s second album was issued as a self titled affair in 1970. It’s an impressive effort, with a leap forward confidence wise - the ballads sound sweet, the big orchestral ones sound loud and brash. Huge chunks of this record have featured in setlists throughout the years, and it’s probably deserving of it’s celebrated status amongst fans and critics.

It took a while before the album really cemented Elton’s reputation as a singer and songwriter. “Border Song” was lifted as a 45, and stalled in the UK - but did better in North America. The b-side, “Bad Side Of The Moon”, later became something of a live favourite for a while. It was followed by a stand alone single, “Rock N Roll Madonna”, which also bombed. The b-side of this one, “Grey Seal”, was later re-recorded for 1973’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

According to legend, Elton’s US label, then issued “Take Me To The Pilot” as a single, only for American DJ’s to start playing the flipside instead - another song from the LP entitled “Your Song”. In the UK early the following year, DJM issued “Your Song” on this basis, and it promptly became a hit. The rest is history.

The mid 90s reissue of “Elton John” added “Bad Side Of The Moon”, “Rock N Roll Madonna” and “Grey Seal”. In 2008, a deluxe edition reissue of the LP was released, which removed these three songs from the end of the LP, and placed them on a second CD, where they were joined by no less than 17 other demos, alternate takes, and rarities. This deluxe edition remains the definitive version of the LP, although if you do fancy tracking down a DJM Vinyl original, it does come in a nice “textured” gatefold sleeve. The b-side of “Your Song”, “Into The Old Man’s Shoes”, was actually taped during early sessions for the next LP, and as such, was added as a bonus to that record (“Tumbleweed Connection“) in the mid 90s rather than “Elton John”.


Border Song/Bad Side Of The Moon (1970, 7”, DJM DJS 217)
Rock N Roll Madonna/Grey Seal (1970, 7”, DJM DJS 222)
Your Song/Into The Old Man’s Shoes (1971, 7”, DJM DJS 233)

Tumbleweed Connection (Mercury 530 5255)

Regarded as the finest of the first trio of Elton LP’s, and very much the first truly “classic” Elton LP, “Tumbleweed Connection” was some sort of vague concept album, detailing Elton’s interest in Americana, and the Southern-USA Country And Western scene. Whilst the cover was presumably designed to give you the impression that the photo was taken in some dusty American Railroad station, the picture was actually taken on the preserved Bluebell Railway in Sussex, England!

No singles were taken from the record, although a number of songs have been played in concert throughout the years, specifically “Come Down in Time” and the incendiary album closer, “Burn Down the Mission”. The mid 1990s reissue added the aforementioned “Into The Old Man’s Shoes” and an early take of “Madman Across The Water”, left off the “Tumbleweed” album but resurrected later that same year for a new album of the same name. The current 2-CD edition includes both these tracks, plus various other demos and alternate takes, plus the never before released “Sisters Of The Cross”.

On the original pressing of the LP, the cover was effectively spread across the back of the gatefold sleeve, so when “unfolded”, you got to see Bernie Taupin on the left of the sleeve and Elton on the right - in other words, Bernie on the back, Elton on the front. The song titles were not printed on the back, only inside the packaging. The mid 90s reissue altered the back cover so that the song titles were listed on the rear, but the deluxe version, housed as it is in a digipack sleeve, restored the original artwork - minus the song titles once more.

Friends (Paramount SPFL 269)

Without a doubt, the most obscure Elton solo album, “Friends” was a soundtrack album from the film of the same name, but was issued not on DJM, but Paramount Records instead. It seems to have often been thought of as a soundtrack, rather than an Elton studio effort, and as such, as the rest of the DJM catalogue got reissued during the 80s, this album was left out, and by the early 90s, was out of print, with the songs not available anywhere else. Thankfully, everything on the LP got included on the second half of CD1 on “Rare Masters”, albeit in a different running order.

Rather strangely, given that Elton issued no less than four albums in 1971, it is odd to think that “Friends” was the only one to spawn a single, with the title track being issued by DJM as a 45. Another song from the LP, “Honey Roll”, appeared on the flip.

Elton is, of course, no stranger to the work of the soundtrack, and a number of other Elton albums were released in the nineties and beyond which doubled up as soundtracks, and have thus become “lost” amongst the discography. Elton also wrote scores for movies like “The Lion King”, but only performed on a handful of numbers on the soundtrack. I understand that Paramount Records have been swallowed up by the Universal Music group, to whom Elton is signed, which means that logistically there should be no problem in reissuing “Friends” in it’s own right, but it’s difficult to see who would be interested outside the collectors market, especially as “Rare Masters” is still on catalogue.


Friends/Honey Roll (1971, 7”, DJM DJS 244)

17-11-70 (Mercury 528 165 2)

As the title suggests, this live album was recorded in North America on 17th November 1970, and broadcast on US radio. The decision to release the album was based on the fact that, given that the show had been broadcast in FM Quality Sound, bootlegs were doing the rounds, and Elton’s label(s) decided to issue the record to try and stem the flow of these boots.

The trouble was, record companies have always had a phobia about double albums, and so “17-11-70” was thus restricted to a single slab of vinyl. This meant that a chunk of Elton’s set from that night was simply unable to fit onto the record, and thus bootlegs continued to circulate, as a number of songs remained unavailable on the official release. It has often been mentioned that sales of “17-11-70” were dented by the number of bootleg versions still available.

There was a concession of sorts when the “Classic Years” reissue was released, as another song from the set, “Amoreena” was included this time around. Furthermore, the entire show was remixed, so anybody who owned an original copy now had the chance to buy a record that was benefiting from improved sound. If you do fancy getting hold of an original version, you could do worse than go for the mid 70s budget reissue on the Pickwick label, housed in a different cover and titled “Live 17-11-70”. No singles were released from this LP.

Madman Across The Water (Mercury 528 161 2)

A curious record, this. You will find critics falling over themselves to praise this one nowadays, but it’s reputation had always been that it was one of Elton’s forgotten records. For years, the chances of you hearing Elton do anything on stage from this one were non-existent, and the fact that it spawned no singles in the UK meant it was either another “Tumbleweed” or an album that the record company didn’t know what to do with. Elton himself, for some years, hated it, claiming it was relentlessly downbeat. Indeed, the mid 90s reissue is bereft of any bonus tracks, which almost makes you think the record company just tossed it out again without much thought.

But now, it’s a different story. “Levon”, originally issued as a single in the USA when the album was first out, has become a regular gig favourite, whilst Cameron Crowe’s decision to use “Tiny Dancer” in the “Almost Famous” movie gave this song (also a US 45 in 1972) a second lease of life. In recent years, “Tiny Dancer” has become another concert staple, as has the title track. And then you have “Indian Sunset”, sampled for Tupac’s “Ghetto Gospel” some years ago, which saw Elton issue an edited mix of the song as a B-side on “Electricity” in 2005.

When “Rare Masters” was issued, pretty much everything on it was previously unreleased, and a track dating from the “Madman” period, “Rock Me When He’s Gone”, was included. Given that “Rare Masters” was used as the source for most of the bonus tracks on the records featured in this article, it seems a bit odd that “Rock Me” was not added to the reissued “Madman”. I can only think Mercury wanted to leave some stuff on “Rare Masters” that was still, well, rare.

Honky Chateau (Mercury 528 162-2)

This one, from May 72, is probably the point at which Elton started to move in a more “pop” direction. The prog rock of “Empty Sky” gone, the string laden sound of the Sophomore effort absent, and no Tumbleweed-style Americana, you only have to listen to the relentlessly upbeat and jaunty “Honky Cat” to realise that Elton seems to be having fun. Even the awesome “I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself” was written in a tongue in cheek style.

The first single from the LP was “Rocket Man”, housed in a picture sleeve, with some coming in a gatefold version with the lyrics printed on the inside. The two B-sides were both lifted from “Madman”. DJM decided to use a new catalogue system for picture sleeve singles (DJX instead of DJS, and this one started at a different point in their numbering system, becoming DJX 501) although this comcept would be abandoned within a few years.

The b-sides of “Honky Cat” were the A-sides of Elton’s second and third singles, which helped to give “Lady Samantha” a bit more exposure. DJM even released a rarities album of the same name some years after. With no particular outtakes seemingly in the vaults, it was thus an alternate take of album track “Slave” which was the bonus on the 1995 reissue, and which is also on “Rare Masters”.


Rocket Man/Holiday Inn/Goodbye (1972, 7”, DJM DJX 501, p/s, some in gatefold)
Honky Cat (7" Mix)/Lady Samantha/It’s Me That You Need (1972, 7”, DJM DJS 269)

Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (Mercury 528 154-2)

This effort has been described as how Elton viewed America “through the world of the movies”, which explains the cover. This is my favourite Elton album cover, and was reportedly influenced by an incident at a party involving Elton and Groucho Marx, who pointed his fingers at Elton in the shape of a gun, causing Elton to remark “don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player!”

The “pop” feel of “Honky Chateau” carries on here, with the genteel feel of “Daniel” opening proceedings, although it’s lyrical subject matter - the Vietnam War - was lost on most listeners. Elton wearing a ridiculous fur coat whilst performing it on “Top Of The Pops” probably didn’t help either. “Crocodile Rock”, the album’s lead 45, was a deliberate pastiche of 50’s doo-wop and Rock & Roll, but opened with such an infectious keyboard riff, it remains one of those Elton songs you are happy to see him play for the umpeenth time.

The mid 90s reissue, rather confusingly, adds B-sides from the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” period - “Screw You”, “Jack Rabbit” and “Whenever You’re Ready - plus the aforementioned “new” version of “Skyline Pigeon”, released as the B-side of “Daniel”. Once more, all of these also feature on “Rare Masters.


Crocodile Rock/Elderberry Wine (1972, 7”, DJM DJS 271)
Daniel/Skyline Pigeon (New Version) (1973, 7”, DJM DJS 275)

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Mercury 981 320-5)

Another stone cold classic, maybe the best one from this period, “GYBR” was Elton’s first double LP. It originally came in an elaborate fold out gatefold sleeve, with lyrics printed inside, and illustrations for each of the songs. The “drunk” illustration for “Saturday Night’s Alright” was also used on the picture sleeve of the single of the same name.

It really is a superb record. The opening number, the lengthy “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, remains one of the most brilliant opening numbers on any album, starting off with a spooky fade in, then building and building through a climactic finale before rushing headfirst into the piano driven roar that starts “Love Lies Bleeding”. Although both songs were written separately, they were recorded as a single entity, and whenever “Funeral” has been played at an Elton gig, usually as the set opener, it has almost always segued into “Love Lies Bleeding”. Indeed, this medley was issued as a single in the late 70’s, but was obviously so long, the single could only be issued on 12”, and not 7”.

You probably know most of this album - the poignant Monroe tribute “Candle In the Wind”, the glam stomp of “Bennie And The Jets”, the incredible high notes that link the verses to the choruses in the title track, the mock reggae madness of “Jamaica Jerk Off” (initial recording sessions were conducted in Jamaica), the catchy-as-hell pop of “Grey Seal”, the lullaby style swing of “Sweet Painted Lady”, the raucous Elton-does-The Faces rock of “Saturday Night’s Alright”, this one really does deserve that “Classic Album” status.

When first released on CD, the record company knew they could make a few extra quid by issuing “GYBR” as a double CD, thus replicating the original double-vinyl release, and also allowing them to hike the price up. But for the mid 90’s reissue, the decision was taken to issue the album on a single CD, achievable because the album’s running time was several minutes less than what could be squeezed onto a single disc. The most recent release, from 2003, is a 3-disc set - the album appears as a two disc release again (with an SACD layer included), which allows for additional material to be put at the end of the LP on CD2. The three “out of place” bonus tracks from “Don’t Shoot Me” appear, along with a so called “acoustic” version of “Candle In The Wind”, which is actually the original version but with all overdubs removed except for Elton’s voice and Davey Johnstone’s acoustic guitar parts. This mix is unavailable anywhere else in the UK, but is on a US only CD EP called “Remixed“. Disc 3 is a DVD, featuring the “Classic Albums” documentary, which is also available to buy separately.


Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (Edit)/Jack Rabbit/Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again) (1973, 7”, DJM DJX 502, p/s)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Screw You (1973, 7”, DJM DJS 285)

Caribou (Mercury 528 158 2)

Now, for some reason, my sister - despite being a huge fan since the early 70's - seemed to be missing certain Elton LP’s until some years ago. I therefore always assumed that the missing ones were a bit rubbish. And some of them are rather patchy, such as “Breaking Hearts”. But “Caribou” is an odd one, because it spawned a couple of mega hits, but she didn’t seem to buy this one when it first came out. It might simply be that the garish cover put her off.

The album had been preceded by a stand alone Xmas single, the mighty “Step Into Christmas”, at the end of 1973, before DJM resumed their promotional campaign for the “Yellow Brick Road” LP by issuing “Candle In the Wind” as a 45 early the following year. In the summer of ‘74, the “lighters in the air” ballad “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” was lifted from the forthcoming “Caribou” as the next single, and gave Elton one of his most famous and biggest hits. The superior, and incredibly camp, “The Bitch Is Back” followed later the same year. One would assume that, with UK censorship being what it is nowadays, had he opted to play this at that Jubilee gig, the BBC would have beeped out the title every time he sang it.

The “expanded” version of “Caribou” adds “Step Into Christmas”, “Sick City” and “Cold Highway” - the latter two being B-sides from the period. It also includes Elton’s cover of “Pinball Wizard” (recorded for the soundtrack version of “Tommy”) despite the fact that it was not issued as a single until mid to late 1975.


Step Into Christmas/Ho! Ho! Ho! (Who’d Be A Turkey At Christmas) (1973, 7”, DJM DJS 290)
Candle In The Wind/Bennie And The Jets (1974, 7”, DJM DJS 297)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Sick City (1974, 7”, DJM DJS 302)
The Bitch Is Back/Cold Highway (1974, 7”, DJM DJS 322)

Greatest Hits (DJM DJLPH 442)

Probably one of the more famous hits sets around, probably because being the first, everybody bought it, “Greatest Hits” is - to be honest - of little interest musically. Although Elton had recorded a number of stand alone 45’s by this point in his career, the decision was taken to opt for the really big hits for this album, and all of them had appeared on studio LP’s at the time, so the rarity factor here was zilch.

A CD reissue of the album in the mid 90s added a few oddities, but by this point, with “Rare Masters” in the shops, even that version of the album offered nothing unusual. The album had also been reissued earlier in the decade, with a slightly altered track listing.

It does make me laugh when compilation albums get included in “Best Ever Albums” lists, you are in danger of getting a top ten full of “Greatest Hits” releases, but nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that Rolling Stone claim this is the 135th best album of all time. Still seems like cheating to me.

“Greatest Hits” did spawn a follow up, “Volume 2”, in 1977, whilst there was an oddball US only Third Volume as well, which actually missed out a few years by not following on the sequence left by the 77 edition. All of them were effectively superseded by the “1970-2002” best of set from a decade ago. Elton’s later hits sets will be looked at in due course.

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Mercury 0602 4983 17242)

Another concept album, this time concerning the story of “The Captain” (Elton) and the “Brown Dirt Cowboy” (Taupin) during their early years, trying to make a breakthrough into the pop world in the late 60’s. It came in a fantastically intricate cover, with the original gatefold sleeve copies also coming with not one but two booklets, one with the lyrics and another featuring photos of memorabilia entitled “Scraps”. There was also a picture disc edition, which came with a backing card only, and the vinyl tucked in front, which reproduced the front cover image.

Although “Captain Fantastic” is now thought of as something of a classic, enough for it to get a 30th Anniversary double CD reissue, Elton’s decision to play the album in full when it was first released at a Wembley Stadium gig has become the stuff of legend. Elton’s support act that day, 21st June 1975, was The Beach Boys, who rattled through a Greatest Hits set which delighted the crowd. So when Elton promptly decided to play the album, from start to finish, halfway through the show, the general consensus has always been that there was a feeling of deflation from parts of the crowd, who wanted him to do “the hits”. As such, there was no outing for “Your Song” on this day.

Of course, history gets re-written and the 2-CD version of “Captain Fantastic” actually includes, on disc 2, the entire Wembley performance of the album, plus the two songs Elton did as an encore thereafter. I have listened out for boos or shouts of “Judas”, but no such luck. Perhaps people actually enjoyed it after all.

As regards the singles - “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was issued as a stand alone 45 in late 74, followed by the soul influenced “Philadelphia Freedom” (credited to “The Elton John Band”) in early 75. The b-side of the latter, “I Saw Her Standing There”, was taped at Madison Square Gardens on 28th November 1974 - and was one of three songs Elton played that night with John Lennon. Nobody knew it at the time, but this was to be the last time Lennon ever appeared onstage, as he had developed a fear of touring and playing live, and had stopped doing his own solo shows by this date. He only did this show as part of a bet he had with Elton. This version of “I Saw Her Standing There” would later be issued as a single in it’s own right after Lennon’s death, backed with the other two songs they played that night - Lennon‘s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” and “Lucy”. Remixed versions of all three appear on the expanded “Here And There”.

The mid 90s version of “Captain Fantastic” adds both sides of the “Lucy” 7”, and “Philadelphia Freedom”. The other studio b-side from the period, “House Of Cards”, was omitted on the basis it was already on “Rare Masters”. The current double disc version now includes all these plus “House Of Cards” as well, plus the aforementioned Wembley show.


Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds/One Day At A Time (1974, 7”, DJM DJS 340)
Philadelphia Freedom/I Saw Her Standing There (Live) (1975, 7”, DJM DJS 354, p/s)
Someone Saved My Life Tonight/House Of Cards (1975, 7”, DJM DJS 385)

Rock Of The Westies (Mercury 528 163 2)

Like “Caribou”, another one of the less celebrated Elton LP’s, and like “Caribou”, the cover’s a bit naff. I have probably only listened to this record a couple of times, and I can’t really remember it. “Island Girl” was a jaunty, un-Elton like foray into the world of calypso/disco, backed with the non-album “Sugar On The Floor”, followed by “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own” soon after. The b-side of this single, “I Feel Like A Bullet”, was lifted from the LP. At least one other song taped during the album sessions, “Planes”, remained in the vaults, but was obviously deemed not good enough to become a b-side, and would remain unreleased until making it onto “Rare Masters” in 92.

As has been previously mentioned, the next single following the end of the promo campaign for the LP was a cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”, before the release of another stand alone single, and the first for Elton’s Rocket label, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, a duet with Kiki Dee, in 1976. Depending on which country you buy a “Westies” reissue from, you will end up with different bonus tracks. The US reissue added “Sugar on The Floor” as a bonus, but the UK uses “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” instead. With Elton now off DJM in the summer of 76, the label issued what seemed to be an opportunistic release of the three year old “Bennie And The Jets” as a single later the same year.

The decision by Elton’s US label to offer an alternate bonus track in the mid 90s is probably some record company issue - in the UK, DJM and Rocket are actually all part of the Mercury stable, so there was no issue about using a “Rocket” era a-side on the UK edition of “Westies”. DJM continued to issue sporadic Elton singles after he started recording for Rocket, more about that in the next blog.


Island Girl/Sugar On The Floor (1975, 7”, DJM DJS 610, p/s)
Grow Some Funk Of Your Own (7" Edit)/I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford) (1975, 7”, DJM DJS 629)
Pinball Wizard/Harmony (1975, 7”, DJM DJS 652)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart/Snow Queen (1976, 7”, Rocket ROKN 512, p/s)
Bennie And The Jets/Rock And Roll Madonna (1976, 7”, DJM DJS 10705)

Here And There (Mercury 528 164 2)

Although it was not released until 1976, “Here And There” was a live album dating from 1974. It does seem as though this was possibly released as a contract filler for DJM, to allow Elton to release his next LP, “Blue Moves”, on his Rocket Records imprint.

The album was split into two halves - side 1 was the “Here” disc, highlights of a show at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Given that he came from Pinner, a station with it’s own London Underground station, that explains why this was the “Here” part of the album. The “There” part referred to a gig taped in New York in the fall - this was the very same gig that Lennon appeared at, although none of the songs he performed with Elton that night were to be included on the LP. Again, later 1970s budget reissues opted for different sleeves and different titles.

The mid 90s reissue was mightily impressive. It was expanded over two CD’s, one per gig, and like “17-11-70” was the subject of remixing once more. The decision was taken to expand each disc so that the running time of each show now lasted about an hour. What is notable about the “Here” gig is that the setlist was played almost in chronological order (“Skyline Pigeon” opens proceedings, “Saturday Night’s Alright” closes), only “Bad Side Of The Moon” and “Your Song” are not quite in the right place. The “There” gig features all three of the songs that Lennon sang with Elton that night. The original nine-song LP now ran for twenty five songs, with about half of this previously unreleased. As mentioned earlier, there were no actual singles released from this album, although the three Lennon songs appeared on a three track 7” in 1980.

The Reissues

Given that virtually all of the B-sides from these singles have been made available elsewhere, mainly on “Rare Masters” (“Snow Queen“ is the odd one out), it means that later re-issues of selected titles might be of more interest, especially as some were issued with what are now rarer B-sides or mixes. And no sooner had Elton started to record for his own label, than DJM decided to get in on the act.

In 1977, DJM issued the dodgily-titled “Four From Four Eyes” EP, which included no less than three old hits - “Your Song”, “Rocket Man” and “Saturday Night’s Alright”. But this was nothing compared to DJM’s wholesale reissue campaign of 1978, which saw no less than 12 7” singles being released, all as AA sides in brand new picture sleeves.

According to the Eltonography site, the singles came housed in a box set, but I have only ever seen them issued for sale as individual discs. Each release coupled two oldies, sometimes opting to include album tracks as one of the A-sides. For the record, previous Elton 45’s that got a second bite of the cherry were “Lady Samantha”, “Your Song”, “Border Song”, “Honky Cat”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Rocket Man”, “Daniel”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Candle In The Wind”, “The Bitch Is Back”, “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own”, “Island Girl”, “Saturday Night’s Alright”, “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Pinball Wizard” and “Bennie And The Jets”.

The 1987 live album “Live In Australia” spawned two singles, with both “Your Song” and “Candle In The Wind” being issued as live singles to help plug the LP. In 1990, one of the formats of the “Easier To Walk Away” single was issued as a four track “Christmas EP”, in a unique sleeve with “Step Into Christmas” as the lead track. This was then followed by a reissue of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, followed then by a live duet of the self same track with George Michael, which did better than the reissue of the studio mix, and was taped in March 1991 in London.

Revamps of 70s singles continued in the 90s, with a new version of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” - this time with Ru Paul - surfacing in 1994, in conjunction with the previous years’ “Duets” album. But the most famous revamp was the re-recorded “1997” version of “Candle In The Wind”, which was issued as a AA side with “Something About The Way You Look Tonight”. 2001 saw a four track EP, “One Night Only: The Valentine Sampler”, given away free with a UK newspaper, which included recent live recordings from a New York Madison Square Gardens gig of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and a song from the Rocket years, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”. It was issued to tie in with the “One Night Only” live CD. A re-recorded “Your Song”, with Alessandro Safina, was issued in 2002.

The list below details, in release date order, these reissues. Note, that ALL reissues on (virtually) all formats are shown, although some releases are of more interest than others (none of the "non remix" b-sides of the 1994 "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" are rare, for example). All of these releases come in picture sleeves.

Four From Four Eyes EP: Your Song/Rocket Man/Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)/Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again) (1977, 7”, DJM DJR 18001)
Lady Samantha/Skyline Pigeon (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10901)
Your Song/Border Song (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10902)
Honky Cat/Sixty Years On (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10903)
Country Comfort/Crocodile Rock (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10904)
Rocket Man/Daniel (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10905)
Sweet Painted Lady/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10906)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Someone Saved My Life Tonight (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10907)
Candle In The Wind/I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford) (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10908)
The Bitch Is Back/Grow Some Funk Of Your Own (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10909)
Island Girl/Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10910)
Philadelphia Freedom/Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10911)
Pinball Wizard/Bennie And The Jets (1978, 7”, DJM DJS 10912)
Your Song (Live In Australia)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In Australia) (1987, 7”, Rocket EJS 14)
Your Song (Live In Australia)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In Australia)/The Greatest Discovery (Live In Australia)/I Need You To Turn To (Live In Australia) (1987, 12”, Rocket EJS 1412)
Candle In The Wind (Live In Australia)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In Australia) (1988, 7”, Rocket EJS 15, picture disc copies also exist in clear sleeves)
Candle In The Wind (Live In Australia)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In Australia)/Your Song (Live In Australia)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In Australia) (1988, 12”, Rocket EJS 1512)
Candle In The Wind (Live In Australia)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In Australia)/Your Song (Live In Australia)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In Australia) (1988, CD, Rocket EJSCD 15)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart +1 (1988, 7”, Old Gold OG 9789)
Christmas EP: Step Into Christmas/Cold As Christmas/Easier To Walk Away/I Swear I Heard The Night Talking (1990, 7”, Rocket EJSX 25)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Song For Guy (1991, 7”, Rocket EJS 26)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Song For Guy/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (1991, 12”, Rocket EJS 2612)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Song For Guy/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (1991, CD, Rocket EJSCD 26)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live With George Michael)/I Believe (By George Michael) (1991, 7”, Epic 657646-7, other formats exist but with extra George Michael - and not Elton - bonus tracks)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (With Ru Paul)/Donner Pour Donner (1994, 7”, Rocket EJS 33)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (With Ru Paul)/Donner Pour Donner/A Woman’s Needs (1994, CD1, Rocket EJCD 33)
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Moroder 7” Mix)/(Moroder 12” Mix)/(Serious Rope 7” Mix)/(Serious Rope 12” Mix)/(Instrumental)/(Dub) (1994, CD2, Rocket EJRMX 33)
Something About The Way You Look Tonight (Edit)/Candle In The Wind 1997/You Can Make History (Young Again) (1997, AA-side CD, Rocket PTCD 1)
One Night Only EP: Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Live In New York City 2000)/Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (Live In New York City 2000)/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Live In New York City 2000)/Someone Saved My Life Tonight (Live In New York City 2000) (2001, CD, Mercury INDEPENDENT 402, UK only newspaper freebie)
Your Song (2002)/(Instrumental)/(Video) (2002, CD, Mercury 0639972)

One or two old Elton tunes got issued as singles for the first time after he left DJM, these will be covered in future blogs. There were also several albums that seemed to be restricted to DJM era material, and these - plus later studio and live albums - will also be featured in the next blog.

1 comment:

  1. Extremely in depth and informative article. Having been an Elton John fan for over 40 years I didn't think there was anything else to know!