Today’s music video is Rocket Man and the song is performed here by Elton John.
This video was posted to You Tube by Garth Brazelton
I’ve always been a huge fan of Pink Floyd, and I actually have every one of their 15 Studio albums on vinyl, which is no mean feat. A good friend of mine still occasionally sends me information from a Pink Floyd related site called Floydian Slip. The latest news is an article (at this link) about the re-opening of an old recording studio the band used once to record one of those studio albums, Obscured By Clouds, which was the sound track to a French movie. That recording studio was at a place called Château d’Hérouville, an 18th Century castle which was purchased in 1962 by a French composer, who then turned it into a recording studio.
Over the years a large number of artists and bands used the facilities at the Château to record their albums, a who’s who of the music industry during the 70’s in fact, and perhaps foremost among them was Elton John, who recorded three albums at this famed studio. This latest article details the purchase of the now run down and disused studio by three new people and how they are going to restore it back to a full recording studio.
I’m also a big fan of Elton John’s mainly because of this song I have featured today. I liked some of his earlier songs, and I only ever heard them played on the radio, but not so much that I would go out and purchase his albums. He had been around for three years prior to the release of this song. I really liked this song, and, because of that, I did go out and purchase the album the song was lifted from. That album was Honky Château, and that’s where this article about the old French Castle comes in, because this album was one of the three Elton John recorded at this studio, and in fact he named the album after this studio, not that I knew that at the time, because the album title was just such a catchy title. The other two albums he recorded here were the next two albums he recorded, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player, and the wonderful double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and all three of these albums were recorded over an 18/20 Month period between early 1972 and late 1973.
Once I heard the album Honky Château, I found I really liked the music, so I did then go out and get hold of three of those earlier albums, and as is always the case, I found tracks on those albums which I liked better than the ones lifted as Singles for radio airplay. From then on, I got hold of each of his new albums as they were released, and I have eleven of his albums on vinyl LP’s.
Elton John toured Australia a number of times, because he was immensely popular here, and in March of 1974, I went to one of his concerts. because he was so popular, there was a huge crowd expected, and the only place they hold the concert was at an outdoor venue, and this was at the Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. A friend came with me, and we drove down from Newcastle to the concert, a distance of more than 100 miles there and the same back, so it was a long haul just for a concert. Even with the huge crowd, we had good seats and the weather held off, so it was an excellent day at an excellent concert. This was probably when he was at his absolute zenith, following the release of the immensely successful double album that Yellow Brick Road album. He gave good value for money too, as he was on stage for two sessions, and would have played all up for close on three hours would be my guess, so he got through a lot of songs. I was impressed with the way a lot of what I thought to be studio effects were reproduced on stage with his touring band, which was by now his full time backing band.
That backing band now takes us back to this song and the album it came from, recorded at this French Château. Prior to this album, he was contracted to do his albums with studio musicians and some members of his touring band only played on perhaps one or two songs on each of those earlier albums. His backing band consisted of Dee Murray on the Bass Guitar, and Nigel Olsson on the drums. Just prior to this album being recorded, Elton finally hired a full time lead guitarist Davey Johnstone, who could cover every fretted instrument. Elton was not all that keen on guitar backing as he mentioned that it sometimes overpowered his work on the piano, the instrument he exclusively played at this time, as opposed to other forms of keyboards, as he said that piano was the purest of the keyboard sounds he wanted most.
Elton John now had the lineup that stayed with him for many years, and through many album releases, this backing band most perfectly complementing his piano playing.
The album was tightly produced by Gus Dudgeon, and Elton John also used a variety of extra musicians on the album, notable among them, Ray Cooper, who ended up touring as an extra member of the group, playing other percussion instruments, in fact, probably at that time, one of the masters of that group of instruments. Also of note was the inclusion of the French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty who played on two tracks, one of those the beautiful song Mona Lisa’s And Mad Hatters where Jean-Luc played an electric violin, and gave the song that extra something, perhaps my favourite song on that wonderful album.
This song featured today was the first single lifted from the album, and it became a huge hit virtually all across the World. While Elton composed the music, his long time lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics and also came up with the title for the song as well. It’s performed with mainly Elton’s piano, also has backing from his now regular band, with new guitarist Davey Johnstone playing slide guitar, and David Hentschell playing the Synthesiser to give the song that special effect during the song, both of these effects missing from this live performance of the songs, but heard to such wonderful effect on the studio version of the song, giving it that distinctive sound.
There are perhaps more recent versions of the song, but I have chosen this clip because it is closer to the time the song was written, and is also the longer version of the song. As radio in those days played mainly short songs, the Single release has only the one stanza of the chorus, while the album version has both stanzas, the second just a repeat of the first, not that it really mattered much, because most radio stations here in Australia played the longer album version anyway. As you watch the clip, man, did we ever have hair that big?