Friday, April 9, 2010

Five on Friday - The "Early" Elton John Version

It's Friday again and that means I get to share more of my favorite music with you via Travis' Five on Friday meme. Should you decide to join in one of these Fridays, it's quite easy - just use the following guidelines or even think out of the box and pick five of your favorite songs to post via your own unique method.  It's a great way to not only open people's ears to some of the music you like but to open yours to new music that others have posted.
  • Grab the banner, make your post title Five on Friday, and be sure to link back here.
  • Go to to make your play list of five songs. Choose a particular theme to share with us. You can simply post the play list, or you can add a little summary about what you are sharing.
  • Pop over to Trav's Thoughts and leave your link so that others can find you! 
  • No tags, but feel free to invite your friends to play along if they need a post topic on a Friday.
This week I decided to use the music of Elton John - one of my favorite artists since I was a teenager - but I wanted to use some of his older music that the average listener may not have heard so I stepped into the Wayback Machine and came up with the following five songs:

I was first made aware of Elton John back in the dark ages of 1972 as I was making the transition from 8th-grade graduate to scared-to-death freshman. In addition to the mental trauma associated with going from "Big Man on Campus" to a very small fish in a very big pond, I was moving from my small town of Canterbury, Connecticut to the big town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire where my Dad had been transferred upon his return from Keflavik Air Force Base in Iceland.  Not only was I going to high school, I was going to a high school where I knew NO ONE!  Oh the horrors!

Anyhow all that aside, shortly before I moved my very cool Uncle Bill (my Mom's youngest brother who had traveled a lot of the world, had long hair, gave my country-and-western-listening mother a Carol King album for Christmas one year, and looked somewhat like David Crosby) handed me an album (now known as "vinyl"!) called Tumbleweed Connection and told me to keep my eye on the artist as he was going to be big.

How Uncle Bill knew that I don't know but he was most definitely spot on as Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight he officially changed his name the same year I became aware of him) went on to sell well over 250 million records making him one of the most successful artists of all time.  Were my Uncle Bill still alive he could no doubt tell me "I told you so" and I would have to totally agree!

At one point in my life, I owned every single album that Elton put out and would wait anxiously for the next one to hit store shelves.   Lucky for me, he was on a two-albums-a-year release schedule and new music was always being produced.  His songs written with lyricist Bernie Taupin (the pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date) produced some of the finest music out there in my humble teenage opinion and I'd play the albums to death with most of the songs that weren't released as singles becoming my very favorites - such as those above.

Just to give you a little background on one of the songs above:  "Ticking" is an Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition written in 1973 about a massacre in a Queens, New York restaurant which results in summary justice by a hail of police bullets. The unnamed gunman in the song murdered fourteen people in his killing spree before being shot to death by police and is based on the Texas Clock Tower Massacre of August 1966 in which undergraduate and former Marine Charles Whitman killed fourteen people before he was shot to death by police.

When "Ticking" was first recorded, the phenomenon of indiscriminate mass shootings was fairly rare in the United States and, as Elton said in a 2003 concert, "when Bernie wrote the lyrics we thought things would get better not worse, things have got worse, so it's more relevant today than ever." Sadly, he was very right. The song, which is practically all piano and vocal, remains one of Elton's most under-rated as well as one of his most powerful songs.  I'm sure that my Uncle Bill would have agreed.

Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

"An extremely quiet child" they called you in your school report
"He's always taken interest in the subjects that he's taught"
So what was it that brought the squad car screaming up your drive
To notify your parents of the manner in which you died

At St. Patricks every Sunday, Father Fletcher heard your sins
"Oh, he's unconcerned with competition he never cares to win"
But blood stained a young hand that never held a gun
And his parents never thought of him as their troubled son

"Now you'll never get to Heaven" Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Grow up straight and true blue
Run along to bed"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

They had you holed up in a downtown bar screaming for a priest
Some gook said "His brain's just snapped" then someone called the police
You'd knifed a Negro waiter who had tried to calm you down
Oh you'd pulled a gun and told them all to lay still on the ground

Promising to hurt no one, providing they were still
A young man tried to make a break, with tear-filled eyes you killed
That gun butt felt so smooth and warm cradled in your palm
Oh your childhood cried out in your head "they mean to do you harm"

"Don't ever ride on the devil's knee" Mama said
Remember mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Pay your penance well, my child
Fear where angels tread"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking

Within an hour the news had reached the media machine
A male caucasian with a gun had gone berserk in Queens
The area had been sealed off, the kids sent home from school
Fourteen people lying dead in a bar they called the Kicking Mule

Oh they pleaded to your sanity for the sake of those inside
"Throw out your gun, walk out slow just keep your hands held high"
But they pumped you full of rifle shells as you stepped out the door
Oh you danced in death like a marionette on the vengeance of the law

"You've slept too long in silence" Mama said
Remember Mama said
Ticking, ticking
"Crazy boy, you'll only wind up with strange notions in your head"
Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking


  1. I don't think I've ever heard those 5 Elton John songs! Although I enjoy his music, I've never bought any of his albums/cds...don't ask me why! lol I'm trying to think of the first time I ever remember hearing of him...Crocodile Rock and Bennie and the Jets would be two of the first songs I remember. I think the moment that stands out the most in my mind is when he sang Candle In The Wind at Princess Diana's funeral. xoxo


    Turn me loose from your hands
    Let me fly to distant lands
    Over green fields, trees and mountains
    Flowers and forest fountains
    Home along the lanes of the skyway

    For this dark and lonely room
    Projects a shadow cast in gloom
    And my eyes are mirrors
    Of the world outside
    Thinking of the way
    That the wind can turn the tide
    And these shadows turn
    From purple into grey

    For just a Skyline Pigeon
    Dreaming of the open
    Waiting for the day
    He can spread his wings
    And fly away again
    Fly away skyline pigeon fly
    Towards the dreams
    You've left so very far behind

    Just let me wake up in the morning
    To the smell of new mown hay
    To laugh and cry, to live and die
    In the brightness of my day

    I want to hear the pealing bells
    Of distant churches sing
    But most of all please free me
    From this aching metal ring
    And open out this cage towards the sun

    ~ That's my favorite early, early Elton song. "Skyline Pigeon".

    I also got to know about Elton in same era - '71. Of course I was older than you - guess I still am.

    "Come down in Time" is a great song.

    Great post!

  3. I've never heard any of those tracks before!

  4. Most excellent selections. I love that you went with the off the beaten path Elton, instead of the Top 40 Elton...there is so much of his music the world has never heard because they were not played by radio.

  5. My favorite Elton John song is Crocodile Rock! My feet start tapping just thinking about it! That, and it brings me back to a wonderful time in my life when everything lay ahead of me and it was full of exciting possibilities!

  6. 'Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player' was my first Elton album.

  7. I wasn't familiar with these five pieces, but I do consider myself a big fan of Elton's. Music Box Dancer is a fave of mine...Candle in the Wind...beautiful music.

    Big hugs...

  8. When I was a kid, we had the Madman Across the Water 8 track tape - how's that for a time tunnel? My favorite song from that album is Levon.

    My favorite from your set today is I've Seen That Movie Too. I also like early Elton John, and really like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The first album I ever bought was his Greatest Hits album, where he's sitting at a piano with a white suit on.

  9. You've captured the spirit of the feature...sharing not only some of your favorites, but also maybe sharing selections that people might not have heard.

    I'm a fan of Elton John, but I consider myself more of a "greatest hits" kind of fan. I hadn't heard these tunes. Thanks so much for showing me something "new" by an "old" friend.

  10. Elton is my all time fave. I found him at the same time in my life when I felt alone. I was in that phase when I thought that no one understood me and no one would. He was my saving grace with his weird clothes, looks, glasses and his music that made so much sense. He was adored by so many despite his "oddness". My favorite album of his is Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I know every song word by word to this day. Thanks for sharing his lesser known songs. I believe they are his better ones too.


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