I Guess That's Why They Call It The Elton John Podcast

By Neil Barrett

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Description

An affectionate and detailed look at the music of Elton John, by a fan - not a fanatic

Episode Date
Episode 42 - Jewel Box Companion 1: Bernie's Letter
01:05:00

The first of six 'Jewel Box Companion' episodes. It's taken me a while to get to grips with all of the extra new material and versions that we have been treated to. I've boiled it down into six relatively short playlists, and I'm going to be introducing them, one by one, and providing a little context and interpretation where I can. 

'Chapter 1' is focused on the first set of lyrics, sent by Bernie to Liberty Records in June 1967, in response to their call for talent. It features some short snippets of an interview that I have carried out with Elton's first manager, and Elton and Bernie's matchmaker: - Ray Williams. The full interview will be coming up soon. 

The playlist for this first episode can be viewed here. There are links there for you to listen on the major streaming services, but here they are anyway: Spotify - - Apple Music - - YouTube Music

It's not mentioned in the episode, but I've also chorded out the songs for any musicians out there. Drop me a line on eltonpodcast@gmail.com if you'd like to have a look. 

 

Jun 07, 2021
Episode 41 - Old Friends
01:07:12

It's the 50th Frenniversary!

Elton's 4th album was a pick-and-mix, with three pastoral pop songs from the same mould as the Elton John Album, two spiky rock songs that kept the Tumbleweed rolling, and a 10 minute long Buckmaster-stroke, thrown in for good measure. While it is an uneven listen, it contains some of Elton's finest music.

The album gets some of the respect that it's due in this episode, by way of interviews, reviews, rare audio, and covers. 

 

Mar 07, 2021
Episode 40 - Tumbleweed Connection at 50 (part 2) with John Higgins and Peter Thomas
02:09:42

Here we are at last! This is the concluding part of the Tumbleweed Conversation I had with John Higgins, Elton's Legacy Consultant and Feature Writer at eltonjohn.com, and Peter Thomas, founder of pmc-speakers.com and Elton collector extraordinaire. Once again, I invite you to accompany us on our ramble along the timeline, all the way to the Troubadour. 

The image from the episode comes from this current auction, which is for a set of handwritten 'Parish Magazines', written and illustrated by Bernie and his brother Tony in 1960-61, that are packed with references to the Wild West. This is where the legend began! 

In the intro, I mention a possible identity for the 'Well-Known Gun', but I should have mentioned this Dylan song as well, which was an obvious source for Bernie. No wonder Bernie had a 'fake heart attack' when Dylan told him how much he enjoyed the lyric!

 

Feb 18, 2021
Episode 39 - Tumbleweed Connection at 50 with John Higgins and Peter Thomas
01:55:27

I am very thankful to John Higgins,  Elton's Legacy Consultant and Feature Writer at eltonjohn.com, and Peter Thomas, founder of pmc-speakers.com and Elton audio expert, who both joined me for this episode of the podcast. 

We got together for a marathon conversation (this is just part one), where we untangled the various strands of the timeline that brought the Tumbleweed Connection album into being.

You will hear some of my almost-instrumental 'mixes' (they make use of the 5.1 release) which are designed to throw the songs into relief. You will also hear some of the stories behind the songs, a great deal of love for the album, all topped off with some casual, Elton-related banter. 

 

Nov 30, 2020
Episode 38 - Tumbleweed Connection Covered
01:26:02

It's all go in Eltonland! The label have marked the 50th anniversary of Tumbleweed with a reissue of the album on green vinyl, plus an entirely unexpected companion 10" single, featuring the unearthed almost 8 minute long original version of Come Down in Time, backed with a full band DJM demo of Ballad of a Well Known Gun. Everything is available, along with a range of Tumbleweed merch, over at the EltonJohn.com shop, and John Higgins' fascinating anniversary article about Tumbleweed can also be found there now. 

Since the album is often felt to be the musician's Elton John album, I thought it would be interesting to go through some of the cover versions of these songs, and to make up my own playlist of my favourite covers. You may have very different choices - please let me know on the Facebook group or by email if I haven't picked or played your favourites. 

I'll be back with a fuller breakdown of Tumbleweed at some point in the future. If you want to listen to the YouTube playlist without me bleating all over the songs, it can be found here

 

Oct 31, 2020
Episode 37 - 'Elton John' at 50 (Part 2) with John Higgins and Skaila Kanga
02:06:38

 

Here's the rest of my track by track breakdown with John Higgins of the 'Elton John' album. The album lit a fuse. Four and a half months later, Elton exploded at the Troubadour. John and I got to talk about some of the strides and the mis-steps that were taken along the way.

John is Feature Writer at www.eltonjohn.com as well as Elton's Legacy Consultant. Elton fans can thank him for the exceptional 50th anniversary articles he's been writing, and show him love and eternal recognition for finding a way, alongside Daryl Easlea from Universal, and others, to make the upcoming box set 'Elton: Jewel Box' a reality.

Also starring in this episode is the delightful Skaila Kanga. We talked about her harp work on the 'Elton John' album, her musical history, and her time in the classroom with Elton. Skaila has worked with essentially everyone over a hugely successful career, and she was still extremely busy when we spoke, back in March 

Skaila's been keeping busy during the enforced hiatus from live and studio work: she's been posting some lovely seasonal videos of her harp playing over at her YouTube channel

 

Oct 13, 2020
Episode 36 - Jewel Box Joy
22:35

Well it's finally happened. I've got pretty much everything I've ever asked for, and probably a bit more. In this quickie episode, I dip into the mind-bending rarities track-list, and talk about what's new and what's not. 

All of the details can be found at the Elton John website

Sep 17, 2020
Episode 35 - 'Elton John' at 50 with John Higgins
01:40:58

Enormous thanks to John Higgins - Feature Writer for the eltonjohn.com website - who came onto the podcast to share his love for the 'Black Album', and to tell me some of the stories that he'd been able to hear during interviews that he carried out with Paul Buckmaster and Gus Dudgeon about their work on the project. 

We listened through some 'mixes' that I've made of the tracks, making use of the separate channels in the 5.1 mixes, which I feel make for a pleasing new outlook onto some of Elton's densest material. 

Apologies to anyone who's been waiting on an episode, or a reply from me. There are several excuses in the episode, I won't repeat them here. 

Part two of this interview will be up very soon! 

Aug 28, 2020
Episode 34 - Fantasy Residency and More Songs They Gave Away
01:14:32

In this episode I apologise for my absence; make some excuses; review the autobiography, in a limited sense; talk about the way that the book, the film and reality interact in one case; accept that I was wrong in another; mentally stage a residency, made up of Elton's deep cuts; all before the main event, which is a follow up to episode 14 - The Songs They Gave Away. In that sense, it's a bit of a grab-bag.

Prepare for the familiar to sound very different, in the hands of other artists, and also for some songs that (I hope) you won't have heard before. 

Feb 01, 2020
Episode 33 - Anett Murray Interview
01:24:56

This episode starts off with a Rocketman competition, courtesy of Paramount Home Media (here is the prize pack that's up for grabs) before the main event, an interview with Anett Murray, wife of Dee Murray, and a big part of the Elton John family during the first half of the seventies.

Anett tells us some fascinating stories of life at home and on the road with Dee. I would like to thank her for sharing her memories with the podcast. Add in some wonderful music, and we have here a very special episode!

The photograph that Anett mentions, of her wedding day, can be found here. If you're on Facebook, consider joining the 'Induct Nigel, Davey and Dee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' group. There are countless wonderful pictures like this one, and you can also help the cause for these musicians to be properly recognised for the enormous contribution that they made to Elton's music. 

The songs that are excerpted in the episode are as follows: 

  1. You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover - Bo Diddley, 1962
  2. I'm In A Different World - The Four Tops, 1968
  3. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher - Jackie Wilson, 1967
  4. Space Oddity (Vocal, Drums and Bass only) - David Bowie, 1969
  5. And The Gods Came Down - The Spencer Davis Group, 1970
  6. Sitting Doing Nothing - Elton John, 1968
  7. Take Me To The Pilot (BBC Live Session) - Elton John, 25th June 1970
  8. Burn Down the Mission (Live Fillmore East) - Elton John, 21st November 1970
  9. Jawbone - The Band, 1969
  10. Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (Live Hammersmith Odeon) - Elton John, 23rd December 1973
  11. Philadelphia Freedom (Live Central Park) - Elton John, 13th September 1980
  12. Burning Buildings - Elton John, 1984
  13. Rocket Man (Keys, Guitars and Bass only) - Elton John, 1972.

 The email address to enter the competition is eltonpodcast@gmail.com. Unlike what I say in the episode, the competition is in fact open to residents of the US or Canada. 

Aug 24, 2019
Episode 32 - Mysteries of Elton
01:10:27

Welcome aboard the Mystery Machine, as we take a Flight of Fancy into the unknown corners of Elton's musical world. In this episode, I investigate the spookiest, dustiest corners of discogs, I search for the bootlegs that don’t even exist in our reality, and I uncover the songs that live only in the memories of people who say that they have heard them.

Several pieces of music, where the level of Elton’s involvement is disputed, are played in the episode. You can listen to the songs again, and vote, using this online form, to record your opinion as to whether you hear Elton in the music that is presented.

Feel free to submit your own responses still, but I have collected the results here.

Jul 22, 2019
Episode 31 - Empty Sky at 50
01:40:42

Empty Sky, Elton’s debut album, and also his most honest, laid-back sounding set of songs, hit the shelves 50 years ago this month. It didn’t make much impact at the time, but it is greatly loved, both by fans, and by the people that created it. 

This episode tells the story of the album through interviews with the gang of ‘lost boys’ who were credited on the sleeve – Elton, Bernie, Caleb, Steve Brown and David Larkham. In the process, their musical influences are identified, the lyrics are analysed, and the music is teased apart to reveal what lies under the surface.

In preparation for this episode, I have sequenced a 6 CD ‘possible deluxe edition’, based on what is known to exist. The first 3 CDs are discussed in this episode. They contain the stereo and mono mix of the music recorded in these sessions, alternate mixes that can be found on acetate, BBC sessions and live recordings.

The remaining CDs (full of demos, unreleased tracks, Elton's studio sessions, and covers by other artists) will be discussed in forthcoming episodes. The full tracklisting can be found in this pdf.

The image for this episode is the David Larkham photograph that was used as the basis for his cover illustration. 

There’s also a rant about Rocketman... 

Jun 17, 2019
Episode 30 - Listening Session with Peter Thomas
02:06:45

You are invited to a very special listening session and conversation with Peter Thomas, the preeminent Elton John collector and archivist.

Peter Thomas, in his role as founder of monitor and speaker company PMC, has worked with the finest studios, mastering houses and broadcasters in the world. He has a passion for sound quality, and this extends into his hobby, which is researching and collecting Elton's earliest and most obscure recordings. 

In this episode you will get to hear some snippets of Peter's favourite acquisitions, as well as the histories around the acetates and reels of tape that carry these sounds through to the present day. 

The image for this episode is Peter's promo copy of 'I've Been Loving You', along with the handwritten release and contact details, featuring Elton's home phone number in Pinner. 

Once again I'd like to thank Peter for the wonderful generosity he has shown, sharing his time, his treasures, and his memories. 

Apr 17, 2019
Episode 29 - Top of the Charts with a ROCKET, ft. The Lambrettas
01:10:41

This episode counts down the 15 biggest non-Elton singles on Rocket, and in the process, tells the story of the label, attempts to define the Rocket sound (spoiler - there isn’t one), and draws out the connections with Elton’s music, where these exist. The chart itself can be viewed here.

Thanks to Doug Sanders from The Lambrettas, who was interviewed for this episode, and gave some wonderful insight into what it was like to be the most successful Rocket artist (apart from Elton perhaps) at the turn of the eighties. The full interview can be found here. Doug has supplied some wonderful pictures from 1980, including the band posing outside the then Rocket HQ, and receiving their Silver Discs for Poison Ivy. Spot the familiar faces!

The signed Kiki Dee Box Set that I mention in the episode can be purchased (in the UK) here. 

The Elton-penned song featured at the end of the episode can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Mar 06, 2019
Episode 28 - Alternate Versions, Mixes and Edits
01:08:17

This episode revels in the obscure, picking up the curios in the discography, studying them, and making an attempt at explaining them. Here are the early versions, the erroneous edits that never should have been heard, the remixes, the rough mixes and the acoustic mixes.

The highlight of this episode, for me, is the mono mix of Hymn 2000, which is played in full. Empty Sky in mono is so rare, it was thought for years not to exist at all.

You will have heard some of these, I'm sure, but I would be very surprised if you had heard them all!

Feb 18, 2019
Episode 27 - Breaking Down 'Passengers'
48:11

This is the story of Elton's personal redemption, through the prism of the song 'Passengers', the UK top 5 hit single with the unique songwriting credit - Elton, Bernie, Davey and South African musician Phineas Mkhize. 

This episode follows Elton from the lows of being placed on the UN's cultural blacklist in 1983, for playing at Sun City, to the highs of being recognised as Harvard's 'Man of the Year' for his charity work, particularly in Africa, in 2017.

At the heart of the episode is an email interview with Phineas' son Bennett. His story helps us to connect Elton - the megastar who wanted to make a statement about apartheid - with Phineas - the maskandi musician who hated politics. 

Feb 04, 2019
Episode 26 - Rare Masters Vol. 2 (Part 2)
01:12:25

In this episode, I finish going through the imaginary box-set. First, I detail all of the non-album tracks that were released between 1984 and 1990 (CD3 of the collection that I have programmed), and I then go on to discuss the rarities that might find their way onto Rare Masters Vol. 2 (annexed off onto CD4).

If you're inspired enough to get some of your singles out, to see how they compare against the transfers I've used in this episode, let me know how it turns out. I would love to hear some improved transfers of this material. It looks like we're on our own with this stuff. Someone must have a pristine Conquer The Sun out there!

A couple of minor errors have been corrected in the accompanying document, and the audio for Episode 25 has been subtly changed to reflect this. 

Jan 22, 2019
Episode 25 - Rare Masters Vol. 2 (Part 1)
01:21:50

The Elton John Podcast with the unwieldy name goes where the record company dare not go - Rare Masters Vol. 2. We all loved the first volume when it came out, and many of us have been going grey waiting for the next instalment. It didn't look like it was going to happen, so I've just gone ahead and done it. 

All of the non-album A and B-sides recorded between 1976 and 1990 have been collected and collated, and three wonderful CDs are the result. Unfortunately it's not actually available - the best I can do to provide this is this YouTube playlist that I've compiled.

This episode discusses CD1 and CD2, which takes us up to the end of 1983. The next episode will be about CD3 and also about the unreleased material that might find its way onto such a collection. 

All of the material has been thoroughly researched, in an attempt to determine what was recorded when, and in some cases who played on what. This is basic information, something that should be a matter of public record, but there are no reliable sources out there. This lack of information, alongside the the fact that we can't even buy the music, represents an insult to Elton and his collaborators, and to the fans that want to hear it. 

I have compiled a document to accompany the episode. Send me an email, let me know how well I've done, and where I've gone wrong - there are bound to be mistakes. I intend to update the YouTube playlist with improved sources, including my own in those instances where none of the transfers currently on YouTube are up to scratch. Please feel free to upload your own transfers - the more the merrier!

Jan 08, 2019
Episode 24 - David Larkham Interview
01:12:22

Another treat - an interview with David Larkham – the man who controlled the visual element of the classic albums, liaising with Steve Brown, Bernie, Elton and others to bring their ideas to life.

David was there at Steve Brown’s house in 68/69 with Bernie and Elton, hanging out; he was there at the Troubadour, taking photos; he was out there in Jamaica, waiting for the studio to be ready like everyone else; on tour; in Caribou… You name it – he was there. He’s still involved in bringing together the imagery that is central to Elton’s farewell tour – Elton wouldn't have anyone else doing this work for him!

The episode image (which you can download from here) is an illustration of David's from late 1968, which was used as the front page of Elton’s first press pack, up until the release of Empty Sky. The interview about the sleeve for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which is mentioned in the podcast, can be found here

Nov 19, 2018
Episode 23 - Bernie's Auction - What We've Learned
48:40

In this episode, I attempt to play (and sing in one case) the three ‘new’ songs from 1967 that have come to light via Bernie’s upcoming auction. I also go through the working lyrics that Bernie is selling in New York on the 9th of November, and talk about what they tell us about Bernie’s process.

You can currently download the pdf featuring the lyric sheets here (click on the download arrow at the bottom of the page).

Oct 30, 2018
Episode 22 - Caleb Quaye Interview
01:25:43

I was lucky enough to be able to spend more than an hour in the company of the brilliant Caleb Quaye. Without Caleb, there would be no Elton John as we know him. He got Elton and Bernie the gig with Dick James, and it was his audacious approach to using Dick James' studio that made it possible for Elton to take his first, extraordinary musical steps there in 1967 and 1968. His guitar work is legendary - the man is essentially a virtuoso - and it's his playing that makes those first four Elton John albums sing.

Please show Caleb your appreciation by putting some money into his GoFundMe. He is raising money in order to get the rights to use some archival footage in the documentary of his life that he has put together, entitled 'Louder than Rock'. Put your hands in your pockets now - there'll never be a better chance than this to show Caleb how much you value the work and the magic that he put into Elton's career.

This episode features a slew of indescribable rarities and forgotten tracks. The image of the tape box that Caleb takes a look at with me can be found here

Oct 20, 2018
Eppsisode 21 - Stuart Epps Interview
01:01:36

Stuart Epps is Elton John royalty! He was a huge part of the team that worked together to bring Elton out from the sidelines of Tin Pan Alley, into megastardom. He saw that process first hand, working in a variety of different roles. Here he tells his story.

Stuart's brand new audiobook can be ordered from his website

The rarity that I play in the episode is the Steve Brown produced version of 'Take Me To The Pilot' from Olympic Studios, recorded in something like August / September 1969. 

Sep 23, 2018
Episode 20 - Elton's Buried Treasure vol. 2
56:51

In this episode the cake is unbaked, and every ingredient of the Elton John recipe is celebrated. Complex drum and percussion sounds are unpicked, backing vocals are highlighted, lead vocals are isolated, and previously buried piano tracks are brought to the surface. 

A few techniques are used. As well as the out of phase stereo technique, (used extensively in episode 1), I make use of isolated channels from the 5.1 surround sound remixes, as well as multitracks of some songs, breaking them down and building them back up, track by track.

Sep 15, 2018
Episode 19 - Early Cover Versions of Elton's Music
55:32

It's well known that Elton and Bernie spent their formative years trying to write hits for other artists, while trying to find their own voice. This episode tells the story of Elton and Bernie's early years through the prism of those early cover versions.

Included are the 'surprise' number 3 hit in New Zealand in 1969, the song on the US Top 10 Gold album that gave them the breathing space they needed as they went about planning the second album, and the cover by a fellow songwriter, 50 years ago this week, that gave them the encouragement to carry on through a very dark period. 

This episode is backed with a major bit of work - all of the early covers from English-speaking territories have been documented, with all possible internet links (e.g. to YouTube, discogs and 45cat) gathered. Additionally, for each of the 39 covers, an attempt has been made to answer the question 'how did they find out about Elton's music?'

The research has been summarised in this pdf, or alternatively here on this webpage. This document is designed as a guide to accompany this episode and future episodes on this topic.

A couple of recordings are included for the first time on the internet in this episode, namely Guy Darrell's Skyline Pigeon, and Lew Rich's Taking the Sun from My Eyes, which is included in full in the episode, courtesy of David Bodoh, of eltonography.com

The Roger Cook interview is taken from the Strange Brew podcast

Aug 19, 2018
Episode 18 - Elton's Anonymous Cover Versions - ft. Dana Gillespie
55:47

In his formative years as a session musician, in fact even after the recording of his third album, Elton earned some extra cash recording cover versions of the hits of the day, anonymously, for budget record labels. These long player albums retailed at around the same price as a regular single, and they would be rushed out to share the shelves with their 'legitimate' counterparts. Until the record labels worked out that they could make money by making compilations out of the actual recordings, these records sold in their millions. 

For years, these records sat at the back of people's collections, and in piles in charity shops, before Elton's fans started going through them. More than 50 recordings featuring his voice have since been identified, and many more remain to be discovered.

In these sessions, Elton sang and played keyboard along with many now-familiar names, including David Byron, who went on to front Uriah Heap, and Dana Gillespie.

Dana's biography is long and impressive, taking in connections with Jimmy Page, Donovan, Dylan, Bowie and Lionel Bart. She was also the original Mary Magdalene in the Jesus Christ Superstar stage show, and a four-time British Junior Waterski champion.  Dana very kindly agreed to be interviewed for this episode, and her recollections are here, bringing the story of these sessions to life.

Featured in the episode are recordings that did not find their way onto the collections that came out under titles such as 'Reg Dwight's Piano Goes Pop' in the nineties. I've tried to find less commonly-heard recordings, and in the process I have uncovered a couple of recordings that are new to YouTube (and uploaded them to my channel). 

I am indebted to the work of all the Elton John fans who have researched this material. The hall of fame must include David Bodoh, whose 'Eltonography' website hosts a wonderful list of the tracks that Elton is throught to have contributed to. Thanks also go to the gentleman who compiles the tobekompleated discography. His discography features images and track-listings of many of the records that collectors might want to investigate.

Anyone with an interest in these records would also enjoy the following web pages that are devoted to them - hitcovers, copycatcovers, and topofthepops

Here are the other links that I make reference to in the episode: 

The remainder of the interview with Dana - about her incredible career

A recording of Dana tackling 'That Same Old Feeling', a beautiful song, a top 10 hit for Pickettywitch in January 1970.  

David Byron's take on 'Let's Work Together' by Canned Heat

Elton taking secondary vocals on 'Wand'rin' Star' by Lee Marvin

The full playlist of tracks on '28 International Top Songs'. Here's a blog post about this record. 

Jul 30, 2018
Episode 17 - The New Routes of Davey Johnstone - 1971-73
45:11

The second of a two-part biography of Davey Johnstone's early musical history. 

Davey's range, and his scope for development, were apparent to all at his first Elton John session, for Holiday Inn. Elton wasn't going to let a talent like Davey slip through his fingers. 

This episode takes in Davey's astonishing work for Madman, Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me, his early live work with the band, the sessions that he continued to do, and tracks from his solo album, released in 1973. Some tracks are presented in centre extraction, in order to highlight Davey's parts. 

I would like to thank the YouTube channel 'The Sessions' for very kindly giving me permission to use their interview with Davey. Their channel can be found here.

 

May 14, 2018
Episode 16 - The Folk Roots of Davey Johnstone - 1951-71
53:48

The first of a two-part biography of Davey Johnstone's early musical history. 

Just three years after getting his first guitar, a 14-year-old Davey could be found in folk clubs around Scotland, a class apart from the groups of seasoned musicians who welcomed him. At 17 he moved to London. He quickly found his home on the road and in the studio, where he was becoming an in-demand session player. 

I would like to thank the YouTube channel 'The Sessions' for very kindly giving me permission to use their interview with Davey. Their channel can be found here.

This episide features an interview with Russell Laing, the son of the leader of Davey's second band, The Fife Reivers. I would like to thank Russell for sharing his wonderful memories of those days. Here is a link to Russell's story about David Bowie that I mention in the episode. Russell still makes otherworldly music, some of which can be found here. I also mention the fascinating booking diary for Russell's dad's folk club, one of many fascinating documents and photographs collected by his dad. The image for this episode comes from that collection, featuring Jim, Davey and Russell doing their party piece. 

Thanks as ever to Keith Hayward, who has written two of the best biographies of Elton. Plenty of information relating to Magna Carta and Noel Murphy comes via the second of those books

It has been rather a large interim this time - things should be back to normal now, whatever normal is.

 

 

May 13, 2018
Episode 15 - Ego at 40
46:01

24 months passed between the recording sessions for Crazy Water, and those for Elton's next (major) single, the angry, jagged Ego. From the sound of the record, Elton hadn't been able to find much solace in the interim. Ego twists with the energy of a tantrum. It's dark and humourous, petulant and self-mocking, all at once. 

Backed with Flintstone Boy, a lightly subversive slice of queer country music, this single was Elton's state of the nation address for Spring 1978, and a real artistic statement. Unfortunately for Elton, punk had come, the new wave was in the ascendancy, and younger record buyers were not looking in his direction. For their part, Elton's own fanbase were alienated by the lack of a singable hook in the song. Released 40 years ago today, Ego stalled at number 34 on both sides of the Atlantic.

This episode is a celebration of this vital single release. Part biography, part musical analysis, the episode looks at 1977/1978 Elton, and these two songs, from every conceivable angle. 

The episode takes some of its shape from the excellent Elton John biography 'Captain Fantastic' by David DeCouto

The two centre extractions that I talk over can be heard in full on my new YouTube channel

 

Mar 20, 2018
Episode 14 - The Songs They Gave Away
59:14
 

Elton wrote a lot of incredible music over the years, in fact, more than he needed at some points of his career. This is the story of the songs that Elton gave away, either by design, or by default. Two of Elton's demos are featured - both of them are significant upgrades in terms of sound quality over what generally circulates. 

Mar 04, 2018
Episode 13 - I've Been Loving You (For Precisely 50 Years)
49:59

50 years ago today, on the 1st of March 1968, a 20-year-old Elton released his first solo single, 'I've Been Loving You', on Philips. Today's episode is an all-encompassing celebration of that moment, telling the story through the people around Elton, and the music they were making at the time. Two practically impossible rarities are included to mark the moment. 

Feb 28, 2018
Episode 12 - Bernie's Early Themes - '67-'69
39:44

A thematic analysis of Bernie's early work, with a particular focus on his songs about incarceration and exile. One very special rarity is included. 

Feb 25, 2018
Episode 11 - The Greatest Covers
48:45

If you like Elton John songs, then you'll probably like these relatively obscure renditions of Elton John songs, by musicians who tried to do something original with the material. 

 

Feb 14, 2018
Episode 10 - The One - 25 And A Half Years On
01:10:06

Elton came back from rehab stronger than ever at the end of 1991. Here, in review, is the album that he brought back from the brink with him. The context, the music, the lyrics, the instrumentation - it's all given the analysis it deserves in this episode

Feb 10, 2018
Episode 9 - At Home With Sheila and Reg
50:39

A tribute to Elton's first musical mentor - his mother Sheila. This episode is a trip through the music of the 1950s that was dear to Sheila, to her mum Ivy, and to Reg. On the way, we take in the story of how Reg came to play the piano, and get an idea of the pieces of music that were in his early repertoire. We go all the way up to 1962, when Little Reg sees Little Richard live, and the 'Elton John' touchpaper is lit.

Dec 31, 2017
Episode 8 - Dee Murray Love-In
52:36

Dee Murray was a truly innovative force in the Elton John band. In this episode I look at what made him special, from the jigsaw puzzle of ideas that Dee and Elton threw around in the 3-piece band; taking in the almost-soul of Philadelphia Freedom; and beyond, into the 1980s. A biographical, loving, and detailed look at the work of the man that made the music we love even lovlier. And all of this without mentioning his incredible backing vocals once (ooops). 

Homemade bass transcriptions from YouTube are used throughout to highlight the parts – thank you so much to:

Enormous thanks also to Brian for the interview.

 

Dec 11, 2017
Episode 7 - Reconstructing 'A Song For Europe 1969'
39:54

I attempt to piece together the weekly Saturday evening TV shows, hosted by the impish Lulu, that led up to the UK's selection being made for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest, and follow up the progress of the careers of the six sets of songwriters who got through to that final stage. Whatever became of them?

Nov 25, 2017
Episode 6 - Cool As Christmas - Collaborations That Make Elton Cooler
47:31

Elton's not always seen as a particularly cool musician to be a fan of. Lots of well-respected artists have no problem associating themselves with him though. In this episode, I go through those collaborations and connections, and pick out the ones, some more obscure than others, which, I feel, elevate Elton's position as an innovative creative force. 

Nov 18, 2017
Episode 5 - Don't Say It With 'Diamonds'
44:37

This week, Elton released another greatest hits collection, to somehow celebrate his and Bernie's 50 year anniversary of writing together. In this episode I look at 12 'genuine diamonds' - products that would actually be essential purchases for anyone who already owns the mainstream EJ releases. In the end I just make myself a bit angry - there's so much not being released, and we get this basic greatest hits....

Nov 12, 2017
Episode 4 - It Was 40 Years Ago Today, Grumpy Elton Sacked The Band On Stage
37:53

This is the story of the band that Elton essentially sacked, live on stage, entirely out of the blue.

40 years ago, Elton played a charity gig at Wembley Pool. The band were expecting him to announce that he was going out on tour again, with them as his backing band. A very different announcement was made. In this episode we work out what led Elton to make that decision. 

Here's a picture of the band in question. Here's the setlist.fm page for the night. Here's the full show on YouTube.

Nov 03, 2017
Episode 3 - Regimental Sgt Zippo - The Debut Album That Never Was
54:37

This episode skips through the 1968 almost-debut album, track-by-track. How good would this album have been if it had come out in 1968? How would it have fared? Actually that's a question I don't answer. I think we know the answer. There are some real surprises along the way, and some things that even the most ardent early Elton fan will probably be hearing for the first time. 

The auction for the acetate took place momentarily here. The release was discussed on the Steve Hoffman forum here. Information about Bayons Manor, Tealby, can be found here

Nov 01, 2017
Episode 2 - Buckmaster Before Elton
34:34

This episode takes you back to the 2nd of November 1969, to a Miles Davis gig, at Ronnie Scott's jazz club, where Elton met a 23 year old Paul Buckmaster for the first time.

How did Buckmaster get to be the guest of Miles Davis that night? What was the musical background of this graduate of the Royal Academy of Music?

This episode is a musical journey through Buckmaster's early arrangements and his earliest 'cello performances on vinyl. 

Oct 26, 2017
Episode 1 - Elton's Buried Treasure
45:35

Welcome to the 'I Guess That's Why They Call It The Elton John Podcast' podcast. Yes it is a rather unweildy title.

In the first episode, Neil (your able host) takes some classic songs, and turns them upside down, until the vocals and bass fall out, and then invites you to listen to what's underneath. Hear the songs afresh from a whole new angle.

There's also a general introduction to the series at the beginning of the episode. More episode are coming on a regular basis, there are so many great topics to discover together! 
Oct 26, 2017