Saturday, May 19, 2012

40 Year Itch : The State of Teenage Blues

For tax reasons, his accountants suggested Elton John--like The Rolling Stones-- record his albums outside the UK. That's how Honky Chateau, released May 19, 1972,  got recorded at the Chateau d'Hierouville, a 17th Century chateau in the french countryside . Guitarist Davey Jonstone joined Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson in Elton's band. They would meet for meals and then walk a few yards through a courtyard to Strawberry Studios, a 16 track recording studio. Lyricist Bernie Taupin says songs could be written in 20 minutes, rehearsed in an hour and recorded that afternoon:

It was literally like a music factory. I'd be upstairs in my bedroom, writing at top speed. I'd give each set of lyrics straight to Elton at the piano.

In just three weeks the album was finished. It would hit #1 in July and stay there for five weeks thanks in part to a hit single Elton thought was too slow. It's opening line came to Taupin as he was driving alone in Lincolnshire:

"She packed my bags last night preflight. zero hour is 9 am". I remember jumping out of the car and running into my parents house shouting "Please dont anyone talk to me until I've written this down."

"Rocket Man" peaked at # 6 in the US and # 12 in the UK. Among other well known cuts: the #8 US hit "Honky Cat" and "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" which Elton dedicated to emergency works and New York City during The Concert For New York City. Our "deep cuts" selection is "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself", probably the most upbeat song ever written about teenage suicide. Former Bonzo Dog drummer "Legs" Larry Smith performs the tap dancing on the track.

Honky Chateau has a great feel and it is little wonder Elton John returned to the Chateau d' Hierouville to record Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He's not the only one who liked the vibe here. T.Rex recorded The Slider, David Bowie recorded Low and The Bee Gees recorded "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Staying Alive" here.

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