For the majority of the nineteen seventies, the music of Elton John ruled the airwaves just as the music of the Beatles had dominated the radio in the nineteen sixties. One could argue that Elton John was very much the successor to the Beatles after that group broke up in in 1970. No other artist had the string of hits that Elton John had in the nineteen seventies. Fans could argue that the Bee Gees and eventually Michael Jackson would have tremendous success on the level of the Beatles and Elton John. However, the success of Michael Jackson’s solo career was centered on the Thriller and Bad albums minus the original Jackson Five material. The Bee Gees’ popularity and radio success was completely driven by the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and the Nights on Broadway album. While the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson had a tremendous impact on popular culture, they both did not have the dozen or so string of albums and hits in a row that Elton John and the Beatles both enjoyed.
As the nineteen seventies came to a close, Elton John had fired his original band and had begun writing with lyricists other than Bernie Taupin. Elton John’s album release schedule had also changed from releasing an album every six months to one album release a year. Looking back from the present day in 2015 when most major artists release an album every three to five years, Elton John’s yearly release schedule was still a pretty impressive feat. From 1970 to 1979, Elton John released seventeen albums. Twelve of those albums in the nineteen seventies were completely original studio albums. The Beatles also released twelve original studio albums in the nineteen sixties in the UK. The U.S Beatles albums were just a mix of the UK albums with the singles added to them. So both Elton John and the Beatles released close to the same amount of material over the same time span but in different decades.
Elton John in the nineteen eighties.
Elton John’s musical output throughout the nineteen eighties changed dramatically from his nineteen seventies glory. Elton still recorded on a consistent basic releasing an album every year. However, the sound of Elton’s music changed with the times. The early eighties saw Elton John releasing albums that sounded dramatically different from the albums recorded with the classic Elton John band and lyricist Bernie Taupin. However, Elton still scored some major hits in the early eighties such as “I’m Still Standing and I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues. Both of those songs were recorded for his wonderful Too Low For Zero album which was released in 1983.
In the mid nineteen eighties, Elton John presented his fans with a series of albums on the Geffen records label that were huge disappointments in terms of the quality of songs Elton John had recorded for the label. Albums like Breaking Hearts, Ice on Fire and Leather Jackets proved to be the very disappointing to some of his hard core fans. (Although looking back, those albums did contain some great material) In 1984 Elton had actually rewritten his song “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” for his concert tour promoter Sasson. It was a decision that did not sit well with many of his fans. However, Elton John’s 1989 single “Sacrifice,” which was released on the Sleeping With the Past album, offered hope that Elton may soon again return to form.
Elton John, Disney and the Nineteen Nineties.
In 1992, Elton John released an album entitled The One. While it might not have been the complete return to form that many of his hardcore fans had hoped for, the album sold extremely well. In fact, it was his most successful record as far as as sales went since 1975’s Captain Fantastic. The title track “The One,” was a beautiful endearing ballad, gorgeously orchestrated and performed. The album even featured Eric Clapton on guitar on the track, “Runaway Train”. The Elton John of the nineteen nineties continued to release albums that were significantly better written than his nineteen eighteens output. Midway through the nineties Elton began a new chapter in his recording career as he was hired to write the music for Disney’s The Lion King. In 1995, at the 67th Annual Academy Awards, Elton John received the Oscar for best song for his composition, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Elton John’s work with the Lion King opened the doors to further collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice. Disney was anxious to pair the two together again. During the late nineties Elton John and Tim Rice worked on the music for a new Disney feature to be entitled Aida. However, instead of becoming a Disney feature film, the work was turned into a Broadway play. It would become a very successful Broadway play as.Aida was nominated for five Tony Awards in the year 2000 winning four including Best Musical Score and Best Performance by a Leading Actress.
In 1997, Elton John recorded the biggest selling single of his career. The death of Princess Diana affected Elton John dearly. In the most respectful and endearing fashion, Elton John and Bernie Taupin rewrote the lyrics to “Candle in the Wind,” as a tribute to Princess Diana. At the time Elton promised he would never sing the old lyrics to “Candle in the Wind,” again. It was not only Elton John’s biggest selling single of his career, it has also become the biggest selling single of all time. Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” tribute to Princess Diana has sold over thirty three million copies worldwide since its release in 1997.
The return of the classic Elton John sound.
Elton John experienced great success in the nineteen nineties due to his collaborations with Tim Rice. However, many Elton John fans still longed for an album of music by Sir Elton John that sounded like 1970’s Elton. In 2001, Elton John finally returned to the form that made him a legend. Elton John’s Songs From the West Coast Album was released on October 1st 2001. The album was immediately hailed by critics as the best Elton John album in years. An indeed it was. What made the album special was Elton’s return to the original melodic ideas that set him apart from his peers earlier in his career. Songs like “Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes” echoed the works of Elton John’s 1972 Tumbleweed Connection album. Other songs on the album such as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Original Sin sounded like they belonged on classic Elton John albums like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Captain Fantastic. Elton John was quoted in interviews many times saying how proud he was of the album. Nonetheless, Elton became very discouraged over the album’s inability to garish major radio airplay. While seeing Elton perform at New York’s Nassau Coliseum in support of the Songs From the West Coast album, this writer witnessed Elton ripping his record company for not promoting the album. It was probably not easy for Elton to accept that one of his finest albums in years was being ignored by mainstream pop culture. The dominance of Hip Hop and rap music in 2001 on the airwaves left little room for someone like Elton John.
Throughout the 2000’s Elton John continued to release a new album of material every few years. In 2006, Elton John released the sequel to his 1975 classic album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Entitled The Captain and the Kid, the album confirmed that Elton could still compose and perform brilliant pop music on a level above most of his contemporaries .Many artists of Elton’s age have stopped recording new material and basically become oldies acts. Elton John has continued to pursue the art form that has made him one of the greatest single artists ever in popular music history.
Elton John Album discography:
- Empty Sky (Released 1969)
- Elton John (Released 1970)
- Tumbleweed Connection (Released 1970)
- 11.17.70. (Released 1970)
- Friends (Released 1971)
- Madman Across The Water (Released 1971)
- Honky Chateau (Released 1972)
- Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (Released 1973)
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Released 1973)
- Caribou (Released 1974)
- Greatest Hits (Released 1974)
- Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Released 1975)
- Rock of the Westies (Released 1975)
- Here and There (Released 1976)
- Blue Moves (Released 1976)
- Greatest Hits Volume II (Released 1977)
- A Single Man (Released 1978)
- Victim Of Love (Released 1979)
- 21 at 33 (Released 1980)
- The Fox (Released 1981)
- Jump Up (Released 1982)
- Too Low For Zero (Released 1983)
- Breaking Hearts (Released 1984)
- Ice on Fire (Released 1985)
- Leather Jackets (Released 1986)
- Live in Australia (Released 1987)
- Reg Strikes Back (Released 1988)
- Sleeping With the Past (Released 1989)
- To Be Continued Box Set (Released 1990)
- The One (Released 1992)
- Duets (Released 1993)
- Made In England (Released 1995)
- Love Songs (Released 1996)
- The Big Picture (Released 1997)
- Aida (Released 1999)
- The Muse (Released 1999)
- One Night Only (Released 2000)
- Songs From The West Coast (Released 2001)
- Greatest Hits 1970 -2002 (Released 2002)
- Peachtree Road (Released 2004)
- The Captain and the Kid (Released 2006)
- Rocket Man Number Ones (Released 2007)
- The Union (Released 2010)
- Good Morning to the Night (Released 2012)
- The Diving Board (Released 2013)
- Wonderful Crazy Night (Released 2016)