In 1980, Elton John released the album 21 at 33. As most fans realized at the time, it was Elton John’s twenty-first record release at the age of thirty-three years old. Elton John had an incredible run of singles and albums from 1970 to 1977. After the release of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975, Elton John fired his band and recorded Rock of the Westies in 1975 and Blue Moves in 1976. Both were strong records, yet Elton’s sound had begun to change.
In 1978, Elton John released the album A Single Man. It was the first record Elton John had released in which he had not written every song with Bernie Taupin. It was a dramatically different sound and most Elton John fans were very disappointed with the record. The follow-up to A Single Man was a record company release of some disco tracks that Elton John had been experimenting with. It was an album recorded entirely of cover songs. The album ran for only 36 minutes and failed miserably on the charts. Elton John fans were left scratching their heads wondering what had happened to their most loved rock star.
Elton John never regained the chart-topping success on a consistent basis that he had enjoyed from 1970 to 1976. Elton’s voice changed and his writing seem to reflect the change in his vocal range. However, Elton John would continue to release some great records and some that were not well received by his long-time fans. After A Single Man and Victim of Love albums had left fans wondering what had happened, Elton John returned in 1980 with a strong record that yielded a top 20 single with the song “Little Jeanie.”
While Little Jeanie had great success on the charts, the album’s three strongest songs were the songs Elton John had written with Bernie Taupin. The rest of the album had been written by Elton John and other lyricists. The album’s opening track “Chasing the Crown,” and the songs “Two Rooms at the End of the World,” and White Lady White Powder were the songs Elton wrote with Bernie Taupin.
Most of the 21 at 33 album also utilized various musicians continuing the process that had begun on Rock of the Westies after Elton John had fired what used to be referred to as the Elton John Band. That group of musicians consisted of Nigel Olsson on drums, Dee Murray on bass, and Davey Johnston on guitar.
Side two of the album opened with one of the strongest songs Elton John had recorded since the Blue Moves album. The track “White Lady White Powder,” contained that old Elton John magical sound. But it wasn’t just magic, The song was the only track on the album that was co-written with Bernie Taupin and featured Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson of the old Elton John Band on the recording. The only one missing was Davey Johnston. Nonetheless, it was a killer track that Elton John fans went crazy over. The song was never a big hit and was overshadowed by the success of “Little Jeanie,” but real Elton John fans ate it up.
One of the most interesting aspects of the song was the musicians who sang backup on the recording. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles are all credited with singing backing vocals on the track. Just take a listen to the song’s great chorus and you can hear those sweet Eagles harmonies supporting Elton John’s lead vocals. It’s so brilliant and captivating moment in classic rock history. The track also featured noted jazz musicians Victor Feldman and Lenny Castro on percussion.
Elton John’s “White Lady White Powder,” Featured The Eagles (Classic Rock Gems Series) article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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