Why Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player Was One Of His Most Melodic LPs

Why Elton John's Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player Was One Of His Most Melodic LPs

From 1970 to 1976, Elton John released the best albums of his musical career. From his UK debut, Empty Sky, and US debut, Elton John, all the way up to Blue Moves, every Elton John album defined the music of a songwriting team that could do no wrong. Every album that Elton John released during that period was a unique experience for the listener. None of them sounded the same if you were listening closely. Of course, there was a gradual change of style over time, but in the end, each album was filled with brilliant-sounding original songs that all music fans fell in love with.

Some fans could argue that there were definite style changes throughout those album releases. The first four albums, Empty Sky, Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection, and Madman Across The Water, seemed fueled by Elton’s British upbringing and classical senses juxtaposed by a sense of Americana and county.  There was a distinctive style change that happened with the release of Honky Château in 1972 that fueled a trio of albums, including his next two entitled Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, both released in 1973. Those three albums would represent Elton John’s golden period in which the man released a series of massive hit singles quickly, similar to what the Beatles had done in the decade before.

Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had the most hits and is regarded by many as his greatest album. However, the album that is often overlooked by fans because it was so quickly overshadowed by Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was his early 1973 release Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player.

When first released, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player was a hugely successful album. The album spawned two of the biggest hits of Elton John’s musical career with the singles “Daniel” and Crocodile Rock.”  The album’s second single, “Crocodile Rock,” became Elton John’s first number-one single in the United States. “Daniel” would reach the number two spot. Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player would also become Elton John’s first number one album in the United Kingdom while being his second straight in the United States.

From a commercial standpoint, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player was a massive success. As most die-hard Elton John fans already know, the joys of this incredible album were not just represented by the record’s hit singles but also in all the deep melodic tracks that filled the rest of the album.

The Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album opens with the hit single “Daniel.” However, the album’s second track stands as one of not only the album’s wonderful gems but also of his entire career. Hands down, “Teacher I Need You” is one of the most enjoyable tracks Elton John has ever recorded. If this one had been released as a single, it would have gone all the way to number one. After the beautiful soaring melody of “Daniel,” Elton John hits the listeners back again with a song fueled by a melody just as strong but with a backbeat that knocks it out of the park. Pop music is all about killer choruses and “Teacher I Need You,” gets an A+ in that category. This one is a diamond.

The album’s third track, “Elderberry Wine,” presents another key reason why this album is just so extraordinary. This is Elton John’s “Honky Cat” side. There is a bit of funk in the song, but it is more straightforward, with a bit of bounce that captivates the listener instantly upon first listening. The horns give the song a bit of a Memphis Horns feel. Once again, the melody in the piano intro, the verse, and the chorus define the work of a brilliant musical mind. When this album was first released, I remember many of my friends stating that “Elderberry Wine” was their favorite song on the album.

If we had to choose Elton John’s most underrated song of his career, it would easily be the album’s next song, “Blues For Baby And Me.” Now, talk about a melody. If this one didn’t bring tears to your eyes the first time you heard it, you weren’t listening. There were a lot of songs written in the 1970s about boarding a Greyhound bus and traveling across the county for various reasons. This was the best of them all. Bernie Taupin painted a heartwarming story of hope in the wake of family issues in the lyrics, and Elton John created the sonic soundscape that made this one so special. Listen to how Elton John wrote such a soaring melody in the chorus that so perfectly matched Bernie’s lyrics.

Side one closes out with the song “Midnight Creeper.” The track was a rocker fueled by horns and a great rhythm guitar that almost seemed like a homage to Keith Richards’ style of playing. It’s funky, it’s dirty, it rocks and it’s the perfect way to close out side one. The album’s second side opens up with the astonishing track “Have Mercy on the Criminal.”  This was an epic-sounding piece that featured orchestration by Paul Buckmaster. There is a huge cinematic feel to the piece that is surrounded by Elton John’s action-packed melody. A stunning way to open up side two with an intense Paul Buckmaster orchestration.

“Have Mercy on the Criminal” is followed up on side two by another mesmerizing Elton John song called  “I’m Gonna Be a Teenage Idol.” This track has one of the strongest melodic choruses on the entire album. It’s also one of the most original melodies on the record. The verses are driven by a rock and roll horn based funky groove that morphs into an out-of-this-world cool chorus that one would have never suspected. This one blew all our minds the first time we heard it. No one ever wrote music like this. Another brilliant gem on an album filled with some of the greatest deep tracks in classic rock history.

Side two’s third track, “Texas Love Song,” is the one track that doesn’t seem to fit on this album. It’s obvious what Bernie Taupin was writing about and Elton John countered the point with a sort of tongue-in-cheek melody and arrangement that works perfectly for the song. This one has its fans, but in the end, it’s probably the weakest song on the record. The next track, “Crocodile Rock.” needs no explanation. The album closes with the song “High Flying Bird.” This one became a fan favorite. Once again, the song doesn’t seem to fit the feel of the rest of the record. It sounds like it would have fit better on Tumbleweed. Still, it’s a beautiful song and a sentimental one to close the brilliant Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album.

Elton John's Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player Album

Updated March 28, 2024

Why Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player Was One Of His Most Melodic LPs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar David March 26, 2023
  2. Avatar Baybluesman March 26, 2023
  3. Avatar Daniel Marra March 28, 2023
    • Avatar Brian Kachejian March 28, 2023

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