Why There Were Many Overlooked Gems On Elton John’s Caribou LP

Gems On Elton John's Caribou LP

Feature Photo: Los Angeles Times, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Elton John could do no wrong in the early to mid 1970s. From about 1970 to 1976 the man was a hit-making machine. Starting with his Elton John album in 1970 that featured the hit singles “Your Song,” and “Border Song,” one could not go too long in the 1970s without hearing an Elton John song played on the radio. Every Elton John album was filled with hit singles and many more great songs that were never released as singles because they would run out of time before the next album was about to be released.  Elton John’s Madman Across the Water presented music fans with songs like ‘Levon,” and “Tiny Dancer, which would become all-time classics.

After the release of Madman Across the Water, Elton John delivered the phenomenal album Honky Château.  The Honky Château album was responsible for delivering the hit singles “Honky Cat,” and “Rocket Man.” Furthermore, there were also classic album tracks like “Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters,” “Hercules,” and many others that became huge fan favorites among Elton John fans. This was a common thing that happened because Elton John sold so many albums and captured a huge loyal audience.

The follow-up album toHonky Château was the 1973 release of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. Once again, Elton John celebrated multiple successful hit singles from the record such as “Crocodile Rock,” and “Daniel.” Yet, many fans loved songs on the album that were not released as singles such as “Teacher I Need You,” “Elderberry Wine,” and “Blues for Baby and Me.”

After scoring multiple top 10 singles from the album, as if that was not enough, Elton John released the phenomenal double LP set Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that very same year. The album opened up with the soon-to-be classic “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” epic masterpiece. The Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album would see the release of some of the biggest hit singles of Elton John’s career like “Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Saturday Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” and the huge hit single “Bennie and the Jets.”

Of course, fans raved about the many songs on the album that were not released as singles. Songs like “Harmony, All the Girls Love Alice, Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll), The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)” and more. These were songs that were talked about often among Elton John fans.

In the 1970s, most recording artists had contracts with their record companies that held the musical artist accountable for two albums a year, basically one every six months. Songs that would have been released as singles were often shelved because a new album was coming out and basically the record company had to make way for a new single from the new album.

While Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was still celebrating status as one of the hottest albums in the music scene, the legendary songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin released the Caribou album. Instantly, the album became a hit because of the lead single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” The follow-up single “The Bi**h Is Back” was just as big as a hit. Once again, before fans knew what hit them Elton John was releasing his follow-up album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is an album that is considered to be the greatest Elton John album of all time by many of his fans and critics including myself. Some would argue it was actually Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that was his best. They are both unbelievable musical albums. However, sandwiched between these two amazing records was Caribou. And for that reason, many of the songs that were never released as singles have kind of gotten lost, even among Elton John fans. Let’s take a listen to some really good tracks that we think should have been noticed more.

Pinky

The first forgotten and overlooked song on the Caribou album would be “Pinky.” This is such a beautiful heartfelt song that most musical artists would give anything to release as a single. The song was placed as the second song on side one following “The Bit*h Is Back.” That placement signified that they all recognized the strength of the track. However, with the exception of the time period when the album came out, Elton John never really played the song live. It also didn’t get much airplay. If you had never purchased the Caribou album, you probably have never heard this song. It’s a point that can be made equally for the rest of the songs on this list we are highlighting.

Grimsby

The rocking track “Grimbsy,” follows “Pinky,” on side one of Caribou. This song has a similar feel to “The Bit*h Is Back,” minus the Tower Of Power horn section. The guitar and piano blend perfectly together in the opening riff and in between the verses. I’m still trying to figure out how they created that unique sound. This one is a lot of fun! This song was played often on the 1974 tour. It was often placed in the third spot after “Candle In The Wind,” and the concert opener “Funeral For A Friend.”

You’re So Static

This next rip-roaring song was actually a pretty popular track among the real hardcore Elton John fans. It also became one of the highlights of the 1974 tour. Once again, if you had the album or saw the tour, you knew it, if not, you probably never heard this song. The song did make an appearance on the 1995 CD reissue of the great 1976 Here And There live album.

I’ve Seen the Saucers

Oh, let me tell you this one was so good. UFOs and alien abductions were a hot topic in the 1970s. I guess they still are. Elton John took Bernie Taupin’s lyrics and composed a melody and chord changes that matched the subject matter perfectly. On top of that, Elton John delivers one of his best vocal performances on the album. He gets so into it at the end. Don’t miss this one.

Ticking

If there was one song on the Caribou album that was not released as a single but many of Elton John’s fans fell in love with, it was the album’s closing track “Ticking.” That’s a song that has not been forgotten. However, the subject matter of the song does not really fit in well with what has happened in society over the past 20 years. A song about a young troubled boy who was bullied and eventually loses it and goes on a killing spree is just not going to go over well anymore.

There were a few other tracks on the album besides the hits that have also kind of gotten lost over the years. Songs like “Dixie Lily,” “Stinker” and the French song “Solar Prestige a Gammon” should all be given a listen from this fantastic and very much underrated Elton John album.

Why There Were Many Overlooked Gems On Elton John’s Caribou LP article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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  1. Avatar Dave October 6, 2023

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