50 Years of ‘Elton John:’ The Weird, Wonderful and Songs In Between


Isabelle Schlegel

Celebrating 50 years of “Elton John” (Cartoon by Isabelle Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Oakley Burt, Arts Editor


Happy birthday to Elton John’s smash hit album, “Elton John,” released 50 years ago on April 10, 1970. There are few artists who have achieved the cross-generational appeal and success Elton John has. Throughout his decades-long career, he’s been loved by millions of fans, young and old, around the world. His music has stood the test of time as he’s continually appealed to the masses through songs that embrace sentimentality and speak to humanity’s universal experiences. In the past 50 years, John has recorded over 35 studio albums, as well as countless singles and collaborative projects — selling over 250 million albums worldwide, making him one of the top-selling artists worldwide. 

John has no shortage of classic albums that have been revolutionary to the music industry, but it was his self-titled second album that shot him into international stardom and solidified his career. His debut album “Empty Sky,” released in 1969, was a terrible first impression into the music industry and has largely been forgotten about over time. It wasn’t until “Border Song” and “Your Song” exploded on the American radio and charts in early 1970, that many began to take notice of John — assuming the “Elton John” album was his debut. The LP flew off the shelves here in the U.S. upon its release and brought John out of the U.K. shadows. 

Recorded at Trident Studios in London, John collaborated with producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster to bring “Elton John” to life. The two had worked on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” the previous year, prompting John to get them on board with his new project. “We had heard ‘Space Oddity’, which for me was one of the best records of all time, and we learned that it was produced by Gus Dudgeon,” said John in “Elton: The Biography,” written by David Buckley. “And we knew then that we had to get him to produce my second album.”

Where “Empty Sky” faltered, “Elton John” soared, showcasing John’s sonic advancement and his long-time songwriting partner Bernie Taupin’s lyrical maturity. “On the ‘Empty Sky’ record, we sounded like naive little rock & rollers, then suddenly… it was night and day,” John said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I don’t know what happened. I’d finally found my own voice, and the seismic change was happening in Bernie’s lyrics.” It was a triumphant return to the studio for John and Taupin, creating an album rich in powerful melodies, vocals and vivid lyrical imagery. 

It’s an album that’s still a delight to listen to now, 50 years later. “Elton John” was a true testament to the untapped potential and sheer talent John and Taupin possessed when they were starting out. “Your Song,” the most popular and beautiful song on the record, exploded onto the radio in 1970 and hasn’t ever left. As an artist, when your compositions can endure half a century and continue to be loved, that’s the pinnacle of success. John’s gift was his song, one that he’s yet to stop giving. Looking back on “Elton John,” I see one of the greatest rock, pop albums recorded. It paved the way for a lifetime of weird, wonderful and poetic music, so it’s worth celebrating this brilliant album with a listen.


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